Where to eat in Houston: 10 new restaurants, from wild dishes to steaks
After a brief hiatus at the start of the year, Houston’s restaurant scene continues to show strong growth in 2022. The year got off to a promising start with many exciting new restaurants to try.
Some of the city’s top operators, including James Beard Award winner Chris Shepherd and Coppa owner Grant Cooper, have launched their latest projects. This month’s list also includes the most hyped opening The Heights has seen in some time as well as two new options for those with carnivorous habits.
As always, these are roughly ranked by priority I would give trying them, but all of the entries on the list have something to offer. Descriptions are based on actual dining experiences at the restaurants listed (sometimes more than once). These are less formal reviews than a guide to what to expect with some suggestions on what to order (and what to avoid).
This latest project from Chris Shepherd’s Underbelly Hospitality offers diners the self-proclaimed “love letter to Texas” from chef-partner Nick Fine. This means a deep dive into the various food traditions that have shaped the state, including Mexican, Southern, and barbecue. Credit for the restaurant’s design goes to Amanda Medsger, whom Fine describes as “the fanciest Luby mixed in with your grandma’s ranch house.” It is a warm and inviting space that offers diners a view of the open kitchen.
Fine puts its wood-fired grill to good use in dishes such as wood-grilled chicken with a zesty version of the King Ranch casserole. Other highlights include Bellaire campechana seasoned with a spicy tomatillo sauce, a classic version of Texas chili, and steak tartare. The batter on the chicken fried steak was supposed to be crispier, but that looks more like a minor workmanship fault than a permanent flaw.
The restaurant really shines at brunch. Held every Sunday morning, the all-you-can-eat buffet offers a rotating selection of vegetables, seafood, roast meats and desserts. My visit included shrimp cocktail, lamb taquitos, freshly baked pretzel bread, and roast pork. That’s a splurge worthy of $55 per adult.
As with all Underbelly concepts, well-executed cocktails, including a boozy chilled margarita, offer plenty of pairing options. Don’t miss the classic banana pudding.
If nothing else, this Asian smokehouse from the owner of Uchi Hai Hospitality is worth a visit just to witness the stunning transformation of the former W. 11th Church of God into a modern restaurant with high ceilings, a long bar and many outdoor picnics. seats.
The fast-casual restaurant blends the influences of Loro’s two founders: chef-owner Uchi Tyson Cole and chef-owner Franklin Barbecue Aaron Franklin. Since this is Loro’s third location, joining outposts Austin and Dallas, the team has things pretty much settled.
Vegetables in dishes like Snow Pea and Toasted Coconut Salad or Texas Sweet Corn retain their texture and flavor. The chicken karaage arrives crispy and the smoked flank steak offers plenty of rich, beefy flavor. The cheeseburger is topped with an addictive brisket jam that makes for a gloriously messy sandwich. Despite Franklin’s reputation, skip the smoked brisket; Simply put, Houston has better barbecue options.
Uchi is known for his serve, which makes Loro’s lack of it somewhat surprising. Instead of following the Hopdoddy/Ramen Tatsu-ya model of having people place their initial order in a register and then using waiters to help them with things like another round of drinks, Loro expects what diners get back in line every time they want something. It’s fine when things are relatively quiet — as those who take advantage of the cheap 2-6 p.m. happy hour will find — but becomes a burden when the restaurant is full and each register constantly has two or three people on the line. which can each take a few minutes to order. Perhaps the restaurant could designate a register only for people who want drinks and/or dessert.
For his first solo project under the Big Vibe Group banner, veteran restaurateur Grant Cooper transformed the Dunlavy into a contemporary Mexican restaurant. The restaurant’s setting next to Buffalo Bayou and an ornate 40-chandelier ceiling add a touch of occasion to any meal.
Flora’s menu demonstrates an impressive amount of thoughtful development: homemade corn tortillas have the integrity to bend, mole contains homemade chocolate, and dishes like barbacoa and carnitas show a depth of flavor that comes from slow cooking. Other highlights include a tuna tostada in the style of Mexico City’s famous Contramar restaurant and enchilada verdes.
Flora has a shorter wine list than other Cooper restaurants, but the agave-based cocktails offer plenty of choice. A perfect flan ends the meal on a sweet note.
