Best Restaurants 2014

Best New Restaurants: Café Society

Exceptional coffee shops where coffee is far from the only exceptional thing on the menu

By Katharine Shilcutt September 30, 2014 Published in the October 2014 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Chicken-liver po-boy, eggs benedict, and more from downtown’s The Honeymoon

Common Bond

Pastry chef Roy Shvartzapel has channeled the expertise he gained working at some of the best bakeries (and restaurants) on the planet into creating a bakery that is—no kidding—world-class. Day and night see long lines of Houstonians waiting for his delicate croissants, decadent kugelhopfs, and what may be the best chocolate chip cookies in all of pastry-dom. But Common Bond is much more than a quick stop for baked goods. Lunchtime means a rotating selection of sandwiches, and breakfast brings soft-scrambled eggs topped with fresh vegetables, perfect with a cappuccino or cortado on the sunny patio.

The Honeymoon

This may be the Platonic ideal of a practical restaurant—a niche often unfilled in Houston, particularly downtown, where it has made Market Square the area’s best dining destination. You can get coffee and breakfast in the mornings, a quick weekday business lunch, or wine and cocktails with charcuterie and cheese in the evenings. But what truly sets Honeymoon apart is its emphasis on thoughtful innovation—a crispy chicken-liver po-boy with green tomato–onion jam, smoked salmon over potato latkes with tarragon aioli, or fresh beignets with grillades and grits at brunch—alongside the old standards. Oh, plus you get to watch your coffee being roasted in-house (if, that is, watching the street scenes outside ever gets old, which it won’t).

Siphon Coffee

Like The Honeymoon, this is a shop that takes its food as seriously as its coffee— which shouldn’t be surprising, as both establishments consulted with chef Amanda McGraw on their menus. The morning fare at Siphon includes truly excellent breakfast tacos and a “Texas benedict” with sausage, gravy, and poached eggs over buttermilk biscuits. In the afternoons, enjoy craft beer or wine on the sunny side patio with a variety of panini—our favorite is the prosciutto with chèvre and basil pesto. Co-owners Michael Caplan and Edward Treistman purchase the coffee from local roasters such as Amaya and Boomtown, which can be enjoyed via an elaborate process that produces a glorious cup of joe—elaborate as in a 10-minute trip through a halogen siphon set-up that makes the café look like a mad scientist’s lab. Standard lattes and espressos are options, too, as is a full lineup of local beer and even wine on draft. (Full disclosure: Caplan is the husband of Houstoniapublisher Diane Caplan.)

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