The winners for nine of the 10 categories in the 2022 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards are selected by our judges’ panel of restaurant industry experts. However, Best New Restaurant is different.
This category gives CultureMap readers the chance to weigh in on their favorites via a bracket-style, head-to-head tournament that pits 16 restaurants against each other until only one remains. The first round of voting runs May 4-8, followed by rounds two and three from May 9-13 and 14-18, respectively. Two restaurants will compete for the title from May 19-23.
People may vote once per matchup per day. The results are closely monitored for cheating and other shenanigans, so don’t even try to game the results. Voting is open now.
Considering our matchups feature a wide range of dining experiences — everything from a fine dining restaurant with a Michelin-starred sibling to a come-as-you-are po’ boy shop — not to mention some of the city’s most talented chefs and veteran operators, expect every contest to be close.
Who will win? Find out May 25 at the Tastemaker Awards party. We’ll dine on bites from this year’s nominated restaurants before emcee Bun B reveals the winners. Buy tickets now before they sell out.
ChòpnBlọk vs. Golfstrømmen
Let’s kick off this year’s competition with the two tastiest concepts at the Post Market food hall. After starting as a pop-up, ChòpnBlọk has taken Houston by storm with West African dishes like jollof rice and suya-spiced steak skewers. The restaurant has drawn enough attention that founder Ope Amosu has appeared on both celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson’s PBS series No Passport Required and served as a guest judge on Top Chef. Golfstrømmen unites acclaimed Norwegian chef Christopher Haatuft and Texas chef Paul Qui in a concept focused on serving sustainable seafood: everything from raw oysters to whole fried fish. Even though its only a few months old, Golfstrømmen holds its own with any of Houston's top seafood establishments. Both restaurants are worth braving the Post Houston crowds, but only one will advance to round two.
Chivos vs. Trattoria Sofia
This matchup pits two of The Heights’ most exciting new options. At Chivos, chef Thomas Bille brings a Mexican American perspective to a diverse set of dishes that run the gamut from pozole dumplings to bone marrow tacos. Veteran restaurateur Ben Berg has brought his stylish flair to Trattoria Sofia’s menu of Italian-inspired tastes that include freshly made pastas and wood-fired pizzas. Both restaurants offer spacious patios and first-rate cocktails, but only tortillas or focaccia can move on to round two.
Da Gama Canteen vs. Common Bond Brasserie
The latest projects from two successful restaurant groups face off in this matchup. At Da Gama, chefs Shiva and Rick Di Virgilio apply their winning formula from Oporto Fooding House and the Queen Vic Pub to an eclectic menu of Portuguese and Indian-inspired dishes. Common Bond steps up its cuisine at its downtown brasserie with a menu of French-inspired fare like rack of lamb, bouillabaisse, and citrus-poached lobster. Both restaurants offer a smart list of wines by-the-glass to enhance a meal, but only one makes round two.
Le Jardinier vs. Gratify Neighborhood Bistro
The tournament’s two most luxurious restaurants square off in this matchup. Le Jardinier brings the pedigree of its Michelin-starred New York location, a dramatic dining room in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Kinder building, and chef Alain Verzeroli’s seasonally inspired, vegetable-forward menu. Gratify steps up with proprietor Grant Cooper’s flair for dramatic dining rooms, crowd-pleasing fare like raw seafood and steak frites, and an eclectic wine list. Regardless of which restaurant moves on to round two, both will remain incredibly popular with Houston’s boldfaced names.
GJ Tavern vs. Wild Oats
Sorry, Chris Shepherd, but only one of your new restaurants will advance to round two. After a slow start, downtown’s GJ Tavern has hit its stride under the direction of chef Tim Reading, who created a menu built around classic fare like roast chicken, raw oysters, and an utterly craveable burger. Wild Oats is chef Nick Fine’s self-described “love letter to Texas” that puts its carefully crafted spin on familiar favorites like chili, campechana, and chicken fried steak. However this vote goes down, we’re confident the employees of Underbelly Hospitality will remain friends.
J-Bar-M Barbecue vs. Urbe
Could there be a more classic Texas matchup that barbecue versus tacos? At J-Bar-M, owner John Toomey has assembled a talented squad to produce slow smoked meats and eclectic sides in a setting so undeniably Texan that Top Chef filmed its barbecue challenge there. At Urbe, chef Hugo Ortega brings the techniques that won him a James Beard Award to an approachable menu of tacos and other familiar dishes. Both restaurants feature expansive patios, but only one will fight on in round two.
d'Alba Craft Kitchen & Cocktails vs. Daily Gather
Two of Houston’s modern neighborhood restaurants square off in this matchup. At d’Alba, hospitality veteran Daut Elshani and former Benjy’s chef Geoff Hundt have brought vegetable-forward, Italian-inspired fare to Garden Oaks. Dish Society founder Aaron Lyons and chef Brandi Key teamed up to create Daily Gather, a family-friendly restaurant with an eclectic, globally-inspired menu and a stylish interior. Both restaurants have wide-ranging menus and extensive beverage options that make them equally appealing for a weekday treat or date night, but only one will compete in round two.
Winnie's vs. 5Kinokawa
Admittedly, a lively bar that serves po’ boys and an intimate, Japanese-inspired tasting menu restaurant don’t appear to have much in common, but anyone who’s dined at both establishments will recognize they’re united by their creative approach to their respective cuisines. Sure, Winnie’s serves well-executed gumbo and an expertly-fried shrimp po’ boy, the real fun is found with options like the Fried Chicken Crunch Wrap Supreme that’s inspired by KFC and Taco Bell. Meals at 5Kinokawa feel more like concerts than a dinner thanks to chef Billy Kin’s engaging personality and free form style that alternates between raw and cooked dishes with ease. A meal to remember or a hangover to forget — only one will make it to round two.