Where to eat Thanksgiving dinner at Houston restaurants

where to eat on Thanksgiving

Photo by Jenn Duncan

Even though it may seem a little sudden — Houston is only two weeks removed from the Astros epic World Series win — Thanksgiving is happening this Thursday, November 24.

With everything that’s happened recently — wasn’t there an election, too — it’s entirely possible that people have forgotten to make plans. Fear not. Houston’s restaurants have diners’ covered.

While some of the city’s traditional destinations are booked, a mix of classics and newer options still have some tables available. All of the establishments listed below showed reservations available online as of Sunday, November 20. Some of the options listed below aren’t even taking reservations, which makes them perfect for even the most determined procrastinators.

Note: This article doesn’t include any restaurants in Chinatown, but of course many of them will be open, too. Call your favorites to confirm.

Those who choose to dine out on Thanksgiving should bring a little patience, as restaurants are likely to be busy. Tip a little extra in acknowledgment that the employees are giving up their holidays to facilitate other people’s good time.

This luxurious new Indian restaurant in The Woodlands will celebrate Thanksgiving with a four-course, $75 menu. Start with pumpkin dumplings or pumpkin-spiced baked oysters before choosing between sweet potato chaat or a turkey seekh kebab. Five entree choices consist of ham, turkey, beef short rib, or two vegetarian dishes — all paired with sides for the table. Finish with a slice of buttermilk pumpkin pie.

The Annie Café & Bar
The Galleria-area favorite will serve a three-course Thanksgiving meal for $90 per adult or $35 per child. Dishes include choice of soup, salad, or shrimp and grits to start, turkey, prime rib, or salmon with sides for an entree, and choice of dessert. Reservations required.

Bosscat Kitchen & Libations
The popular whiskey bar’s Thanksgiving feast includes a choice of two or three entrees — turkey, ham, and optional prime rib ($10 supplement) plus nine sides for the table: everything from salad to mac and cheese to rolls and gravy. Priced at $60 or $70 ($15 for children 12 and under), the meal finishes with a choice of pie.

Cleburne Cafeteria
For those looking for a more affordable option, this Houston favorite will be open for both dine-in and to-go from from 11 am - 8 pm with a full range of starters, sides, entrees, and desserts.

Davis St. at Hermann Park
Chef Mark Holley’s globally-inspired, three-course, $75 menu offers a diverse array of choices such as gumbo, pumpkin and coconut soup, crispy Thai shrimp, crispy redfish, lacquered duck, and a turkey dinner with sides. Several dessert options are available, but we recommend the coconut cake.

Chef Drake Leonards’ Thanksgiving Day menu includes Dan Dan Delicata Squash ($15), Pumpkin Bisque ($13), and Cajun-stuffed turkey ($38) with sweet potatoes, dressing, satsuma cranberry marmalade, and giblet gravy. Finish a pumpkin pie tart ($12). The Greenway Plaza restaurant will be open from 11 am - 4 pm.

Gatsby’s Prime Steakhouse and Gatsby’s Prime Seafood
Both the Montrose steakhouse and its newly-opened companion seafood restaurant will be open until 6 pm with both their regular menus and a Thanksgiving turkey dinner.

On Thanksgiving, chef-owner Kaiser Lashkari adds masala-spiced turkey and dressing to his extensive menu of Indo-Pak fare. Remember, the restaurant is BYOB, so plan accordingly.

The beloved Indian fine dining restaurant’s decadent Thanksgiving buffet ($95) offers a wealth of choices including butternut squash soup, roasted turkey, tandoori salmon, chili-chicken samosas, a range of vegetable sides, and seven desserts. Seating at 11 am and 2 pm.

Le Jardinier
A few reservations still remain at this French fine dining restaurant at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The four-course, $165 menu includes a choice of burrata, salad, or cured salmon to start followed by potato gnocchi. Entree choices include turkey ballotine, miso cod or beef tenderloin with shared sides. Finish with one of three desserts.

The Galleria’s luxurious Indian restaurant will serve he tandoori-spiced turkey with spiced cherries, cranberry chutney, mushroom-bacon brussel sprouts, truffle fries, baby carrots, and makhini sauce. It also offers one of the city’s most sophisticated cocktail programs.

Pappas Bar-B-Q
Get a Thanksgiving plate with turkey, ham, and sides for $19.95. Served from 9 am - 6 pm, it’s the only meal on this list that can be picked up at a drive-thru. The restaurant will also be serving its full menu, which means people can pick up brisket, ribs, or pecan pie to supplement their Thanksgiving table.

Perry's Steakhouse
All of the Houston-area locations of this popular restaurant will be open on Thanksgiving. In addition to its regular menu, the restaurant will serve a two-course, $49 special that includes a choice of soup or salad and a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Add a slice of pumpkin cheesecake for $9.

Phat Eatery
Katy’s acclaimed Malaysian restaurant will add a Thanksgiving special to its regular menu that consists of: honey-glazed turkey breast with turkey pan gravy, ginger sake cranberry sauce, whipped potatoes, and lobster bisque ($32 per person). It is available for both dine-in and to-go.

Radio Milano
This restaurant inside CityCentre’s The Moran hotel will serve a three-course, $26 menu from 5-9 pm. The menu includes kale mix salad, roasted turkey with sides, and pumpkin creme brulee.

Photo by Jenn Duncan

Enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving at The Annie Cafe

Red Lion
The British pub will serve a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings for $38 person. Reservations available for parties of eight or more.

This Italian restaurant in Rice Village will serve a $59 Thanksgiving dinner that includes turkey, salad, butternut squash soup, vegetable sides, and choice of dessert.

Tonight & Tomorrow
The restaurant at La Colombe d’Or will feature a special dishes created by chef JB Babaran. Choices include sweet corn tamales with duck mole, Maine lobster pot pie, roasted turkey with trimmings, blacked prime rib, and apple crumble. The hotel’s Bar No. 3 will be open for anyone who needs a little relief after hours of family togetherness.

Toro Toro at the Four Seasons Houston
Downtown’s newly opened pan-Latin steakhouse will feature a decadent brunch for $145 per person and $65 per child. Selections include roast turkey with cornbread stuffing, a carving station, an omelet station, and a Texas cheese display. Other choices include a cold seafood tower, sushi rolls, and plenty of desserts.

