Search Modern Luxury

The 50 Finest

In a dynamic culinary scene of which the nation’s press and the James Beard judges have taken note, a slew of upstarts have taken their place among the city’s star chefs. Inspired by their homelands—from the Gulf Coast to the Amalfi Coast, and from Spain to South Africa—they’ve brought us the world. Prepare to tipple and taste the best of H-Town now. And, by all means, save room for dessert!

Corn Panna Cotta ($9) at Pax Americana, with a blackberry blond brownie, toasted milk cream and sorghum popcorn


It’s funny how new B&B Butchers & Restaurant seems as a concept, when so much about it is so time-honored. It’s a neighborhood butcher shop and deli up front, with an unabashedly traditional high-end steakhouse in the back, all carved from the historic Dittman Bakery building. In the restaurant, Kobe and Wagyu steaks (up to $74) pair unsurprisingly but marvelously with truffle mac and cheese. Power Move Definitely do dessert. The cheesecake rivals the best you’ve ever had in New York, sliced into Texas-sized portions. 1814 Washington Ave., 713.862.1814

BCN Taste & Tradition
In a renovated Craftsman mansion decorated with Picassos, Spanish chef Luis Roger serves reimagined classics from Barcelona, the city whose airport code gives the eatery its name. Dishes range from sublimely simple, as in razor clams tasting like a bright and salty sea ($22), to the simply sublime, a la rabbit tenderloin with a sauce of caramelized onions and vermouth ($36). The wine list draws from corners of Spain unknown to even seasoned oenophiles, but the most buzzed-about beverages are variations of gin and tonic. Power Move Upstairs rooms are available for small groups, but Table 8, beneath both an original painting and a bull sculpture by Joan Miró, is the best seat in the house. 4210 Roseland St., 832.834.3411

Bistro Menil
When, nearly 30 years after its opening, the Menil Collection decided to add a restaurant, no standard museum cafe would do. In a new, simple-seeming but carefully designed and sunshine-washed building that blends in with the surrounding modest residences—like the museum itself—chef Greg Martin serves the likes of crisp duck leg confit with pink peppercorn butter ($24) to a crowd of laid-back sophisticates. Power Move Among Martin’s understated innovations is his cask-wine program, with vino offered by the glass or in different carafe sizes. Lovely wines are not only cheaper this way, but more accessible for tasting and tippling and pairing and sharing. 1513 W. Alabama St., 713.904.3537

Dover sole for two ($35 per person), at Amalfi

El Tiempo/1308 Annex
First sad rumors swept Montrose that the El Tiempo group’s boisterous, always-packed 1308 Cantina was closing, possibly to reopen elsewhere, close by. Then came news that was twice as good as anybody’d hoped: It was keeping the original space and opening a few blocks away, in the two-story former La Strada building. The new spot, as at the others, touts a classic margarita-soaked Tex-Mex menu—the matriarch of the Laurenzo family that owns the place helped invent the genre—spanning nachos to mixed-grill fajitas with quail and lobster ($88). Power Move The flirty-fun party-boy set asks for Cody’s section upstairs. 322 Westheimer Rd., 713.807.8101

Mala Sichuan Bistro
Expanding from a no-frills, hidden-away flagship in New Chinatown on Bellaire, Mala Sichuan, often cited among the city’s best Asian, has just opened a second locale—a sexed-up “bistro”—inside the Loop. Fans are flocking to Montrose for the authentic Chinese food celebrating the distinct flavors of the Sichuan peppercorn. Favorites include the spicy and crispy chicken and signature red oil dumplings ($11). Power Move Oenophiles don’t often look to neighborhood Chinese restos to feed their habit, but it’s fine to drink up here. As at the original location, hip young sommelier Justin Vann curated the beer and wine list. 1201 Westheimer Rd., 832.767.0911

Pax Americana
The most widely praised newbie—GQ and Texas Monthly were impressed—is locavore champ Pax Americana, where chef Adam Dorris’ eclectic, veggie-forward and festively plated American riffs echo the vibe of the homey, midcentury-esque decor. Carrots get confit treatment in a bath of Southern sorghum and French vinegar; Gulf red snapper comes with brown-butter bearnaise and radishes cooked in lamb fat. Power Move Order more than you think you’re hungry for! The small plates get scarfed up before they hit the table. 4319 Montrose Blvd., 713.239.0228

