Sorry, guys, when the clock strikes midnight on December 31, celebrities will not become immortal, bad people will still do suitably bad things and "Hamilton" won't be at the Hobby Center until next season. But as much as my buddies on social media seemed to think it sucked to be alive in 2016, I had a year of damn fine eating.

Admittedly, I don't have much data to which I can compare—2016 was my first full year in Houston. What I do know is how difficult it was to comb through the hundreds of restaurant meals I ate this year, then cull my initial list of 20 to a mere 10 plates. And that's just dishes that were entirely new (not just new to me, which is still pretty much everything I eat), and not consumed at a special event or at a restaurant that has since closed or lost its chef responsible for a notable meal. In fact, all of the dishes in this slide show are currently available for you to graze on at will.

What separated from the chaff surprised me. In a year when seemingly everything that opened was part of a chain originating from outside Houston, the top 10 all came from local businesses. Some are new items at old favorites, but most are exceptional eats from restaurants that opened in 2016. I didn't make a conscious effort to choose dishes of great ethnic diversity, but as you'll see, that's just Houston's magic. So as we embark on 2017, let's reflect on how perhaps the one we're leaving wasn't such a bad year after all.

In that spirit, I also want to give credit to my 10 runners up:

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Xi'an Noodles

$ Chinese 9889 Bellaire Blvd.

This cash-only spot tucked just next to the parking garage in Dun Huang Plaza is Houston's only source for street food from the Shaanxi region of China. Wide...

Editor’s Pick

Uyghur Bistro

$ Chinese 9888 Bellaire Blvd.

The Muslim Uyghur people of China's Xinjiang province have a cuisine that borrows flavors from across the Silk Road. This halal restaurant provides Houston's...

Rise nº2

$$ French 1700 Post Oak Blvd., Ste. 290

Soufflés are notoriously mercurial—even the best restaurants often falter in their preparation. But they're done right every time here, whether they're flavo...

Editor’s Pick

Nyam Nyam Café

$ Eastern European 15201 Mason Rd., Ste. 1100

On the menu here, pirozhki—Russian buns stuffed with everything from chorizo to cherries—join freshly made crêpes both savory (filled with roasted duck and a...

Oxheart Closed

$$$$ American/New American 1302 Nance St.

When Justin Yu came back to Houston from Copenhagen and opened Oxheart in early 2012, detractors claimed that a multicultural, vegetable-focused, tasting men...


$ Chinese 9630 Clarewood Dr.

Murals by local artist, Chang H. Wang, and exceptionally friendly service make this modern Cantonese restaurant a destination even for diners who rarely vent...

Editor’s Pick

The Manor House

$$$ American/New American, Cajun, French, Southern 111 N. Post Oak Ln.

A former private club that was built in 1955 as a private residence, the Manor House has been home to guests ranging from the King of Spain to Jack Nicholson...


$$$$ American/New American 2 Waterway Square Pl.

The restaurant located in the Woodlands' Westin hotel, has a local focus that means fresh ingredients, but also a minimal carbon footprint. On the cheese pla...

Afghan Express

$ Middle Eastern 5600 Hillcroft St.

From 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. on weekdays, a buffet allows guests to sample close to 20 organic Afghan dishes. At dinner, combos and family platters allow diners...