Trattoria Sofia The Italian restaurant in the Heights will serve a four-course prix fixe menu ($65 for adults, $25 for children 11 and under) that includes choice of soup or salad to start, butternut squash ravioli, turkey or branzino with sides, and bread pudding for dessert. A limited dinner menu will also be available.
Photo by Michael Anthony

Where to eat in Houston right now: 8 best new patio restaurants to fall for this month with al fresco fare

where to eat right now

Slightly chilly mornings and lower humidity means that fall has finally arrived. That means Houstonians will be filling patios at bars and restaurants across the city.

Of course, certain spaces are classics, and we understand why people will be flocking to places like Backstreet Cafe’s courtyard, Becks Prime’s live oak-shaded patio on Westheimer, or the Coltivare garden for a little outdoor dining.

At the same time, some newly opened bars and restaurants have inviting outdoor spaces of their own. Consider these as a new alternative to those old favorites.

Aya Sushi
Located in the former Bernie’s Burger Bus space in Bellaire, this upscale new sushi seats about 50 people on its fully covered patio. Even better, the restaurant will serve chef Yoshi Katsuyama’s, 19-course omakase to any seat in the restaurant, which means its possible to enjoy dishes like chu toro nigiri, scallop chawanmushi, and madai crudo while dining with the wind in your hair. It’s also possible to order a la carte for those who prefer a little more say in their dining experience. An extensive selection of wine, beer, and cocktails offers plenty of beverage choices.

Betelgeuse Betelgeuse
The former Liberty Station has been transformed into a stylish pub devoted to pizza and cocktails. While the interior features a room devoted to taxidermy, the expansive patio makes for a pleasant place to dine. Rudyard’s chef Anthony Calleo developed the pizza recipes, which feature a crispy crust topped with combinations like pepperoni, mushroom, and feta or shaved Brussels sprouts, pancetta, blue cheese, and hot honey — or keep it simple with a classic cheeseburger. The cocktail menu features sections devoted to martinis, frozens, and high balls, all of which offer plenty of refreshment.

Blue Sushi Sake Grill
Nineties nostalgia is alive and well in many facets of our culture, so perhaps it makes sense that the trend would reach restaurants, too. The menu at this Omaha-based restaurant centers around a huge selection of sushi rolls that combine different types of fish and shellfish with vegetables, fried elements, sauces, and more. More modern aspects include a huge selection of vegan options and using sustainably sourced seafood. As for the patio, it’s adjacent to a M-K-T walkway that should provide solid people watching, but the colorful dining room is clearly the focus.

Cherry Block Smokehouse
So many Houston patios only offer a view of a parking lot, but the covered patio at this new, fast casual steakhouse sits next to the green space at the Stomping Grounds, the culinary-focused development in Garden Oaks. Compared to its original location at Bravery Chef Hall, the menu offers more choices that are still rooted in classic Southern and Texas fare — everything from shrimp cocktail, hush puppies, and wedge salad to po’ boys, barbecue, and steaks. The $23, 10-ounce ribeye is one of the best steak deals in Houston, and the cheeseburger gets an umami boost from demi glace.

Davanti Ristorante
Admittedly, the outdoor seating at this River Oaks-area restaurant only consists of a few tables next to the parking lot, but chef Roberto Crescini’s pastas are so good that it doesn’t really matter. Diners have the option to build their own dishes from a range of different pastas and sauces, but the real culinary fireworks come from whatever specials the Italian native has prepared that week. A recent meal featured two standout specials: tagliolini matched with colatura (a sauce made with anchovies) and bottarga (cured fish roe) that had a delicate seafood flavor and rigatoni with a hearty lamb bolognese.

Georgia James
The new location of Underbelly Hospitality’s flagship steakhouse boasts an upstairs patio and lounge that’s one of the city’s most-exciting outdoor dining spaces — complete with fire pits, TVs, and a view of the downtown skyline. Chef Greg Peters has created a menu of snacks and lighter entrees that includes a full selection of raw bar items as well as entrees such as shrimp and grits and a strip steak. Those who want the full steakhouse experience, including the signature baller boards, will have to dine downstairs. While the food menu may be limited, the full wine, beer, and cocktail offerings are available, and the ability to order and pay via QR codes makes for a more efficient service experience.

il Bracco
Most people will opt for the stylish, midcentury-inspired dining room at this Galleria-area newcomer, but the Dallas-based Italian restaurant also offers a patio with a view of one of the city's busiest intersections. Indoors or out, diners will find well-executed Italian classics like meatballs with focaccia, cacio e pepe, Caesar salad, and chicken piccata. Other standout dishes include the fried artichoke appetizer and spicy gemelli pasta. Friendly, knowledgeable service and an extensive selection of wine and cocktails enhance the experience.

The Stand
Recently opened in The Woodlands, this Los Angeles-based restaurant puts its spin on classic American fare. Diners can make a burger using five different patties, five different buns, and more than 40 vegetables, toppings, and condiments. Alternatively, opt for a salad, hot dog, or sandwiches such as Buffalo chicken or the signature short rib grilled cheese. Will the cookie butter crunch milkshake taste better when consumed outdoors? Try it and tell us how it goes.

Photo by Michael Anthony
The expansive patio will be comfortable during the fall.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

Where to eat in Houston right now: 9 stupendous new restaurants to start summer off right

where to eat right now

Houston dining obsessives worked themselves into a minor frenzy about a week ago when an Instagram user trolled Houston Chronicle critic Alison Cook about a grilled cheese sandwich.

Put that on the list of sentences I never would have guessed I’d write, but here we are.

Those looking for thoughts on new restaurants can skip the rest of what follows. As for the new restaurants, this month’s crop is a great group of places that ranges from Uchi’s smoky sister concept to a lovely new sushi restaurant and a compelling new seafood spot in The Woodlands. As always, they’re based on actual visits to the restaurant and in the order I think people should try them.

Pointless grilling
Back to the aforementioned IG user: This individual, whose account I will not be linking to, asserted that Cook calling a grilled cheese sandwich “stupendous” in an Instagram post reflected that Houston restaurants aren’t being held to a high enough standard by members of the media. Furthermore, he (isn’t it always a he?) asserted that lack of standards is why this city’s restaurants don’t win James Beard Awards and other forms of national recognition.