Peli Peli
Taking over the former Gigi’s space, Peli Peli combines bold takes on a little-known category of global fare—South African—with artful space-age design; the ceiling is an LED-rigged dome. Importing the intriguing concept from northwest Houston to this Galleria outpost, chef-owner Paul Friedman’s bests include tiger prawns in hot pepper sauce ($32). Power Move Try the gumbo. While the Louisiana specialty’s appearance on a menu that’s much more Cape Town than cajun is surprising, the Peli Peli version is among the city’s best. In the Galleria, 281.257.9500

Peska Seafood Culture
Very young rising-star chef and Latin American TV personality Omar Pereney of Venezuela has opened Peska for Mexico’s high-profile Ysita restaurant family. Part high-end seafood market, part crisply sophisticated restaurant, Peska specializes in straightforward, globally informed presentations of high-quality fish, a la whole deep-fried grouper and spicy Peruvian-style mahi-mahi and octopus ceviche. Power Move Wish the chef happy birthday. Barely legal, he turned 21 on June 30. In BLVD Place, 713.961.9229

True Food Kitchen
While “anti-inflammatory,” per its own spiel, might not be the sexiest way to describe a hot new restaurant, breezy True Food’s trendy spin on health food has won over many. Benefiting from both the city’s yoga-happy fitness fad and its home in popular new dining hub BLVD Place, it offers a large, bright menu of all things sustainable, responsible, grass-fed, free-range and unprocessed. Power Move Come thirsty. The organic wine list offers a unique take on grapes, including Faust’s elegant Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($75). In BLVD Place, 281.605.2505

Weights & Measures
Its blog-tastic roasted carrot pizza ($13) is possibly the most buzzed-about dish of the year. And yet this colorful, cool young-foodie fave set in a renovated Midtown warehouse is pointedly about so so so much more: It’s a bar awash in clever signature cocktails, an impressively competent neighborhood bakery and a full-service gourmet restaurant, lacquered duck breast ($28) and all. Power Move Spread it on thick. Of its eight clever spreads and terrines, touted as perfect partners for house-baked bread, the old-school chopped liver is the best. 2808 Caroline St., 713.654.1970


Dish Society
Dish Society recently introduced a second restaurant at LaCenterra in Cinco Ranch (23501 Cinco Ranch Blvd., 281.394.7555). In addition to familiar farm-to-table items like brisket ’n’ eggs with tomatillo relish ($13) and Nutella French toast ($9, above), an expanded social-hour menu includes cocktails made with Texas spirits—Deep Eddy, Tito’s—plus 12 Texas craft beers on tap and an estate wine selection. Guests can kick back on the expansive wraparound patio with views of Heritage Square.

Del Frisco’s Grille
The casual-cool take on upscale Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse with an outpost in West Ave has expanded to The Woodlands. The new location (1900 Hughes Landing Blvd., 281.465.0300) is perched on the edge of Lake Woodlands. Known for generous portions of contemporary fare like towering green chili cheeseburgers ($13.50), it’s also a great spot to indulge in a New York strip steak ($44) and specialty cocktails. Try the new house-baked pretzels with cheddar sauce.

Local Foods
Later this year, look for a third location of Benjy Levit’s Local Foods situated in the Gables Tanglewood development (5740 San Felipe Rd.). The fresh menu will be similar to the inner-Loop locations with artisan sandwiches like the raved-about truffled-egg salad ($9.50) and dinner specials. Unique to this location is a wood-burning oven for tasty vegetable-centric small plates and pizzas. The expanded bar will dispense Texas beers and near-retail-price wines, as does Benjy’s.


