With top chefs from Anthony Bourdain to David Chang singing the culinary praises of Houston, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the food scene is practically overflowing with new eateries to visit each year. Planning a trip to this restaurant-rich town in 2017? Check out this roster of culinary contenders in the Bayou City.
It used to be that if you wanted to try chef Ronnie Killen’s famous steaks, barbecue or burgers, you’d have to drive all the way down to the south Houston suburb of Pearland for a taste. But no more. With the debut of Killen’s STQ in Houston’s Memorial area this past December, the award-winning toque has finally joined the big leagues.
The 65-seat eatery has been booked solid from the moment it began accepting reservations. And for good reason: There’s a little bit of everything he offers in Pearland and then some on the new menu. Expect gigantic smoked ribs, A5 wagyu from Kagoshima, Japan, and a slew of creative items such as beef brisket tamale and barbecue-glazed pork belly burnt ends.
Add Italian Frette linens, genuine French Laguiole steak knives, well-crafted cocktails, a fine wine list and Killen himself overseeing the kitchen on most nights, and you’ve got a winning recipe for one of the best new restaurants in Houston.
Ryan Lachaine has been an up-and-coming chef to watch for the last several years. He finally gets to shine with the debut of Riel. The sleek restaurant in Houston’s Montrose area serves a worldly menu that reflects his roots — a Canadian upbringing, a Ukrainian heritage and years of working and eating in Houston.
He ingeniously turns out exciting iterations of traditional dishes. Borscht — adorned with a small dollop of crème fraîche and a sprig of dill — is masterfully prepared. Tempura cauliflower in a Korean-style kimchi glaze is terrific. Pierogies appear on a plate of hangar steak with green beans and horseradish cream, a touch as comforting as his hearty Québécois tourtière meat pie.
A gorgeous bar with appropriately themed cocktails such as the Borscht Sour, the Trudeau (a shout out to the Canadian prime minister) and a carefully curated wine list featuring boutique producers completes the picture.
More than two decades after Le Colonial debuted to critical acclaim in New York City, restaurateurs Rick Wahlstedt and Joe King have brought the famed Vietnamese fine-dining restaurant to Houston’s River Oaks District. Designed by architect Mark Knauer and inspired by 1920s French Indochina, the fashionably chic space, with its custom cement tiles from Provence, mahogany millwork and brass Art Deco tables, has instantly become Houston’s restaurant du moment.
Nicole Routhier’s menu of traditional Vietnamese cuisine is elegant and delightful, a reason why Houston’s fashionable elite flock to Le Colonial for Hanoi steamed ravioli with chicken and wood ear mushrooms, and lacquered maple leaf duck with sticky rice, house pickles and tamarind sauce. After-dinner drinks, taken in the bar and lounge upstairs, are a must as well.
You may have experienced nose-to-tail cuisine before, but Ritual lets you peek into the kitchen to see how it’s done. A glass wall separates the main dining room from the butcher’s block, where whole carcasses are processed in a manner similar to live performance art. The naturally meat-centric menu by chef Crash Hethcox features pasture-raised pork chops, decadently delicious chicken-fried steak, dry-aged steak sold by the ounce and a killer hamburger.
To get the full experience, sample Southern-inspired sides like sourdough hushpuppies and smoked chili sweet potato mash, with an impressive craft beer list to help wash it all down.
Eloise Nichols Grill & Liquors
Billed as a “no-nonsense” River Oaks neighborhood restaurant, Eloise Nichols was one of the sleeper hits to recently emerge on the Houston scene. It taps into what all of us want: affordable, farm-fresh American cooking and an ambience that welcomes everyone.
Bustling with activity from the moment it opens its doors, the charming brasserie invites you to drop in for a casual lunch, grab a hamburger during happy hour or bring your family in the evening.
Chef Joseph Stayshich’s menu is filled with items you can share at the family table. Crispy fried, spicy chunks of Joe’s hot chicken are always a hit, while the burrata with apples is classic deliciousness. Caramelized Brussels sprouts, redfish on the half shell, a raw bar with a fresh oyster selection and tuna tartare make for a fine, memorable meal.
Maba Pan-Asian Diner
New to the Midtown area, Maba Pan-Asian Diner brings a much-needed touch of Asian cookery to central Houston. Craving wontons, noodles or stir-fry? You can get it all at Maba without making the trek to Chinatown.
And you can do it all in a gorgeous setting to boot. The beautifully sleek art-house space provides the perfect setting for chef/owner Wayne Nguyen’s Instagram-worthy platings of Asian dishes that hail from China, Vietnam, Singapore and beyond. Osso-buco Szechuan salad, deconstructed General Tso’s chicken, phenomenal pork belly tacos and ginger-miso salmon offer a contemporary take on Eastern classics.
When Kiran Verma closed her upscale Indian restaurant in River Oaks last year, fans didn’t know where to go for her delectable chicken tikka masala, her exotic cocktails or her menu of stuff-able naan bread.
It seems like it has been forever, but the wait is over as Verma has debuted her bigger, brighter eatery in the newly constructed Kirby Grove complex. Contemporary furnishes intermingle with Indian sculptures and decorative elements in a warm, inviting design.
But while the look and feel of the restaurant may be different, its core — Verman’s cooking — still ignites palates, luring Brits, Indians and people all across the city to come for dishes such as lamb korma, bison kofta, tandoori and biryani.
Even before you step foot into Steak 48 in the glam River Oaks District, you feel a sense of pageantry. As you pull your car up to the front door, a throng of valets spring to action to ensure that you are taken care of. This is the hallmark of the Steak 48 experience, which restaurateurs Michael and Jeff Mastro sought to replicate in Houston after the success of their Steak 44 concept in Phoenix. And, judging from the two-week wait list for a weekend reservation at this 13,700-square-foot, two-story steakhouse, it’s an experience that works.
Hand-cut, wet-aged prime steaks come to the table on sizzling platters. Gorgeous seafood towers that could double as sculptures overwhelmingly wow.
The bar area glitters — not just with its design, but with life all around it. You’ll want to order a French 75 or a glass of cabernet sauvignon to kick off a multisensory culinary journey.
51fifteen Cuisine & Cocktails
The first of several upscale concepts planned for the Houston Galleria — Yauatcha from London and Nobu Matsuhisa’s famed Nobu will be coming soon — 51fifteen debuted its glam, runway-ready space designed by Houston-based Nina Magon of Contour Interior Designs last year. Dominated by white marble set against an octagonal ceiling motif and plush velvet booths, it’s become the setting for swanky soirees, ladies who lunch and fashionable evening meals.
Top toque Stefon Rishel’s globally influenced menu offers a choice of salads, ceviches, steaks and Gulf Coast favorites such as shrimp and grits.
The space has its own direct entrance from the parking garage and a lounge serving exceptional cocktails, making it the ideal pit stop for an enjoyable meal after a long day of shopping.
From the people behind critically acclaimed Helen Greek Food & Wine comes Arthur Ave in Houston Heights. Inspired by the street that is home to New York City’s Little Italy, this is the place to go for Italian-American classics. Chef William Wright’s menu is simple and no frills, so prepare yourself for appetizers like Italian meatballs before digging into plates of penne alla vodka and, of course, classic New York–style thin crust pizza.
Designer Erin Hick’s warm design, with dimly lit chandeliers, exposed brick walls, large-framed mirrors and plush booths (not to mention a playlist of big-band tunes and Frank Sinatra songs) set the mood.