Where to Eat Right Now
After a quiet April, the month of May saw a number of new restaurants open across the Houston area. Having survived last month's flooding, the time has come to stop hunkering down and get out and eat — at least until the heat becomes so oppressive no one wants to leave home.
This month's crop features a new steakhouse with lots of retro touches, the best restaurant to open at a Houston brewery (so far), Montrose's latest dining sensation and mobile crepes by way of Spain and Poland.
This month's crop features a new steakhouse with lots of retro touches, the best restaurant to open at a Houston brewery (so far), Montrose's latest dining sensation and mobile crepes by way of Spain and Poland. This month's list has a strong focus on inner-Loop options, but Spring Branch residents have a new burger joint to check out.
Let's get to it. As always, these are listed in roughly the order I think you should try them, but use your intelligence guided by your experience to determine which are best for you.
B&B Butchers and Restaurant
Locally-owned steakhouses are rare in Houston. For whatever reason, they're typically chains that feature similar menus. However, B&B Butchers, which just opened on Washington Avenue, is a one-off, and the restaurant isn't afraid to be different. That starts with its in-house dry aging program and retail butcher shop where would-be grillmasters can purchase high-quality steaks to make at home. It continues on the menu; all the standard cuts of USDA Prime beef are available, but so is Texas waygu from Gearhart Ranch and old-school steak entrees like prime rib, chateaubriand and Beef Wellington. Even the decor — with its exposed wooden plank ceiling and a large window that looks into the kitchen — breaks the mold from the all leather all the time steakhouse vibe.
At the restaurant's invitation, three friends and I ordered a number of items from across the menu. We liked the carpetbagger appetizers of a fried oyster served over slices of bacon and filet topped with bleu cheese and hot sauce and a steak tartare that could've used another pinch of salt. On the other hand, tuna tartare had an unpleasantly sweet, almost pineapple flavor. At $98, the long bone ribeye for two is a fatty, flavorful steak that's a worthwhile splurge. The sides were a bit of a mixed bag, but the thick cut onion rings are must-try. Overall, B&B may not be ready to join the city's "Big Three" steakhouses of Pappas Bros., Vic & Anthony's and Killen's, but it's the most exciting newcomer since Vallone's opened in 2013.
Karbach Brewing Co.
Houston's fastest growing brewery recently opened the restaurant that's part of its $15 million expansion. It's a stylish, spacious room with a generous patio that's the most complete dining experience at any Houston brewery. Led by former Benjy's chef Joseph Stayshich, the Karbach restaurant serves dishes that are made with some of the ingredients used to brew beer, like malt in the sauce for gnocchi and spent grain in the pizza crusts. The dishes are also designed to pair well with Karbach beers, which are conveniently available on tap at the restaurant — including some one-offs that aren't available anywhere else. At lunch, the menu features salads and sandwiches in the $10-15 range, while dinners offers a few more entrees like a half chicken and butcher's cut steak in the $20-25 range.
I tasted part of the lunch menu with a couple of friends. We agreed that Stayshich's Korean fried chicken, which delivers the right mix of sweet and spicy and crispy,and juicy rock shrimp are dishes we'd happily eat again. Other highlights included an asparagus and arugula salad topped with romanesco cheese and a properly runny egg and the pineapple express pizza with pork belly and bonito. The flavors in the grilled shrimp banh mi came together well, but the bread could stand to be more of a classic baguette and less of a soft roll.
Judging by the number of Facebook check-ins and Instagram pictures I've seen, people have already discovered this new Mexican coastal cantina from the folks behind Liberty Station and Cottonwood that has replaced iconic gay bar E.J.'s just off Westheimer. For those who have yet to visit, the interior features lamps found by owners Sara and Rob Cromie during their trips to Mexico and lots of custom ironwork, but it's the large, interior courtyard that's already making La Grange a summertime destination. It's a two-story affair that encourages lingering over a craft beer or an agave-based cocktail. On the cocktail side, don't miss the watermelon fresca and a frozen margarita with plenty of bite. The smoked tomato campechana was too briny for my taste, but both the grilled shrimp and queso (add guacamole) are perfect for sharing.
