Hoosiers. Rudy. The Bad News Bears. Rocky. The Karate Kid. The list of sports movies where an improbable upstart defeats a well-established foe seems never ending. We love rooting for underdogs. It's what made the Cubs run to the World Series so much fun and the Patriots victory over the Falcons so disappointing.
CultureMap's Tastemaker Awards Best New Restaurant tournament, powered by Whole Foods, has seen a similarly unlikely rise. To earn its place in the finals, Nobie's had to defeat three of Houston's most acclaimed new restaurants from some of its most popular chefs: Hugo Ortega's Xochi, Ryan Lachaine's Riel, and Ronnie Killen's Killen's STQ.
Obviously, an effective social media campaign deserves much of the credit for Nobie's success in the tournament, but the intimate Montrose restaurant also charms just about everyone who dines there. Credit for that success goes to chef-owner Martin Stayer's diverse menu, the space's retro style, and the hospitality provided by a front of house staff that's lead by bar manager Sarah Troxell and general manager Dominic Ruiz.
Praising Nobie's for its achievement in reaching the finals is not to diminish State Fare, the tournament's other finalist. Lee Ellis' and Jim Mills' restaurant in Gateway Memorial City had its own tough path, knocking off River Oaks favorite Relish Restaurant & Bar, rising star barbecue joint The Pit Room, and its corporate sibling Pi Pizza.
State Fare draws the inspiration for its diverse menu from Ellis and Mills' upbringing in Texas and Louisiana, and their extensive experience in the restaurant business ensures they're highly effective at developing dishes people want to eat again and again. Seafood cocktail, chips and guacamole, giant burgers, and a first-rate brunch have all made the restaurant a hit. Ellis' flair for design, and a top notch beverage program with an extensive selection of craft beer, wine, and cocktails make State Fare equally welcoming for families with kids or adults on a date night.
So who will it be? The intimate Montrose restaurant from the first-time chef-owner or the expansive west Houston rising star from two of the city's most seasoned culinary veterans? Fried shrimp and burgers or beef tartare and octopus? 41 craft beer taps or cans of Montucky Cold Snack? Vote now.
Want to find out who wins? We're hiding the voting percentages to preserve the surprise. Join us April 18 at Asia Society Texas for the Tastemaker Awards Party when we'll reveal the winners in all of the categories.