I wouldn’t be referencing this exchange at all if I hadn’t started getting messages from people in the restaurant business who thought the guy made a valid point, even if it was, by their own acknowledgement, poorly argued, badly worded, and ultimately deleted.

To which I say, no, he f***ing doesn’t. Any assertion to the contrary is just the bad old days of the Houston inferiority complex resurfacing (an idea I’m mostly stealing from local writer Craig Hlavaty). This city and its businesses do not need external validation as proof that they’re doing good work.

The Blood Bros. are changing the range of influences that define "Texas barbecue" in delicious and exciting ways, and that will remain true whether or not pitmaster Quy Hoang wins Best Chef: Texas. The waitstaff at Hugo’s will make any meal feel like a special occasion with their friendly demeanor and thorough knowledge of the menu whether or not the restaurant ever wins Outstanding Hospitality. Chris Williams is a shining example of leadership through a time of crisis — by keeping his staff employed, starting a non-profit to feed Houstonians in need, and partnering with one of the city’s most gifted chefs on a new restaurant — whether or not he wins Outstanding Restaurateur.

Yes, it’s nice to be recognized. Alba Huerta began the process that led to Julep’s win for Outstanding Bar Program more than 10 years ago. She, and the staff who make the place go day-in and day-out, deserve their moment in the sun. But don’t assert that it’s somehow less worthy if it hadn’t won.

One other point: the notion that it’s up to any single individual to hold godlike powers over the fate of restaurants is absurd. All-powerful critics only exist in the movie Ratatouille. As one example, consider Cook’s epic takedown of Steak 48, a zero star review that did absolutely nothing to its status as one of the city’s busiest, most profitable restaurants. Conversely, even positive recognition doesn’t always result in success; consider that five of the 12 places on my list of the best new restaurants for 2018 have closed.

The lesson, as always, is simple. Don’t read the comments.

Now, on to Houston’s best new restaurants for the summer.

Uchi’s sister concept has made quite a splash since it opened last month on Post Oak Blvd. Chef de cuisine Sean King uses his wood-burning hearth to add fiery touches to dishes such as dry-aged duck with hoisin sauce and charred cabbage, four-times-seared Texas wagyu coulotte (served with some of the best french fries in the city), and binchotan-seared albacore tuna nigiri. Other highlights include the inventive toro nuta, a dish that combines of bluefin tuna, blueberries, and pistachio; the koviche, which uses sweet lobster meat as the basis for a ceviche-style presentation with grapefruit and crispy sunchoke chips; and the S'mores dessert, which is seared tableside to achieve the proper melty, caramelized flavors. Compelling cocktails, polished service, and an elegant dining room all contribute to an experience that will feel familiar to Uchi fans but offers enough differences to draw in new visitors, too.

The owners of Doris Metropolitan have another hit on their hands with this modern Israeli restaurant in Rice Village. Meals should be begin with salatin, a collection of small vegetable plates that ranges from a smoky baba ganoush to spicy harissa carrots and creamy labneh that are paired with pita prepared in the restaurant’s wood-burning oven. More pita is required for the rich, creamy hummus that’s also an essential part of the experience. Vegetarians will lean towards the crispy falafel, cauliflower cous cous, and oyster mushroom skewer, while those with carnivorous habits should consider beef tartare, arak mussels, and the lamb spare ribs that are served in a tagine. Regardless of the dishes ordered, cocktails that incorporate Middle Eastern flavors and a wine list full of smart, affordable choices offer plenty of pairing possibilities.

Cafe Louie
Don’t let the casual menu at this East End cafe deceive you. Brother-and-sister chefs Angelo and Lucianna "Louie" Emiliani have put a lot of thought and technique into the breakfast and lunch fare they’re serving.

Mornings feature Louie’s pastries — such as a croissant that manages to maintain its crispy layers despite Houston’s humidity and a decadent cinnamon roll — alongside savory items from Angelo such as the McLouie (a sausage and egg sandwich on a house made gougere) and a twist on bagels and lox that uses the restaurant’s milk bread and farm raised, sustainable redfish. Lunch features dishes such as the grilled cheese sandwich referenced above — made with cheeses sourced from Houston Dairymaids and paired with a tomato soup made from local produce — and Mediterranean-inspired smashed cucumber salad. A full range of coffee, tea, juices, craft beer, and natural wine hint at the place’s culinary ambitious that will be more fully revealed when dinner service begins in the coming weeks.

Japanese for “love child,” Aiko’s name hints at its roots as an ideal combination of chefs Patrick Pham and Daniel Lee’s two other restaurants: Kokoro Sushi at Bravery Chef Hall and Heights hand roll favorite Handies Douzo. Diners may order a la carte, but the three omakase offerings — priced at $35, $55, and $95 — offer value by combining different crudos, hand rolls, and pieces of nigiri. As at their other concepts, the nigiri arrives fully dressed (no need to dredge through soy sauce), and the hand rolls feature extremely crispy nori wrappers. Bites like the wagyu tartare with caviar and quail egg or the chutoro nigiri will delight sushi lovers, but those looking for cooked items like tempura or gyoza to supplement their meals will not find them on Aiko’s menu.

Lees Den
This wine bar above Local Foods Market gives new life to the space that was once Benjy’s lounge. An eclectic wine list with retail-style pricing offers customers tons of value, and the staff knows the selections well enough to guide people to a choice that will suit their tastes. Chef Maria Gonzalez’s menu includes snackable fare like popcorn (kicked up with Korean red pepper salt, cookie chunks, and more), yellowfin tuna crudo, and house made milk bread with butter and trout roe (a concept familiar to anyone who’s had Nancy Cakes at Nancy’s Hustle). The entrees are equally compelling, especially the $25 steak dish that pairs Texas wagyu sirloin with creamy potato puree and a red wine reduction. At a time of rising prices, it might be one of the best red meat deals in the city. Hopefully, the concept catches on enough to expand its hours beyond the three nights per week it’s currently open.

