Best Restaurants 2022

Houston's 50 Best Restaurants

Whittling down our list to just 50 spots was nearly impossible—but we did it.

By Daniel Renfrow, Geneva Diaz, Shelby Stewart, and Alexia Partouche With Mai Pham and Phoebe Gibson

Pictured: Indigenous Mexican flavors and techniques are front-and-center at Xochi. Image: Paula Murphey


Although Houston’s food scene has gotten quite a lot of national attention lately, Houston foodies have always known that the Bayou City is the place to be if you like to eat.

Our city is home to a practically endless array of restaurants that can meet whatever craving you’re currently trying to satiate. Hungry for Indian food? We have plenty of all-star options. On the hunt for a taco so sinful you’ll want to visit a confessional after your meal? H-Town also has you coveredBut with all of that endless variety—seriously, there are over 12,000 restaurants in our fair city—how does one determine which restaurants are the best?

Well, it takes quite a lot of work (mainly eating), but we’ve managed to put together a list of our 50 top choices. Whether you’re in the mood for some life-changing West African fare by way of a highly Instagrammable food hall or some classic Italian comfort food so good it will have you calling up your Nonna, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for—and more—on this list.


Buffalo Bayou Park

Flora

Flora, the latest incarnation of the former The Kitchen at the Dunlavy, is a scene stealer. By day, floor-to-ceiling windows serve as a canvas for the natural landscape of Buffalo Bayou Park. By night, glimmering crystal chandeliers imbue the space with a dreamy ambience befitting a fairy tale. Flora’s contemporary Mexican menu blends a variety of regional cuisines. Dishes like the ceviche negro or tuna tostada take cues from Baja, while heartier dishes like the beef short rib in red mole or the pescado a la talla draw inspiration from Oaxaca and the Yucatán. Those who prefer Tex-Mex can indulge in guacamole, nachos, or Flora’s parrillada (a fajita-style mixed grill).

 

Cypress

Nomad Barbecue

Nomad Barbecue started out as a pop-up concept, serving up smoke-and-fire creations across the Lone Star State and beyond. In May 2022, the restaurant’s owner, Houston pitmaster James McFarland (formerly of Reveille Barbecue Co.) settled down at Cypress’s Misfit Outpost, a five-acre property complete with a taproom, outdoor seating, and a playground. Here, Nomad serves up the Texas craft BBQ you know and love but with a distinct Houston edge. The restaurant’s hybrid menu, featuring barbecue specials on weekdays and à la carte meats on weekends, is a tribute to H-Town’s diversity, from the smoked turkey bacon Brie sandwich and tacos vampiros to Trill-slaw and malbec-and-basil barbacoa tacos.

 

Downtown

ChòpnBlọk

West African restaurant ChòpnBlọk started out as a pop-up back in 2018. It wasn’t until 2021 that the restaurant, founded by Ope Amosu, who featured as a guest judge on the Houston season of Bravo’s Top Chef, found a permanent home inside the food hall at POST Houston. The fast-casual restaurant presents a contemporary approach to traditional West African cuisine; the menu showcases a range of flavors and techniques while each dish is deeply rooted in the region’s various cultures. Dive headfirst into the diaspora by trying the Trad combo or the Motherland combo, two of our favorite dishes there.

West African restaurant ChòpnBlọk, is a fast-casual restaurant located in the food hall at POST Houston.

Golfstrømmen

The friendship between Christopher Haatuft, a celebrated Norwegian chef, and Paul Qui, a Top Chef and James Beard Award winner, may have been forged in the fjords of Norway, but their new Houston restaurant is very Houston. At Norwegian-inspired seafood restaurant Golfstrømmen, which opened in POST Houston in December 2021, Haatuft and Qui have created a menu that speaks to Haatuft’s unique perspective in addition to the pair’s commitment to sustainability. The menu is stacked with sustainably sourced seafood (some of the freshest you can find in Houston), and includes standout dishes like red fish ceviche, Norwegian snitters, and a raw bar from which dreams are made.

Potente

Astros owner Jim Crane envisioned a chic space for pre- and post-game dining when he opened this place across from Minute Maid Park downtown, but it’s so much more than that. Come here to experience la dolce vita, complete with an opulent, gilded atmosphere, refined wine service, and cuisine from longtime Brennan’s chef Danny Trace. From the pappardelle al cinghiale made with grilled Iberico tenderloin to the tacchino served with smoked Texas heritage turkey, chef Trace is setting the standard for good pasta. If you need any extra incentive, it’s worth noting that the truffle pasta at Potente received a shoutout from Food Network for being one of the best pasta dishes in the nation. 

