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Where to Eat Right Now: 10 cool, must-try restaurants for December

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1 Vallone's dining room December 2013
A look inside the dramatic, retro-inspired dining room at new steakhouse Vallone's Photo by Julie Soefer/Courtesy of Vallone's
24 Tiger Den Restaurant Asian noodle restaurant opening soon October 2013 ramens
Spicy miso ramen at Tiger Den can warm you up on a cold night.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Good Dog Houston hot dogs corndogs December 2013
Good Dog's recently-opened brick and mortar location in the Heights has been worth the wait.  Good Dog Houston/Facebook
60 Degrees Mastercrafted Houston December 2013
Check out ranch to table restaurant 60 Degrees Mastercrafted for high-end beef and excellent desserts.  60 Degrees Mastercrafted/Facebook
Drexel House restaurnat Houston scallops November 2013
At Drexel House, former Samba Grille chef David Guerrero has crafted a menu of small plates available during dinner.  Courtesy of Drexel House
Pluckers Wing Bar celery with dip and chicken wings
All the Texas Exes are heading to Austin-based wing joint Pluckers. Pluckers Wing Bar/Facebook
Brick & Spoon Restaurant pancakes with fruit VERTICAL
French toast sliders anyone? Try them and build your own Bloody Mary at Brick & Spoon.  Brick & Spoon Restaurant/Facebook
Heights General Store sign outside
Heights General Store brings Louisiana-inspired comfort classics to the former Harold's location on 19th Street.  Heights General Store/Facebook
Churrascos Churrasco Steak signature center cut beef tenderlion seasoned with chimichurri and chargrilled
There are several new menu items at Churrascos, but the signature steak remains the same.  Churrascos/Facebook
Allo French Rotisserie Houston chicken with potatoes
Located in Vintage Park, Allo French Rotisserie serves French bistro fare in a casual setting.  Photo by Christina N.
1 Vallone's dining room December 2013
24 Tiger Den Restaurant Asian noodle restaurant opening soon October 2013 ramens
Good Dog Houston hot dogs corndogs December 2013
60 Degrees Mastercrafted Houston December 2013
Drexel House restaurnat Houston scallops November 2013
Pluckers Wing Bar celery with dip and chicken wings
Brick & Spoon Restaurant pancakes with fruit VERTICAL
Heights General Store sign outside
Churrascos Churrasco Steak signature center cut beef tenderlion seasoned with chimichurri and chargrilled
Allo French Rotisserie Houston chicken with potatoes

After a slow start to the fall restaurant opening season, the pace has picked up. While it might be hard to fit in checking out some new places between holiday shopping, holiday parties and holiday traffic, here are 10 hot, new restaurants to try.

Consider taking adventurous out-of-town guests to one. 

Vallone's

Longtime restaurateur Tony Vallone, Tony's GM Scott Sulma and Tony's executive chef Grant Gordon have teamed up to open Vallone's in the Gateway Memorial City development. Billed as a "modern classic" that brings a "technique-driven approach to steaks, seafood and homemade pasta," the menu mixes steakhouse classics like wedge salads, French onion soup and dry-aged beef with Gordon's widely celebrated, inventive pastas.

There are some twists along the way in the form of Asian-inspired seafood appetizers and vegetable sides that go beyond creamed spinach (but that's available, too). Prices are consistent with other steakhouses in town, but the Fontina-stuffed veal chop, short rib tortellini and mini lobster rolls with potato chips are worth the splurge. Save room for dessert. Houston might have a new contender for best banana pudding.   

Tiger Den

Feeling a sudden craving for soup after the recent cold snap? Head to Chinatown to this recently opened ramen and yakitori shop.

Tiger Den's pork broth cooks for 24 hours, ensuring it has superior flavor. Add to that housemade noodles courtesy of an imported Japanese noodles press, and the result is a bowl of ramen unlike any other found in Houston.

Looking to supplement the meal? Try some of the yakitori skewers. The grilled chicken wings and rib eye are good starting points, but don't miss the chicken heart and chicken skin, too. 

Good Dog

The Good Dog brick and mortar is real, and it is spectacular. Heights residents will be particularly happy about the late-night hours (open until 11 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays), but every hot dog fan in the city can find something to like here. All of the old favorites from the truck are on the menu, and there are new additions as well.

 Do not miss the cajeta milkshake. Even during cold weather, it's kind of a life-changing experience.   

Not feeling like a hot dog? Try the roast beef sandwich. Do not miss the housemade cajeta milkshake. Even during cold weather, it's kind of a life-changing experience.  

