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Where To Eat Right Now: 10 hot, must-try restaurants for December

Where To Eat Right Now: 10 hot, must-try restaurants for December

Kitchen 713 November 2014 shredded meat on lettuce
At Kitchen 713, Southern staples like braised turkey necks get an Asian twist.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Sanctuari Triniti menu tasting
The new bar menu at Sanctuari features this bacon blue cheese burger.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Dak & Bop Korean fried chicken wings
The Museum District gets a craft beer and Korean fried chicken destination thanks to Dak & Bop.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Robard's Steakhouse The Woodlands exterior night October 2014
Robard's brings an upscale steakhouse to The Woodlands Resort.  Photo by © Stewart Cohen
Alli's Pizzaria Heights pizza
Alli's Pizzaria is a new addition to The Heights General Store. Photo by Eric Sandler
5 first look inside Doc's Motorworks in Montrose November 2014
Doc's Motorworks serves food until 1 a.m.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Amalfi pizza
Try wood-fired pizzas and house made pastas at Amalfi.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Hubbell and Hudson tasting
The backyard burger isn't the only reason to go to the newly remodeled Hubbell & Hudson, but it is a good one. Photo by Eric Sandler
Kitchen 713 November 2014 shredded meat on lettuce
Sanctuari Triniti menu tasting
Dak & Bop Korean fried chicken wings
Robard's Steakhouse The Woodlands exterior night October 2014
Alli's Pizzaria Heights pizza
5 first look inside Doc's Motorworks in Montrose November 2014
Amalfi pizza
Hubbell and Hudson tasting

After a full day of Thanksgiving cooking and a weekend spent eating leftovers, diners across Houston are feeling restless. They're ready to get out of the house and try something new.

Luckily for them, Houston's restaurant scene has produced a new crop of options that are eager to welcome customers. While the crush of fall openings in September and October means this month lacks the heavy hitters of the recent past, just about anyone should find something that appeals.

Read on to learn about a new fine dining option in The Woodlands, an exciting Italian restaurant with a family pedigree, the first of several potential new openings on Washington Ave and a lot more. 

Robard's Steakhouse
The Woodlands boasts plenty of steakhouses, but none of them are local. That situation has changed with Robard's. This recently opened restaurant in The Woodlands Resort is named for Howard Robard Hughes, and it works hard to capture the glamour associated with the famous Texas tycoon.

Yes, the 22-ounce dry aged rib eye arrived properly medium rare with a good char that's hard to achieve at home without a super hot broiler. Perhaps more impressively, we thoroughly enjoyed each of the four seafood cocktails in a sampler. My personal favorite was the crab and avocado that was bursting with large pieces of sweet crab meat.

Personal-sized desserts are a good idea, after all, a couple of sweet bites are a nice way to round out a heavy meal, but all four that we tried were pretty generic.  

Former Arcodoro chef Giancarlo Ferrara has set out on his own with this restaurant in the same Briar Grove shopping center known for the Palm steakhouse. As the name suggests, Amalfi features dishes from the coastal region of Italy where Ferrara was born, which means plenty of fresh seafood and pastas made in house.

Highlights from a media tasting included a classic margherita pizza made with cheese sourced from Ferrara's family in Italy, risotto topped with a gigantic Madagascar prawn and ravioli stuffed with smoked buffalo mozzarella. Each dish also has a suggested by the glass wine pairing from the list of Italian selections. The decor enhances the coastal vibe with a white and blue color scheme.   

Kitchen 713
Find Southern food with Asian accents at this restaurant in the Second Ward. Braised turkey necks are served in Vietnamese-style lettuce wraps with nuoc cham sauce. An off the menu turkey leg special came drenched in an appropriately spicy vindaloo. A trio of house made boudin was more classically Southern, but the crispy, salty pork crackling was a tasty alternative to the usual crackers.

Service is a bit of a work in progress, so don't go in a hurry. Still, the food shows a lot of promise.    

Doc's Motorworks
This Austin import brings a relaxed neighborhood style pub to lower Westheimer. The space has been completely transformed from its former incarnation as a Wendy's with lots of communal seating, 50 taps of mostly Texas beer and a full menu of classic pub fare. I'm hard pressed to explain what about the white wings (chicken and jalapeno wrapped in bacon) I found so addictive, but the sweet, spicy combination makes for a good snack.

 With solid burgers, plenty of parking and a kitchen that stays open until 1 a.m. every night, Doc's makes for a solid addition to Montrose. 

Fried appetizers like mushrooms and pickles are breaded on site. With solid burgers, plenty of parking and a kitchen that stays open until 1 a.m. every night, Doc's makes for a solid addition to Montrose.    

