Start with a new cafe that aspires to be the best bakery in America, continue with a young chef stepping out with his second concept, mix in a return to the Galleria for another high-profile chef . . . and you're really still just beginning. That's how hot the Houston restaurant scene's been over the last few months.
It makes this month's Where To Eat Right Now in Houston all killer, with no filler.
The pace of openings looks set to slow a bit this summer (if only slightly), which means now is the time to get caught up. Go forth and try something new.
The cafe with the aspirations to be the "best bakery in America" has been open for two weeks now, and every day Houstonians are lining up to get a taste. The viennoiserie, the leavened breakfast pastries like croissants, kouign amann and kugelhopf, are already the best in the city. Sweets such as chocolate chip cookies, tiramisu and macaroons are delicious, if not quite as must try.
The full range of savory breakfast and lunch dishes rounds out the menu. Two of the best are the soft scrambled eggs with pea risotto and the hot brown sandwich on Common Bond's first rate bread.
Lunch and brunch are packed, but, those willing to get there by 8 a.m. during the week will find lighter crowds, parking spots and a full selection of pastries.
This new concept from Roost chef/owner Kevin Naderi reflects the food that the chef likes to eat when he's not working the line. The menu skips along most of east Asia, with Thai-style curries sharing a place with Chinese-inspired bao, Japanese izakaya skewers and Vietnamese touches. Popular bartender Aaron Lara has created cocktails that pair with the food by drawing on beverages popular in Asiatown such as avocado smoothies and Vietnamese iced coffee.
Some of the highlights from an initial dinner include the five spice lamb ribs, the blue crab fried rice, and chicken thigh and apple salad; skip the wings, which, at $11, are too expensive for six pieces. An expanded parking lot alleviates some of the crunch from the El Gran Malo days, and a full lunch menu should help attract local office workers.
Out of the ashes of Philippe emerges Table, a new, global-inspired restaurant serving a new take on contemporary cuisine. Chef Manuel Pucha, who served as Philippe Schmit's chef de cuisine and took over after his departure, steps into the lead role with creative twists on familiar dishes, such as seared scallops with a spicy guajillo chile sauce.
The remodeled bar is poised to join other recent arrivals as happy hour hotspots .
The tuna carpaccio flatbread has already emerged as a signature dish, bringing together flavors and textures in an unexpected way. The newly remodeled bar is poised to join fellow recent arrivals Osteria Mazzantini and Caracol as happy hour hotspots.
Finally, a restaurant from celebrity chef Bradley Ogden that demonstrates why he's a two-time James Beard Award winner. The upscale space, located in the same strip center as Ogden's fast casual Funky Chicken, turns out kicked up versions of comfort classics.
Ogden's son Bryan has moved to Houston to supervise the operation, and his relationships with local farmers are reflected in the high-quality ingredients that are used throughout the menu. Can't miss dishes include the oak-grilled burger, the Yankee pot roast and roasted cod. A full range of craft beer, cocktails and wine rounds out the offerings.
Since opening in April, BFD has added lunch and brunch, which should help enhance its appeal to residents of both the Washington corridor and The Heights.
Chef Jurrajet Hurrapan returns to the Galleria at Songkran Thai Kitchen. Located in the former 1252 Tapas space in Uptown Park, Songkran features Hurrpan's take on traditional Thai flavors blended with upscale ingredients and modern plating. Thai angels from the restaurant's namesake festival adorn the walls, giving the space a welcoming atmosphere.
Chef Jett, as he's known, is justifiably proud of his signature pad thai. The curries and homemade sausage are also standouts. A recently introduced lunch menu drops the prices, which are correct for the neighborhood and ingredients but might seem high to those used to more casual spots.
Montrose's new coffee shop takes its name from the trick brewing method. For those with the time (10 minutes) and money ($11 for a two-person serving), watching the siphon brew provides mild entertainment and really tasty coffee. More practically, consulting chef Amanda McGraw's menu of sweets, savory pastries and panini means Siphon's food options are more diverse than its neighbors.
Don't miss the flaky empanadas or banana bread. A selection of craft beer and wine on tap makes it an evening destination as well.
Houston has a decent selection of French restaurants, but few are as unapologetically old school as Georges Bistro. Run by longtime Houston restaurateurs Georges and Monique Guy in the space formerly occupied by Feast (which the couple owns), the restaurant serves rustic French bistro fare. Escargot come swimming in butter and garlic, of course, and the pate is smooth and creamy.
With most entrees priced between $15 and $25, indulging in a bottle of French wine becomes an easy splurge.
Try the quenelle for a real flashback thrill; it's screamingly fresh snapper wrapped in a delicate pastry. With most entrees priced between $15 and $25, indulging in a bottle of French wine becomes an easy splurge.
At this Sugar Land restaurant, sushi chef Jason Liao offers his vision of a "sashimi bar." That means cooked and raw dishes using sushi quality fish without the rice or look-alike menu of most Japanese restaurants. While it's tempting to focus on the Japanese-inspired dishes like the hamachi crudo or a simple plate of New Zealand salmon, Liao's more esoteric preparations also deserve attention.
The tuna ceviche with seared scallops is a highlight, but all of the dishes benefit from Liao's use of fruit to balance sweet and salty.
Fans of Bocados should take a trip to the near northside, where Lily Hernandez and Terry Flores have launched Red Ox Bar & Grill. The menu features the full range of Bocados Tex-Mex favorites, including the signature fajitas, along with a new range of burgers.
A full bar serves margaritas and craft beer, which can be enjoyed in either the graffiti-decorated dining room or small patio. Try not to fill up on chips. The tres leches cake is worth a few extra calories.
In less than two months, this Austin-based chain that serves döner kebap, the Turkish-inspired sandwich that combines spit-roasted meat and veggies in a flatbread, has already expanded to four Houston locations. Considering the sandwiches deliver plenty of flavor for less than 550 calories, it's easy to see why VERTS has been so successful.
The Houston locations all serve the company's newly introduced fries, as well as a tidy beer selection. Go and find out why döner kebap has become Europe's most popular fast food.