We don't envy Houston food critics. It can't be easy dissecting the best (and sometimes the worst) restaurants in this dish-diverse culinary capital. You're bound to get a lot of criticism from chefs and diners for your take on things and, let's face it, with all the eating out involved you kinda need to run a marathon each week to avoid a coronary.
So kudos to the Houston Press' Katharine Shilcutt for stepping out on a limb to call out the top 10 restaurants in Downtown Houston. It's a varied list of newbies (Goro & Gun) and old favorites (Irma's) that highlight much of what makes Houston a hot dining scene. And most of these places are easily accessible to visitors and convention-attendees staying in Downtown hotels.
1. Oxheart "three different chef's tasting menus are available at night"
2. Quattro at the Four Seasons simple, streamlined Italian dishes and house-made pastas
3. Line & Lariat modern Texas fare inside Hotel Icon
4. Irma's "enormously comforting Mexican mom-food"
5. Hubcap Grill "famous for fusion burgers"
6. Vic & Anthony's "Downtown's premier steakhouse is all glitz, all glam, all the time"
7. The Burger Guys/Bombay Pizza independly owned lunchtime favorites
8. The Grove/Lake House two distinct spots inside Discovery Green
9. MKT Bar @ Phoenicia "urban European feel to the scene that's unusual and appealing"
10. Goro & Gun/Batanga newest spots offering ramen and tapas respectively
Shilcutt also called out a handful of honorable mentions for various characteristics-"badass red beans and rice" for more than three decades goes to Treebeard's, best view in the city goes to Spindletop at the Hyatt.
Click here for Shilcutt's full take on these Downtown hotspots.
The Houston Pavilions is getting a makeover and a new name.
Construction begins in April on the Downtown retail development in the heart of the Convention District, which will be renamed GreenStreet.
The primary change at the half-million-square-foot complex is the creation of a new linear park featuring benches, planters, lawns and water features designed to make the space more attractive to pedestrians. The Pavilions has experienced some trouble attracting and keeping tenants, but the property's new owners hope to change that with the renovation and re-imaging effort.
The facility now includes restaurants, retail and entertainment concepts such as House of Blues, Forever XXI, III Forks, McCormick & Schmick's and Lucky Strike bowling. Soft goods retailers have had a tougher time at the center.
Last year, the Pavilions was purchased out of receivership by a partnership that included Midway Companies and California-based Canyon Johnson Urban Funds.
The renovations are slated for completion by the end of the year.
Houston's culinary clout just keeps growing.
On Tuesday, several local restaurants learned they were included among this year's James Beard Award semi-finalists--the Oscars of the nation's dining industry.
Justin Yu's Oxheart on the north end of Downtown and Chris Shepherd's Underbelly in Montrose are up for Best New Restaurant. Yu was also nominated for the Rising Star Chef of the Year award. Shepherd, Uchi's Tyson Cole and Hugo Ortega of Hugo's are semi-finalists for Best Chef in the Southwest. Anvil Bar & Refuge is also being considered for the Outstanding Bar Program award and Goode Company Restaurants' Levi Good is a semi-finalist for Outstanding Restaurateur.
The semi-finalists will be whittled down to a short list of finalists next month. The James Beard Awards will be held May 6 in New York.
Two of those restaurateurs got a double dose of praise Tuesday--both Uchi Houston and Oxheart were named among the 12 Outstanding Restaurants of 2013 by GQ magazine. Only one other city, Brooklyn, garnered two places on the much-lauded list.
Not that locals needed a survey to prove H-Town's romance quotient, but OpenTable is delivering one anyway. Just in time for Valentine's day, the online restaurant reservations company is releasing its list of the 25 Most Romantic Dining Cities in the United States and Houston comes in at #10.
Three variables were used to calculate the results—the percentage of restaurants rated "romantic" according to OpenTable diner reviews, the percentage of tables for two and the percentage of people who dined out for Valentine's Day in 2012.