Rosalie Italian Soul

Named after founder Chris Cosentino’s great-grandmother, Rosalie Italian Soul will transport you back to evenings spent in your Nonna’s kitchen—even if you don’t have a drop of Italian-American blood running through your veins. The restaurant specializes in Italian comfort food with a uniquely Houstonian twist, leading to a menu stacked with gems like rigatoni in a Texas wild boar ragu, local red snapper served with cracked olives, and spaghetti and meatballs topped with Sunday gravy. 

Soy Pinoy

Soy Pinoy is a love letter to Filipino cuisine from James Beard Award-winning chefs Paul Qui—yes, this is Qui's second appearance on the list—and Tom Cunanan. The restaurant, located in the food hall at POST Houston, offers up some of the best Filipino cuisine you can find in the city. Cunanan recently revamped the restaurant’s menu, and it’s pretty exciting. There’s a sisig salad, made with pig’s ears fried to a crisp and seasoned with the palm vinegar so prevalent in Filipino cooking; each bite is a crunchy sweet-and-sour joy to the senses. The Best Lechon, an ode to the Cebu-style lechon that Bourdain proclaimed the best in the world, lives up to its name, crispy but light and airy at the same time. Whether you take baby steps and order lumpia (the Filipino version of egg rolls) or go all-in with the giant Kamayan feast platter loaded with a smorgasbord of choice Filipino treats, Soy Pinoy makes its food hall setting seem like a portal to a South Pacific flavor wonderland.

Toro Toro

Thematically, Toro Toro, a pan-Latin steakhouse from celebrity chef Richard Sandoval that showcases the cuisine of Latin America alongside steak and sushi, just makes sense for Houston, especially since the buzzy new restaurant is known to put on quite a show tableside. Signature starter items like the amarillo ceviche and smoked beef tiradito arrive in a smoky flourish. Then comes the main course: for parties that order the Toro Toro Churrasco or the 52-ounce tomahawk rib eye, the restaurant employs a classic guéridon, which is wheeled to the table with enough pomp and circumstance to make heads turn. For the tomahawk, put your phone on video mode and get ready for a grand show, because the steak is doused in mezcal, set aflame, then sliced and served to order.

Vic & Anthony’s

A concept from Landry founder Tilman Fertitta, Vic & Anthony’s was created after Fertitta and his father Vic toured the country, tasting steaks from some of the nation’s finest restaurants along the way. (If this is how billionaires like to roadtrip, then count us in.) Together, they asked themselves what makes a great steakhouse, and they had some ideas. Obviously, Vic & Anthony’s high-grade beef plays a big role, but so does its service and ambiance, both areas in which the restaurant makes a strong showing. While Vic & Anthony’s award-winning menu includes must-try starters like roasted bacon- and maple-glazed quail, the meaty main courses at the chophouse tend to steal the show. Here, you can have your pick from premier cuts like imported Wagyu or locally sourced USDA Prime steaks. Optional complements include everything from salt service or roasted bone marrow. 

Xochi

Boldly different from anything else in Houston, Xochi is Hugo Ortega’s chef d’oeuvre, the Oaxacan restaurant inside the downtown Marriott that finally clinched his coveted James Beard Foundation Best Chef Southwest title. Indigenous Mexican flavors and techniques are front-and-center at Xochi, which continues to set the bar with the most exciting and creative cuisine in the Bayou City. The vibrant dishes and distinctive flavors here play into the restaurant’s mission to celebrate the Mexican region of Oaxaca and its endemic cuisine. Guests can expect an abundance of mole, house-made chocolate, and masa, as well as delicious vegetarian selections. And if you’re interested in a traditional Oaxacan breakfast, you won’t be disappointed with its Sunday brunch buffet.

Indigenous Mexican flavors and techniques are front-and-center at Xochi. 