Goode Co. Fish Camp
Goode Co. Seafood has always been the shining star in the Goode Co. universe, so it’s no surprise that its new seafood restaurant in The Woodlands is off to a strong start. Staples like fried shrimp match the company’s reputation, but delving into the dishes that are new for this concept brings considerable rewards. Instead of campechana and a po ‘boy, try the Gulf crudo with aji amarillo and avocado or the wood-roasted catch of the day with charred tomato and okra. Gulf Coast-inspired decor gives the place a lived-in feel, and a wide range of cocktails offer plenty of refreshment.

Heights & Co.
This patio bar concept from Savoir proprietor Brian Doke and chef Eric Johnson demonstrates the power of simplicity. They’ve created a compelling hang out by serving good versions of popular cocktails like the Ranchwater and gin and tonic alongside familiar fare like Caesar salad, queso, and thick, juicy burger. Don’t miss Johnson’s classic take on pork schnitzel in which the crispy breaded cutlet gets paired with spaetzle; think of it as an alternative to chicken fried steak.

I don’t spend enough time in Cypress to call this new Italian spot from the owner of The Union Kitchen the best restaurant in the area, but I wouldn’t be surprised if other people start doing so. The new restaurant covers a broad range of both regional Italian dishes and Italian-American fare, roaming from classics like frito misto and meatballs with polenta to Caesar salad and mozzarella-stuffed chicken involtini. No one’s going to say that fettuccine Alfredo with shrimp and crab is a dish anyone would find in Italy, but it’s undeniably delicious and an ideal fit for a welcoming, family-friendly restaurant. Choosing one dessert from the many available choices will prove difficult, but the strawberry cassata cake channels warm memories of meals at Tony Vallone’s more casual restaurants.

GJ Tavern
A new name, a new chef, and a new menu provide an opportunity to reassess Chris Shepherd’s downtown eatery. Although it initially struggled to find its footing, chef Tim Reading (Caracol, Ixim) has given the Tavern an identity it lacked previously. Now, the menu is built around the sort of classic fare that someone might want to eat once or twice a week. Highlights include house made cavatelli pasta with duck confit and crispy duck cracklings, roasted brick chicken with cabbage and asparagus slaw, and a throwback mushroom Swiss burger that gets a kick from horseradish sauce. Well-executed cocktails and a tidy wine list provide compelling choices to those who prefer to sit at the bar and snack on items like roasted almonds and marinated olives.

Start with salatin at Hamsa.

Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
Start with salatin at Hamsa.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

Where to eat in Houston right now: 9 best new restaurants serve up steak, ramen, dim sum, and more

where to eat right now

After a frantic end of 2021 led to a busy beginning of 2022, the last couple of months have seen a slight slackening in the pace of restaurant openings. Blame the rodeo, maybe, or simply note that some sort of pause needed to happen at some point.

Regardless of the reasons for the diminished quantity of new openings, it provides an opportunity for this column to include a few worthy establishments that had previously flown under the radar. This month’s list includes the Montrose steakhouse that’s packing in diners, and the buzzy, New York City import that’s a smash hit in The Heights. It also more established spots like one of the city’s best modern soul food restaurants and a salad concept that’s winning fans in West U.

As always, these are roughly ordered by the priority I would give to trying them, but all of the entries on the list have something to offer. Write-ups are based on actual experiences dining at the listed restaurants (sometimes more than once). They’re less formal reviews than a guide of what to expect along with some suggestions for what to order (and what to avoid).

Atlas Restaurant Group, the Baltimore-based company behind River Oaks District seafood restaurants Loch Bar and Ouzo Bay, has opened this Italian steakhouse in the Montrose Collective mixed-use district. Named for the Italian word for “marble,” the restaurant serves an enticing mix of shareable appetizers, freshly made pastas, Italian-American classics, and dry-aged steaks — all paired with cocktails and a mostly Italian wine list.

Highlights from a recent meal included a hamachi appetizer that gets a little crunch from a squid ink rice chip; a dry-aged, bone-in ribeye that had an appealing funk; and a squid ink campanelle loaded with blue crab and served with rich uni cream sauce. A classic take on chicken parmigiana featured plenty of gooey cheese and a slightly sweet tomato sauce. Live music played on a grand piano in the lounge area provides a little old school atmosphere.

Moving to a permanent location near Spring Branch has allowed chef Emmanuel Chavez to taken his maize-obsessed concept to the next level. While customers can still buy artisan tortillas made with different varieties of heirloom corn using a traditional nixtamalization process, Tatemó now offers an expanded range of brunch items on Sunday and an elegant, eight-course tasting menu on Saturday nights.

Brunch dishes such as masa pancakes and a quesadilla with choice of fillings provide well executed takes on classic fare, but the tasting menus really allow Chavez to display his skill. A recent meal featured both a personal sized tlayuda with a crispy texture and an expertly cooked, medium rare ribeye that served as the filling for carne asada tacos with the restaurant’s flavorful tortillas. Simply put, it’s some of the most elegant, thoughtfully prepared Mexican cuisine I’ve experienced in Houston.

The Warwick
Hospitality industry veterans Steve Rogers (Bar 5015), Rob Wright (Prospect Park), and Mazen Baltagi (Slowpokes) have teamed up to launch this high end concept in the former Houston’s space on Westheimer. Named for the iconic Houston hotel, the restaurant features a reworked interior — still built around posh booth seating — along with new additions like a private dining room and a covered patio.

Chef Antoine Ware (Hay Merchant, Harold’s in the Heights) has created a menu grounded in upscale Cajun/Creole fare that also pays a couple of nods to the space’s former occupant. That means the ability to order Ware’s take on Houston’s classics like spinach artichoke dip and a Hawaiian ribeye (a little sweet in a good way; served with a huge slice of grilled pineapple) along with shrimp and grits, roasted oysters, and blackened snapper. Ware also shows a deft touch with salads; both the “Not a Wedge” and his Thai Noodle Salad emerged as favorites at a recent meal. Unfortunately, both the ribeye and an order of lamb chops arrived under their requested temperatures, but that seems more like new opening jitters than cause for concern.

The Greasy Spoon
Admittedly, it has taken me too long to make my way to Max Bozeman’s upscale soul food restaurant — Black Restaurant Week co-founder Warren Luckett gave it a shout out on a podcast episode last year — but a visit to the six-month-old Pearland location found the restaurant in fine form. Braised oxtails had a luscious, melty texture, while a seafood platter featured well fried catfish and juicy sauteed shrimp. The Greasy Spoon gets all the sides right, too, from rich mac and cheese and vibrant collard greens to sweet candied yams dirty rice with the right amount of liver-y funk.

