Three Texas restaurants are basking in the national spotlight. Eater named establishments in Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio to its list of the 16 best new restaurants in America for 2019.
Restaurant editor Hillary Dixler Canavan (with an assist from Eater’s various city editors) spent four months and traveled to 17 cities to compile the list. She takes over for Bill Addison, who left his role as Eater’s national critic to work at the Los Angeles Times. It includes places that opened between May 2018 and May 2019. Texas, New York, and California dominate the list, claiming three spots each.
Indigo (Houston), The Jerk Shack (San Antonio), and Khao Noodle Shop (Dallas) are the Texas representatives. They’re joined by a mix of nationally prominent restaurants like Atomix, the Korean restaurant in New York City that was a finalist for a James Beard Award, as well as more obscure places like Tacos 1986, a buzzy taco stand in Los Angeles.
For Indigo, the recognition joins the growing national chorus that has praised chef Jonny Rhodes’ innovative tasting menu concept that reinterprets African American culinary traditions by considering the political and social contexts that shaped its dishes. Food & Wine, GQ, and Texas Monthly have also included the restaurant on their various best of lists. Rhodes also earned a James Beard semifinalist nomination for Rising Star Chef.
“Rhodes and his wife and co-owner, Chana Rhodes, aim to challenge systemic racism and oppression in America with their restaurant,” Canavan writes. “Rhodes delivers monologues between courses on weighty topics ranging from mass incarceration to the Great Migration, but even without them, Indigo’s very existence is part of the work: a fine dining restaurant in a historically underserved neighborhood, serving food that unabashedly claims its purpose. In a more equitable dining culture, none of this would be revolutionary, but today it is; diners simply don’t see restaurants like this very often.”
While The Jerk Shack may not be as well known as Indigo, it did win the CultureMap San Antonio Tastemaker Award for the best new restaurant of 2019. Chef-owner Lattoia Massey serves Jamaican cuisine — including jerk chicken, natch — along with steamed fish, goat curry, and other dishes. Eater Austin editor Nadia Chaudhury cites the jackfruit tacos and braised oxtails as other dishes that set it apart.
At Khao Noodle Shop, chef-owner Donny Sirisavath, a nominee for Rising Star Chef of the Year in the 2019 CultureMap Dallas Tastemaker Awards, creates spicy Laotian food, including handmade boat noodles, fried shrimp balls, and more. Eater Dallas editor Amy McCarthy writes that the restaurants provides “proof that Houston isn’t the only city in Texas with a multifaceted, diverse dining scene.” She should know; the Dallas-based writer also serves as the editor of Eater Houston.