2022 HRW first timers

Houston Restaurant Weeks debuts 14 sizzling newcomers from award-winners to buzzy hot spots

Houston Restaurant Weeks debuts 14 award-winning and buzzy newcomers

Trattoria Sofia marghertia pizza
Get a marghertia pizza at Trattoria Sofia. Photo by Jenn Duncan
Flora dining room
Dine in style at Flora. Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
d'Alba appetizer spread
d'Alba's menu includes its signature balloon bread. Photo by Becca Wright
Trattoria Sofia marghertia pizza
Flora dining room
d'Alba appetizer spread

For Houston restaurant obsessives, July 15 is a red letter day, because that’s when Houston Restaurant Weeks reveals its initial list of participants. Held from August 1 through Labor Day, September 5, the charity dining event raises money for the Houston Food Bank via the Cleverley Stone Foundation, the nonprofit that produces the event.

As noted in CultureMap last week, this year’s event features four pre-fixe menu options: $39 and $55 dinner menus of three or four courses alongside two-course, $25 lunch and brunch menus. Restaurants donate $2, $4, or $6 for every meal sold. Ultimately, as many as 250 individual locations will participate, a list that includes everything from some of the city's best independent restaurants to multiple outposts of chain restaurants such as Saltgrass Steakhouse, BB's Tex-Orleans, and Thai Cottage. 

Although many people use the event as an opportunity to revisit old favorites such as Traveler’s Table, Brennan’s, and Hugo’s, others see it as the chance to try a new restaurant or two. In that spirit, consider this list of 14 restaurants that are participating in HRW for the first time. To be considered, each restaurant had to offer dinner, which is the way most people will participate in the event.

We’ve included multiple nominees for Best New Restaurant in the 2022 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, including the winner, d’Alba Craft Kitchen & Cocktails in Garden Oaks. The list also includes six options for modern Mexican fare, two establishments at downtown’s Bravery Chef Hall, and a celebrity chef’s Houston outpost.

Calavera Mexican Kitchen 
This restaurant inside Bravery offers a three-course, $39 dinner menu. Appetizer options include queso fondido, chicken tostada, and seafood cocktail. The four entree choices feature tacos al pastor, carne asada, and shrimp tacos. Conclude with tres leches, flan, or cookies.

This restaurant in the Heights has been earning raves for its modern approach to Mexican cuisine. The three-course, $39 dinner menu features some of the menu’s most popular dishes, including burrata with stone fruit, ceviche tostada, Peruvian-style half chicken, and pork belly tacos. You could order the peach tres leches for dessert, but that would mean missing out on the signature xocolatl tamal. 

d’Alba Kitchen & Cocktails
This winner of Best New Restaurant in the 2022 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards will serve a three-course, $39 dinner menu of savory selections. Start with tomato and watermelon gazpacho, balloon bread, or corn and ricotta choice. Continue with one of three salads, including a Vietnamese-inspired mix of heirloom tomatoes and pickled cucumbers in a fish sauce vinaigrette. Entree choices include lamb meatballs, bone marrow pasta, or peach and bacon pizza. Add a dessert for $6.

Daily Gather
Dish Society’s sister concept in CityCentre will offer a four-course, $55 dinner menu and a two-course, $25 lunch menu. Highlights from dinner include deviled eggs, chilled coconut shrimp, cacio e pepe frites, citrus avocado salad, rotisserie chicken, and bananas Foster bread pudding. At lunch, look for options such as Caesar salad, tomato bisque, a twin-patty cheeseburger, or quinoa and farro with vegetables.

El Topo
Chef Tony Luhrman’s three-course, $55 menu begins with mushroom salad with field greens, sweet corn with epazote aioli and pepitas, or the papa costra, roasted new potatoes inside a wrapper of crispy cheese. Entree choices include rack of lamb with roasted summer squash and beans, flap steak with refried black beans, and a vegetarian-friendly masa dumplings with roasted vegetables. Chocolate tres leches leads the three dessert options.

