Texas Monthly food editor Pat Sharpe has weighed in with her take on the best new restaurants to open in the state last year. Titled "Where to Eat Now," the annual list recognizes restaurants that opened across the Lone Star State between December 1, 2017 and December 1, 2018.
"Among an outstandingly diverse group, you’ll find a sausage specialist, a masa maniac, and a fermenting fanatic. The venues range from an industrial-chic emporium with a stunning skyline view to a teeny converted gas station bedecked with bundles of dried herbs," Sharpe writes. "The chefs include both a youthful newcomer hoping to make a splash and a James Beard Award winner who is known nationwide. If you can’t find something that strikes your fancy, well, you just aren’t hungry."
Houston dominates the list for the second year in a row, earning four spots on Sharpe's list. Chris Shepherd takes number one for his 2018 trio of UB Preserv, One Fifth Mediterranean, and Georgia James. Sharpe wonders whether the chef should find a permanent home for One Fifth Mediterranean or simply ditch the plan to shutter the concept on July 31. "When you’ve just created one of the best restaurants of your career, it would be crazy to mess with success," she writes.
Other Houston restaurants on the list include Nancy's Hustle in third place, Poitín in sixth, and Indigo in eighth. Sharpe praises Indigo chef Jonny Rhodes presentations on the social and political issues that shaped his dishes. "Some of Rhodes’s spiels are literal, others are lyrical. All are insightful," she writes. Indianola, Agricole Hospitality's eclectic modern diner, lands Houston's only spot on the honorable mentions list.
Dallas restaurants take three spots, starting with third place going to Macellaio, Lucia chef David Uygur's charcuterie-focused spot. Petra and the Beast, chef Misti Norris' ode to "foraging, fermenting, and whole-animal cookery" comes in seventh, with modern Mexican seafood restaurant Tulum in tenth. The Charles, Billy Can Can, and Fachini all earn honorable mentions. Fort Worth's only entry is an honorable mention for Four Sisters, which Sharpe describes as a "contemporary Vietnamese cafe."
Austin's masa-obsessed restaurant Suerte ranks second, with Italian restaurant Intero holding down fifth place for the capital city. Loro and Sour Duck Market earn honorable mentions.
Clementine, the San Antonio restaurant where chefs John and Elise Russ let their locally-sourced ingredients speak for themselves, takes ninth place to earn the Alamo City's only spot on the list. Meadow and Playland appear among the honorable mentions, as does Fredericksburg's Emma + Ollie.
Overall, Sharpe's picks seem to be very much on trend. Shepherd is the Beard Award winner she references in her intro, and Macellaio has ties to one of Dallas' most-acclaimed restaurants. Suerte has been recognized by publications such as Eater and Bon Appetit, while both Nancy's Hustle and Petra and the Beast made Esquire's list of America's best new restaurants. Even 13-seat Indigo has already earned near universal praise locally; Sharpe's including it on her list feels like the next step towards the national spotlight for the tasting menu restaurant.