The place to eat in Houston: Our favourite new eating places for 2021

Where to eat in Houston Our favorite new restaurants for

What a 12 months its been for Houston eating places. Regardless of quite a few challenges, an unimaginable crop of newcomers affords diners extra top quality decisions than ever earlier than.

This 12 months has seen tasting menus come roaring again to prominence with no fewer than 5 eating places dedicated to the format. On the identical time, a gaggle of bar-forward ideas like Winnie’s, Night time Shift, and Roots Wine Bar serve dishes able to luring teetotalers full with loads of zero-proof choices that go far past Topo Chico.

A dedication to mixing conventional strategies with trendy views has pushed huge creativity in Mexican delicacies at eating places like Chivos, Papalo Taqueria, and the tasting menu supplied by Tatemo chef Emmanuel Chavez.

Equally, a number of the metropolis’s most artistic meals are taking place outdoors of a standard restaurant. Think about Neo, the Japanese-inspired omakase that operates inside a Montrose clothes retailer, or Golfstrommen, the thrilling seafood idea that’s luring in-the-know diners to the Put up Market meals corridor. One of many 12 months’s most talked about burgers emerged from a pop-up held at The Tipping Level, a espresso store and classic retailer in downtown.

Greater than something, it’s not possible to not admire the resiliency of restaurant trade house owners and employees. They’ve tailored to working throughout a world pandemic that’s undermined some individuals’s willingness to dine out, turned different clients into entitled jerks, and disrupted basic financial fashions with rising costs and provide chain disruptions. Prior to now few days, the Omicron variant has prompted surprising closures as already brief staffed eating places and bars lose key staff to breakthrough infections.

In such a various and difficult setting, choosing a listing of finest new eating places turns into much more troublesome than typical. Actually, any restaurant that’s working at a revenue and treats its staff with respect deserves some kind of acknowledgement.

Nonetheless, some locations go above and past. They reset diners’ expectations of what eating places are able to via a mix of artistic meals, distinctive service, and considerate decor. In a extremely aggressive setting, they’re the locations that make individuals need to return time and again.

What follows is a extremely subjective checklist of the brand new locations I’ve personally been most enthusiastic about this 12 months and most look ahead to revisiting within the 12 months to return. They’re the companies I’ve raved about on my podcast and championed on social media. Think about it extra of a listing of “favourite” new eating places of 2021 than the “finest” — ranked within the order through which I feel individuals ought to attempt them. 


Don’t be shocked {that a} seafood restaurant and market in a meals corridor takes the highest spot. One thing actually particular is going on right here. A collaboration between Norwegian chef Christopher Haatuft and Texas chef Paul Qui, Golfstrommen applies the give attention to sustainability that Haatuft champions at his effective eating restaurant Lysverket to a Gulf Coast context.

The outcomes converse for themselves. Meals at Golfstrommen begin with dishes from a primary charge uncooked program that covers a variety of oysters, clams, caviar, crab claws, and sashimi made with sustainability-sourced fish like Atlantic bluefin tuna and Ora King salmon. Scorching dishes get related ranges of consideration, as in a latest meal that featured an entire snapper that Qui cut up into two halves: one fried and the opposite roasted and topped with a French-inspired pecan brown butter. At lunch, search for a variety of “snitters,” Norwegian-style toasts topped with a variety of various proteins. 

Whereas some may object to the informal furnishings or full wattage lighting, Golfstrommen has steadily improved its general operations. The restaurant now takes reservations by way of Resy, and sommelier Lila Salibhas has expanded its wine and beer choice. Merely put, I do not suppose there is a extra thrilling restaurant in Houston proper now, and it’ll get even higher sooner or later.


Of all of the tasting menu ideas to open this 12 months, none can match the ambition or scale of Goodnight Hospitality’s Mediterranean-inspired restaurant. With its bespoke furnishings and museum-worthy artwork, March broadcasts its intentions to wow clients from the second they enter. 

For every area that March focuses on — first the Maghreb in Northwest Africa, then the Spanish areas of Andalusia & Murcia, and, starting in February, the Occitania area of France — chef-partner Felipe Riccio and his cooks dive deep into the realm’s historical past and components. The outcomes are exactly executed, intricately plated creations which might be as flavorful as they’re eye-catching. After all, the dishes are paired with expertly crafted cocktails and a deep wine checklist sourced by accomplice and grasp sommelier June Rodil and her group. 