Brennan’s of Houston
Few restaurants in Houston have the history and reputation to rival this restaurant, opened in '67, sister to the world-famous Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. The bananas Foster and turtle soup have withstood the test of time, but reserve the 12-seat chef’s table, and chef Danny Trace will create a custom menu that is both classic and creative ($155 per person with wine pairings). 3300 Smith St., 713.522.9711

Hubbell & Hudson Bistro
Last month, handsome chef Austin Simmons opened Cureight, a private dining experience within the newly revamped Woodlands restaurant. Separated from the main bistro, the Cureight room, which Simmons describes as his playground, has a sliding glass door to the open kitchen. Diners are encouraged to chat with the enthusiastic chef as he preps his eight-course tasting menu of whimsical creations such as Texas quail with bacon-fennel marmelade. Wine pairings bring the price to $185 per person, and reservations are a must. 24 Waterway Ave., 281.203.5641

James Beard Award finalist Justin Yu transformed a historic brick building just north of Downtown into one of the country’s top dining experiences in 2012. Since then, Yu has pushed a locavore-driven, vegetarian menu that changes with the seasons. This summer, dishes like dried beets soaked in tangerine juice—or charred sunchokes brushed with honey, jasmine tea and salted cream make palates pop. Two tasting menus are offered nightly, each at $74. 1302 Nance St., 832.830.8592

The Pass & Provisions
This dual concept features two dining experiences: The more laidback Provisions serves pizza and well-executed a la carte dishes—think glazed pork belly with asparagus and egg—while the 18-table Pass, hidden behind a secret doorway, serves a culinary adventure of five or eight courses ($75-$160). There are optional wine pairings, and the more adventurous can opt for a cocktail-pairing version designed by master mixologists. Because the experience can last for hours, guests have their table for the entire evening. 807 Taft St., 713.628.9020

Contemporary Japanese dining gets a Texan twist at Uchi. Starters like baby yellowtail served with Thai chilis and oranges, and flash-fried Brussels sprouts are standard favorites, but constantly changing tasting menus allow staff to show off their skills. Servers help guests create a set of either six or 10 plates of their choosing, alternating between hot and cold. This summer, a new vegetarian version has been added, as well. The bill varies depending on market prices. 904 Westheimer Rd., 713.522.4808


Part of the Azuma restaurant group, forthcoming Izakaya will be a Japanese gastro-pub, or izakaya—a cozy place to relax, drink and order a succession of shareable dishes. Chef Manabu Horiuchi will dish Asian-infused street food like grilled skewers and tiraditos to match the list of sakes, Japanese beers and cocktails. 318 Gray St.

Ka Sushi
New to the Heights will be Ka Sushi by Fat Bao owner Pak Tsui and Linh Nguyen of Fat Wagon. It's decked out in wood paneling and touts a backlit bar and modern chandeliers. In addition to sushi, expect easy-going Japanese fusion food, plus a stocked bar specializing in Japanese beer, sake and soju. 1901 Shepherd Dr., Ste. 1

Songkran Thai Kitchen
The second location of Songkran Thai Kitchen, the Uptown Park concept by chef Junnajett Hurapan, is located next door to his Blu eatery in Town Center. He uses a delicate technique in dishes like clay-pot crispy duck with red curry and pineapple, as well as baked half Maine lobster with "angry" dip ($24). 2258 Texas Dr.


Southern Charm
As Atlanta star chef Ford Fry readies his Gulf-seafood-savvy State of Grace (3256 Westheimer Rd.) across the street from his alma mater, Lamar High, the trend of Deep South cuisine continues. Holley’s (3201 Louisiana St., 713.491.2222) similarly touts seafood with a NOLA twist. Punk’s Simple Southern Food (5212 Morningside Dr., 713.524.7865) serves pickled gulf shrimp, below, and buttermilk fried chicken. Commonwealth (4601 Washington Ave., 281.501.9516) plates fried green tomatoes alongside poached eggs. And in the Heights, Southern Goods (632. W. 19th St.) and Lee’s Fried Chicken & Donuts (601 Heights Blvd.) open soon.

Hipster Bakeries
Since Common Bond (1706 Westheimer Rd., 713.529.3535) opened last year, other artisan bakeries have bowed. Rebecca Masson's Fluff Bake Bar (314 Gray St., 713.522.1900) proffers her signature Fluffernutters; Pondicheri’s (in West Ave, 713.522.2022) new Bake Lab serves Indian-flavor-infused pastries. And a young couple has taken over the old Kolache Shoppe (3945 Richmond Ave., 713.626.4580), churning out puffy Polish pastries, above, in an industrial-chic space.