Figo Sugo
Recently opened in Bravery Chef Hall, this restaurant is serving a four-course, $39 dinner and a two-course lunch. Both meals feature appetizers such as baked goat cheese and cheese sticks as well as entrees such as Parmesan-crusted chicken and spaghetti and meatballs. The dinner menu adds the option of three salads and a choice of dessert.

Grant Cooper’s buzzy Mexican restaurant on Buffalo Bayou will offer a three-course, $55 dinner menu. Started choices include red snapper ceviche, sopes, or beef nachos. Entree choices include skirt steak, grilled fish with vegetables, chicken in green mole, or charred octopus with chorizo and potatoes. Key lime pie, flan, and or tres leches end the meal on a sweet note.

Gratify Neighborhood Bistro
Rice Village’s stylish, French-inspired bistro will serve a three-course $55 dinner menu. Begin with heirloom tomato gazpacho, grilled broccolini and lentils, or a daily chef’s salad. Entree choices include pasta with truffles, pistachio-crusted rainbow trout, and the signature filet au poivre with mashed potatoes. Key lime pie, bread pudding, and flourless chocolate cake round out the menu.

III by Wolfgang Puck
The celebrity chef-backed restaurant in the Medical Center will offer both a four-course, $55 dinner menu and a two-course lunch. Dinner features options such as tuna tartare or mini cheeseburger to start, choice of salad, and entrees that include grilled Gulf snapper with fennel salad and flat iron steak with eggplant and snow peas. At lunch, the entree choices consist of gnocchi, grilled salmon with corn puree, and an Asian-inspired chicken salad.

Chef Fabian Saldana has been earning raves for his Energy Corridor Mexican restaurant. The three-course, $39 dinner menu features options such as stuffed corn pasta with grilled shrimp, pork ribs with adobo, red snapper with mussels, prosciutto-wrapped quail with green tomatillo sauce, and choice of dessert. At lunch, diners will find a two-course menu that features choices the ability to choose an entree with either an appetizer or dessert; options include ceviche, brisket quesadilla, pumpkin seed-crusted chicken breast, pork pastor, and banana pudding.

Southern Yankee Crafthouse
This brewpub near St. Thomas University will serve a three-course, $39 dinner menu. Start with smoked pork belly, Viet-Cajun wood-fired wings, or fried green tomatoes. Entree options include a cheeseburger with jalapeño-bacon jam, chicken cordon bleu, or spicy goat cheese pizza. Finish with bread pudding, lemon parfait, or cobbler.

Toro Toro
This Latin-inspired steakhouse at downtown’s luxurious Four Seasons hotel will serve a three-course, $55 dinner and a two-course lunch. At dinner, start with shareable appetizers such as swordfish dip and ceviche before choosing from entrees such as achiote-marinated salmon, roast chicken, or Peruvian favorite lomo saltado. Lunch features choices that include a sushi roll with spicy tuna and crab, wedge salad, steak and fries, and a Cuban sandwich. 

Trattoria Sofia
This Italian restaurant in the Heights is offering a three-course, $39 dinner menu as well as two courses at lunch and brunch. Dinner consists of three savory courses with choices that include crispy shrimp in spicy tomato sauce, fried risotto croquettes, cacio e pepe, margherita pizza, chicken parmesan, and veal milanese ($12 supplement). At lunch, the menu features wood-roasted beets with labneh, green salad with apples and fennel, mozzarella panini, and pan-seared flounder. Items unique to the brunch menu include blueberry focaccia French toast, potato and sausage hash, and polenta with seared shrimp and spicy tomato sauce ($12 supplement).

James Beard Award winner Hugo Ortega’s casual Mexican restaurant in Uptown Park will serve both a three-course, $39 menu and a two-course lunch. Choose from seven lunch entrees including a huarache topped with carnitas, chicken or vegetable enchiladas, tacos al pastor, and shrimp tostadas. Dinner features seven starters — ranging from roasted oysters and elote to shrimp aguachile — along with three entrees options and three dessert choices.