Best Restaurants 2014

Best New Restaurants: Dives

Finding high-quality food in low-key settings is a local tradition, one happily embraced by a new generation of establishments both uptown and down home.

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

Mac ’n’ cheese at Lowbrow

Image: Andrea Weir

El Big Bad

This place may have left behind its old location (Shady Acres) and old name (El Gran Malo), but the fancier downtown digs have changed the funky gastrocantina vibe not a jot. Chef Jonathan Jones’s modern Tex-Mex cuisine—think elegant ceviches with Gulf fish or French toast stuffed with dulce de leche—complements the sultry, spicy interior with its colorful murals and shelf-lined walls of infused tequilas, backlit for dramatic effect.


You may be tempted to write off as gimmicky any restaurant that routinely uses Cheetos in its dishes, but this place is anything but. Those Cheetos—which have made their way into its burgers and mac ‘n’ cheese—are part of Lowbrow’s easygoing DNA, and the reason dishes like masala-spiced chicken wings can mingle on the same menu as fried okra and “conflict-free” hummus. Chef Jason Kerr’s nightly specials depend on what’s in season, while weekly deals include $20 pizza-and-a-pitcher night (which we recommend splitting with friends on the shady Montrose patio). 

Voodoo Queen

You’d never guess it from the intimidating and eerie mural on its exterior, but there's an incredibly hospitable Second Ward bar on the other side of the wall. Voodoo Queen’s a once and future dive, of course, but these days it’s run by the same team that brought Moon Tower Inn to the East End, and the drinks and food are just as good. Look for fried oyster po-boys in the evenings and huge plates of chicken and waffles at brunch on Sundays. Get a Schlitz and a shot of whiskey for $6, so you can save your dollars for the well-stocked jukebox.

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