New-Wave Gourmet Pizza
Coltivare’s (3320 White Oak Dr., 713.637.4095) popular pies with farm-to-table toppings seem to have inspired a pizza boom. Bollo (2202 W. Alabama St., 713.677.0391) has bowed in the former Sorrel spot. Pizaro’s Pizza is now dishing out Napoli-style pies from a second location (1000 W. Gray St., 832.742.5200); its 900-degree oven turns out pizzas in just 90 seconds. Beloved New York-based Grimaldi’s has announced its fourth area location will be CityCentre. Thirteen Pies plans to bow in the new River Oaks District, and pizza-and-wine-delivery joint Pizza L’Vino has opened a second location (2524 Rice Blvd., 832.380.3100).


Chris Shepherd
Last year, Chris Shepherd brought the James Beard Award home to H-Town for the first time in 22 years. He’s continued to tell the story of Houston food at Underbelly, with smoked meats, local ingredients and multicultural flavors, as in the chili-marinated tri-tip with charred squash. 1100 Westheimer Rd., 713.528.9800

David Guerrero
This spring, chef David Guerrero’s brain tumor, which he’d had removed four years ago during a surgery that left him temporarily paralyzed, returned. Docs went in and, again, operated on the chef, who says his passion for cooking is what keeps him going. He’s now undergoing chemotherapy, but is back in the kitchen at his charming South American-fusion Andes Café in EaDo. 2311 Canal St., Ste. 104, 832.659.0063

Ronnie Killen
In 2014, after years of hype and delays, Ronnie Killen opened his Killen’s Barbecue in a former school cafeteria, a stone’s throw from his Killen’s Steakhouse in Pearland. Rumors swirl of his imminent inner-Loop arrival, but for the time being, most people seem perfectly content making the trek for Killen’s juicy pit-smoked brisket. 3613 E. Broadway St., Pearland, 281.485.2272

Hugo Ortega
His upscale interior-of-Mexico Hugo’s is still thriving, and his chic Backstreet Café in River Oaks has an always-bustling brunch scene. And last year, Ortega realized his dream of expanding to the tastes of the sea with Caracol. This year’s James Beard nomination marked his fourth in a row. Caracol, 2200 Post Oak Blvd., Ste. 160, 713.622.9996

Chris Williams
This chef named his Museum District restaurant Lucille’s, known for its foodie-friendly takes on soul food, after his great-grandmother, herself a chef who once served her signature biscuits to Martin Luther King Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt. This summer, Williams visited Eastern Europe as an official culinary ambassador of the U.S. 5512 La Branch St., 713.568.2505


Americas is justly famous for its tres leches. Now the dessert menu has a new twist: Tres Leches Espressions ($10), three different riffs on the traditional milk-soaked cake paired with after-dinner wines. Think Lucuma, Peru’s signature ice cream with hints of maple and sweet potato capped with Italian meringue, paired with honeyed Far Niente Dolce. Or Fruity Peebles—lemongrass-steeped tres leches with blueberry citrus compote, paired with Massolino Moscato d’Asti. Intoxicating! 2040 W. Gray St., 832.200.1492

Corner Table
In her usual nonparochial style, pastry chef Alyssa Dole is whipping up ingenious sweets like salted caramel cheesecake with kettle-corn-graham-cracker crust and toasted popcorn on top. Hardcore vegans can also get their fix with the raw double-chocolate-avocado mousse topped with coconut whipped cream. Her rum-soaked cupcake is lavished with fresh peaches and presented in a jelly jar. 2736 Virginia St., 713.568.9196

Mark’s American Cuisine
Dessert at this restaurant inside a former church is a spiritual experience. The menu changes daily so you’ll never get bored with chef Mark Cox’s artful creations. He takes a basic ingredient like grapefruit and elevates it into a layered tart ($12) with sorbet, hibiscus reduction, red berry gelee and basil meringues. And his chocolate tart ($12) is a Mexican version with chili cinnamon chocolate truffles that slap your taste buds with a memorable sting. 1658 Westheimer Rd., 713.523.3800

Max’s Wine Dive
Guests go ga-ga over the Goo Goo Pie ($12) at Max’s Wine Dive. The handsome sliver of chilled pie starts with peanut butter mousse poured into a dark chocolate Oreo crust. The pie is drenched in milk chocolate and peanut butter ganache and drizzled with boozy caramel sauce, then topped with a blistered homemade marshmallow and a crumble of Ritz crackers. Chocolatey, salty, sweet, peanut-y—it fires on all cylinders. 214 Fairview St., 713.528.9200; 4720 Washington Ave., 713.880.8737