The following cities make up the Top 25 Most Romantic Dining Cities in the U.S.:
1. San Antonio, Texas
2. Austin, Texas
3. Providence, Rhode Island
4. La Jolla, California
5. Columbus, Ohio
6. Salt Lake City, Utah
7. Nashville, Tennessee
8. Louisville, Kentucky
9. St. Louis, Missouri
10. Houston, Texas
11. Dallas, Texas
12. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
13. Richmond, Virginia
14. Raleigh, North Carolina
15. Tampa, Florida
16. San Diego, California
17. Baltimore, Maryland
18. Honolulu, Hawaii
19. Indianapolis, Indiana
20. Brooklyn, New York
21. Pasadena, California
22. Las Vegas, Nevada
23. Phoenix, Arizona
24. Santa Monica, California
25. Portland, Oregon
For more information, visit OpenTable.
(Image: Brenner's Steakhouse on the Bayou)
Is Houston on your radar in 2013?
The New York Times thinks it should be. The newspaper of record ranked Houston No. 7 on its list of the 46 places to go this year. Houston was the only U.S. city in the top 10. NYT writer Ingrid K. Williams had this to say about the city:
Houston is probably best known as the Texan center for energy and industry, but it's making a bid to be the state's cultural and culinary capital as well. The Houston Museum District is a formidable coterie of institutions that includes the Rothko Chapel, the Museum of African American Culture, which made its debut last February; and the Asia Society Texas Center, which opened in a stunning Yoshio Taniguchi-designed building in April. And last summer, the Houston Museum of Natural Science opened a 30,000-square-foot hall of paleontology in a new $85 million wing. Meanwhile, the city's dining scene is also heating up, with three of the city's newest restaurants - Oxheart, Underbelly and Uchi - placing on national best-new-restaurant lists.
That Houston is being called out for its restaurants and cultural institutions is no surprise to us. The latest research compiled for the GHCVB shows most visitors come to Houston for the city's cosmopolitian offerings--including chef-driven dining and performing and visual arts. That's why our 2013 ad campaign will draw upon those strengths, profiling the trendsetters in these industries.
Rio de Janeiro ranked No. 1 on the list.
UPDATE: Oxheart, the intimate tasting menu concept from Justin Yu made the narrowed list of the 10 best new restaurants in the country. Click here for more details.
Three local restaurants have made Bon Appetit's list of the best new places to eat in the nation, tying Houston with Portland for the most spots on the much-lauded roundup.
Underbelly, Oxheart (pictured right) and Uchi were all included on the list of best new restaurant nominees. All three opened in the last year under well-known chefs and quickly won praise from critics.
The annual Bon Appetit list is compiled by the magazine's resident "foodist" Andrew Knowlton. Knowlton travels from coast to coast each year in search of the restaurants "changing the way we eat."
Most cities on the list had just one restaurant featured, with a few like New York, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco and Los Angeles garnering two restaurants. Only Houston and Portland had three restaurants featured.
Next week, Bon Appetit and Knowlton narrow down the list to the Hot 10, among them Knowlton's pick for the best new restaurant in America. Here's hoping at least one of the Houston restaurants makes the cut.
For the complete list by state or alphabetical order, click here.
If you're like many, you've probably been swept up in the pride, pageantry and competition of the Olympic Games. And with all of the sweeping shots of London, the coverage is also giving viewers here a touch of British fever.
Fortunately there are ways to experience a little bit of across-the-pond culture without leaving Houston. Here's a rundown of some of our favorite British-themed spots around town.
Dine at Feast, a classic "nose to tail" restaurant (you're likely to find livers, hearts or tongues on the menu). The rustic Lower Westheimer eatery draws a loyal following for dinner, which features a wide assortment of British flavors in a decidedly Dickensian setting. Definitely try the sticky toffee pudding for dessert.
Premium cocktails, craft beer and small British-inspired plates are served to an enthusiastic crowd at the Queen Vic Pub & Kitchen. Here post-colonial British and Indian flavors are married for a unique gastropub menu. Try the short rib samosas, bullet naan, sausage and mash and flavor-packed chicken tikka masala.
The Black Labrador is an English pub perfect for enjoying a pint of ale, a game of darts and a bite. The kitchen isn't strictly English--burgers and Tex-Mex dishes turn up among the shepherd's pie, fish and chips, and bangers and mash. On the patio, a human-size chessboard is designed into the paving and even occasionally used. As the evening winds down, try the Scotch apple pie and a Samuel Smith Taddy porter.
Seeking the royal treatment? Head to the St. Regis Hotel where you'll enjoy a traditional English tea service. The hotel's legendary afternoon tea features petits fours, tea sandwiches, scones and Devonshire cream. A harpist performs daily while guests savor St. Regis' special blend and other premium loose-leaf teas.
