The 10 Best New Restaurants of 2010

Trying to select only 10 restaurants out of the dozens that have opened the past year is agonizing. In a good way, of course -- Houston has been fertile ground for innovative and passionate restaurateurs this year. But agonizing nevertheless.

There are restaurants that have opened in the past 12 months that have quickly shuttered, leaving me broken-hearted (Sabetta, I'm looking at you). There are smaller restaurants that have opened and captured my heart, and certainly deserve honorable mention on this list (BB's Beef & Hot Dog, Honduras Mayan, Sheba Cafe, Conscious Cafe, Pappa Geno's). And then there are restaurants for which I have great hopes, but which are too new to be included so far (Piola, Zimm's Little Deck, Casablanca, Cafe Espana, Tango & Malbec).

With that said, here are my choices for the best new restaurants of 2010, ranked -- also agonizing -- from No. 10 all the way down to the No. 1 spot.

All were chosen 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 10 Best New Restaurants of 2010
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt

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 (yes, stores plural -- the second Phoenicia is slated to open downtown very shortly) 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.

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