Image: Paula Murphy 

East End

Café Louie

When the pandemic hit in 2020, Chef Angelo Emiliani loaded his life into his 2003 Toyota Sequoia, with a custom-built, 3,500-pound pizza oven in tow, and trekked his way from California back to his native Houston. Nearly two years later, the scrappy chef opened Café Louie with his sister, pastry chef Lucianna “Louie” Emiliani, in Houston’s burgeoning East End neighborhood. Housed in a converted warehouse known as The Plant, Café Louie features a rustic menu spanning pastas, sandwiches, soups, salads, and pastries. The all-day café has recently added a dinner service, complete with a creative, Mediterranean-inspired menu that speaks to the synergy of the brother-sister duo.

Nancy’s Hustle

Nancy's Hustle is a modern bistro with a bustling scene on Houston's East End. If you’re a first-timer, start with the spicy beef and butter dumplings and their namesake “Nancy Cakes”—fluffy, corn-based pancakes with smoked trout roe and chives. Other choice indulgences here include the roasted tilefish with melted tomatoes and sweet corn puree, and the crispy cheeseburger on English muffin-brioche with thick-cut fries and a housemade pickle party. This place gets crowded, so be prepared to squeeze in!

Street to Kitchen

Located in the East End, Street to Kitchen’s “unapologetic” Thai menu focuses on authentic Thai cuisine, with key ingredients, such as the restaurant’s curry paste, made from scratch in-house. Aside from classic noodle dishes and curries, Street to Kitchen specializes in crispy Thai fried chicken, drunken noodles, garlic chive pancakes, and a mango sticky rice that knocks the competition out of the park. The restaurant is the brainchild of Benchawan Jabthong Painter, a Thailand native who grew up cooking in her family’s restaurant as a child. When Painter first moved to Houston with her American husband, Graham Painter, she spent some time working under Chef Justin Yu at Theodore Rex before the success of her pop-ups led her to venture out on her own. We’re happy that she did.

 

Fourth Ward

Bludorn

There’s a reason why Chef Aaron Bludorn’s eponymous restaurant is always on our list of places to eat. From the beautifully-made seafood towers and dry-aged New York strip made with local beef to the picture-perfect cocktails and global wine selection, there’s a lot to love about Bludorn. The atmosphere feels fresh, with cerulean blue banquettes always filled with customers. Whether you're making dinner plans for the weekend or weeknight, plan ahead; tables are booked far in advance.

Cioppino at Bludorn

Image: Julie Soefer 

Galleria/Uptown

Hidden Omakase

If you’ve tried it all and are looking for something truly adventurous, Hidden Omakase has a lux tasting menu prepared with ingredients sourced straight from Japan that will offer you something entirely new. With only two seatings per night at an 18-person chef’s counter, the restaurant offers an ultra-exclusive and intimate dining experience that is meticulously curated by Chef Niki Vongthong. Vongthong is no stranger to the kitchen; she spent her early years working in her family’s beloved Heights-located Thai restaurant Asia Market before her chef work took her to Thailand and eventually back to Houston in the kitchens of Aqui (now closed, forever missed) and Uchi. It’s at Hidden Omakase, however, that Vongthong’s skills really sing. 

Musaafer

The Galleria can feel a bit overwhelming for some, but if there's any other reason to go here aside from shopping, it’s for a lavish and elegant dinner experience at Musaafer. The restaurant's name translates to “a traveler,” and the menu itself is just that: a journey into Indian cuisine. The à la carte menu showcases the country’s culinary diversity, allowing you to taste a little bit of all the regions. There’s also an unforgettable show quality to a meal at Musaafer, which features some absolutely stunning interiors; it’s one of the main reasons we make our visits.

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse

The flagship chophouse of the the namesake brand, Pappas Bros. Steakhouse is all about premier dry-aged steaks coupled with an unmistakable, upscale ambiance. From the attentive waitstaff to the live piano music, Pappas Bros. Steakhouse is a treat. This buzzy spot isn’t just known for its turf; tasty seafood options there include can’t-miss entrées such as the broiled Ōra King salmon filet (straight from New Zealand) and Australian lobster tail. And while other steakhouses might not put much thought into house bread, the bread at Pappas Bros. is so good you might spend half your dinner trying to come up with ways in which you can sneak some home with you. 

Turner’s

Berg Hospitality Group (B&B Butchers, B.B. Lemon, The Annie Cafe & Bar) has a winner with this social club-style restaurant, which feels like a straight throwback to ‘70s-era opulence. Here, chef-turned-consultant Robert Del Grande oversees a menu of luxuriously and rich American and Continental classics (branded as “heritage-type” dishes) in a beautiful dark room full of framed paintings and photographs, a baby grand piano (usually being played), and a gorgeous black marble bar with antique glass. If you’re planning to dine here, just know you’ll be diving deep into your pockets as the price of an entrée can fall between $32 and $96 dollars and cocktails range from $16 to $22. Throwing money at this place is quite easy.