Restaurateur Ken Bridge (Pink’s Pizza, Lola Diner, etc.) has transformed the old Ritual into this modern Korean steakhouse that draws on a variety of influences, including his childhood in Los Angeles and the restaurants he visited in Korea. The focus is on Prime beef, especially short rib, rib eye and New York strip, as well as small plates such as Korean fried chicken, short rib mandu and bulgogi tteokbokki (dumplings fluffy rice). In particular, the marinated meats stand out as the equal (or better) of any Korean barbecue restaurant in Houston.
Servers take the lead on table grills, guiding the overall experience and ensuring meats are properly cooked. Pairing options include local beer and a number of soju-based cocktails. Note: Ordering and payment is done through Bridge’s proprietary Roovy app; download it in advance to be ready.
For all its development as a foodie destination over the past decade, The Heights has lacked a classic steakhouse (not to be confused with restaurants that cook a good steak, of which it has plenty); this omission has been corrected with this concept operating within Knowledge. The tidy menu focuses on the staples you’d expect to find in a steakhouse, like wedge salad, shrimp cocktail, sides like mashed potatoes and grilled broccoli and, of course, various cuts of Prime beef.
A strip of wagyu and a bone-in rib eye came exactly on point with a nicely charred crust that gave the outside a welcome textural contrast to the rest of the steak. Simply put, this is the best done steak I’ve had in recent memory and reason enough for carnivores to seek out Patton’s. For dessert, opt for the rich and dense chocolate cake.
Despite brutal street construction on Shepherd Drive, chef Alfredo Mojica and his wife Christina have praised this upscale Italian restaurant that quietly opened in December. Best known for his time at the helm of Da Marco’s kitchen, Mojica prepares high quality classic Italian dishes in a comfortable and intimate setting.
Highlights of a recent meal included Patagonian prawns roasted in the restaurant’s wood-fired oven, delicately seasoned tuna crudo and lobster spaghetti with pomodoro sauce. Service by the veteran crew is friendly and welcoming, and BYOB is available to complement the well-stocked wine list. I look forward to a future visit to try Mojica’s Neapolitan style pizza and at least one of the restaurant’s truffle menu items.
After finding success with Candy Shack Daiquiris, James McGhee ventured into the restaurant business with this movie-themed establishment near the Galleria. Diners enter through a theater-style lobby — complete with a candy stand and popcorn machine — before being ushered into an elegant dining room adorned with images from classic movies. Be mindful when going to the bathroom, as a wall adorned with roses in the sink area is likely to host a photo op.
The Hollywood theme continues with food and drink, including popcorn as a starter and various mains adorned with Oscar-worthy gold embellishments (the Salt bae-style gold-wrapped tomahawk was a hit on Instagram ). Even without the splinter, diners will find quite a few things to like on the menu, including gastric red wine vinegar Brussels sprouts, a well-prepared rack of lamb, and salmon in citrus beurre blanc. Oversized desserts with fizzies round out an experience designed to be shared on social media.
east side king and soy pinoy
Paul Qui and FAM Hospitality win at the Post Houston with these two concepts. Japanese street food restaurant East Side King has introduced an omakase that offers a dozen sushi plus a hand roll for $49. As in more expensive restaurants, the pieces are presented to the diners one by one. No, it’s not as luxurious as other establishments, but it’s a very satisfying sushi experience for an affordable price.
Who worked with James Beard Award winner Tom Cunanan to improve the menu at Soy Pinoy. Filipino chefs have introduced a number of new dishes, but the best way to sample their work is with a platter that combines lumpia, lechon, grilled chicken, sisig, beef kare kare, and more.
The Hibachi brothers
Inspired by the trucks he frequented in his hometown of Los Angeles, TSU alumnus Dempsey Robinson draws crowds to this Japanese-inspired Third Ward food truck. The truck serves hibachi platters that combine rice, vegetables, and protein choices: filet mignon, NY strip loin, shrimp, chicken, and lobster.
The steak arrived rare and the shrimp from the truck are plump and juicy. Well-cooked rice and crunchy vegetables show that the truck takes its technique seriously. A range of savory homemade sauces (garlic butter is mandatory with the prawns) enhances the overall experience. Burritos offer a more affordable option, but this is due to the fact that they are very heavy with rice.