In recent years no area of town has seen as many stellar restaurant openings as the Heights, most of them comfy spots where people from the neighborhood congregate—people like me on a recent Wednesday night, when I made an evening of it and hit a few standouts:
6:10 p.m. Not long after Houston-raised, Atlanta-based restaurateur Ford Fry opened an outpost of Superica, his ode to Tex-Mex, in the Heights, it already felt lived in. When I belly up to the bar, families already dot the dining room, getting in an early meal.
6:13 p.m. Warm corn chips arrive with two full salsa containers: a spicy roja and a cilantro-infused verde. I start to relax.
6:30 p.m. I’m dipping steaming flour tortillas into a velvety queso fundido and savoring my spicy, smoky My La Parilla margarita with its chile salt rim. The dining room is calm. I’m calm. It’s perfect.
6:53 p.m. It’s a short drive to Squable, the new offering from revered duo Justin Yu and Bobby Heugel (Better Luck Tomorrow), where co-chefs Mark Clayton and Drew Gimma are positively killing it with their eclectic, flavor-packed cuisine.
6:58 p.m. Oliver at the bar suggests an Aligoté, a somewhat acidic, briny French white. The room is full of happy diners. The turquoise accents and vintage wood remind me of Superica.
7:05 p.m. There’s one dish I crave above all others: sourdough topped with a rich aioli-like spread, mussels, and calico beans, hands down one of my favorites of the year. I can’t eat too much as I must continue, but every bite is heaven.
7:30 p.m. I walk out, already plotting my return.
7:39 p.m. As I enter Neo Baguette, Karim Kasri’s Mediterranean-style all-day spot, a couple passes by. “We saved some food for you,” laughs the gentleman. The counter-service restaurant is full of folks enjoying quiet, lazy dinners.
7:43 p.m. I peruse the menu and order rigatoni with grilled shrimp and olives in a hearty tomato sauce with parmesan and pecorino Romano. I sink into a comfy banquette and relax.
7:57 p.m. Dinner is served, and it’s delicious. I’m slowing down now, but I must persevere.
8:20 p.m. I box up my leftovers and head back to the car. It’s a five-minute drive to Mastrantos on Studewood.
8:28 p.m. Owners Mari and Xavier Godoy welcome me into their restaurant, which offers a global-inspired menu with chef-driven small plates, skillfully executed meat and fish entrées, and homemade pastas and pastries. The nightly rush is slowing down here. I grab a bar seat and ask for the dessert menu.
8:37 p.m. A cappuccino arrives, and just as quickly, a peach cobbler made by pastry chef Eliu Palacios is set in front of me.
8:43 p.m. The cobbler’s buttery, brown-sugary streusel sends me to a happy place, its caramelized peach slices warming my soul. Rich vanilla ice cream cools it off. I have chosen well.
9 p.m. I bid Xavier goodnight and sincerely wish him the best—this is my kind of neighborhood restaurant. All of these places are