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The Top Ten New Restaurants of 2010

Houston has been fertile ground for innovative and passionate restaurateurs this year, making the selection of only ten restaurants out of the many that have opened in the past 12 months a truly difficult task.

All ten restaurants were chosen for this list because of how well they reflect Houston's current culinary landscape and how they're shaping the future of food in our city. They all represent something undertaken with great hope — often with equally great amounts of innovation and ingenuity — and great quality of character, character that's most present in the dishes and ingredients themselves.

Here's hoping they'll all still be wowing us in 2011 and beyond.

The Burger Guys use Akaushi beef to make their dripping, oozy cheeseburgers.
Troy Fields
The Burger Guys use Akaushi beef to make their dripping, oozy cheeseburgers.
Jamie Zelko's new venture has staying power.
Troy Fields
Jamie Zelko's new venture has staying power.

Location Info

Map

Zelko Bistro

705 E. 11th St.
Houston, TX 77008

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Heights

Arpi's Phoenicia Deli & Coffee House

12151 Westheimer Drive
Houston, TX 77077

Category: Restaurant > Coffeehouse

Region: Memorial

Americas Restaurant

2040 W. Gray St.
Houston, TX 77019

Category: Restaurant > South American

Region: River Oaks

The Barbed Rose Steakhouse and Seafood Co.

113 E. Sealy St.
Alvin, TX 77511

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Outside Houston

Samba Grille

530 Texas Ave.
Houston, TX 77002

Category: Restaurant > Brazilian

Region: Downtown/ Midtown

The Burger Guys

12225 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77077

Category: Restaurant > Burgers

Region: Memorial

Umai Japanese Restaurant

8400 Bellaire
Houston, TX 77036

Category: Restaurant > Japanese

Region: Outer Loop - SW

Moon Tower Inn

3004 Canal St.
Houston, TX 77003

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: East End

Gatlin's BBQ

1221 W. 19th St.
Houston, TX 77008

Category: Restaurant > Barbecue

Region: Heights

Bootsie's Heritage Cafe

112 Commerce St.
Tomball, TX 77375

Category: Restaurant > Gourmet

Region: Outside Houston

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10. Arpi's Phoenicia Deli

12151 Westheimer, 281-558-0416

The opening of Arpi's represented the next step for the visionary Tcholakian family, who founded the original Phoenicia Deli on what was then a quiet stretch of Westheimer in 1983. Almost 30 years later, the Tcholakians are overseeing a growing empire of grocery stores that import food from all over the world as well as this new restaurant, just around the corner from the gargantuan Phoenicia. Inside, the Tcholakians will change the way you think about cafeteria lines, with wonderfully fresh and healthy options served in an array of sizes — it's basically a giant mezze platter, with all the vivid flavors and scents that accompany the Middle Eastern cuisine. And on the non-cafeteria side of the restaurant, relax with an espresso and a cup of gelato before you tackle the business of filling your shopping cart next door. It's a no-brainer tag-team way to spend an afternoon.

9. Américas / Caffe Bello (tie)

2040 W. Gray, 832-200-1492 / 322 Westheimer, 713-520-5599

Love or hate the Cordúa and Vallone families, there's absolutely no denying the culinary impact they've had on this city. There's also no denying that both know how to successfully run restaurants and train chefs, especially young chefs who later go on to achieve great acclaim of their own. The new Américas in River Oaks and Caffe Bello in Montrose show the old guards' willingness — even enthusiasm — to adapt to the times and capture increasingly younger diners without turning their backs on the patrons who have made them a success over the years.

8. The Barbed Rose

113 E. Sealy, Alvin, 281-585-2272

This steakhouse in Alvin was a bit of a novelty when it opened — after all, the restaurant introduced itself to the world via YouTube videos — and big-city folks wondered how a fancy place like The Barbed Rose would ever make it in small-town Alvin. In only six months, Chef Jason Chaney and his team at The Barbed Rose have shown their mettle, showcasing fresh Gulf seafood and other local ingredients in dishes like country-fried oysters with house-made bacon. They even have a great wine program to boot, which is why the place is packed nearly every night — with locals and with people who've made the drive out to Alvin.

7. Samba Grille

530 Texas, 713-343-1180

You have to love the spirit that encouraged Nathan Ketcham to open Samba Grille — a Brazilian steakhouse with a twist — in a location that's notorious for stale, boring restaurants that either close up quickly or stick around for far too long. Bayou Place has a breath of fresh air in Samba, which turns out fabulous churrascaria meals at the same time as beautiful dishes like the steak tartare and even one of the city's tastiest burgers (thank Ketcham's determination to obtain the best meat possible for all three triumphs). The wine and spirits program run by Marc Borel is equally stunning, featuring rare South American vintages that don't cost an arm and a leg. Diners looking for a quality pre- or post-theater meal don't need to look any farther than Samba Grille.

6. The Burger Guys

12225 Westheimer, 281-497-4897

Speaking of quality meat, The Burger Guys are to be commended for their use of incredibly rich and juicy Akaushi beef in their burgers, not to mention the other local ingredients they incorporate into their menu: Hatterman's eggs, Dairymaids cheese, even Saint Arnold beer. Nearly everything is made fresh and in-house here, even the sauces, and the drinks in the soda fountain contain no HFCS. These things should give you at least a little peace of mind as you gorge on a drippy, oozy cheeseburger the size of a toddler's head. Of course, if you add one of the Guys' signature milkshakes to the mix, you're done for. But in the best possible way.

5. Umai

8400 Bellaire, 713-750-9222

It's in a nearly vacant strip center on the quiet end of Chinatown. It's a Japanese restaurant that doesn't serve sushi. Umai's determination on both of these fronts is brave and refreshing, as the elegant little restaurant continues on its path toward showing Houston that Japanese food is more than just California rolls. Any Texan will adore the giant bento boxes for lunch (or dinner) that feature enough food for two people at a price that is in keeping with its inexpensive Chinatown neighbors. And did we mention they have the best ramen in town ?

4. Moon Tower Inn

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