Chef Jonny Rhodes’ 13-seat, tasting menu restaurant ranks eighth on Food & Wine editor-at-large Jordana Rothman’s list, which includes heavy hitters, such as masa-obsessed Austin restaurant Suerte (second place) and Frenchette (third), the New York City restaurant that recently earned the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in America. In an announcement touting the list, the magazine notes that Rothman flew 30,000 miles and visited 24 cities to assemble the rankings. After describing several of the restaurant's dishes and Rhodes' presentations on the political and social conditions that inspired them, the editor explains what helped Indigo stand out from the pack.
"Rhodes, who put in time at Gramercy Tavern in New York and Oxheart in Houston, is a gifted cook," Rothman writes. "And so while all of this may be delicious, none of it is comfortable—it isn’t intended to be. Sometimes the things we need the most are the hardest to swallow."
Indigo has become something of a national media darling in the last few months. Texas Monthly critic Pat Sharpe included the restaurant on her list of the state’s best new restaurants, and GQ critic Brett Martin included it on his list of America’s best new restaurants. In addition, Rhodes earned a James Beard semifinalist nomination for Rising Star Chef of the Year, a national award for the most-promising talent under the age of 30.
Rhodes tells CultureMap that he used to feel unworthy of all the attention, but his perspective has changed recently.
“Now I’m starting to really appreciate the battles that we’ve had to go through to get to where we are. I appreciate being recognized,” he says. “It’s hard to do for any chef. We did it without having a marketing team or a PR firm for the first nine months we were open. It feels good, to say the least.”
On a positive note, the recognition has helped draw diners to Indigo’s location in north Houston, far away (relatively) from the typical restaurant neighborhoods like the Galleria, Montrose, and the Heights.
“We’ve been pretty booked since February of this year,” Rhodes says. “[National recognition] hasn’t changed much for us. We go in whether we have six guests or 26 guests. We’re trying to cook the best we can.”
Judging by the overwhelming enthusiasm for the meals Rhodes and his team create, "the best we can" ranks among the very best in America.