A funky British pub downstairs, Rudyard's also features live music upstairs. The spot is a great place to see local and touring indie-rock bands and Rudyard's Comedy Workshops are on Tuesdays.
Those looking for authentic, UK-style Indian fare should head southwest to London Sizzler Indian Bar & Grill. The family-owned spot-just off Hillcroft and I-59-is popular with in-the-know foodies thanks to its bold flavors, spice and charcoal-oven Tandoori. Before you even step through the door, the aroma of cardamom and curry drift through the air-a sure signal of the good things to come.
Red Lion Pub owner Craig Mallinson makes it a point to give locals an authentic British experience with more than 20 English ales and imported beers on tap, as well as a serious menu filled with time-honored pub favorites. Enjoy popular items like shepherds' pie and English curry from the comfort of a red-leather covered banquette or at a table near the brick fireplace in back.
For a completely laid-back experience, Firkin & Phoenix offers Nintendo Wii, darts, billiards, MegaTouch, and GoldenTee in a pub meets sports bar setting. Sample some of the home country's famous dishes including bangers, beans and mash and scrumptious pot pies and catch a soccer game on one of their big screens.
August is approaching. And Houston food lovers know that's a time for rejoicing.
Houston Restaurant Weeks returns next month with more than 100 restaurants participating. The month-long event is designed to bring business to area eateries during a typically slow period and also raise money for the Houston Food Bank.
If Houston Restaurant Weeks is new to you, here's how it works: lunches are typically two courses for $20 while dinners are $35 for three courses (a few restaurants do it a little differently). Of that, $2 from lunch and $3 from dinner purchases go to the Food Bank.
With so many restaurants in on the game, the choices are nearly endless. Some of Houston's most celebrated spots are participating this year, including Brenner's on the Bayou, Rainbow Lodge, Tony's, Bistro Alex and many more (see the list, which is still being added to, here). This year, the organization is also launching a Text 2 Give campaign, encouraging diners to use their cell phones to donate $10 to fight hunger.
It’s been a little more than six months since the Houston Department of Health and Human Services (HDHHS) began issuing permits allowing pups on the patios of qualifying Houston restaurants.
The initiative required a year of dedicated advocacy by the local grassroots organization, Paws on Patios, but today the movement continues to grow with nearly two-dozen HDHHS approved patios currently making room for Houstonian’s four-legged friends.
To see the current list of Houston's dog-friendly dining destinations, click here.
For information on how to apply for a permit, visit the HDHHS website here.
Tell us, what restaurants and bars would you like to see added to the current list?
Go Pig! Or Go Home!
Doesn't that get you excited? On April 15, Kata Robata, will host the first annual Suckling Pig Throwdown. Thirteen of Houston's top local chefs will come together to take part in this friendly competition for the title of suckling pig champ. The event will benefit Recipe for Success, a nonprofit that helps fight childhood obesity (insert tiny ironic laugh here).
Chefs will offer up bites of their pig roasts to attendees who will also get to enjoy signature Kata Robata hor d'oeuvres and beer from Saint Arnold's Brewery.
So who are the competitors?
- Gabriel Medina - Kata Robata
- Michael Pellegrino - MAX's Wine Dive
- Mike Potowski - Benjy's on Washington
- Randy Rucker - conāt
- Ryan Pera - Revival Market
- SteveMarques - The Tasting Room Uptown Park
- Raymond Vandergaag - The Tasting Room CityCentre
- Seth Siegel-Gardner - Pilot Light Restaurant Group
- Ronnie Killen - Killen's Steakhouse
- Ryan Hildebrand - Triniti
- Terrence Gallivan - Pilot Light Restaurant Group
- Masahide Wakatsuki - Azuma Kirby
- Chef Manabu Horiuchi - Kata Robata
Judges for the event include: Pat Sharpe, food editor with Texas Monthly; Greg Morago,
food editor with the Houston Chronicle; Katharine Schillcut, food editor with the Houston
Press; Chris Shepherd, chef/owner of Underbelly; Teresa Byrne-Dodge, editor and
publisher My Table Magazine.
Admission to the event is $60. Tickets can be purchased by visiting http://gopigorgohome.eventbrite.com