Both locations are famous for their lines during weekend brunch, but the Pearland location had tables available during a weekday lunch. Those who want to avoid the crowds should plan accordingly.

Bluestone Lane
Don’t confuse this Australian-inspired, New York-based restaurant with a coffee shop. Yes, it does sell flat whites and other coffee drinks to-go, but the focus is on a full service, cafe-style experience.

In order to sample both Bluestone Lane’s all-day breakfast options and its lunch offerings, we opted for a “brekkie board” of smash avocado toast paired with granola and a Rainbow Bowl (roasted carrots, spinach, farro, edamame, diced beets, sliced red cabbage, feta, poached egg, and avocado topped with chimichurri yogurt dressing). Note that the ability to order from the table via smartphone makes it easy to customize every dish by adding extras like bacon (to the avocado toast) and lemon and garlic chicken (to the Rainbow Bowl) or removing any unwanted components. The kitchen turns out flavorful food, although a server saying the kitchen had no way to warm up an almond croissant did seem a little odd.

While Bluestone Lane is a welcome addition to an area that’s lacked this style of casual, all-day dining since Down House closed, it does come at a cost. Lunch for two rang up at over $50 before tax and tip.

Roberta’s/Ramen Moto
Post Houston continues to add concepts that make its Post Market food hall one of this year’s most exciting dining destinations. Roberta’s has started turning out the same wood-fired pizzas that earned the original location in Brooklyn national acclaim. Start with the Famous Original, essentially a fancy cheese pizza, that shows off the restaurant’s high quality ingredients and properly charred, pleasantly chewy crust. The pepperoni roll provides a bit of Ratatouille-style nostalgia with its ranch dipping sauce.

Mike Tran, chef-owner of Chinatown favorites like like Mein and Tiger Den, is responsible for Moto Ramen. The stand serves a rich, almost creamy tonkotsu and a more mild shoyu broth alongside various spiced up options. Al dente noodles and flavorful chasu hold their own with any of Houston’s other well-regarded noodle shops.

Leaf & Grain
Yes, this salad and bowl concept has been operating downtown for a couple of years, but its West University location near the corner of Weslayan and Bissonnet has only been open for a few months. Lured by a one-off sandwich special, I also took the opportunity to try the restaurant’s first rate chicken tortilla soup (nice tomato flavor, just the right spice level) and The Oasis, a Mediterranean-inspired salad that features baked falafel and a zippy zhug vinaigrette. Like other, similar concepts, diners may also build their own salads and bowls from a couple dozen ingredients.

Dim Sum Box
Fung’s Kitchen may still be closed, but the Fung family has returned to the dim sum business via this fast casual restaurant in Katy. The menu covers all of the familiar dumplings, stuffed noodles, steamed buns, and other items (chicken feet) that one expects from a dim sum meal. Shu mai and hai gow match any of the familiar Chinatown options for texture and flavor, and the fast casual format means diners get exactly what they want without having to wait for a server to take an order or carts to circulate through a dining room.

Don't miss the squid ink campanelle, right, at Marmo.

Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
Don't miss the squid ink campanelle, right, at Marmo.
Courtesy of Fertitta Entertainment

Where to eat Easter brunch in Houston: Fine dining, serious steak, and more

easter dining 2022

For those who observe, Easter provides the opportunity to reflect on themes like charity and sacrifice. The holiday also marks the changing of seasons, as winter gives way to spring.

Regardless of how religious a person is, Easter also provides the opportunity for a decadent brunch. Houston restaurants are ready with a range of options at various price points.

All of the restaurants listed below are running special menus or dishes to celebrate the holiday, which takes place Sunday, April 17. CultureMap will update this list periodically as new options become available.

Bloom & Bee
The restaurant inside The Post Oak hotel will offer a three-course, $75 Easter brunch menu. Start with dishes such as deviled eggs or white asparagus soup. Entree choices include lobster Benedict, salmon coulibiac, and herb-roasted leg of lamb. For dessert, choose selections from a buffet of French pastries.

Blossom Hotel
The Medical Center hotel's Lunar Easter Brunch ($108.95 per adult, $39.95 children 5-10) starts with bottomless champagne and mimosas paired with dishes such as cedar plank salmon, pineapple-glazed pork loin, and sweet potato casserole, as well as a selection of baked goods and desserts. Activities for kids include face painting and an Easter egg hunt.

Craft Pita
The casual Lebanese restaurant will serve two Easter specials. Dine-in customers may opt for smoked lamb shwarma pitas and bowl, while to-go customers may purchase a take-and-bake Easter dinner for four that includes lamb, Lebanese rice, fattoush salad, hummus, cucumber yogurt, and mamoul cookies.

Feges BBQ
The Spring Branch location of the Texas Monthly top 50 barbecue joint will host an Easter party and crawfish boil on Saturday, April 16 from 11 am - 3 pm. An Easter egg hunt, games, and pictures with the Easter bunny will keep kids entertained while adults enjoy live music by John Egan, crawfish, and beer.

Guard and Grace
The downtown steakhouse’s brunch offerings blend some of its traditional fare like steaks and raw seafood with a range of breakfast dishes. Choose from four different Benedicts, French toast, a cinnamon roll, and more.

Agricole Hospitality’s Texas-inspired EaDo establishment will be serving a bottomless brunch ($65 per adult, $20 children 12 and under). Selections include shrimp cocktail, deviled eggs, strawberry ricotta sourdough toast, leg of lamb, wood-grilled Black Angus filet, duck fat roasted potatoes, and spring panzanella salad.

Le Jardinier
The fine dining restaurant at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston will serve a three-course, $125 menu with optional wine pairings available for $85. Start with deviled eggs before choosing from dishes such as burrata with watercress pistou, garden salad, or white asparagus with orange reduction and pickled strawberries ($15 supplement). Entree choices include tagliatelle with rabbit ragu, spicy lamb shoulder with chickpea fricasse, or risotto with red snapper and vegetables.

The Palm
Downtown’s Italian-inspired steakhouse will feature a special 26-ounce prime rib with choice of soup or salad for $99.

