By John Egan
If you want to wow colleagues or clients while you're visiting Houston for a meeting or convention - or if you're a tourist or already live here - at least some of the Bayou City's most popular restaurants should be on your agenda. But aside from reading reviews, how do you decide which eateries deserve a look?
Try giving one of these restaurants a shot. They're the 10 most Instagrammed Houston restaurants of 2014, according to MyFab5. Before you dash out the door, a word of warning from MyFab5: The most Instagrammed restaurants don't automatically translate into the "best" restaurants.
"Some restaurants get a lot of photos because of their location or atmosphere," MyFab5 says, "while other amazing restaurants do not get many photos due to their dim lighting or expensive prices."
With that cautionary note in mind, it's time to grab your smartphone, grab a bite to eat and snap some Instagram-worthy pics. Here are the 10 most Instagrammed restaurants in Houston for 2014.
Greenway Coffee and Tea owners David Buehrer and Ecky Prabanto teamed up with the owners of Underbelly and The Hay Merchant to open this coffee shop on Lower Westheimer. But wait, does this place serve more than coffee? Yep. Blacksmith offers a sit-down menu, including its much-praised Vietnamese steak and eggs.
2. The Breakfast Klub
The Breakfast Klub puts the soul in soul food. Featured items at this bustling comfort-food spot include fried catfish, grits, pork chops and waffles. Among its fans are food critics from Texas Monthly, Esquire and Zagat.com.
3. MAX's Wine Dive (Washington)
What with its exposed brick walls, concrete floors and leather booths, the word "dive" doesn't truly reflect MAX's Wine Dive. It's really more upscale than downtrodden. The folks at Southern Living, Bon Appétit and Texas Monthly have given kudos to MAX's for, among other things, its fried chicken and vast wine selection.
4. Tiny Boxwoods Café
Hailed for its brunch, including bottomless mimosas and breakfast pizzas, Tiny Boxwoods Café maintains a big presence in the Houston food scene. Tiny Boxwoods, housed in a former warehouse, greets diners craving a classy yet comfortable setting for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. Don't leave without sampling - or taking with you - at least one of this eatery's signature chocolate chip cookies.
5. Kata Robata
At Kata Robata, chef Manabu "Hori" Horiuchi oversees an inspired, modern Japanese menu. According to the Houston Press, menu recommendations from the celebrated chef include sushi, chawanmushi (a savory egg custard) and Akaushi beef skewers. Also, he says, be sure to consider the lime-juice-marinated amberjack with foie gras appetizer. "The idea is to eat both the fish and foie gras together," Horiuchi says. "Not many do that kind of style [of sushi], so it's a signature dish around here."
As their names suggests, this small, quaint bakery creates sweet treats, such as cupcakes, cookies, pastries and macarons. Cupcake flavors at Sweet include berry, peanut butter, churro, salted caramel and tiramisu. Among the variety of macarons are espresso, gingersnap, honey lavender, pistachio and rose.
7. Houston Food Park (St. Emanuel)
As you might suspect, the Houston Food Park is a collection of mobile restaurants. The food park - Houston's first - has been buzzing with activity since it premiered in 2013 at a vacant parking lot next to a former sports bar. Just think: all of that tasty fare in only once place.
Chef Tyson Cole's mantel must be overflowing with awards. Both the chef and the upscale sushi restaurant have scored accolades galore. Uchi invites "diners to explore their gastronomic boundaries by pairing traditional Japanese offerings with new and refreshing flavors and textures." Case in point: maguro sashimi and goat cheese featuring bigeye tuna, pumpkin seed oil and Fuji apple.
9. Empire Café
Empire Café ranks among the hottest spots in Houston for brunch. Its claims to fame extend beyond brunch, though. Other highlights include its cakes (Toll House, carrot and chocolate-peanut butter, among others), its coffees and its spacious outdoor seating. On the café's voluminous menu, you'll certainly find something to whet your appetite or whistle.
10. Local Foods (Rice Village)
Tucked into the Rice Village area, this walkup-counter concept serves - are you ready for it? - locally sourced food. Its seasonal offerings include gourmet sandwiches and salads. Aside from the eats, Local Foods presents an Instagram-worthy ambience, accented by subway tiles, a marble countertop and a wall combining neon lettering, vintage pendant lights and porcelain socket lighting.
Learn more about planning your next meeting or event in Houston at www.visithoustontexas.com/meetings/