where to eat in 2021
More than 30 highly anticipated restaurants and bars coming to Houston in 2021
Even with all the trauma restaurants have suffered during the coronavirus pandemic, people can still feel optimistic about the future of dining in Houston. Faced with unprecedented challenges, Houston’s culinary community with responded with pop-ups, ghost kitchens, and other innovations designed to keep their businesses afloat.
That spirit of optimism — along with the distribution of vaccines to prevent COVID-19 — will carry forward into the new year. As this list of over 30 upcoming bars and restaurants demonstrates, Houston’s culinary community shows no signs of slowing down.
This list runs the gamut from restaurants that will serve elevated tasting menus to new food halls and creative barbecue joints. It includes the return of a beloved Montrose institution, the first concepts in Houston dedicated to self-service beer and wine, and a splashy establishment from Houston Rockets superstar James Harden.
As always with a list like this one, timelines should be taken with a huge grain of salt. Estimates of when these establishments will open can shift wildly.
Shuttered since a fire tore through the restaurant in December 2018, Baba Yega will reopen in late spring/early summer. Expect the return of the restaurant’s signature Sunday brunch as well as a wide array of vegan dishes alongside a refreshed interior and other improvements.
The cult burger favorite’s time in Greenway Plaza may have ended in August, but Diane and chef Willet Feng will return this year with a new location. For the first time, burger-chan will be open for dinner and will serve beer and wine. The menu could expand beyond the original’s mix of burgers (meat or veggie) and hot dogs with heartier entrees like steak and even some raw seafood preparations. Until the restaurant opens this spring, diners can get their burger-chan fix by ordering from Click Virtual Food Hall.
This newest project from Kirby Group partner Steven Salazar and culinary director Brandon Silva will be very different from the patio bars the duo operate (Heights Bier Garten, Holman Draft Hall, etc). At Dégust, Silva will draw on his time at Uchi and staging in Copenhagen to craft elaborate, multi-course tasting menus for diners seated around a central counter. Salazar has been tight-lipped about his plans for Diversión, but it will be similarly intimate and refined. With a media preview scheduled for this weekend, it should open before the end of January.
Federal Grill Katy
Fresh off opening a second location in Hedwig Village in 2020, proprietor Matt Brice will add a Katy location of his comfort food restaurant in early 2021. Like its siblings, expect an extensive selection of whiskey and plenty of private dining rooms. With hiring already underway, the restaurant looks poised for a winter opening.
Feges BBQ Spring Branch
Chefs Erin Smith and Patrick Feges will open a second location of their barbecue joint in Spring Branch. Currently under construction, the 5,000-square-foot restaurant will feature a glassed-in smokehouse. Being open for dinner will allow the couple to add burgers and specials like chicken fried steak to their widely acclaimed menu of Central Texas-style barbecue and creative vegetable sides. Fingers crossed for a late spring opening.
Good Vibes Burger & Brews
Chef-owner Eric Nelson, formerly of Galveston's Number 13 Prime Steak and Seafood, will open this burger spot in the former King’s Biergarten space in Pearland. In addition to burgers, the restaurant will serve fried seafood, chicken sandwiches, and more when it opens this month.
The team behind north Houston bar Monkey’s Tail has claimed the former Petrol Station space for this new concept that’s opening in later winter or early spring. Expect an emphasis on the bar’s large outdoor seating area as well as a menu built around tacos, cocktails, and craft beer.
The team behind Doris Metropolitan will offer their take on modern Israeli food at this Rice Village restaurant. Slated to open this summer, the restaurant will feature dishes such as hummus, kebabs, vegetable items, and freshly-baked pita bread. Doris chef-partner Sash Kurgan will lead the kitchen.
The Houston Farmers Market
When MLB Capital Partners finishes its work to transform the property on Airline Drive near 610, it will be home to a number of restaurants, including a fast casual concept from Chris Shepherd’s Underbelly Hospitality and a new restaurant led by chef Nick Fine, who will exit his role as UBH’s culinary director to serve as chef-partner for the new eatery. The farmers market has room for at least three more restaurants, a bakery, and kiosk-style food stands from promising vendors, all of which should help turn the market into one of the city’s premier food destinations.
Hungry Like the Wolf
This ’80s-inspired twist on the classic American diner will replace the shuttered Beer Market Co. on Studemont. Expect a menu of comfort food (meatloaf, burgers, chicken fried steak, etc.) paired with cocktails and craft beer in an environment that flashes back to the time when “Like a Virgin” and “Take On Me” topped the charts. With work already underway, a spring opening looks likely.