Whereas the Michelin Information has but to ship its inspectors to Texas, March operates with a stage of high quality and ambition that will absolutely earn their consideration. Even its lounge ranks as one of many metropolis’s finest cocktail bars. Esquire journal’s naming it the nation’s sixth finest new restaurant looks as if the primary of many nationwide accolades that can come its method.

Tiny Champions 

Though this East Finish spot opened in December 2020, most individuals didn’t uncover its many charms till this 12 months. Extra informal than its sister idea Nancy’s Hustle, the restaurant celebrates fermentation in all its varieties, which suggests microbes are the “tiny champions” for which the restaurant is known as. Each the understated eating room and expansive patio make for a cushty setting that’s equally acceptable for a catchup dinner with buddies or a comfortable date night time.

Skinny crust pizzas — together with a tackle a Hawaiian that should settle the pineapple debate as soon as and for all — and freshly made pastas anchor the menu. Whereas a meal at Tiny Champions would really feel incomplete with out a pie (or two), a number of the most memorable dishes are shareable objects equivalent to roasted and chilled eggplant and braised butter beans with pickled peppers and garlic toum; these small plates provide unimaginable depth of taste, revealing one thing new with every chunk. Housemade ice lotions finish each meal on a candy word.

Like Nancy’s, Tiny Champions affords a wise checklist of largely pure wines and artistic cocktails that pair nicely with its meals. Enthusiastic, welcoming service helps make it a spot worthy of visiting time and again.

Da Gama Canteen 

Cooks Shiva and Rick Di Virgilio, the couple behind Midtown’s Oporto Fooding Home, have as soon as once more created a compelling eating vacation spot with this Portuguese-Indian restaurant. Situated within the M-Ok-T improvement, Da Gama includes a vivid, open eating room with a patio that appears out onto the Heights Hike and Bike Path.

Every go to reveals a brand new favourite dish. One time, it could be three chili paneer or prawn ambot tik (Gulf shrimp in a candy and spicy chili tamarind sauce); on one other, it could be the fragile crab pani puri, a beef skewer with East African spices, or any of the compelling vegetable preparations. A spread of sunshine, well-balanced cocktails (each alcoholic and 0 proof) and punctiliously chosen pure wines provide a variety of pairing choices. Lastly, its reasonably priced weekday lunch service helps make Da Gama one in every of this 12 months’s most helpful new arrivals.


Talking of helpful, few eating places cater to as many alternative wants as James Beard Award winner Hugo Ortega and restaurateur Tracy Vaught’s informal, avenue food-inspired idea in Uptown Park. The all-day restaurant’s setting includes a full of life inside and loads of patio seating.

Whether or not going within the morning for espresso and breakfast tacos or tucking into tacos and shareable plates at lunch and dinner, Urbe’s huge menu will fulfill virtually any craving. Dishes just like the pastor tacos, the queso flameado (served with housemade tortillas, naturally), and campechana are all standout takes on their respective iterations, as are the housemade pastries and sweets. The complete collection of cocktails, together with beverage director Sean Beck’s first tackle frozens, provide loads of refreshment. 


After incomes a spot on final 12 months’s model of this checklist for his work at Stomach of the Beast, chef Thomas Bille returns with this extra polished restaurant within the Heights. Pitched as a Mexican American idea that’s distinct from each conventional Mexican delicacies and Tex-Mex, Chivos applies inspiration from different cultures to Mexican flavors and strategies.

A meal may start with Sichuan-inspired pozole dumplings in a flavorful pork broth or fluffy flour tortillas paired with truffle butter and trout roe. Mains like duck breast with fig mole and grilled shrimp with tomatillo curry display the idea’s potential to mix flavors Houstonians get pleasure from into an entire that’s larger than the sum of its components.

Tableside service touches, together with a bar cart loaded with a tempting array of Mexican spirits, elevates the expertise and additional units Chivos aside from close by Tex-Mex eating places and taquerias. Whereas Stomach of the Beast was short-lived, hopefully Heights diners embrace this bold institution.

Le Jardinier 

This New York-based, French effective eating idea has made the Museum of Advantageous Arts, Houston a reputable eating vacation spot. Created by Alain Verzeroli, a veteran chef who held three Michelin stars at Tokyo’s Château Restaurant Joël Robuchon, Le Jardinier affords a vegetable-forward tackle trendy French delicacies. Its spacious, opening eating room includes a dramatic tapestry and a view of the museum’s sculpture backyard.

