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Houston lags behind Dallas in best new restaurants magazine rankings, but Bayou City bars dominate

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Osteria Mazzantini Hill Country Quail on herbed risotto with huckleberry demi
Dishes like Hill Country quail over herbed risotto helped Osteria Mazzantini land at third in Texas Monthly's ranking of the state's best new restaurants.  Osteria Mazzantini/Facebook
Texas Monthly Best New Restaurants Cover
The issue hits newsstands Wednesday.  Texas Monthly/Facebook
Ham & Eggs at The Pass
Creative dishes such as "ham and eggs" helped The Pass earn the sixth spot.  Photo by © Cedric Angeles/Food & Wine June 2013
Captain Foxheart's Bad News Bar & Spirit Lodge people on balcony
Bad News Bar is Texas's fifth best new bar. Photo by © Julie Soefer/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
Goro & Gun front door entrance day October 2013
Followed by downstairs neighbor Goro & Gun.  Photo by Eric Sandler
OKRA Charity Saloon bar with customers
The OKRA Charity Saloon comes in seventh.  Photo by Julie Soefer/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
Pastry War Houston bar with Bobby Heugel
And agave emporium The Pastry War lands at eighth.  Photo by © Julie Soefer/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
Osteria Mazzantini Hill Country Quail on herbed risotto with huckleberry demi
Texas Monthly Best New Restaurants Cover
Ham & Eggs at The Pass
Captain Foxheart's Bad News Bar & Spirit Lodge people on balcony
Goro & Gun front door entrance day October 2013
OKRA Charity Saloon bar with customers
Pastry War Houston bar with Bobby Heugel

Texas Monthly food critic Patricia Sharpe has revealed her list of Texas's best new restaurants that opened between Nov. 1, 2012 and Nov. 1, 2013. Unlike last year when Houston restaurants so thoroughly dominated the rankings that Sharpe had to expand her list to 12 to avoid slighting other cities, this year the Bayou City only merits two spots on the list, compared to three each for Dallas and Austin.

The Houston representatives are Galleria area Italian restaurant Osteria Mazzantini at No. 3 in the state and The Pass, which opened late in 2012, at No. 6. Sharpe's rankings match my take from the end of the year, which is that in 2013 some solid new options opened but nothing as attention-grabbing as 2012 superstars Oxheart and Underbelly. Former Top Chef contestant John Tesar's Dallas seafood restaurant Spoon tops the Texas Monthly rankings.

However, Sharpe does recognize Houston in her best new bars rankings. Spots five through eight on the list are all part of downtown's Uberblock at Main and Congress including (in order) Captain Foxheart's Bad News Bar & Spirit Lodge, Goro & Gun, The Original OKRA Charity Saloon and The Pastry War. All four also appear on CultureMap's ranking of the Best New Bars. If Sharpe were inclined to be especially generous, she could have found a spot for ice house D&T Drive Inn, but then other cities would realize how far behind their bar scenes are.

The most interesting thing about the new list is that Sharpe taps Goro as a bar instead of a restaurant, despite the fact that it employs an executive chef and serves food from open to close. Then again, the bar list also includes Austin hot spot Qui and Dallas destination CBD Provisions, which are both most assuredly restaurants, so at least Goro is in good company. Owner Josh Martinez doesn't seem to mind, writing on Facebook that "I'm ok (as long as) I was called anything top 10."

Which of 2014's most anticipated opening will show up on next year's list? Picking the restaurants that find statewide attention is always tricky, but, both Caracol and Coltivare both opened late enough in 2013 and are off to fast enough starts to merit strong consideration. As for restaurants that have yet to open, the top candidates look to be Killen's BBQ and bakery Common Bond.

In other words, Houston could be back on top pretty quickly if everything comes together.

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