This massive barbecue joint — how else is there to describe a smokehouse with four, 1,000-gallon offset smokers — and restaurant has quietly been under construction in EaDo for the past several months. Pitmaster Willow Villareal (Willow’s Texas BBQ) and chef Mark Mason (Pappas Restaurants) will lead the culinary side, which is expected to feature Central Texas-style barbecue along with the Mexican-influenced sides Villareal and partner Jasmine Barela served on the food truck. The restaurant’s Instagram touts a spring opening.
Jonathan’s The Rub
A bigger, better version of the original location is coming to the former Peli Peli Kitchen space at the corner of Campbell Road and the Katy Freeway. The extra space will provide room for a larger patio, more parking, and new menu items such as Southern fried chicken. In a major change, the restaurant will have a full mixed-beverage license instead of being BYOB.
Karne Korean Steakhouse
Dak & Bop owner Jason Cho has partnered with Youtube star Mikey Chen and chef Moul Kim (New York’s Jongro BBQ) to open this upscale Korean steakhouse on White Oak Drive in The Heights. Except an extensive selection of beef, pork, and seafood that will be grilled tableside, served with a mix of classic banchan and Korean-style riffs on traditional steakhouse sides.
Kenny & Ziggy's
The beloved Jewish deli and restaurant will relocate approximately half a mile north on Post Oak Blvd to the former Luby's at the corner of San Felipe Rd. By moving to a larger space, the restaurant will be able to seat more people, as well as add a patio and a full bar with cocktails. Kenny & Ziggy's will operate in its current location until the new one is ready, which should be in the late summer or early fall.
Killen’s Barbecue The Woodlands
Chef Ronnie Killen’s highly successful barbecue restaurant will soon open its second location in The Woodlands. Located near the Killen’s Steakhouse that opened in 2019, the barbecue joint will be powered by both offset and rotisserie smokers to ensure plenty of meaty goodness for the hungry hordes.
Hai Hospitality’s Asian smokehouse concept that unites two James Beard Award winners — Uchi founder Tyson Cole and Franklin Barbecue founder Aaron Franklin — is still on track to arrive in The Heights this year. A Hai representative tells CultureMap that the plans to convert a former church on 11th St. into a restaurant have been submitted for permitting, which means construction could begin relatively soon. With some luck, Houstonians could be eating sweet corn fritters, Malaysian chicken bo ssam, and smoked prime bavette rice bowls — all paired with a mix of craft beer, cocktails, and wine — as soon as this summer.
Armandos owners Cinda and Armando Palacios are bringing their Italian concept from Round Top to River Oaks. Located in the same shopping center as Armandos, Lulu’s will serve Italian-inspired comfort food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in an intimate, 75-seat space.
“It’s going to be the type of place that brings memories of the old Armandos on Shepherd,” Armando Palcios told CultureMap in December about the restaurant that’s on track to open this summer. “It’s going to be unbelievable.”
As its six week lounge service preview draws to a close this weekend, this fine dining sibling of Rosie Cannonball will enter hibernation to prepare for its full opening. When it debuts in March (hopefully), the restaurant will feature a tasting menu from chef Felipe Riccio that explores a focused aspect of Mediterranean cuisine such as a region or historical period. Expect service as refined as the carefully-selected furniture and artwork, along with pairings from the wine cellar’s 11,000 selections.
The new mixed-use development on Shepherd Dr. just north of I-10 will be home to a diverse array of culinary concepts that will begin opening this spring and summer, including:
- Da Gama Canteen, an Anglo-Indian concept from Oporto owners Shiva and Rick Di Virgilio that will blend the spirit of the much lamented Queen Vic Pub & Kitchen with Portuguese-Indian-inspired dishes from places like Goa, East Africa, and Portugal.
- Homestead Kitchen & Bar, an all-day brunch and lunch concept that offers dishes inspired by three of Texas’ most popular cuisines: Cajun/Creole, Mexican, and Southern.
- Honeychild’s Sweet Creams, a frozen custard shop that uses locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients to create its flavors.
- Rakkan Ramen, a noodle shop with locations in Tokyo and California that serves soups made with plant-based broths.