Turner’s is a social club-style restaurant that feels like a straight throwback to ‘70s-era opulence.

Uchiko

At first blush, Uchiko is nearly indistinguishable from its parent, Uchi. The design is similar; the menu is similar; the service style, uniforms, and tabletop—even down to the classic paper chopstick covers—are all remarkably similar. Precocious child that it is, however, Uchiko takes everything good from its parent and adds its own charms. And with Chef Shaun King at its helm, Uchiko shines with things that Uchi can’t offer, dishes like an exceptional hearth-roasted lobster cooked in banana leaf with tom kha and umeboshi butter; craft cocktails like the fujin, made with Japanese whiskey, smoked fig, and allspice liqueur; and desserts like the crowd-pleasing s’mores, shaped like a candy bar and charred at the table with Binchotan-style Thaan Charcoal. It’s like the fulfillment of every good parent’s fondest hope (supposedly) that their children will outshine themselves.

Crowd-pleasing s’mores charred at the table with Binchotan-style Thaan Charcoal at Uchiko.

Urbe

If you’re craving Mexican street food, Uptown Park’s Urbe is the place to go. The dinner menu hosts favorites like fire-roasted oysters and Oaxacan tlayuda topped with quesillo, but if you want to try Urbe at its best, stop by at lunch time for its tacos. Whether you go with brisket and mushrooms, pork and charred pineapple, or blackened octopus and chilaca peppers, you’ll end up with a new favorite place to eat.

 

Heights

5Kinokawa

From the handcrafted chef’s counter fashioned by the cook himself to the seasonal seafood flown in biweekly from Japan, the details and dishes at 5Kinokawa are steeped in symbol and story. The latest venture of Chef Billy Kin, formerly of Blackbird Izakaya (now closed) and Hidden Omakase, 5Kinokawa offers a chef’s table tasting menu and one of the most exceptional dining experiences in Houston. Kin’s passion for his craft extends beyond the specialty ingredients from Japan’s Toyosu Market. It's ingrained in the way that he explains the story behind the restaurant’s carefully curated ingredients, such as giant Pacific octopus or A5 grade Wagyu beef—and it underlies his invitation to 14 guests per seating to gather around the bar and take part in this communal, multidimensional experience.

 

Casa Nomad

Quintana Roo may be a quick two-hour flight from Houston, but you can get there even faster by visiting the Tulum-inspired patio bar and restaurant Casa Nomad in M-K-T. This Heights hot spot opened in September 2021, and if you follow any local influencers, you’ve likely seen a steady stream of videos of them boomeranging their way through intimate dinners at the tiny eatery, which clocks in at a total of 800 square feet (yes, you read that number correctly) and seats a total of 30 people at a time. The pipsqueak spot is home to a breezy, tropical-inspired cocktail menu from Tyler Barrera as well a Mayan Riviera-worthy food menu from culinary director Araceli Perez, which features tempting options like lobster tacos and grilled oysters cooked in chile morita.

Chivos

Although Chivos, the Mexican American concept from the group behind Heights hot spots Space Cowboy and Trash Panda Drinking Club, translates to “goats” in Spanish, you won’t necessarily find goat on the menu; what you will find is inspired food made from scratch. From fresh salsas and moles to tortillas made from house-nixtamalized masa, founding chef Thomas Bille laid the foundation for what has become one of the coolest haunts in the Heights. The chef parted ways with the restaurant in July, but the menu and ethos behind it remain the same. The shareable plates are particularly winning; favorites include a gorgeous tuna tostada, roasted bone marrow tacos, stone-fruit burrata and toast, and the pozole dumplings with pork broth and almond salsa matcha. 

Coltivare

Look, a lot of restaurants claim to use fresh ingredients, but how many of them can say they use ingredients from their very own backyard garden? With a menu dictated by Houston's seasonal offerings, Coltivare’s rustic Italian fare boasts beauties like fried heirloom okra, zucchini slices stuffed with ricotta, and pumpkin ravioli. And you have to try a pizza if you’re there—we suggest the slow-cooked pork, pepper, and onion pie (with a yard egg added on top, of course).