Alli's Pizzaria
This deliberately misspelled restaurant is the latest addition to the Heights General Store/Harold's complex on 19th Street. Both of our pizzas, a 19th St. Supreme (pepperoni, sausage, bell pepper, onion, olives, mushrooms) and a Sargent Sandy (roasted chicken, jalapeno, spinach), featured a thin crust and plenty of toppings.

The toppings were excellent, although the crispiness of the crust may have suffered during the drive from the Heights to CultureMap's office downtown. No issues with the meatball sandwich, which featured three giant orbs and crispy-salty house made potato chips. Large (12-inch) pies run about $15. The thin crust means they aren't as filling as some, so figure one for two adults. 

Dak & Bop
This Korean fried chicken restaurant in the same building as Museum Park Cafe and Bosta Wine & Coffee opened quietly over Thanksgiving weekend. The process is simple: Choose from three flavors, a mild soy and garlic, a vinegar-based hot and spicy or "half and half," a mix of the other two; choose wings, drumsticks or tenders; choose slaw or a slightly spicy creamed corn as a side.

As expected from being twice-fried, the wings arrived hot and crispy, with a crunchy crust and juicy interior. One perk: The chicken isn't as messy as the versions served at either Toreore or Fat Bao. Another perk: 14 craft taps to wash down the chicken.

Beirut Fine Lebanese Cuisine
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and there is also life on Washington Avenue. The wave of closings that swept the street in October seems to be turning around, and Beirut Fine Lebanese Cuisine is the first in what could be a wave of new options in the area (Il Mascalzone, Big Eyed Fish, Grafiti, B&R Butchers, Urban Eats, Samurai Noodle, etc).

 The former Reign nightclub has been turned into a white tablecloth restaurant with a large cedar tree on the wall. 

The former Reign nightclub has been turned into a white tablecloth restaurant with a large cedar tree on the wall. On the menu, a familiar mix of Mediterranean favorites, including shawarma, hummus and shish kabob.

At $8 for hummus and $12 for a shish kabob wrap, prices are at least a couple of dollars higher than similar restaurants, but the dishes tasted good, particularly the hummus with minced lamb. Vegetarians will enjoy the falafel, which had a nicely crispy exterior and a little more spice than expected.  

Hearsay on the Green
The Market Square restaurant known for its popular happy hour and late night dining has expanded to a second location in the Embassy Suites hotel near Discovery Green. Generally, the menu is the same as the original with a few additions like chicken fried chicken, more dessert options (including a plate of shareable, baked to order cookies) and an expanded wine list.

The most important feature is that the kitchen stays open until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, which makes Hearsay a solid dining option after events at places like House of Blues and Toyota Center. With the Houston Rockets looking to emerge as a Western Conference power, it's nice to know that diners who don't fill up on nachos or hot dogs can still get a good meal. 

Hubbell & Hudson Bistro
The bistro in The Woodlands Waterway isn't new, but it might as well be after an extensive renovation that includes expanded seating and an all-new menu. Chef Austin Simmons has moved to using more local product, including Texas-raised Akaushi beef.

New appetizers and sides are designed to be shared among the table. Don't miss the "reloaded" baked potato that combines roasted fingerlings with pork belly. They pair nicely with any of the steaks or a rack of lamb. H&H's signature burgers, which are now seared on cast iron, are still available at lunch and as part of the bar menu. Talented pastry chef Nguyet Nguyen's desserts are winners, too.

In January, Curate will open. The tasting menu restaurant within H&H will feature a chef's table with custom menus designed by Simmons for diners.   

Yaki Snack Attack
Admittedly, it's been awhile since I've featured a food truck on this list, but the return of Yaki Snack Attack merits the attention. The former Grand Prize pop-up has been reborn as a food truck, but the Japanese street food-inspired menu of fried chicken, hot dogs and creative uses of Spam remains just as compelling as ever.

Even vegetarians can get in on the fun with an eggplant version of the tonkatsu sandwich. Generally, it can be found every Tuesday at Insomnia on 19th Street. Other locations vary. Check Facebook for the latest. 

Honorable Mention: Sanctuari at Triniti
The bar and private dining room at Michelle Obama's favorite Houston restaurant have been transformed into this high-style cocktail lounge. In addition to 30-plus new drinks that offer creative twists on classic recipes, chef Ryan Hildebrand and his team have created a new menu of shareable bar snacks.

Feeling like a splurge? Try the golden brook trout caviar with wasabi chips and avocado blini. Heartier options include beef tartare and a top-notch bacon blue cheese burger. While bartender Leslie Ross may have departed, Laurie Sheddan, the other half of the Ladies of Libation, remains an integral, friendly part of the Sanctuari experience. 

Looking for more new restaurants to try? Try these picks from November, October, September and July