New York Deli & Coffee Shop
Just like its companion bagel bakery, the Meyerland staple will open a second location in Bellaire. With 5,000-square feet and almost 300 seats, it will be dramatically larger than the original and will offer an expanded menu that incorporates some elements from modern Jewish restaurants such as Russ & Daughters and Sadelle's such as tableside-sliced nova. In addition, the restaurant will have a full liquor license.
The mixed-use development coming to the former Barbara Jordan post office in downtown will offer more than 30 food concepts ranging from food stalls to full service restaurants. The first six tenants announced for the space include Austin’s acclaimed Salt & Time butcher shop, a hot chicken restaurant from Colorado, and a concept devoted to pho and bun bo Hue.
Postino WineCafe Town & Country
Houston’s third location of the Arizona-based wine bar and restaurant will debut in the Memorial area this spring. Renovations to the former Pronto Cucinino space will include an expansive patio and an indoor-outdoor bar. Postino’s famously generous happy hour — $5 wines by-the-glass until 5 pm — will arrive intact.
Railway Heights Market
This new project from Bravery Chef Hall owners Company of Nomads will offer a diverse mix of experiences when it opens later this year. Expect a two-story market with up to 25 vendors, an expansive outdoor beer garden and dog park, retailers, a farmers market, and more. Look for announcements about specific vendors once the opening becomes more imminent.
Located in the East End, this wine bar and restaurant will offer a twist on what diners expect from that style of establishment. Instead of charcuterie boards and sandwiches, executive chef and general manager JD Fouché will serve a menu that’s grounded in Gulf Coast cuisine and made with locally-grown, seasonally available products. Approximately 50 wines will be available from a self-service system that will dispense 1, 3, and 5-ounce pours. Look for a January opening.
Shoot the Moon
Kevin Floyd, a former partner in Anvil and Underbelly Hospitality, returns to the restaurant scene with this new offering. Located in Spring Branch and expected to debut in the first quarter of 2021, Shoot the Moon will feature a self-service system that allows diners to pour their own beer, wine, cocktails, or spirits from up to 50 different selections. Chef Dax McAnear (Beaver’s, Hay Merchant) has created a menu that starts with pizza but also includes shareable starters and a few center-of-plate entrees.
The Taco Stand
Chef Matthew Pak and proprietor Shawn Bermudez are opening this new restaurant that’s located next to The Burger Joint in The Heights. The restaurant will street style tacos and burritos made with traditional fillings such as pastor, barbacoa, and carnitas that can be paired with five housemade salsas as well as breakfast tacos all day — all wrapped in housemade corn and flour tortillas. A full liquor license means diners will be able to pair their tacos with margaritas, beer, and other libations.
Houston Rockets star (for now) James Harden is opening this restaurant in the former Mr. Peeples space in Midtown. Chef Tobias Dorzon has been previewing menu items on Instagram, including steak with Oscar topping and hasselback potatoes, king crab gumbo, and stuffed shrimp pasta with black truffles. The Basement Lounge, a companion nightclub, will also operate in the building. Expect a January opening.
Tonight & Tomorrow/The Bar at La Colombe d’Or
These two concepts will serve both the boutique hotel and The Residences at La Colombe d’Or, a 34-story luxury high-rise currently nearing completion. At Tonight & Tomorrow, chef Jonathan Wicks (Hotel ZaZa) will serve dishes such as gravlax carpaccio with house-made lavash and boudin-stuffed quail with braised greens and pickled mustard seeds. The Bar will offer coffee in the morning and cocktails and small plates in the evening. Look for an opening as soon as this month.
James Beard Award-winning chef Hugo Ortega and his wife/business partner Tracy Vaught’s new establishment has a name — judging by an Instagram account — but little else is known about the restaurant that will occupy the former Cafe Express space in Uptown Park. We’re shivering with anticipation to learn more of the delicious details.
Van Leeuwen Ice Cream
The New York-based scoop shop known for its flavorful dairy and vegan ice creams will arrive in Rice Village this spring. Expect flavors like Mocha Latte (made with oak milk) and Mint Chip served as scoops, sundaes, milkshakes, and more.
Phat Eatery chef-owner Alex Au-Yeung recruited chef Cuc Lam to develop this Vietnamese sandwich concept. Slated to open this month in Katy, Yelo will offer both traditional banh mi as well as Lam’s original takes such as the Pho-rench Dip, a brisket sandwich served with a cup of pho broth for dipping.