Heights General Store

Staying in the Heights, this new market and restaurant has taken over most of what used to be Harold's on 19th Street. Former Catalan/Hay Merchant chef Antoine Ware runs the kitchen. He's serving a menu of Louisiana-inspired dishes and comfort-food favorites.

Try the Beaufort stew for a spicy, flavorful riff on gumbo, or keep it simple with a steak and vegetables. The menu really shines at brunch, with a massive, gravy-covered fried chicken biscuit and Cajun-classic grillades and grits. When the weather's nice, Heights General Store's second-story patio makes a perfect spot to linger over wine or cocktails. 

60 Degrees Mastercrafted

Certified Master Chef Fritz Gitschner has opened this ranch-to-table concept on Westheimer in River Oaks. The menu is built around Texas-raised, Japanese style Akaushi beef. Steaks at 60 Degrees are priced per ounce by cut.

They aren't cheap, but the fatty, flavorful cuts rivals anything at Houston's best steakhouses and sides are included during the restaurant's soft-opening. Alternatively, try some of the comfort dishes like chicken schnitzel or baked fish.

Or splurge on a $200, foie-gras and white truffle topped burger. Truffle mac and cheese and the dramatic, panko-crusted onion rings stack are among the best sides. Save room for dessert. Part of Gitschner's training included a year's worth of pastry training, and it shows in a tart, reference-quality key lime pie.  

Churrascos

With Churrascos's fourth location set to open Thursday at Gateway Memorial City and the Cordua restaurant group celebrating its 25th anniversary with a new cookbook, father/son chef/owners Michael and David Cordua have rolled out a new menu at all locations. It harkens back to the Cordua's Nicaraguan roots, with a wide variety of new dishes.

Among the highlights, more Latin American comfort foods and an expanded selection of ceviches. Don't worry, the restaurant's signature churrasco steak and tres leches are unchanged. As for the new location, the 296-seat restaurant has a rustic feel thanks to extensive use of reclaimed wood and a dramatic showpiece in the form of a 15-foot wide horn chandelier. 

Pluckers

This wing joint is the latest Austin-import to hit Houston. The hand-breaded tenders and housemade sauces are two of the many reasons Pluckers has grown from a location near the University of Texas campus to a statewide phenomenon. Try the popular spicy ranch or bakers gold wing sauces to see what the hype is all about.

There are lots of non-wing options, too, including burgers and salads. Of the sides, the mac and cheese recalls the classic Luby's version but comes with a restaurant that features lots of beers on draft and walls stocked with TVs. Free previews before the opening were full, so expect a wait at peak hours now that everyone can visit. 

Brick & Spoon

Like a little booze with breakfast? This Louisiana-based chain's newly opened location in the former Bocados space on West Alabama has that covered with options that include mimosas and a build your own Bloody Mary. Open for breakfast and lunch every day until 2 p.m., Brick & Spoon features a wide array of well-executed egg dishes, burgers, sandwiches and salads.

 Expect a crowd on the weekend. Risk being a little late to work and visit during the week instead. 

Service is friendly, if a little inexperienced. Expect a crowd on the weekend. Risk being a little late to work and visit during the week instead. 

Drexel House

There's a new cafe and wine bar in the spot where Tasti D Lite once served up non-dairy treats. Drexel House gives Highland Village a casual, locally-owned lunch and dinner option. The restaurant serves light, healthy salads and sandwiches at lunch along with traditional breakfast fare and coffee in the morning.

Former Samba Grille/Alma chef David Guerrero is consulting on six small plates available at dinner. If they're successful, expect that number to grow over time, but, for now, Drexel House is the only place in Houston to get Guerrero's celebrated ceviche.  

Allo French Rotisserie

As with last month's item about Fielding's Wood Grill, Allo French Rotisserie is another new concept from a former Hubbell & Hudson staffer. This time it's ex-manager Eric Goldner with a restaurant that brings together fast casual service and classic French cooking. So far, so La Madeleine.

But Allo sets itself apart with a more sophisticated menu and better execution than the French-inspired chain it resembles. Consider melty beef short ribs or roasted salmon as two of the more appealing choices. Appetizers include escargot and a charcuterie plate.

Worth the drive from inside the Loop? Probably not, but Cypress/Tomball residents (or Spring/Woodlands denizens with a craving) will appreciate having another high-quality option in the area. 

Looking for more recommendations? Try CultureMap's picks from previous months:

November

October

September

August

June

May

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