The steakhouse chain’s Easter Sunday is a two-course menu that starts with pear salad or carrot ginger soup. Choose from ham ($45) or prime rib ($65); each is served with whipped potatoes and green bean almondine. Add a slice of white chocolate cheesecake for $8.

In addition to its usual brunch buffet, the Upper Kirby Mexican restaurant will serve an Antojito Platter that comes with gorditas, salutes, tlacoyos, picadas, and quesadilla. In addition, the buffet will add both a carving station with pork belly porchetta and roasted beef steamship as well as a raw bar with oysters and ceviche. It's priced at $54 for adults, $42 for seniors, and $30 for children over eight.

All four locations of the wine bar will offer their Old Skool Hippity-Hop Brunch that features DJs spinning 90s-era hip hop and R&B.

Tonight & Tomorrow
The restaurant inside La Colombe d’Or in Montrose will supplement its regular brunch offerings with a special three-course, $65 Easter menu. Available both Saturday and Sunday, choices include arugula and endive salad, risotto du marché with black truffles, Gulf red snapper, scallops, and ribeye. A separate children's menu is available for $21.

Toro Toro
This Latin American steakhouse at the Four Seasons will serve a decadent brunch buffet. Priced at $145 per adult and $65 for children 12 and under, the offerings include a seafood station, sushi station, carving station, omelet station, Texas cheese display, and so much more.

Trattoria Sofia
Chef LJ Wiley will supplement the Italian restaurant's usual lunch menu with a few brunch specials. They include: Uovo al Purgatorio, two poached eggs and Prosciutto di Parma with tomato sauce; Il Tritatto, potato and mortadella hash with two poached eggs and Parmigiano Reggiano; Polenta Fra’diavolo, shrimp over creamy polenta with spicy tomato sauce; Focaccia di Mora, blackberry focaccia French toast; and Arrosto D’Agnello, roasted lamb loin with Castelvetrano olives, olive oil smashed potatoes, torn mint leaves, and salsa verde.

Traveler's Table
The Montrose restaurant's, three-course, $45 Easter menu starts with deviled eggs. The five second course options include Ukrainian borscht, shiitake-edamame dumplings, and breakfast bread pudding. Finish with one of six choices, including a truffled ham, mushroom, and brie omelette, Louisiana fried chicken, and lamb shakshuka.

Both the Galleria and Woodlands locations of the will run two Easter specials: Florida Lobster Thermidor made with chunks of spiny lobster tail simmered in a creamy shellfish sauce with Havarti, mushrooms and tarragon ($125) and an Easter Bloom cocktail made with cognac and almond orgeat syrup.

The Union Kitchen
All six Houston-area locations will feature brunch and dinner specials on Easter Sunday. Choices include Short Rib Benedict, Creme Brûlée toast, braised lamb shank, and cognac New York strip.

Hugo Ortega’s street food restaurant in Uptown Park will serve a $45, two-course brunch that also comes with a dessert buffet. Choices include tacos al pastor, raw oysters, gorditas, chilaquiles, and huevos rancheros. Reservations recommended.

Wild Oats
Chris Shepherd's newest restaurant will elevate its already decadent all-you-can-eat brunch buffet with Easter-appropriate dishes such as ham, rabbit, and lamb. Its priced at $75 for adults and $35 for kids 4-10.

Bloom & Bee will be lively on Easter Sunday.

Courtesy of Fertitta Entertainment
Bloom & Bee will be lively on Easter Sunday.
Photo by Claudia Casbarian

Where to eat in Houston right now: 10 best new restaurants from Wild Texas fare to sizzling steaks

where to eat right now

After a brief pause at the start of the year, Houston's restaurant scene continues to show strong growth in 2022. The year has gotten off to a promising start with plenty of exciting new restaurants to try.

Some of the city's top operators, including James Beard Award winner Chris Shepherd and Coppa owner Grant Cooper, have debuted their latest projects. This month's roster also includes the highest profile opening The Heights has seen in awhile as well as two new options for those with carnivorous habits.

As always, these are roughly ordered by the priority I would give to trying them, but all of the entries on the list have something to offer. Write-ups are based on actual experiences dining at the listed restaurants (sometimes more than once). They’re less formal reviews than a guide of what to expect along with some suggestions for what to order (and what to avoid).

Wild Oats
This latest project from Chris Shepherd’s Underbelly Hospitality provides diners with chef-partner Nick Fine’s self-described "love letter to Texas." That means a deep dive into the various food traditions that have shaped the state, including Mexican, Southern, and barbecue. Credit for the restaurant’s design goes to Amanda Medsger, which Fine describes as “the fanciest Luby’s mixed with your grandma’s ranch house.” It's a warm, inviting space that offers diners a view into the open kitchen.

Fine puts his wood-fired grill to good effect in dishes such as a wood-grilled chicken with a kicked-up take on King Ranch casserole. Other highlights included the Bellaire campechana that’s seasoned with a spiced tomatillo sauce, a classic take on Texas chili, and steak tartare. The batter on the chicken fried steak needed to be crispier, but that seems more like a minor execution flub than a permanent flaw.

The restaurant really shines at brunch. Held every Sunday morning, the all-you-can-eat spread features a rotating selection of vegetables, seafood, roasted meats, and desserts. My visit included shrimp cocktail, lamb taquitos, freshly baked pretzel bread, and roast pork. It’s a a worthy splurge at $55 per adult.

As with all Underbelly concepts, well-executed cocktails, including an appropriately boozy frozen margarita, provide plenty of pairing options. Don’t miss the classic banana pudding.

If nothing else, this Asian smokehouse from Uchi owner Hai Hospitality is worth a visit just to witness the stunning transformation of the former W. 11th Church of God into a modern restaurant with soaring ceilings, a lengthy bar, and plenty of picnic-style outdoor seating.

The fast casual restaurant blends influences from Loro’s two founders: Uchi chef-owner Tyson Cole and Franklin Barbecue pitmaster-owner Aaron Franklin. Since this is Loro’s third location, joining outposts in Austin and Dallas, the team has things pretty dialed in.

