Praise the Lord and Pass the Pints

Houston's 10 best beer bars

1. Petrol Station

The first Houston bar to focus solely on American craft beer has finally expanded the kitchen as well as the backyard. Further improvements — proof that no one should leave a chalkboard menu in the hands of a bunch of bearded man-children — include rewriting the once nearly unreadable beer menu in a legible format. Is it coincidence the first female bartender in Petrol Station's history started recently? Never afraid to shy away from its nerd roots, Petrol Station had sectioned its beers into Youngling, Padawan and Jedi the last time we visited. At just under 40 taps and no bottle selection to speak of, the bar doesn't have the selections of our second- and third-place winners, but the choice of rarities combined with untouchable special events makes Petrol Station our 2012 Best of Houston® winner for Best Beer Bar.


Liberty Station is a beer drinker's neighborhood bar.
Katharine Shilcutt
Liberty Station is a beer drinker's neighborhood bar.
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Houston Heats Up
Eight semifinalists announced for 2013 James Beard Awards.

Katharine Shilcutt

Everything's bigger in Texas, including the number of chefs, restaurants, bars, wine programs and more that were nominated as semifinalists in this year's James Beard Foundation Awards. You know the one — the so-called "Oscars of the food world." It's kind of a big deal.

The Lone Star State received 25 semifinalist nominations from the James Beard Foundation, ranging from restaurants in Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio way out to El Paso and Marfa. But it was Houston that netted the most nods, with eight.

Oxheart and Underbelly are both semifinalists for the Best New Restaurant award, with their chefs independently nominated in two other categories: Oxheart's Justin Yu is a semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year, while Underbelly's Chris Shepherd is a semifinalist for Best Chef: Southwest. Shepherd says he was taken by surprise last week when he heard the news.

"I was just standing at Blacksmith getting coffee, and my sous chef calls me and says, 'You might want to check Twitter,'" Shepherd said. He laughed, thinking, "Oh no, this is going to be bad."

Of his and his restaurant's nomination, Shepherd said simply: "It's cool when you can do what you want to do and people like that. It's cool when your staff believes in it and when your cooks believe in it and when the city believes in it. That really means something to me."

Joining Shepherd in the Best Chef: Southwest category is Hugo Ortega of Hugo's. Ortega was nominated as a semifinalist last year as well and advanced to become a finalist at the James Beard Awards in New York City, although he ultimately lost to Paul Qui.

The Goodes, a multigenerational Houston restaurant family, were also recognized by the Beard Foundation. Levi Goode of Goode Company Restaurants is a semifinalist in the Outstanding Restaurateur category for the restaurants that he and his father, Jim, have made into Houston success stories over the years: Goode Co. Seafood, Goode Co. Taqueria, Armadillo Palace and Goode Co. Texas Bar-B-Q.

"That's amazing to me," said Shepherd, who was happy to see longtime restaurateurs recognized as well. "They started this little barbecue joint and all of a sudden, it's an empire. They keep it family-run. It hasn't been taken over; it's theirs and it's what they believe in.

"It's a testament to the city."

Fleshing out the Houston semifinalist nominations were Anvil Bar & Refuge for Outstanding Bar Program and Tyson Cole for his work at both the Houston and Austin locations of Uchi. Cole is a semifinalist in the Outstanding Chef category.

Dallas racked up seven semifinalist nods and Austin six, with notable mentions for Stephan Pyles in Dallas (Outstanding Chef), Nick Badovinus in Dallas (Best Restaurateur for Flavor Hook, Off-Site Kitchen, Tried and True, and more) and Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine in Austin (Rising Star Chef).

Alongside Ortega and Shepherd in the Best Chef: Southwest category were fellow semifinalists Jason Maddy of Oak in Dallas, Teiichi Sakuri of Tei An in Dallas, David Gilbert of Sustenio at Éilan Hotel Resort & Spa in San Antonio, Michael Sohocki of Restaurant Gwendolyn in San Antonio, Armando Pomales of Café Central in El Paso, Maiya Keck of Maiya's in Marfa, Rene Ortiz of La Condesa in Austin and Bryce Gilmore, once again.

"You can really see that Houston is kind of really on its way now," said Shepherd of the city's serial semifinalists. "And it's really good to see that." Quickly, he added with a chuckle: "Not that it hasn't been before — but you start to see us being up for multiple nominations, and it's cool to see that.

"You know how I feel about this city and how great it is," Shepherd said. "It's always been either Dallas or Austin, but now it's our time."

The finalists for the 2013 James Beard Foundation Awards will be announced on Monday, March 18. The awards themselves will be presented in New York City on Monday, May 6.

On the Menu

40 Days of Fish
Where to eat during Lent.

Molly Dunn

Lenten season is upon us. Many people have decided to give up something in their lives that they love, and most of the time that something ends up being food or drink. I'm talking about beer, chocolate, candy, coffee and meat.

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