Once again, another national outlet has turned its attention to Houston and published a list of the city's top restaurants. This time it's the Food Network with a list entitled "Houston for Beginners: The First 10 Places to go."
As a whole, it's a solid, if somewhat predictable effort that drives home the point that Houston's dining scene has evolved beyond the old reputation for Tex-Mex and big steaks. Any visitor who uses it will likely be satisfied by their experiences at any of these restaurants.
To Food Network's credit, it turned to a Houstonian to author the piece, blogger Ashley Rose, and she turned to three more locals for help: Underbelly chef/owner Chris Shepherd, freelance food writer Mai Pham and CultureMap's own Emily Goetz.
It's a solid, if somewhat predictable effort that drives home the point that Houston's dining scene has evolved beyond the old reputation for Tex-Mex and big steaks.
With that much expertise, the list provides potential visitors with a good sense of the best of what's happening in the city right now: Almost all of the eateries on it have opened since 2012. Coltivare and Common Bond are among the best new restaurants to open this year, and Killen's Barbecue and Bernie's Burger Bus are two more of this year's arrivals that are outstanding in their respective categories. James Beard Award finalist Hugo Ortega's namesake Mexican restaurant makes the cut, along with other critical faves like The Pass & Provisions, Underbelly and Pondicheri.
The misses are relatively minor. MF Sushi gets a nod over Kata Robata. While it has reopened, MF simply isn't the the same restaurant without chef Chris "Magic Fingers" Kinjo behind the bar. Also while Pho Binh is excellent, choosing the Westheimer location over either Chinatown's Pho Binh by Night or the original Pho Binh Trailer is, frankly, a bit odd.
Despite having two well-known Asiatown experts in Pham and Shepherd, the list doesn't include any of the restaurants on Bellaire, even a well-known one like Mala Sichuan. "Beginners" to Houston's culinary scene should be asked to recognize the neighborhood as one of the most dynamic, satisfying places to eat in the city.
Oxheart, which was recently praised by Eater critic Bill Addison, probably deserves a spot here, but maybe it's asking too much of beginners to patronize a restaurant that requires a month or more wait for a reservation.