Vegetables in dishes like the snap pea and toasted coconut salad or the Texas sweet corn keep their texture and flavor. Chicken karaage arrives crispy, and the smoked bavette delivers plenty of rich, beefy flavor. The cheeseburger gets topped with an addictive brisket jam that makes for a gloriously messy sandwich. Despite Franklin's reputation, skip the smoked brisket; simply put, Houston has better options for barbecue.

Uchi is known for its service, which makes Loro’s lack of it somewhat surprising. Instead of following the Hopdoddy/Ramen Tatsu-ya model of having people make their initial order at a register and then using servers to assist with things like another round of drinks, Loro expects diners to get back in line every time they want something. That’s fine when things are relatively calm — as those who take advantage of the well priced happy hour from 2-6 pm will discover — but becomes a burden when the restaurant is full and every register has a constant two or three people in line who may each take a few minutes to order. Perhaps the restaurant could designate one register just for people who want drinks and/or dessert.

For his first solo project under the Big Vibe Group banner, veteran restaurateur Grant Cooper has transformed the Dunlavy into a contemporary Mexican restaurant. The restaurant’s setting next to Buffalo Bayou and a ceiling adorned with 40 chandeliers adds a sense of occasion to any meal.

Flora’s menu demonstrates an impressive amount of thoughtful development: housemade corn tortillas have the integrity to fold, mole features a housemade chocolate, and dishes like barbacoa and carnitas show depth of flavor that comes from slow cooking. Other highlights included a tuna tostada plated in the style of acclaimed Mexico City restaurant Contramar and enchiladas verdes.

Flora has a shorter wine list than Cooper’s other restaurants, but the agave-based cocktail offerings offer plenty of choices. A spot-on flan ends the meal on a sweet note.

Mapojeong Galbijib
Restaurateur Ken Bridge (Pink’s Pizza, Lola Diner, etc.) has transformed the former Ritual into this modern Korean steakhouse that’s inspired by a range of influences, including his childhood in Los Angeles and restaurants he’s visited in Korea. The focus is on Prime beef, especially short rib, ribeye, and New York strip alongside small plates such as Korean fried chicken, short rib mandu, and bulgogi tteokbokki (chewy rice dumplings). In particular, the marinated meats stand out as the equal (or better) of any Korean barbecue restaurant in Houston.

Servers take the lead on the tabletop grills, guiding the overall experience and ensuring that meats are properly cooked. Pairing options include local beer and a number of soju-based cocktails. Note: ordering and payment are done via Bridge’s proprietary Roovy app; download it ahead of time to be prepared.

Patton’s ​​
For all of its development as a dining destination over the past decade, The Heights has lacked a classic steakhouse (not to be confused with restaurants that cook a good steak, of which it has plenty); that omission has been rectified with this concept that operates inside Savoir. The tidy menu focuses on the staple dishes one expects to find at a steakhouse such as wedge salad, shrimp cocktail, sides like mashed potatoes and grilled broccoli, and, of course, various cuts of Prime beef.

Both a wagyu strip and a bone-in ribeye arrived exactly medium rare with a nicely charred crust that gave the exterior a welcome textural contrast with the rest of the steak. Simply put, it’s the best prepared steak I’ve had in recent memory and a sufficient reason for carnivores to seek out Patton’s. For dessert, opt for the rich, dense chocolate cake.

Despite brutal street construction on Shepherd Drive, chef Alfredo Mojica and his wife Christina have been earning raves at this upscale Italian restaurant that opened quietly in December. Best known for his time leading the kitchen at Da Marco, Mojica is turning out high quality, classic Italian fare in a comfortable, intimate setting.

Highlights from a recent meal included Patagonian prawns roasted in the restaurant’s wood-burning oven, a delicately-seasoned tuna crudo, and spaghetti with lobster in pomodoro sauce. Service by the veteran crew is friendly and welcoming, and BYOB is available as a supplement to the tidy wine list. I look forward to a future visit to sample Mojica’s Neapolitan-style pizza and at least one of the items on the restaurant’s truffle menu.

After achieving success with Candy Shack Daiquiris, James McGhee has entered the restaurant business with this movie-themed establishment near the Galleria. Diners enter through a theater-style lobby — complete with candy stand and popcorn machine — before being led into a stylish dining room adorned with images from classic movies. Be mindful when going to the restroom, as a rose-adorned wall in the sink area will likely be hosting a photoshoot.

The Hollywood theme continues with the food and drinks, including popcorn as a starter and various dishes adorned with Oscar-worthy golden embellishments (the Salt bae-style golden-wrapped tomahawk has been a hit on Instagram). Even without the flare, diners will find quite a bit to like on the menu, including Brussels sprouts with red wine vinegar gastrique, a well-prepared rack of lamb, and salmon with citrus beurre blanc. Oversized desserts with sparklers complete an experience that’s been crafted for sharing on social media.

East Side King and Soy Pinoy
Paul Qui and FAM Hospitality are making their mark at Post Houston with these two concepts. Japanese street food restaurant East Side King has introduced an omakase that offers a dozen pieces of sushi plus a hand roll for $49. As at pricier restaurants, pieces are presented to diners one at a time. No, it’s not as luxurious as other establishments, but it’s a very satisfying sushi experience for an affordable price.

Qui worked with fellow James Beard Award winner Tom Cunanan to upgrade the menu at Soy Pinoy. The Filipino chefs have introduced a number of new dishes, but the best way to sample their work is with a platter that combines lumpia, lechon, grilled chicken, sisig, beef kare kare, and more.

Hibachi Bros
Inspired by trucks he patronized in his hometown of Los Angeles, TSU alum Dempsey Robinson has been drawing crowds to this Japanese-inspired food truck in Third Ward. The truck serves hibachi platters the combine rice, vegetables, and choice of protein: filet mignon, NY strip, shrimp, chicken and lobster.

Steak arrived properly medium rare, and the truck’s shrimp are plump and juicy. Well-cooked rice and crisp vegetables demonstrate the truck takes its technique seriously. A range of flavorful, housemade sauces (garlic butter is mandatory with shrimp) enhance the overall experience. Burritos offer a more affordable option, but that’s due to their being very rice heavy.

Wild Oats is Nick Fine's love letter to Texas.

Photo by Claudia Casbarian
Wild Oats is Nick Fine's love letter to Texas.
Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Iconic Texas 'cowboy-style' BBQ joint's Katy outpost closure leads week's top stories

this week's hot headlines

Editor's note: It's time to recap the top stories on CultureMap from this past week.