Triniti pastry chef Samantha Mendoza is up to her elbows in housemade ice cream, which she prepares all day every day to accompany her many modern treats. Coconut semifreddo and lychee-and-ginger-beer sorbet roll alongside buttermilk sponge cake that has been precisely piped with matcha tea streusel. And that’s just one dessert! Mendoza’s Praline and Coconut concoction gets chocolate crunch, with exotic coconut jelly, coconut powder and pretty purple flowers. 2815 S. Shepherd Dr., 713.527.9090


Backstreet Café
Backstreet Café has regular wine dinners to show off the talents of sommelier Sean Beck and chef Hugo Ortega’s culinary team. Beck, a three-time Iron Sommelier winner, touts an encyclopedic list that spans the globe—from small American wineries you’ve never heard of, to old world gems, like Enzo Boglietti Dolcetto d’Alba, Piemonte ($46), that taste like a million bucks. 1103 S. Shepherd Dr., 713.521.2239

Da Marco
Five-star Da Marco charms not only with its elegant cottage setting and delicacies like shaved truffles flown in from Italy, but also with its rare all-Italian wine list. General manager and sommelier Nicholas Nikic has stocked the cellar with bottles from regions from Piedmont to Tuscany to Sicily. Expect magnums, double magnums and the Antinori line, including the exclusive 2004 Solaia ($800). Salute! 1520 Westheimer Rd., 713.807.8857

Mockingbird Bistro
Texas meets Provence at neighborhood gem Mockingbird Bistro, which sports lofty ceilings high enough to show off the impressive racks of wine. There’s even more vino lining the handcrafted walls in the newly remodeled Wine Room. French rosés, tangy Texas Duchman Vermentino and elegant pinots like Williams Selyem Russian River Valley ($215) pair seamlessly with the new summer menu. 1985 Welch St., 713.533.0200

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse
For quality and depth, Pappas Bros. Steakhouse is still primo, boasting the largest and most extensive program in the city. Wine director Steven McDonald, a founding member of the Houston Sommeliers Association, uses the massive 40,000-bottle cellar to full effect by parlaying it into multiple formats like vintner dinners and educational monthly wine tastings that are, well, barrels of fun. 5839 Westheimer Rd., 713.780.7352

Table on Post Oak
A revamped iPad wine menu by Sebastian Laval, GM and sommelier of Table on Post Oak, features a list smartly categorized by price. The Reserve list focuses on connoisseur domestics (Ramey “Ritchie Vineyard” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Calif., $88) and French selections. Happy hour brings high-end wines like Perrier-Joët at a steal ($9/glass). 1800 Post Oak Blvd., 713.439.1000


Liberty Kitchen & Oysterette
Tucked between the Galleria and River Oaks, just off the train tracks on San Felipe, this hot spot draws an A-list crowd of suits and socialites. Bar bites like the deviled eggs topped with fried oysters ($12) keep guests happy while they wait for a coveted table. Lobster rolls with tarragon mayo ($32) make a nice lunch, while king crab legs ($34) and filet mignon ($47) make a decadent dinner. Power Move There’s a delicious nightly sushi special, and on Saturdays, the kitchen roasts a whole pig with jerk spices ($30). 4224 San Felipe St., 713.622.1010

Brasserie 19
Last year, Town and Country magazine named this French resto one of the top places in the U.S. to meet a millionaire, and the valet line of Ferraris speaks to that. The menu features a excellent array of fresh shellfish—ordering the $119 tower of crustaceans and oysters is sure to turn heads—and the duck ($32) and steak tartare ($17) get rave reviews. Power Move Insist on picking up the check for the Veuve; at $55, it’s the most reasonable you’re likely to find in town. 1962 W. Gray St., 713.524.1919