Loro

Southeast Asian flavors get a Lone Star-style makeover at Loro, the Heights’ best (and only) Asian smokehouse. Housed inside a renovated church, the restaurant’s laid-back atmosphere is the perfect place to enjoy a hearty meal. Some of our top picks there include the Texas sweet corn topped with yuzu kosho aioli, the oak-smoked salmon served over coconut rice, and char siew pork belly glazed with hoisin sauce. While at Loro, it’s essential (of course) to wash all of your food down with some draft sake from the drink menu.

Housed inside a renovated church, Loro’s laid-back atmosphere is the perfect place to enjoy a hearty meal. 

Mapojeong

At this first and only Korean barbecue restaurant in the Heights, owner Ken Bridge (Pinks Pizza, Lola, The Ready Room, etc.) wanted to pay homage to the barbecue houses he frequented in his youth in Los Angeles's Koreatown. Inside Mapojeong on any given day, the sound of sizzling meat, accompanied by the aromas of Korean barbecue, greets you enticingly. And everything on the greatest-hits menu translates to delicious, from appetizers like the bulgogi tteokbokki rice cakes and the incredible kimchijeon (kimchi pancake) to mouthwatering steakhouse cuts of prime USDA beef, A5 Wagyu from Japan, and king crab basted in gochujang butter. If you’re with a group, choose one of the combo meat plates and let the servers do the rest. 

Trattoria Sofia

One of the latest and most notable achievements of the prolific Berg Hospitality Group, Trattoria Sofia is the Italian restaurant Houston didn’t know that it needed. Intimate and romantic, the dining room—with its half-moon booths, indirect lighting, and lush foliage—sets the stage for a dining experience to remember. Food-wise, Berg tapped chef-consultant Magnus Hansson to craft a modern Italian menu that has "molto bene" written all over it, from deceptively simple starters like the crostini di stracciatella and caponata Siciliana to fan favorites like cacio e pepe pasta and pollo alla parmigiana. From the bar, thoughtfully constructed cocktails—created by consulting mixologist Alba Huerta, the 2022 James Beard Award winner for outstanding bar program—include the Modena Cup, a Pimm’s cup with strawberry, blood orange, and white balsamic.

Intimate and romantic, the dining room at Trattoria Sofia—with its half-moon booths, indirect lighting, and lush foliage—sets the stage for a dining experience to remember.

Image: Kirsten Gilliam 

Independence Heights

Sao Lao Thai Cafe

Walking into Sao Lao Thai Cafe feels like entering your best friend’s apartment. But this trendy, cozy Independence Heights restaurant is more than just welcoming vibes: chef-owner Souli Phaduangdet’s Lao and Thai creations are a labor-of-love tribute to her family’s refugee past. The restaurant’s curated menu is an homage to Phaduangdet’s late mother, who sold homemade dishes like Lao chicken noodle soup to keep the family afloat during the Vietnam War. Today, this herby broth, stewed for eight hours and laden with handmade rice-flour noodles, is one of Phaduangdet’s favorite menu items. Otherwise at Sao Lao Thai Cafe, you’ll find mostly Laotian cuisine with a dash of Isan dishes, fare that hails from Thailand’s northeast Isan region.

Gatlin’s Fins & Feathers

At new Historic Independence Heights restaurant Gaitlin’s Fins & Feathers, chef-owner Greg Gatlin and executive Chef Michelle Wallace, of Gatlin’s BBQ fame, are shifting their sights to classic comfort fare. The menu at the restaurant features dishes that you’ll surely recognize (not to mention crave), but with a special Bayou City spin. Take, for example, Gatlin’s chicken enchiladas, which fold carefully smoked pulled chicken beneath layers of salsa verde, crema, and cotija cheese. With everything from Gulf Coast classics to Southern seafood staples, Gatlin’s Fins & Feathers aims to be the kind of place where folks relish the flavors and linger just a little while longer (you know, to save room for dessert).

 

Midtown

Winnie’s

Some of the drinks at Winnie’s, a new sandwich-, po’ boy-, and oyster-dispensing patio bar in Midtown, are served in little treasure chests full of ice. It’s a kitschy shtick that fits perfectly with the concept’s general air of quirkiness. Opened in September 2021 by Johnny’s Gold Brick owner Benjy Mason and chefs Chris Roy and Graham Laborde, Winnie’s has become a favorite destination for those looking for a casual spot in which to kick back and imbibe with friends while dining on some truly stoner-caliber comfort food. Standout dishes include tempting eats like the restaurant’s version of a crunch wrap supreme, a BLT katsu sando, and a shrimp po’ boy so good you’ll think you’ve been magically transported to the Louisiana bayou.

