esquire's best new restaurants
Esquire magazine has named three Texas restaurants to its list of The Best New Restaurants in America 2022. They are:
- Canje: Austin chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph’s acclaimed Caribbean restaurant (fourth)
- Tatemó: chef Emmanuel Chavez’s corn-obsessed tortilleria and Mexican restaurant in Houston (19th)
- Birdie’s: Austin’s natural wine bar and cafe from husband-and-wife duo Arjav Ezekiel and Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel (25th)
Four writers — Omar Mamoon, Joshua David Stein, former Esquire food and drink editor Jeff Gordinier, and culture and lifestyle director Kevin Sintumuang — created the list by traveling the country. They found themselves drawn to restaurants that told a chef’s personal story.
“We’re always hooked when there is soul and a story to go with delicious, inventive dishes,” Sintumuang writes. “It’s hard to deny the reflection of lived experience imbued in a menu, a wine list, a cocktail, atmosphere.”
In Houston, Stein hails Tatemó for the many ways Chavez incorporates heirloom corn into the restaurant’s eight-course tasting menu, praising dishes such as totopos, consommé, and a quesadilla. “Corn has always been a character actor. Here it’s the leading man,” he writes.
Located just outside the loop in northwest Houston, Tatemó has earned local attention for its tasting menu, which it serves on Friday and Saturday nights, and its more casual Sunday brunch. Hundreds of Houstonians lined up this summer when the restaurant hosted former Pujol head chef Alex Bremont for a two-night taco pop-up.
Turning to Austin, Sintumuang notes that Canje goes to extreme lengths to deliver traditional Caribbean flavors — flying in cassareep for its signature wild- boar pepper pot and fermenting the marinade for its jerk chicken, a process chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph shared with CultureMap at the Southern Smoke Festival. Canje’s lively atmosphere adds to Sintumuang’s experience.
“And as the night rolls by, it can all start to feel like a celebration. Welcome to the party,” he writes.
Not only does Esquire include Birdie’s on the list, but wine director Arjav Ezekiel earns the title of “Wine Guru of the Year.” Sintumuang praises Ezekiel for his list of “approachable yet thrilling low-intervention wines” that are both tasty and approachable.
Similarly, the magazine hails the restaurant’s counter service approach as a way to offer better wages to its staff and praises chef Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel’s eclectic menu. “The lines are worth it for the food, a casual refined mix of American, a little Italian, a little French, that all makes you want to linger a little longer into the warm Austin night and order another bottle,” he writes.
Esquire’s acclaim is only the most recent time both Birdie’s and Canje have made best new restaurant lists, following similar nods from Texas Monthly and Bon Appetit. The New York Times included Birdie’s on its 2021 list of the 50 American restaurants it’s “most excited about right now.”