The 10 Best New Restaurants of 2011

The challenge in choosing 10 of the best restaurants to open in Houston each year is a daunting one: Many of the restaurants I think are "the best" have little to nothing to do with each other, making for a list that falls all over the map when it comes to price, cuisine and location.

Then again, the amusing disjointedness represents Houston itself -- as does the fact that three of last year's top 10 best new restaurants no longer exist in the same incarnations (Caffe Bello, Umai and Bootsie's). Houston is nothing if not transitory, constantly tearing down and rebuilding itself over the years.

The challenge this year is trying to overcome that mutability -- to select restaurants that I hope and believe will be around in the future -- and to also choose restaurants that best represent our current Third Coast culinary climate and the bright direction in which it's headed.

These 10 restaurants are not only the best of a large group that have opened this year, they are what makes Houston such a fun and unique city to dine in. Dig in.

From run-down taqueria to vegan Tex-Mex paradise.
From run-down taqueria to vegan Tex-Mex paradise.
Photos by Troy Fields

10. Radical Eats

A few years ago, it would have been unthinkable to me to place a vegan restaurant on any year-end Best Of lists. But Radical Eats is about so much more than just vegan food: It's about bringing a healthy, relatively inexpensive dining option to a low-income neighborhood. It's about making the most out of local and seasonal produce sourced from all over the city. It's about taking a traditional Houston cuisine -- Tex-Mex -- and making it new again with a few vegan twists on old standards. Owner Staci Davis does all this and more in her remixed Northside Village taqueria. Oh, and did we mention that Sunday's vegan brunch is all-you-can-eat?

Honorable mention also goes to Green Seed Vegan's food truck for doing the same thing in its Third Ward neighborhood. I can't wait to see what becomes of owners Rodney Perry and Matti Merrell when the have a full-fledged restaurant of their own.

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