Are you on the hunt for the best bagel in town? Are you searching for a croissant so holy it will melt every layer of your ego, one sublimely buttery lamination at a time? In a city the size of Houston, it can be incredibly difficult to find the city's one best bagel or croissant, so we've put together a little list of some of the city's most definitive food treats in order to make it easier for you to find god in a slice of Neapolitan pizza or receive the Eucharist through a divinely flavored plate of brisket nachos. Read on for our picks of the most definitive treats in H-Town.
The New Standard: THE BAGEL
Bagel Bob’s | Memorial
How So? Bagel Bob—a New Yorker who came to Houston and realized more bagels were needed in town—boils and bakes his bread. The result: Chewy but firm, crispy but soft, or in other words, the perfect balance for a perfect bagel. Get yours with cream cheese, lox, tomato, and capers, or for a meaty Tri State throwback, top it with pork roll (they call it Taylor ham in New York), egg, and cheese. Glorious.
The New Standard: KOREAN BBQ
Bori | Spring Branch
How So? Chef Steve Won Heo elevates the experience of barbecuing meat over a built-in table stove by offering impeccable cuts of beef belly and short rib, along with nicely marbled rib eye and loin that’s been dry-aged for at least 41 days. But more compelling are the environs: the otherwise innocuous Spring Branch hideaway has a peace garden and attached art gallery. This is upscale barbecue as an experience.
The New Standard: NACHOS
Candente | Montrose
How So? Well, let’s be specific: brisket nachos. This is the culmination of owner and operator Michael Sambrooks’s pursuit of the perfect fusion of Tex-Mex and barbecue, taking form at the fun Candente, which opened in fall 2019. Here we have inch-thick, wide triangular tortillas topped with Pit Room-smoked brisket, refried beans, pickled onions, cilantro, melty cheese, and crema. The chips snap. The toppings hold. Each bite is happiness.
The New Standard: NEAPOLITAN PIZZA
The Gyspy Poet | Midtown
How So? Neapolitan pie—characterized by high-quality tomatoes and typically mozzarella, plus its high-protein flour that withstands a blistering 905-degree bake—had a moment in 2019 and 2020. Out of that came pizza queen Vanessa Fernandez, a Venezleuan-born pastry chef whose outstanding work makes the Gypsy Poet the place to go for minor tweaks on Italian tradition. Pepperoni Madness, with coaster-size pepperoni and hot honey, is our top choice.
The New Standard: THE CROISSANT
Koffeteria | East Downtown
How So? Vanarin Kuch is a madman … but there’s a method to it all. The Cambodian-born pastry chef opened his EaDo cafe by cluttering Instagram stories with a Hot Cheetos-topped croissant filled with nacho cheese. But the quintessential Koffeteria item is the pistachio baklava croissant, where the dough is formed in waves. Layers of honey, dough, and pistachio unravel as something gorgeous and, of course, delicious. It’s as good as a croissant gets.