 

Montrose

Amore

It’s the restaurant version of the classic American Dream story: Alfredo Mojica left his 20-year tenured position as executive chef at Da Marco to open his own place. Investing his life’s savings and with help from his family, he opened Amore Italian Restaurant to an enthusiastic word-of-mouth welcome in December 2021. The menu at the restaurant plays like his own greatest hits album, from the decadently delicious Spaghetti Harry’s Bar to the red-wine slow-braised short ribs with burrata to the simply grilled whole branzino. A dinner at Amore is a must for any Houstonian who considers themself an Italian food connoisseur.

Georgia James

Georgia James ranks as one of our favorite steakhouses of all time. Between the ribeye steak, the Gulf Coast oysters, and the fried mashed potatoes, this Montrose restaurant does it all, and does it well. Georgia James, which recently parted ways with its founder, celebrity chef Chris Shepherd, got some cool new digs this past June in the mixed-use development Regent Square, and now the restaurant is boosting its offerings with new menu items—and a totally epic rooftop space that provides some pretty killer views. If you’re heading over to Georgia James, be sure to bring enough friends on your visit to feast on the Baller Board—an off-menu item that features a surprise sampling of food hand-selected by the chef, including a fair mix of seafood and steak components. And, of course, make sure you also order a steak, as the restaurant offers some of the best cuts of meat you can find anywhere in town.

Rooftop Lounge at Georgia James

Hugo’s

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Hugo’s is the best place to go for traditional Mexican food in Houston. The Montrose restaurant, from James Beard Award-winner Hugo Ortega, makes all of its food from scratch (including the cheese, the mole, the tortillas, and the chocolate), so every bite you take is 100 percent delicious and authentic. Pair your meal with a drink off of the restaurant’s award-winning wine list or tequila menu to get the full Hugo’s experience.

Aguachile de Camaron at Hugo's

Image: Paula Murphy

March

Goodnight Hospitality’s MARCH prides itself on exploring regions in the Mediterranean where boundaries meet. The menu focuses on these collections of marches—an area of land on the border between two territories一with dishes that express various cultures, languages, and traditions. When making your reservation, choose a six- or nine-course food menu, or opt for the pairing menu that includes beverages. The nine-course has a tantalizing plate of farro, served with salsa juvert, squid ink, and apricot; and a sakura pork collar plate with zante currants and glyko kitromilo that will make your mouth water. The restaurant’s robust wine list (another key reason to plan for a visit) features 11,000 bottles of wine from all over the world, with a focus on Spanish wine.

March ranks as one of the city’s most exclusive at 28-seats, this restaurant places a focus on the Mediterranean with six- and nine-course menus.

Image: Julie Soefer

 

Marmo

High-end Italian chophouse Marmo debuted in Montrose Collective, Houston’s newest mixed-use development hub, back in April, and it’s already making waves through a robust menu heavy on steaks, pasta, and seafood dishes—the essentials, in other words. Standout dishes on its menu, which was curated by executive chef Eli Jackson and Julian Marucci, a chef-partner with Atlas Restaurant Group (also the force behind buzzy H-Town spots Ouzo Bay and Loch Bar), include a beautifully plated hamachi, a heavenly squid ink campanelle, and any of the restaurant’s 45-day dry-aged steaks, which come in cuts like American Wagyu, Black Angus, and veal.

Nobie’s

Hip eatery Nobie's excels with menus that change daily, mixing up neighborhood favorites with inventive plates. The beer-battered sweet potato tots with harissa and goat cheese, fried chicken dinner with arugula salad, and olive oil cake remain some of Houston’s essential feel-good fare. You also can’t go wrong with any of Nobie’s comforting pasta dishes or its many new veggie-centric offerings. The outstanding bar program at the quaint Montrose eatery produces a constantly evolving list of cool cocktails, though you can never go wrong with a perfectly balanced Negroni or even a shot of Fernet Branca.