1. Iconic Texas 'cowboy-style' barbecue joint's Katy location quietly closes. Sadly, the local outpost couldn't replicate the magic of the original in Llano.

2. Ken Hoffman urges Houston travelers to keep calm and enjoy the trip at the new-look Bush IAH. Our columnist explains why travelers might be in "for a big, pleasant surprise at Houston’s Bush-Intercontinental Airport."

3. Houston's most spectacular winter light shows and events dazzle for the holidays. We rounded up where to see dazzling lights with family, friends, and visitors.

4. Disgraced Theranos CEO and former Houstonian Elizabeth Holmes sentenced to 11 years for fraud. Additionally, Holmes faces a fine of $400 million.

5. Houston's NASA leaders 'giddy' after historic Artemis 1 moon flyby. The spacecraft cruised just 81 miles above the lunar surface.

Disney's Strange World is a visual stunner with too many story ideas

Movie Review

For a studio whose entire reason for being seems to rely on creating and sustaining familiar characters, Walt Disney Animation takes its fair share of risks. In the last 10 years, it has released nine films, seven of which were not based on pre-existing properties (the other two were sequels for two of those seven). That’s a lot of new stuff, most of which has succeeded mightily for the perennially-popular leaders in animation.

They’re at it again with Strange World, which takes place in an unknown country/world known as Avalonia, where Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid) is a famous explorer whose only desire is to find a way over, around, or through the imposing mountains surrounding the land. His son, Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal), doesn’t share his enthusiasm, and an early discovery by Searcher of a unique energy source leads to a rift between father and son. Jaeger continues onwards, while Searcher returns home with a plant they call Pando that creates harmony throughout the land.

Years later, when the plant shows signs of failure, Searcher is recruited by Avalonia leader Callisto Mal (Lucy Liu) to help in an expedition to find the source of whatever is attacking Pando. What they and others – including Searcher’s wife Meridian (Gabrielle Union) and son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White) – find in their travels certainly lives up to the title.

Co-directed by Don Hall and Qui Nguyen and written by Nguyen, the film is a visual stunner. The quality of animation in Disney movies rarely fails to impress, and Strange World is the latest and greatest example. Whether it’s the humans, the landscape, or the innumerable weird creatures that populate the film, there is almost nothing that doesn’t deserve to be stared at and admired.

It’s odd, then, that the story does not come close to matching the graphics. There are a variety of reasons for this failure. Nguyen is the sole credited writer, and he stuffs the film full of big and small ideas, probably too many for this type of project. Searcher’s family and the world of Avalonia and beyond are diverse in multiple ways, to the point that it feels like Nguyen was trying to include everything he could think of in case he never got another shot.

The bigger sin, though, is how quickly the film advances through its plot, often bringing up new things out of nowhere. While Searcher and his family make for an interesting group, the side characters never make an impact. There are also multiple instances where the story takes a turn that makes no sense, either in the world of the film or a storytelling manner.

This includes the final act of the film, which features a significant twist that is presented and accepted in a way that doesn’t fit with the rest of the film. It adds on yet another message in a movie that contains a lot of them, but in a way that even those inclined to believe in what it’s trying to say may wonder why that part is there at all.

The science fiction element of Strange World is a bonanza for the filmmakers and animators to go as wild as they wanted in the visual department. But all that splendor is in service of a story that just doesn’t measure up, making it one of Disney’s less successful offerings in recent years.


Strange World is now playing in theaters.

Photo courtesy of Disney

Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal), Jaeger (Dennis Quaid), and Ethan Clade (Jaboukie Young-White) in Strange World

Affluent Houston suburb leads region for highest holiday spending budgets in U.S.

Santa Baby

As the most wonderful time of the year approaches, holiday shopping budgets are in the spotlight, and a study from WalletHub lists Sugar Land as one of the top cities where Santa doesn't need a whole lot of help.

According to the personal finance website, the average holiday budget in Sugar Land is $2,793 per person, the 15th highest in the nation. As CultureMap previously reported, Sugar Land residents here make an average of $123,261; the average home price is $337,600.

Fittingly, Fort Bend, home to Sugar Land, was recently named the second-richest county in Texas.

As for Greater Houston, Santa's bag could be a mixed bag, with three suburbs in the top 100, but the urban center falling far behind:

  • Sugar Land, No. 15, $2,793
  • Pearland, No. 36, $2,172
  • The Woodlands, No. 71, $1,733
  • Houston, No. 366, $890

Each year, WalletHub calculates the maximum holiday budget for over 550 U.S. cities "to help consumers avoid post-holiday regret," the website says. The study factors in income, age of the population, and other financial indicators such as debt-to-income ratio, monthly-income-to monthly-expenses ratio and savings-to-monthly-expenses ratio.

Despite nationwide focus on inflation strains, holiday spending is expected to be healthy, and higher than last year.

"The seeming social upheaval in recent times may lead households to spend more in an attempt to take some control of the environment which they can control," says Robert Wright, University of Illinois, Springfield professor emeritus who was among five experts consulted for advice about holiday shopping.

Elsewhere in Texas, 10 North Texas cities landed in this year's top 100 heftiest holiday budgets:

  • Flower Mound, No. 3, $3,531 (The only Texas city in the top 10)
  • Allen, No. 17 , $2,670
  • Frisco, No. 37, $2,150
  • McKinney, No. 45, $2,070
  • Plano, No. 50, $1,999
  • Carrollton, No. 55, $1,837
  • Richardson, No. 58, $1,823
  • North Richland Hills, No. 81, $1,658
  • Lewisville, No. 90, $1,630
  • Fort Worth, No. 366, $890
  • Dallas, No. 401, $845

Spending in the Austin area won't be ho-hum with the Capitol City's budget of $1,705 ranked at No. 78. Two Austin suburbs, Cedar Park (budget $2,855) and League City (budget $2,541) ranked 14 and 20, respectively.

Things don't look too jolly for San Antonio, ranked at No. 431 with an average budget of $803 or Pharr, which was the lowest ranked city in Texas.

At No. 553 with a budget of $487, the Rio Grande Valley city came in just a few spots ahead of last place Hartford, CT with a budget of only $211.