Preparations differ by season, with Verzeroli and chef de delicacies Felipe Botero including in some Texas and Gulf Coast components to the dishes that earned Le Jardinier’s New York location a Michelin star. These searching for a extra curated expertise could go for the five-course tasting menu. The gluten-free breads and eccentric desserts present a stage of creativity and thoughtfulness that makes Le Jardinier really feel extra welcoming and accessible than could be anticipated from an institution at its value level.

Trattoria Sofia 

This 12 months has seen a wave of latest Italian eating places that vary from hip, trendy Concura Italian Bites after which effective eating Alba Ristorante to this posh newcomer from veteran restaurateur Ben Berg, the proprietor of institutions equivalent to B&B Butchers, The Annie Cafe, and Turner’s. A complete set of renovations has fully reworked the previous Presidio area right into a lush setting backed by an open kitchen with a wooden burning oven.

Govt chef L.J. Wiley could have been forward of the culinary curve on the late, lamented Yelapa Playa Mexicana, however he’s proper on time with Sofia’s attention-grabbing menu. Specifically, pizzas with the correct amount of char and housemade pastas shine, particularly the basic cacio e pepe and bucatini with Sicilian pesto.

Julep proprietor Alba Huerta created the restaurant’s cocktail menu, which give Italian accented riffs on classics. A sensible, Italian-focused wine checklist gives loads of pairing prospects.

Hidden Omakase 

Restricted to simply 18 seats, this sushi counter affords one in every of Houston’s most intimate eating experiences. Chef Niki Vongthong (Uchi, Aqui)’s 12-course, $175 menu affords an up to date tackle the acquainted sushi development, taking diners from oysters via totally different items of nigiri earlier than ending with wagyu and (at each my visits) uni pasta. Housemade condiments and sauces enable every fish’s taste to shine.

A part of what makes the expertise so memorable is the shut interplay with the cooks. A soundtrack of largely ‘90s hip hop retains issues full of life.

Winnie’s ​​

A venture that unites former Bernadine’s cooks Graham Laborde and Chris Roy with Johnny’s Gold Brick proprietor Benjy Mason, Winnie’s brings a recent perspective to po’ boys and New Orleans-inspired cocktails. Billed as a bar, Winnie’s affords meals that’s as compelling as any restaurant, full with full service that makes it a cushty place to dine for lunch or dinner.

Certain, the signature peacemaker options expertly fried shrimp and oysters with simply the correct amount of dressing, however the menu actually shines with artistic riffs such because the BLT Katsu Sando (braised and fried bacon paired with pickled inexperienced tomatoes) and the Fried Hen Crunchwrap Supreme that’s the final word cross between Popeyes and Taco Bell.

Cocktails give attention to an interesting mixture of frozens and up to date variations of New Orleans classics which might be lighter and fewer hangover inducing than the originals. Promoting them for simply $5 earlier than 5 pm makes them much more compelling.

Honorable mentions and notable omissions

Within the curiosity of full disclosure, the brand new restaurant I visited most frequently is The Taco Stand. I recognize its reasonably priced costs, drive-thru comfort, and, most significantly, chef Matt Pak’s flavorful tackle basic avenue tacos which might be enhanced by housemade tortillas and vibrant salsas.

As famous above, a number of bar-forward ideas served compelling meals this 12 months. A number of visits to Night Shift show that chef Danny Leal constantly demonstrates each creativity and consistency together with his dishes. The bar’s churros are one in every of my favourite dishes of the 12 months.

Having first encountered ChòpnBlọk as a pop-up in an residence constructing’s widespread space, I’m extraordinarily impressed by its first brick and mortar location at Put up Market. The allure and enthusiasm proprietor Ope Amosu displayed in these early days stays intact, however the West African-inspired fare is healthier than ever. Anybody who visits the meals corridor with out tucking right into a Trad Bowl has missed out on one thing particular.

As a loyal carnivore, I completely loved my go to to Gatsby’s. Its mixture of retro type and well-executed steakhouse fare makes it a compelling different to any of the nationwide chains.

Two omissions to notice. First, my final go to to Degust happened previous to Brandon Silva departing the restaurant. Whereas I acknowledge that cooks Javier Beccera and Rico Mackins led the kitchen when it earned a spot on Esquire’s finest new eating places checklist, I must expertise it myself to have an up to date opinion.

Lastly, Georgia James Tavern will get an incomplete till incoming government chef Nick Wong places his stamp on the place. Having ranked UB Preserv as a prime 5 Houston restaurant in 2019, I really feel assured that the chef will do good work at his new residence and look ahead to my first meal on the new GJT.

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