At both the Rice Village and Wash Ave outposts, happy hour draws PYTs for blood orange margaritas and pistachio-crusted goat cheese cakes, and dinner invites a more buttoned-up set and handsome couples for date night. And the weekend brunch really gets this place hopping; although a wait is inevitable, the French toast ($11) and crunchy chicken Cobb salad ($13) are worth it. Power Move The Rice Village spot now serves brunch every day! And at both locations, the full-service bars upstairs are the most fun spots to be. 2424 Dunstan Rd., 713.522.7602; 5922 Washington Ave., 713.868.1131


Brooklyn Athletic Club
After a game of bocce or table tennis, cool off with the Pimm’s Cup punch ($10) with gin, lemonade, ginger ale, mint and fruit—sure to revive you for another round. Owner Shepard Ross is opening The Del, a country-club-inspired spot with artisan cocktails and bites, later this summer. 601 Richmond Ave., 713.527.4440

Known for its unique wine dinners, Etoile is also stirring up cocktail fun. Award-winning mixologist Kimberly Paul says the Sparkling Cucumber ($12) is a favorite. It has Grey Goose melon vodka, a spritz of absinthe, fresh cucumber and citrus juices, and topped with Champagne. Oui, oui! 1101-11 Uptown Park Blvd., 832.668.5808

A pioneer in serving artisan cocktails before the trend, Hugo’s is revered for its potent margaritas shaken with only the best ingredients. And there’s a new signature beverage that’s earthy, smoky and a little spicy: Birds of a Feather ($11) is made with Fidencio mezcal, Aberlour single malt scotch, agave nectar, Peychaud bitters, orange bitters and orange peel. 1600 Westheimer Rd., 713.524.7744

The bar inside Triniti is helmed by Laurie Sheddan Harvey, who assembled a team of mixologists to handcraft imaginative beverages such as the Dizzy Vulture ($12), with Black Strap rum and pineapple foam. This summer, try one of several beautiful iterations of a G&T ($12), mixed with ingredients like toasted coriander or pink peppercorns. 2815 S. Shepherd Dr., 713.527.9090

Sparrow Bar & Cookshop
The Galveston Island Ice Tea ($10) is the new signature cocktail at Monica Pope’s farm-to-table Sparrow. Fragrant mint and fresh sliced peaches, which are grown on-site, float in peach ice tea, Texas bourbon, Texas sweet tea vodka and lemon. Sip local! 3701 Travis St., 713.524.6922


Amalfi Ristorante
From northern Italy to the southern coast, suddenly Houston has the Boot covered with glorious cuisine! The Amalfi coast conjures visions of Meyer lemons growing up sloping hillsides, and abundant fresh food from the deep blue ocean below. With newcomer Amalfi by Giancarlo Ferrara, former exec chef of Arcodoro, you don’t have to visit Europe for authentic Italian fare. The restaurant is crisp and unpretentious with linen-dressed tables and a charming Italian-tile-trimmed oven. A highlight is the Berkshire pork tenderloin ($22), glazed with a slightly sweet herb sauce, porcini mushrooms and quick-fried cherry tomatoes. The dessert menu conveniently lists suggested wine pairings. This summer, try the raspberry fruit tart with vanilla custard and mango sorbet! 6100 Westheimer Rd., Ste. 140, 713.532.2201

North Italia
At North Italia in BLVD Place, the environs, with a glassed-in working kitchen and a spacious bar, are as intoxicating as the signature dish: tagliatelle with robust slow-simmering Bolognese sauce ($16). But supple handmade pastas and puffy fire-blistered pizzas worth dieting for merely scratch the surface of the extensive menu. Young chef Jonathan Wills aims to please with piled-high chef’s boards of prosciutto, aged provolone, asparagus, Marcona almonds and more ($15), or whole grilled branzino with faro and Tuscan kale. In BLVD Place, 281.605.4030

Sud Italia
Restaurant veteran Shanon Scott’s Sud Italia has revived the shuttered Bistro des Amis bungalow in Rice Village. The two-story building is an intimate space with natural light and a great patio. Chef Renato De Pirro was a consulting chef for the classic menu, which spotlights coastal Italian cuisine. Antipasti of note includes a heaping plate of fritto misto—fried lobster, shrimp, calamari and vegetables with marinara. Whole Mediterranean sea bass is carved tableside, and a dramatic squid ink pasta arrives crowned with lobster meat ($25). To drink, the wine list proffers 60 Italian wines and a trio of Italian beers. 2347 University Blvd., 713.664.7571