Considering I arrived in Houston halfway through 2018, and considering we already covered the top restaurants in Houston just a few months ago, I felt that publishing some "Best ___ Restaurants of 2018" list would've been unwise. Still, I too am driven by the need to sum up a year's worth of ephemera in one readable piece of content. Thus, I'll share with you my favorite meals (out at restaurants, that is) of 2018, with "2018" starting in July.
I can tell you I had the bomba rice in cuttlefish ink with shrimp, clams, and mussels, and it was a salty explosion of fresh flavors. And I wanted more crispy waffle chips for the beef tartare, which I can still taste. The food was fantastic, but it was more that it was my wedding anniversary, and my wife and I were regaled by fastidious servers in this candle-lit paradise. Also, we had the most beautiful, regal gin and tonics we could ever have wanted. BCN is a jewel, and you should visit once.
I wrote about the informality and ingenuity at this Heights izakaya-like concept this month, but let's talk about my most recent meal at Blackbird. I ordered a host of dishes, capped by the uni carbonara (an early hit). When that arrived, a cook that wasn't chef Billy Kin delivered it. She told me it was her first time making the creamy, briny pasta dish. Considering I cleaned the plate, she succeeded on every level. There's a team spirit that's obvious here; go, because you'll find you can be a part of it really quickly.
Got a group to feed? Order a whole chicken and a bunch of sides. Spring for the salchipapas. I wanted to devour mine during my second visit at this new East End concept. French fries are having a moment again, and these - composed like a bonfire and drenched in spicy and sweet sauces - might be in the lead.
El Tiempo Cantina, Richmond
This was my first formal meal in Houston. As a family we sat at a long table and shared chips and queso, ordered fajitas, and sipped margaritas. We were outside, my daughter got to walk around and say hello to a bunch of people, and I knew I was going to like this city.
A last-minute addition. I'll write more about this newcomer at T.C. Jester near I-10, but just know that the Thai chili ribs are addictive, as are the braised short ribs ... the macaroni and cheese ... just go check it out. Really, really interesting stuff happening here.
There's a lot to like at Chris Shepherd's new steakhouse, including the mouthwatering wagyu zabuton and house-cured meats, but I have to give it up for Victoria Dearmond's roasted banana pie. Look, if you grab a bar seat around 10 p.m., order a scotch and eat this pie, you're going to love yourself. This rich, sweetly symphonic pie is everything.
I wrote about my meal here a few weeks ago. It's the closest thing I've had to authentic Greek grub in America. Plus, they were playing Steely Dan the night I was there. That's always points in my book.
I've written a bit about Indigo so far (with more to come), so I'll make this succinct: Go to Indigo. When dining out, one thing I constantly search for is a kitchen that seems to truly care about every aspect of the experience. Jonny Rhodes, who is presenting the history of soul food - from Africa to the Americas via the slave trade - at this Trinity Gardens spot, seems to have poured everything into this restaurant. Using smoking techniques and small touches, Rhodes created some of the best dishes I've had this year. Now, there are things the place needs to improve upon, but I suggest surrendering yourself to Rhodes and his educational cuisine for a couple hours. Totally worth it.
I wrote about the Ford Fry concept this month, but man, sit at the bar and crack open a bunch of crab legs. That's the ticket. Or get some oysters. If you want it to be fun, La Lucha can be a blast.
On one of those rare Saturday mornings with nothing to do, my wife, daughter, and I drove over to this popular burger and breakfast joint. We sat outside, enjoyed eggs and bacon, and felt a little like our old diner-hoppin' selves. The service couldn't be sweeter, and the good dogs at the table next to us were a bonus.
On another Saturday morning, with my family visiting the in-laws, I got in the car and drove east. I reached this spot on Quitman and ordered the huevos rancheros. The eggs floated on a brothy, acidic ranchero sauce that I drank down. The warm, homemade tortillas helped, too. Loved this breakfast.
Coming from the East Coast, I've found that greasy, thin New York pizza is in my blood. So I went on a trip to find the best New York pizza, settling (for now) on Romano's, the ultimate in foldable, piping hot, cheesy, and crispy slices in the city. I washed the pizza down with a soda. It was perfect.
Shun Japanese Kitchen
The dumplings. Get the dumplings.
This Japanese restaurant in Katy comes with a lot of hype, but after one meal, I absolutely understand it. Chef Mike Lim's rolls were beautifully composed, and the execution on dishes like hamachi tartare was perfect. But the key to this place is everything else: It's clean, bright, and vibrant even when there are about 10 people in the dining room. You feel like you're in a special place no matter the time or day. And the service rivaled the best out there, even BCN. For an otherwise unassuming corner restaurant in a Katy strip center, that's a lot to say.