Mala Sichuan Bistro
Whether one considers it the best restaurant in Asiatown or merely a very good one, no one can argue that Mala Sichuan's arrival in Montrose has been greeted with anything other than rabid enthusiasm. Hour-long waits for a table are not uncommon on Friday and Saturday nights, and the valet for the lot it shares with El Real has been totally overwhelmed (park on the street and walk to avoid the mess). Despite these hassles, I've been three times in two weeks and am confident in saying it's every bit as good as the original on Bellaire Blvd. In addition to Mala favorites like ma po tofu, water boiled fish and spicy and aromatic chicken, the new location features dishes made with an incredibly aromatic green peppercorn sauce that can't be missed. At $10 per bottle of wine and $2 per beer, the cost of BYOB adds up quickly; just make sure whatever you bring is worth the added expense.
After a particularly disappointing dinner at another restaurant where a group of us picked at some shared entrees before ultimately giving up and cutting our losses, we sought redemption at Revival Market's newly-introduced dinner service. Even though it was only its second day, the market-turned-restaurant delivered. Those familiar with Coltivare will not be surprised to find out that Ryan Pera's salads, including a smoked bycatch with cantaloupe and another of pickled shrimp with peaches, are a particular highlight. Yes, one can get spendy with a 20-ounce striploin, but the best entree is a straightforward take on classic beef Stroganoff with housemade pasta. It's a comforting throwback that hits all the right notes. Revival is BYOB for now, but look for it to receive a club license and introduce cocktails and wine soon.
Fluff Bake Bar
Located in Midtown just a couple of doors down from Kata Robata's eagerly anticipated Izakaya, Fluff Bake Bar gives fans of pastry chef Rebecca Masson a dedicated retail outlet to get their Fluffernutter fix. In addition to Masson's popular creations like unicorn cookies and Veruca Salt Cup|Cakes, Fluff ups the ante with coffee, charcuterie plates and plated desserts. Those with a dedicated sweet tooth will want to schedule a dessert tasting, which offers three plates for $21. Late night hours (open until midnight Thursday through Saturday) and access to the spacious courtyard should mean that Fluff functions as a can't-miss date spot between dinner and a nightcap.
This new food truck features an unlikely story of culinary inspiration and long-distance love. Czarek Brylski was born in Poland but learned to make crepes in Spain. After opening five creperies in Barcelona, he moved to Texas to be with his American wife, Pamela, who he met when she was a student studying abroad. Now Brylski can be found serving sweet and savory crepes from a van at spots like the West Alabama Ice House. Obviously, diners can't go wrong with a classic like banana nutella, but savory options like prosciutto with arugula and melon,which use a gluten-free batter, make for a light, satisfying meal.
This recently opened restaurant in Spring Branch applies the farm-to-table ethos to a fast casual burger joint. That means the patties are made with locally-sourced beef from 44 Farms and various toppings come from local farms and suppliers like the Houston Dairymaids. BuffBurger further broadens its appeal with vegetarian, tuna and chicken patties, as well as a selection of salads. After reading an enthusiastic review by the usually reliable Hank on Food, I was excited to give it a shot. While I recognize the quality of the ingredients, my patty arrived well done instead of the requested medium, which mean all the delicious fatty juices were cooked right out of it. Crispy fries and a very chocolate-y milkshake saved part of the experience. I think BuffBurger can pull it together and deliver, but diners who patronize the restaurant are advised to be vigilant about doneness.
This fast casual seafood restaurant that's a Yelp favorite near Bush Intercontinental Airport recently opened a second location at the southern end of the Heights. The menu is a straightforward affair of fried options as well as composed seafood dishes like broiled catfish in a variety of sauces. The fried shrimp, catfish and chicken we sampled all arrived hot and crispy while still being juicy. A bowl of the namesake gumbo had plenty of meat, and a selection of hot sauces perked up the spice level. Given its reasonable prices and fast service, it should work well as both a lunch and dinner stop for anyone in the area.
For now, chef Wendell Price's restaurant that's located in a renovated Montrose bungalow near Brooklyn Athletic Club is only open for brunch on the weekends, but the buffet offers enough choices that it merits a shot in anyone's brunch rotation. For $30, diners can choose from all the usual items like scrambled eggs, bacon, breads and fresh fruit. Price also offers made-to-order items like red velvet pancakes and crab cakes that elevate the experience. Lunch and dinner should follow soon, at which point we'll get more of an idea of the cuisine that once earned celebrity fans like Kevin Costner and Denzel Washington.