Go West, Young Man

The top 10 restaurants in Westchase.

"It's a restaurant," says Martinez. "A bar," says Rouse at nearly the same time. They both laugh. "It's everything," Martinez says.

"We want you to come in to eat but feel comfortable sitting at a bar and eating," says Rouse. "All of us like sitting at the bar to eat."

The Eating Our Words 100

The Burger Guys offer mind-boggling burgers.
Troy Fields
The Burger Guys offer mind-boggling burgers.
Sean Beck of Backstreet Cafe and Hugo's.
Paula Murphy
Sean Beck of Backstreet Cafe and Hugo's.

Renatta Lindsey, The Taste contestant, hails from Houston.

Joanna O'Leary

Who she is:

A self-identified "home cook" from Houston who recently competed on the comfort food episode of ABC's The Taste. Renatta Lindsey's stellar Dijon chicken with mashed potatoes garnered her a coveted spot on the team mentored by British food writer Nigella Lawson.

How it all began:

Growing up in Mississippi, Lindsey learned about the power of good food by watching her mother. "She used cooking as a means of getting family members together. I saw that food had this amazing 'bonding' property — an ability to bring people together."

And the first dish she learned to make? "Banana pudding," Lindsey recalls fondly. "That recipe stuck with me forever."

Who inspires her:

"I love Rachael Ray and Paula Deen. Both have a down-home spirit. They're easy to watch and their food is delicious, straightforward, not too complicated." Lindsey is also thrilled to be working on The Taste with Lawson, whom she admires for being "a self-taught cook and someone who distinguished herself globally by thinking out of the box."

What she craves in Houston:

When she's not in front of her own stove cooking for family and friends, Lindsey loves taking advantage of Houston's diverse culinary scene. As for "favorite" restaurants, she's not afraid to name names: Chama Gaúcha Brazilian Steakhouse, Pappadeaux, Grand Lux Cafe and Fadi's are on the top of her list.

Where she hopes to be in five years:

Still based in Houston but perhaps with her own cooking show. "I would love to have something where I invite regular people to cook and eat with me. Almost like inviting folks into a home environment."

The title of this program? "Um, well..." Lindsey giggles. "I always joke it would be something like 'Cooking With Sunshine' because that's my personality and what I like to convey when I prepare food."

Top 10

Houston's 10 best wine lists.

Katharine Shilcutt

It's exciting to run across a well-priced favorite on a restaurant's wine list or to discover something new as you dig through its pages. But there's more to making a world-class wine list than just stocking a cellar with Cakebreads and Chardonnays.

To spotlight the best wine lists in Houston, we turned to the experts: a panel of respected Houston sommeliers that includes Marc Borel (general manager at Backstreet Cafe), Jonathan Honefenger (lead sommelier at Richard's Liquors and Fine Wines), Evan Turner (formerly of Branch Water Tavern) and Justin Vann (sommelier at Oxheart). What these professionals emphasized most is that there are at least three things that make a truly great wine list — starting with curation.

"There are a lot of great lists that are put together well and have interesting things and great price points, but who's curating them?" Turner asks. "You can watch a sporting event and it can be an amazing game, but if the people doing the color commentary are great, then it makes it even better."

A wine list could have more hidden treasures than the Vatican, but without guidance from someone who knows the list, only the geekiest connoisseurs would be able to spot them. Vann looks specifically for a well-trained wine steward when scouting great wine lists, asking questions like: "Does the list have good somms taking care of it? Can they find me something I like on the list in almost any price range?"

A second thing to keep in mind, says Turner, is how well the wine list holds up to its audience. A purposefully esoteric wine list has no place in a straightforward, casual restaurant where diners would be baffled by a list containing only orange wines while a Chardonnay- and Cabernet-heavy list of staid, middle-American favorites can easily bring down a fine dining experience.

Last, look for how well the wine pairs with the food the restaurant is serving. An all-American wine list in an Italian restaurant can clash as loudly as an all-Korn soundtrack in a fancy French restaurant. It's okay to have a few familiar standbys, Vann says, but he cautions: "Does the majority of the wine pair well with the majority of the food?"

The following ten restaurants were cited over and over again by our sommeliers as examples of places with truly great wine lists in Houston, although it should be noted that none of them mentioned their own places of employment.

Honorable mention:

Underbelly, for offering "big, bold American wines that go well with [chef Chris] Shepherd's food," says Turner. Brennan's, for maintaining a list that is "well-rounded, at a good price," Honefenger says. And downtown steakhouse Vic & Anthony's, says Turner, for having the type of wine list you can really splash out on.

10. Divino Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar

Borel calls Divino's wine list "very thoughtful," noting that he — and the list — have both been "obsessed with Italian wine lately." With very reasonable markups in place, most bottles of wine are no more than $60, and there are nearly 30 offered by the glass. The cozy, dinner-only restaurant in Montrose is "one of Houston's best-kept secrets," says Borel. On the first Monday of every month, Divino offers a special wine dinner, such as a recent evening that featured Tuscan wines of Rocca della Macie paired with pork tenderloin braised in milk, onions and herbs and a grilled rib eye "alla Fiorentina."

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