By any measure of success, 2014 has been Houston’s year when it comes to food.

A year when 50 restaurants could open their doors by July while only six closed. A year that Underbelly chef Chris Shepherd could bring the James Beard Award back to Houston for the first time since Robert Del Grande in 1992. A year…that’s not even over yet. And as our finest restaurants have flourished, the city and its appetite have grown exponentially. Is this sort of growth untenable? Of course, but for now we are gourmands dining at the richest buffet Houston has seen in ages.

In a lesser town, record population increases and a robust economy would inspire a proliferation of chain establishments, or the umpteenth iteration of fast-casual modern American that’s as non-threatening as a basket of Cheddar Bay biscuits. But not here. In Houston, as any good energy trader knows, success is all about calculated risk and diversification.

Increasingly, we’re not only developing our own cuisine—Mutt City, Third Coast, call it what you want—but tapping deeper into the vibrant currents of the international cuisines already flowing through our city. The restaurants that open these days don’t do boring. They don’t do trite. They don’t do basic.

So go ahead: bury your face in a bowl of ramen, dive messily into a peanut butter–topped burger, nibble on deep-fried blood sausage for dessert, enjoy salad greens grown mere feet from where you’re sitting, gnaw the meat off grilled lamb ribs, fill up on tres leches French toast and vanilla-cinnamon margaritas at brunch, polish off chicken liver po-boys, and slurp roasted Gulf oysters from their wood-fired shells. Whatever you want, Houston has it.

Read on to learn all about our 38 favorite new restaurants to open in the last 12 months, plus the five very best.

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