Over the past month, we’ve introduced you to the food and beverage industry’s top talent as part of our 2016 Tastemaker Awards. From the best Houston restaurants and chefs to local breweries and bars, the competition was steep for this year’s nominees.
On Wednesday night at our annual Tastemaker party, celebrity chef and Astros fan Bryan Caswell revealed the top selections from our expert panel of restaurant industry insiders to a crowd of more than 600 people.
Join us in raising a glass to toast the outstanding food and beverage winners for the 2016 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards:
Restaurant of the Year: Pax Americana
The ambitious Montrose restaurant topped the field thanks to its combination of chef Adam Dorris's creative, constantly changing menu, Shepard Ross's high-energy presence in the front of the house, and a sophisticated beverage program that mixes creative cocktails with a carefully-selected, Old World-oriented wine list.
Chef of the Year: Adam Dorris, Pax Americana
It makes sense that the Restaurant of the Year would be led by the Chef of the Year. Adam Dorris's passionate support of local farmers and his interest in preservation techniques, such as pickling and smoking, drive much of his cuisine.
Rising Star Chef of the Year: Graham Laborde, Bernadine's
Graham Laborde's upbringing in Lafayette, Louisiana, and training at some of New Orleans' finest restaurants prepared him to lead the Treadsack Group's restaurant that's intended to serve as a "love letter to the Gulf Coast." After putting away one of his signature I-10 towers, diners may want to write Laborde a letter or two of their own.
Pastry Chef of the Year: Rebecca Masson, Fluff Bake Bar
Her brick and mortar bakery finally gives fans more reliable access to her comforting confections, but Rebecca Masson isn't content just to serve fluffernutters and Veruca Salt cup|cakes. Her Saturday morning bake sales attract top talent from across Texas to try their hand at sweets, which mean diners always have a reason to stop by.
Bar of the Year: Public Services Wine & Whisky
The elegant downtown space may emphasize its extensive collections of Sherry and Sherry-finished whisky, but the extensive wine list and knowledgeable service make it a top spot for almost any occasion. Oxheart prepares the bar's tidy menu of snacks, including the recent addition of cold fried chicken.
Bartender of the Year: Terry Williams, Anvil Bar & Refuge
In the words of Anvil owner Bobby Heugel, Terry Williams sets himself apart with his love for taking care of people. Whether that's the other bartenders on Anvil's staff or the customers who still flood into the bar for expertly-made cocktails, Williams can be counted on to focus on the task at hand and provide true hospitality.
Brewery of the Year: Saint Arnold Brewing Company
Houston's oldest craft brewery also continues to be one of its most innovative. Recent additions to the year-round lineup like Art Car IPA and 5 O'Clock Pils deliver balanced flavors, while the limited production Bishop's Barrel and Divine Reserve series remain highly coveted by collectors.
Sommelier of the Year: Evan Turner, Helen Greek Food & Wine
Evan Turner's near religious fervor for Greek food and wine led him to open Helen, and the results — including best new restaurant plaudits from a range of critics and a James Beard semifinalist nomination — speak to how well he's realized that dream. Whether or not patrons are familiar with the all-Greek wine list, Turner will always know just what to suggest.
Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: Weights + Measures
Whether coming by in the morning for a freshly baked pastry and coffee, at lunch for a pizza or burger, or at dinner for some of chef Richard Kaplan's signature charcuterie and a bottle of wine, Midtown restaurant Weights + Measures will cater to almost any occasion. Brunch combines all of its strengths into one meal, which may explain why it's routinely packed every weekend from 9 am to 3 pm.
Best New Restaurant: State of Grace
No one should be surprised that the ultra-popular River Oaks restaurant won this category, which was voted on by CultureMap readers. State of Grace's elegant dining room and diverse, seafood-oriented menu have had it packed since day one, and the quality of both food and service have only improved with time.