Ostia

Ostia’s menu takes a farm-to-table approach and is best known for its seasonally rotating dishes. As a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant with a touch of Italian flare, chef Travis McShane’s menu may feature proteins like hanger steak, swordfish, and dorade, and pastas like gnocchi with seasonal vegetables, orecchiette with Italian sausage, and bucatini with guanciale. The cocktails, wine, and local beer menu are also always evolving, so you can never get bored with making this a recurring place in which to dine. Pro tip: When you make your reservation, request to sit in their greenhouse space, which has the perfect amount of natural light for you to ace every single one of your food pics (trust us, you’ll be taking a lot of them).

When you make your reservation at Ostia, request to sit in their greenhouse space.

Image: Jenn Duncan

Rosie Cannonball

Modern Mediterranean food is the star of the show at Rosie Cannonball, where every pizza is cooked in the wood oven and paired with a glass of refined European wine or an Italian-inspired cocktail. Though there are plenty of delicious dinner options—we insist you try the fennel sausage pizzamake sure you leave some room for dessert. And just so you know, no trip to Rosie Cannonball is complete without the signature mint chocolate gelato to close out the night.

Traveler’s Table

Traveler’s Table gets high marks when it comes to innovation and creativity. Seated in the heart of Montrose, the restaurant speaks to the diversity of Houston's population through a menu that is truly global. The restaurant’s eclectic menu has something for wherever it is in the world that your tastebuds currently want to land. With options including refreshing watermelon and Argentinian provoleta and Caribbean braised oxtails, executive chef Stanton Bundy will make a world traveler out of you by the time you’re ready for dessert.

Seated in the heart of Montrose, Traveler's Table speaks to the diversity that is Houston through a menu that is truly global.

Image: Jenn Duncan 

Uchi

While we’re quick to praise Uchiko, we wouldn’t dare overlook its predecessor. What Uchiko does well, Uchi did first. Spicy yellowtail served cold with chili, ham, and egg makimono loaded with beer mustard, and buttery foie gras nigiri make this Montrose locale’s menu stand out among the rest. Don’t just take our word for it: Get the chef’s omakase and taste test your way through a ten-course sampling of everything Uchi has to offer.

Multiple Locations

Mala Sichuan Bistro

Don’t let those peppers intimidate you—Mala Sichuan Bistro is more than just spice. It’s about a balance of flavors, textures, and sensations that tingle and warm the palate. Given that their name stands for two types of spicy flavors, "Ma'' and "La,'' you can find this combo in many of its dishes on the menu. Mala’s menu is extensive, so order anything from street snacks like their handmade dumplings to cold appetizers and different dishes divided by protein types, including vegetarian options. (Ask for the stir-fried green beans with crispy spicy chicken—a tasty secret menu combo.) You can find the bistro in five locations around Houston: Montrose, Chinatown, Katy Asian Town, Sugar Land, and the Heights.

You can find Mala Sichuan Bistro in five locations around Houston: Montrose, Chinatown, Katy Asian Town, Sugar Land, and the Heights (pictured).

 

Museum District

Le Jardinier

Nestled in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is Le Jardinier, the Bastion Collection restaurant serving up authentic French fare. Le Jardinier, which translates to “the gardener” in English, sports a menu filled with—as its name would imply—the freshest of ingredients. As you can imagine, a bistro housed inside a museum has to be artistically up to par, and you’ll be impressed from the colorful dining room decor to the luxurious menu options. Chef Felipe Botero takes French dining to the next level—he has curated everything from crustacean ravioli to poached lobster and grilled octopus—and as the seasons change, so will Botero’s menu. But perhaps the coolest part about Le Jadinier is that dinner menus are often modeled after installations and exhibitions you’ll find in the museum. 

 

Rice Village

Hamsa

Sof Hospitality, the group behind Hamsa, has a track record of doing outstanding things. First came Doris Metropolitan, then Badolina Bakery & Cafe. Hamsa, the group’s new modern Israeli concept, is no less impressive. Chefs Sash Kurgan and Yotam Dolev’s menu offers a world of possibilities, from the flavorful salatim to a hummus that blows any other local options fully out of the water. Rounding out the menu are several options for grilled skewers, whole grilled branzino, and the unforgettable Balady eggplant—whole roasted and served on a bed of tahini with pine nuts and parsley. Hamsa, even in its early stages, is already raising the bar for Middle Eastern food in Houston—and may do so for years to come.

