Editor's note: It's been another eventful year in Houston, with a trip to the World Series, major flooding, and a mayoral election. Meanwhile, news in the dining community heated up with what seemed like nonstop openings and closings, as sizzling new restaurants opened and local favorites suddenly bid farewell.
It's been an honor to deliver this daily news and CultureMap promises to be at the forefront of reporting on the culture, lifestyle, and buzz of this glorious city in 2020. As Houstonians look forward to a new year, here, then, are the most popular and talked-about stories of 2019.
1. Charming small Texas town provides perfect fall getaway just under 90 minutes from Houston. Want a fall weekend somewhere with a laid-back vibe but plenty of good food, drink, and fun? The classic small town of Brenham, a mere 75 miles from Houston, offers everything needed for a classic mini vacation. We highlighted where to stay, drink, and dine at this charming Texas town.
2. Kate Upton and Justin Verlander reveal their 5 favorite Houston haunts. Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander and his ultra-glam, supermodel wife, Kate Upton, dished to the New York Times on their five places to visit in the Bayou City. The power couple's favorites are a mix of Newstonian zeal and insider savvy, with finds in downtown, EaDo, Montrose, Museum District, and River Oaks. One never knows if they might bump into Upton and Verlander at faves such as Nancy's Hustle, UB Preserve, The Menil Collection, or Tiny Boxwoods.
3. Galleria-area restaurant's sudden shutter shocks Houston diners. Restaurant closures are always disruptive to the lives of both the people who worked there and its regular diners, but some are more disruptive than others. Such was the case with local favorite, Houston's, which closed its Westheimer location after 40 years. Thankfully for fans of the restaurant's signature steaks, salads, and French dip sandwich, the Kirby location, ranked number 100 on CultureMap's list of Houston's top 100 restaurants, remains open.
4. In-N-Out Burger announces opening date of first Houston restaurant. Houston's long wait for animal-style fries and Neapolitan shakes ended on Friday, November 22. In-N-Out Burger's first Houston-area restaurant opened at 12611 S. Kirkwood Rd. in The Grid, the mixed-use in Stafford where the restaurant is located. Covering 350,000 square feet, the retail and restaurant development occupies the former Texas Instruments campus.
5. 10 best Houston restaurants to take out-of-town guests, from award-winners to classics. CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler answers a oft-ask question: Where to take out-of-town guests to eat in Houston? Sandler's thoughtful list includes restaurants people have seen on TV, restaurants with James Beard Award-winning chefs, and bona fide Houston classics.
6. Treasured Houston restaurant ranks No. 1 on Food & Wine list of best cafeterias. Food & Wine magazine issued a "10 Best Cafeterias in America" list that highlights three Texas institutions, with Cleburne Cafeteria coming in at No. 1, and Highland Park Cafeteria in East Dallas and the Luby's chain landing honorable mentions. Cleburne Cafeteria, which Landsel notes has overcome incredible odds including a major move and two devastating fires, seems to have provided the inspiration for the listicle. (Landsel ate there for Thanksgiving in 2018.)
7. Influential Houston comfort food and cocktail restaurant suddenly shutters. Beaver's, the influential comfort food restaurant/smokehouse, suddenly closed in December. Besides being popular with fans, the original location of Beaver's served as an important training ground or home for a number of culinary and bar talents, namely Bobby Heugel, Ryan Rouse, Monica Pope, Jonathan Jones, and Arash Kharat.
8. These are Houston's 12 best new restaurants of 2019. In another highly anticipated annual list, CultureMap food editor Sandler released his best new restaurants of the year. As he points out, this year’s crop of new restaurants demonstrate that locally owned businesses still lead the way in creativity and overall quality. Names like Rosie Cannonball, Squable, MAD, and Truth BBQ landed on Sandler's illustrious grouping.
9. Ken Hoffman on why announcers should stop mentioning Jose Altuve's height. Houston Astros slugger Jose Altuve is a giant on and off the field. So why are broadcasters and commentators so fixated on his height? CultureMap columnist Ken Hofffman tackles that (rather annoying) phenomenon, while explaining that Major League Baseball has had myriad short players, and Altuve's impressive numbers far outweigh his height.
10. Mainstay British pub and jazz cafe will shutter after 33 years in Montrose. Long a place for first dates, reunions, and ex-pat get-togethers, mainstay British pub/restaurant The Black Labrador announced it was closing after 33 years in Montrose. The closing leaves Houstonians with one fewer option for dishes like fish and chips, bubble and squeak, and steak and kidney pie.