In eight of the nine categories in this year's CultureMap Houston Tastemaker Awards, a panel of restaurant industry insiders selected the nominees and picked the winners. But that's not how we select the winner in the Best New Restaurant category.
To determine the ninth winner, CultureMap readers vote in a head-to-head bracket that will winnow down a field of 16 restaurants to one winner. In other words, it's your turn.
Rather than push the battles between big names to the later rounds, these contests pit heavy hitters against each other right out of the gate. After all, to be the man, you gotta beat the man.
Find a breakdown of the first round matchups below. Then vote.
The Honeymoon vs Tout Suite
In this corner, a neighborhood cafe with high-quality, locally-roasted coffee, a casual menu and a super popular brunch. Oh wait, that's both of them. Tout Suite's sleek industrial space in EaDo features a variety of seating options and top-notch sweets from the in-house bakery. The Honeymoon features a laid-back New Orleans vibe and critically-praised high-quality cocktails. What's more important: sweets or booze?
Dak & Bop vs Dosi
This matchup pits two modern Korean restaurants against each other. Dak & Bop serves ultra-crispy, just spicy enough Korean fried chicken alongside craft beer and cocktails. Dosi offers a more sophisticated slate of dishes that ulitizes seasonal ingredients. While every food writer in town seems to have fallen in love with Dosi, Dak & Bop's more populist leanings have made it a hit in the Museum District. Certainly Dak & Bop's simplicity is part of its appeal, but doesn't Dosi's ambition deserve recognition?
BCN Taste & Tradition vs Radio Milano
Spain and Italy square off in this matchup. BCN chef Luis Roger moved to Houston from Spain to open his restaurant in Montrose and he's found an audience eager to sample his Spanish cuisine made with impeccable ingredients. Jose Hernandez is known for his French cooking skills but he displays a deft touch with Radio Milano's housemade pastas and carefully constructed dishes. But how does one choose between Jamon iberico and prosciutto?
Table 57 vs The El Cantina Superior
The El Cantina looked doomed, but the F.E.E.D. TX group rescued it with an all-new menu that blends Tex-Mex classics with barbecue. Table 57 is grocery giant H-E-B's first Houston restaurant, with a menu created by former Haven chef Randy Evans; it also turns out some pretty serious 'cue of its own. Can an emerging Heights destination serving the city's favorite cuisine hold off a restaurant that doesn't allow its patrons to tip?
Holley's vs Oporto Fooding House & Wine
Both of these Midtown newcomers are so good that it almost doesn't seem fair to pair them up this early, but that's life in the Tastemakers bracket. At Oporto, chef Rick Di Virgilio has taken everything good about the original location in Greenway Plaza and improved upon it with an expanded menu, more space and high-style design. At Holley's, chef Mark Holley has taken the best aspects of Pesce and added some signature dishes that pay homage to his heritage. Which restaurant that's part of Midtown's expanding dining options will move on?
Common Bond vs Weights + Measures
Common Bond has been a smash hit since it opened, as demonstrated by the length of its lines and the speed with which it sells out of its signature pastries. Weights + Measures has had plenty of success, too; weekend brunches may serve as many as 500 people per day — then another 300 show up for dinner. How does one decide between croissants or donuts? Kugelhopf or Bavarian cream? Michelin star resumes or local talent? Montrose or Midtown?
Pax Americana vs Prohibition
Two restaurants that are united by their commitments to local sourcing, evolving menus and excellent beverage programs. Pax has been a hot spot since day one, with diners packing in for Rising Star Chef of the Year nominee Adam Dorris's globally inspired cuisine. Enthusiasm has built more slowly for Ben McPherson's elevated Southern cuisine at Prohibition, but it's emerged as one of downtown's best restaurants. Sure, Pax serves an outstanding dry aged ribeye, but have you had Prohibition's roasted oysters?
Bernie's Burger Bus vs Mascalzone
Admittedly, these two don't have much in common, but both restaurants feature upgraded twists on two of America's favorite foods. At Bernie's, the burgers are made from a patties that are ground in house and served with housemade condiments. Mascalzone serves wood-fired Italian pizzas and housemade pastas. Could anything be more classically American than burgers versus pizza?
Which restaurants will advance? Vote now to pick the winners. Check back May 1 for round two.