At Sunday night's My Table Culinary Awards, the stars of Houston's food scene gathered in an elegant ballroom at the Houstonian hotel to celebrate and honor a year's worth of accomplishments. With Houston's restaurants garnering so much national attention these days, how do the insiders view themselves? Which chefs and restaurants most effectively fired up the social media campaigns to win the online vote?
As it turns out, a mix of hot new restaurants and well-loved institutions dominated the evening, but there were still a few surprising outcomes that had everyone in the room mouthing, "Who?"
Among the 350 attendees were some of the brightest lights of Houston's culinary world.
Among the 350 attendees were some of the brightest lights of Houston's culinary world. Triniti, Revival Market, Uchi, the Clark/Cooper Concepts (Brasserie 19, Coppa, Ibiza), Rouse/Moore (Grand Prize, Goro & Gun, Bad News Bar) and Vaught/Ortega (Hugo's, Backstreet Cafe, Prego) all bought tables to cheer on their various nominees. The heavy industry presence added to the event's jubilant atmosphere and provided a level of energy that might otherwise be missing.
Prior to announcing the winners, an all-star lineup of guest chefs served a top-notch dinner. Of the passed appetizers, a venison terrine from the Houstonian had guests swarming the servers for another bite. While all of the dinner's courses were successful, it was Ronnie Killen's smoked barbecue short rib that had everyone both asking for seconds and admitting they understood why so many people have lined up to try his 'cue.
The ceremony began by honoring Saint Arnold Brewing Company founder Brock Wagner with the 15th Annual Legend of Houston Restaurants Award. "I officially know I'm old," Wagner joked to the crowd before noting the ways in which the craft beer scene has grown since he started his business almost 20 years ago.
The two big winners of the night represented both the past and future of Houston dining. The Pass & Provisions won both Best New Restaurant and Restaurateur of the Year for their ambitious, dual-restaurant concept. Chef/co-owner Seth Siegel-Gardner noted that the restaurant is hiring before telling the crowd that "we've been holding a table for Beyonce for the past year. If anyone knows her, could you tell her her table is ready?" James Beard Award finalist Hugo's took home the Houston Classic award for restaurants open for 10 years or more and bar service in its first year of eligibility since its win in 2007.
"I officially know I'm old," Wagner joked to the crowd before noting the ways in which the craft beer scene has grown since he started his business almost 20 years ago.
With all the deserving recipients, there were, as in any popular vote, a couple of head scratchers. Brenner's on the Bayou may be located in a picturesque location, but its award for Best Interior Design over the James Beard Award-nominated Triniti or the Michael Hsu-designed Uchi was a surprise. Similarly, the power of tortilla soup and Cuban tacos propelled local chain El Rey to a victory in the "Favorite Mom and Pop Ethnic" category over actual mom and pop ethnic restaurant Himalaya.
But these are quibbles in what was overall an entertaining and very successful evening by My Table publisher Teresa Byrne-Dodge. Can't wait til next year, already set for Oct.5, 2014. Check out the full list of winners below.
The Houston Culinary Awards:
Best new restaurant: The Pass & Provisions
Best interior design: Brenner’s on the Bayou
Houston Classic (restaurant in business for 10 years or more): Hugo’s
Service person of the year: Matthew Hunt, Uchi Houston
Outstanding bar service: Hugo’s
Pastry chef of the year: Heath Wendell, Slow Dough
Outstanding wine service: Max’s Wine Dive
Up-and-coming chef of the year: Lyle Bento, Underbelly
Chef of the year: Brandi Key, Coppa
Restaurateur of the year: Seth Siegel-Gardner & Terrence Gallivan, The Pass & Provisions.
The Houston Foodie Star Awards:
Favorite bakery: French Gourmet Bakery & Café
Favorite barbecue: Gatlin’s BBQ
Favorite bartender: Sheridan Fay, El Gran Malo
Favorite breakfast: Barnaby’s
Favorite burger: Lankford Grocery
Favorite coffeehouse: Blacksmith
Favorite food blog: Eater Houston
Favorite mom & pop ethnic: El Rey
Favorite food truck/cart: H-Town StrEATS
Favorite late night spot: The Hay Merchant
Favorite outdoor dining: Brennan’s of Houston
Favorite supermarket: Phoenicia Specialty Foods
Favorite pub or bar: 13 Celsius
Favorite sweets/ice cream: Crave Cupcakes
Favorite wine seller: Houston Wine Merchant