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.
I have more words coming on the new Mutiny Wine Room, the Napa Valley-comes-to-Houston effort from husband-and-wife team Mark Ellenberger and Emily Trout. But here are the basics: You'll find wine from the couple's own Napa winery, Kagan Cellars, plus bottles from other under-the-radar places in Napa and Sonoma. The menu emphasizes California flavors with some Texas twists (there's quail, plus Vietnamese-style Gulf prawns and chicken liver mousse served with Texas toast), and the Contemporary space is airy, tall, and relaxing. An addition to the Heights that makes plenty of sense.
Every time I drive by Voodoo Doughnut, I catch a line of about 15–20 people, plus traffic cops waving people in and out of the small parking lot. The mere prospect of going to Voodoo—making its arrival to Houston a couple weeks ago from Portland, Oregon—seems daunting, but think about taking a half-hour out of your day (maybe early morning, mid-to-late afternoon, or late night) to sample the treats at the iconic shop. The donuts tend to be on the sweeter side, but I'm a sucker for the bacon maple bar. Also, any flavor that trends tart usually works well. The H-Town Doughnut with tangerine Tang, however? Super sugary.
Need a quick chicken and rice fix? Didn't have enough wings at the Super Bowl? The first brick-and-mortar spot for Sticky's Chicken, the popular food truck known for its Halal Guys-style chicken over rice with its own sweet Sticky's sauce and white aioli, is here for you. While the chicken over rice doesn't have the same pop as the classic New York street version, it makes for a good lunch item, even if it's on the smaller side. In that same vein, wings in the Sticky's sauce come five to an order, and I'd love six. There are fries and sliders, too, plus karaage if you want crispier poultry.
I'll have more to say about Jeni's this week, but to start, this is a nice addition to the city's ice cream field. Jeni's has twee, creative flavors like wildberry lavender, brandied banana brûlée, and pistachio honey, so you'll want to sample. Thankfully, the friendly staff here opens conversation by suggesting samples with tiny metal spoons. Jeni's nails its flavor profiles with a particularly sweet edge—try brown butter to taste all the elements in perfect harmony. For those who don't want a sugar overload, the tarter and more floral flavors will work well.
If you read the internet, you'll see a lot of good things written about Brett's BBQ Shop in Katy ... like over the last week. It seems all of us got there around the same time, and for good reason: Brett Jackson has been crafting some killer 'cue out west for the last year and a half. Read more about what I said about his specials here (recent specials include bone marrow), but don't visit without getting the Texas trinity. While the brisket is lusciously fatty with a brawny bark, the tender pork ribs might be better. It's hard to say—we'll just have to return for another taste.
It's time to take another look at the gustatory carnival that is MAD after its win at Truffle Masters. There may be no better time, too, with Valentine's Day just around the corner. Consider the more traditional Spanish dishes here, including the exceptional octopus and the well-executed paellas. A far-out gin-and-tonic pairs well with all of it, and if you do want one of the restaurant's wild molecular gastronomy dishes, consider the nidos (potato nests, egg yolk, truffle, jamón Ibérico de Bellota).