 

River Oaks

Concura Italian Bites

This carefully curated River Oaks establishment epitomizes la bella vita through and through, from its high-end Italian furnishings and eye-catching design to the chef’s table dining and open-concept kitchen. Concura, which means “with care” in Italian, is the creation of owners Jessica Biondi, an Italian fashion and design consultant, and Alessio Ricci, both natives of Italy’s Marche region. Marche’s cuisine is seafood-heavy, truffle-rich, and favors frying (don’t we all?). At Concura, Biondi and Ricci are on a mission to introduce Houstonians to the region’s unique ingredients and flavors. You can’t go wrong with the restaurant’s charcuterie, breaded meatballs, or parmigiana. For the main course, consider options like the Chilean sea bass, rabbit in porchetta, chicken-fried veal, or a dish from Concura’s assortment of handmade pastas. 

MAD

MAD is short for Madrid, but you wouldn’t be completely wrong if you thought it had something to do with the River Oaks restaurant’s quirky, unconventional vibe. At MAD, eccentric, sophisticated decor meets vibrant, upscale Spanish cuisine. Fried baby calamari sandwiched between potato buns, pistachio-stuffed ravioli wrapped in beets, and grilled octopus served with grapefruit and avocado are just a few of the stunning dishes that grace its menu.

At MAD, eccentric, sophisticated decor meets vibrant, upscale Spanish cuisine.

Pondicheri

As River Oaks’ best Indian food restaurant, Pondicheri promises a homemade taste made from only the freshest of ingredients. Whether you crack open a pumpkin samosa, dip a dosa into a coconut crab dip, or feast your way through the Texan thali, you’ll end up with a mouth full of flavor and a belly full of good food. Grab some housemade almond milk fudge and a masala chai tea for the road and you’ll be good to go.

State of Grace

Chef Ford Fry created State of Grace as an ode to the neighborhood meeting place. Game hangs from the walls, large leather booths are filled with people talking story under elegant lighting—all of which makes you feel like you’re on a movie set. The food here takes a bow to the Gulf’s local bounty: bay scallops with salsa matcha; blue crab meat mixed into a salad with asparagus and artichoke; and, of course, an endless array of oysters, including tantalizing bivalves such as Murder Point, Mon Louis, and Admirals. Step into the oyster room in the restaurant’s front nook during happy hour (until 6 p.m. on weekdays) and get them for the price of $1.50 each.

The food at State of Grace takes a bow to the Gulf’s local bounty.

Image: Julie Soefer 

Sixth Ward

Aiko

Houstonians love sushi. We also love the anything-goes vibe that accompanies Patrick Pham and Daniel Lee’s wildly successful counter concepts, Kokoro inside Bravery Chef Hall and Handies Douzo in the Heights. So when the duo debuted their first brick-and-mortar in April, it was all but destined for success. Aiko takes the duo’s two existing eateries and, in essence, merges them under one roof. Want sushi? Crudo? A perfectly constructed hand roll? At Aiko, you get the pristinely cut sushi and sashimi from Kokoro, plus the hand rolls and crudos from Handies. The restaurant also offers three options for omakase at three fixed-price points, each offering a combination of edamame to start, a selection of nigiri, a crudo, and a hand roll.

 

Upper Kirby

Kata Robata

Sushi-grade fish can be hard to come by, but that’s what makes Kata Robata stand out from the rest. At Kata Robata, Chef Manabu “Hori” Horiuchi mixes traditional and modern Japanese cuisines to feature arguably the freshest sashimi selections in Houston. Compliment your sushi platter with hot dishes like grilled meats that are cooked on the restaurant’s namesake robata. Don’t sleep on the sake and Japanese whisky menu, and for the ultimate Kata Robata experience, make a reservation for an omakase—a chef’s tasting menu. Expect a combination of daily specials and Kata Robata classics.

 

Warehouse District

Theodore Rex

Chef Justin Yu, the James Beard Award-winning mind behind restaurants Squable and Better Luck Tomorrow, brings a new level of flavor with Theodore Rex, a cozy and casual bistro that offers a spin on upscale dining in the Warehouse District. While the menu at Theodore Rex changes seasonally, their signature starter is a tasty tomato toast. Expect flavorful dishes like taglioni warmed in cultured butter and seasoned with Gulf Coast oyster liquor; as well as chicken breast glazed in coconut and served with a sauce made from anchovy, garlic, chili, and ginger. All of the dishes at Theodore Rex are great for sharing, which means there should be plenty of room left for something sweet at the end of the night.

 

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