HAVING TROUBLE KEEPING UP with Houston’s busy restaurant scene? No worries—allow me to suggest some of my favorite recent experiences. Here’s where you should eat this month.
Growing up in Philadelphia, I’m deeply nostalgic for classic East Coast diners, especially those counter seats where you feel a part of the grease-coated action. So, for sure I’m smitten with Atlas Diner, Richard Knight’s spot at Bravery Chef Hall where you can spot up at a stool and chat away over, say, an incredibly juicy and fulfilling cheeseburger. I recommend the double, topped with perfectly melted yellow American cheese, crisp pickles, and stringy sautéed red onions. The bun is finished on the grill. It holds up. It’s outstanding.
The Gypsy Poet
Open for two months, this spacious spot that seems part pizza place, part cafe hangout—notable for its comfy living room furniture and just the faintest scent of a Home Depot timber aisle. But there’s real charm in the rusticity of the Gypsy Poet, not to mention some seriously delicious pizza. The dough here goes under a 72-hour fermentation process that creates a beautiful crust—a little bubbly, a little crispy—that’s finished with a splendid char. I enjoyed the five-cheese cinque formaggi, effortlessly balancing two kinds of mozzarella with funky gorgonzola, creamy goat cheese, and sharp Parmesan. Wine and beer available here—a good hang.
I’m just reminding you, fair diner, that Brothers Taco House remains one of the gold standards of breakfast tacos in this or any part of Texas. My beloved chorizo with egg and cheese was juicy inside the homemade flour tortilla, and did I have a barbacoa taco? Of course. To me it’s the single best taco in the city.
Mico’s Hot Chicken
Just before this whole Popeye’s chicken sandwich business kicked into gear, I drove out to the Galleria Food Truck Park to try Houston’s (allegedly) only Nashville hot chicken. Mico’s, which opened in June in a truck, has a small but powerful menu—sandwich, fries, tenders—where the chicken stars. I got the Sammich—a hefty and long breaded breast, pickles, slaw, and a special sauce—and asked for my chicken “hot” (you can get no heat, mild, medium, hot, or x-hot). Was I breathing fire? Just a little. Did I finish the sandwich? You bet. I suggest visiting Mico’s before the line really starts forming.
Sometimes the hype of a single dish ruins the experience when it’s not up to snuff. Well, I can honestly say that wasn’t the case when I visited Kata Robata and had my first dish of lobster miso mac and cheese. It made a fine alternative to the sushi rolls I enjoyed, including the delicately spicy Texas Hamachi roll, a riff on the famous yellowtail and jalapeño that originated at Nobu. Just a gentle note to diners that Kata remains an outstanding dining option 10 years into its life.
This summer, Steven Salazar of the Kirby Group and Gabriel Medina (formerly of Kata and Aqui) launched Click, a virtual food hall. How it works: You visit Click’s website, order food from one or more of its ghost restaurants, and then you can either pick it up or have it delivered. Medina and his kitchen staff cooks everything from a wide and growing list of cuisines. An early favorite: Sandwich Legend, which features hot and cold sandwiches. A fried fish sandwich was perfectly cooked and satisfying, with the protein kept separate from a roll laid out with clam sauce, mayonnaise, onion, and cabbage.