This year has been an exciting one for Houston restaurants. During the past 12 months, the city has welcomed three new restaurants from Chris Shepherd, said farewell to high-profile places like Kitchen 713 and Vallone's, and seen no shortage of drama as operators and partners come and go from various establishments.
Of course, CultureMap has kept its readers apprised of all the latest goings on. While a closing topped this year's most-read bar and restaurant stories, most of the other items are rooted in good news — specifically, the announcement or opening of new projects. While we filtered out the monthly Where to Eat Now columns, this list does include a couple of lists, including some suggestions for where the city's most famous football player should go for a decent bowl of pasta.
1. Inner Loop chicken fried steak favorite prepares to say farewell after 31 years. Hickory Hollow owner Tony Riedel sold the Heights Blvd. location of his Texas comfort food restaurant to local real estate developer Braun Enterprises, who are seeking a new tenant for the space. Although the restaurant's Fallbrook locaiton in northwest Houston wlll remain open, diners only have until January 13 to make one last visit to the inner loop spot.
2. These are Houston's 6 best restaurants for 2018. Our Tastemaker Awards panel picked six spots as the finalists for the prestigious Restaurant of the Year award: BCN Taste & Tradition, Himalaya, One Fifth, State of Grace, The Pass & Provisions, and Xochi. Ultimately, Xochi, Hugo Ortega's Oaxacan restaurant in downtown's Marriott Marquis hotel, took the top prize.
3. Stylish new Mexican restaurant serves up excitement in The Heights. This year saw a number of high quality new eateries open in the Heights, but none made a bigger splash than Calle Onze. Opened by the same ownership group as Near Northside bar Edison & Patton, the Mexican restaurant features a creative menu, one of the city's largest collection of agave spirits, and an expansive patio.
4. Houston restaurant skewered on social media for touting Jeff Sessions visit. Popular Tex-Mex restaurant El Tiempo faced a social media backlash after a post on Facebook stated that the restaurant "had the honor to server [sic]" then Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The furor forced the restaurant to temporarily deactivate all of its social media accounts, but they have since been restored.
5. Famous farmers market picks Houston's best private school for new location. When its location on Eastside St. proved too problematic, local non-profit Urban Harvest relocated its farmers market to the campus of St. John's School. The new location, which is only a mile away, features more room for vendors, greater visibility, and better parking, courtesy of a nearby garage with 600 spaces.
6. Houston's most-Instagrammable new patio bar now open in Montrose. If 2018 is the year Houston reached peaked patio bar, no place did a better job of capturing people's attention than Present Company. With its neon signs, living wall, and creative cocktails, Shawn Bermudez's clever reconfiguration of the former Royal Oak became an instant hit.
7. Surprise exit: Houston father-son chefs depart family's South American steakhouse chain. Chefs may cycle through kitchens, but the news that Michael and David Cordúa had departed Cordúa Restaurants surprised many people. After all, Michael founded the company when he opened the first location of Churrascos on August 8, 1988. For now, they're offering catering services through a new company called David + Michael Cordúa Events, but a new restaurant project is likely on the horizon.
8. Dear J.J. Watt, here's where to eat great Italian food in Houston. When the Houston Texans star received some pretty poor answers to his request for where to eat Italian food in Houston, we stepped up with a few suggestions of our own, including Coltivare, Giacomo's, and Da Marco.
9. Exciting new pool bar set to make a splash in Houston's Second Ward. Local businessman Matthew Healey transformed a dilapidated lot into the El Segundo Swim Club. Unfortunately, the pool bar only opened for a few weeks this summer, but hopefully it will be back full-time in 2019.
10. Celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern films at 6 Houston restaurants for Travel Channel show. The chef spent a weekend in July filming at a number of local restaurants for the second season of The Zimmern List, a Travel Channel show that guides viewers to his favorite things to eat in various cities across America. See the episode this Saturday, December 29, at 9:30 am.