When it comes to “hot,” it’s not just Houston’s notoriously oppressive temperatures in July. Some of Houston’s newest restaurants are hot, too, but in a much more pleasant sense of the word.
Here are ten places where the interest is high, the tables are in demand and the air conditioner is blasting. If there’s cold beer, wine or cocktails, so much the better.
We say good-bye (for now) this month to Conservatory, Tejas Chocolate Craftory, Midtown Barbecue, Morningstar, Cane Rosso and Stoked Tacos & Tequila, which were on last month's hot list. These could come back though. Only time will tell.
Brookstreet Bar-B-Que, 1009 Missouri. The barbecue options in the Montrose area have been historically slim but are getting better. That’s partially thanks to the opening of this latest location of Brookstreet Bar-B-Que, The local barbecue chain was originally established in 1999. Look for all the standards (ribs, brisket, sausage and chicken) as well as pulled pork, pulled chicken and Saint Louis-style ribs.
Harold’s Tap Room, 350 West 19th. The addition of a new, casual hangout on the first floor underneath Harold’s in The Heights has added some excitement to the space. In addition to beer and wine on tap, the cheekily named bar bites, like Big Ass Meatball and Redneck Sliders (made with fried bologna and American cheese), sound like a lot of fun.
Hopdoddy Burger Bar, 4444 Westheimer. We’ve had burgers on the brain for weeks over here, and Houston seems to have an endless appetite for the world’s most perfect sandwich. To that end, three of the hot new restaurants this month are burger joints. Austin import Hopdoddy has made its landing in the River Oaks district. The chain's claim to fame includes Angus, bison and lamb patties sourced only from humanely raised animals. They grind meat in-house and buns are baked fresh daily.
Killen’s Burgers, 2804 South Main, Pearland. The big, beautiful burger in the cover photo of our recent story, “Building Houston’s Perfect Cheeseburger,” was from Killen’s Burgers. The “regular” burgers sport hefty, ten-ounce patties made with Creekstone Farms all-natural chuck and brisket. The hand-cut, skin-on fries are also not to be missed. The cost for both together is a surprisingly reasonable $10.25 before tax.
Kuma Burgers, 3 Greenway Plaza, C220
Things that make food writers giggle: hot new restaurants hidden in obscure places, like office building food courts. Such is the case with Houston’s newest burger-darling, Kuma Burgers, which was also featured in our recent detailed cover story on cheeseburgers. Of course, people who really know Houston’s food scene have been aware for quite some time that this particular Greenway Plaza food court is anything but typical. Kuma Burgers, made to order with six-ounce smashed-style patties, house-made pickles and Sheila Partin’s Sweet Sourdough buns, is just around the corner from The Rice Box’s counter service stand and Greenway Coffee. A standard cheeseburger and fries costs only $8 before tax and tip.
Luv Me Tenders, 4400 Yale. Okay, enough about burgers already. Let’s talk about chicken tenders. Now, don't run off. These are chicken tenders for grownups, made from scratch, not the nasty fast-food kind. Luv Me Tenders is the first brick-and-mortar concept for the food truck with the same name. The concept came from the people behind the H-Town StrEATs truck as well as the fried-chicken pop-up The Bird House. So, they know their birds. The tricky part for customers might be finding the space. It’s in the nondescript spot where Treadsack chefs Richard Knight (Hunky Dory), Graham Laborde (Bernadine’s), P.J. Stoops (Foreign Correspondents) and a bevy of other guest chefs used to host Kipper Club dinners while waiting for their restaurants to be built.
MELT Gourmet Grilled Cheese, 14030 Telge. This promising restaurant in Cypress specializes in gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. It did have some problems getting out of the gate. Early customers complained about insufficient ventilation that caused the place to be smoky, as well as the long wait times. However, management has assured us that the wait time has been reduced to an average of 15 minutes per order and the ventilation issue will be solved by July 15. So, we say hang loose until after that date, then check out the irresistible-sounding grilled cheese sandwiches like Kentucky Hot Brown on fresh Slow Dough bread with melted raclette and brie with mango chutney.
Rise No. 2, 1700 Post Oak Boulevard, #290. There are some very tempting items on the menu of this Dallas import. Take, for example, the carrot-tomato bisque called “Marshmallow Soup,” a completely savory dish with mini goat cheese soufflés standing in for the marshmallows. Soufflés are, in fact, the focus of this charming French restaurant at BLVD Place in the Galleria. They range from the savory, like a duck à l'orange version, to the sweet, such as cranberry-Champagne. For those not in the mood for a fluffy, baked delight (we don’t understand that, but okay), there’s a classy selection of salads and sandwiches as well.
Ritual, 602 Studewood. Around this time last month, Ritual was still in its soft opening phase. It proved to be getting off to a good start during our First Look, and a recent revisit verified that it’s developing quite nicely. The restaurant now offers Sunday brunch and is doing some ambitious things with the Black Hill Meats program, like making charcuterie. Bacon, for example, is cured in-house and yes, it’s just as hearty, crispy and salty-sweet as anyone could hope for. The craft beer list, too, seems to just get better and better, with selections from Brash, Real Ale and more.
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Brasserie 1895, 607 South Friendswood. Chef Kris Jakob, formerly the head chef and namesake of Kris Bistro at Culinary Institute LeNôtre, is now in charge of his own restaurant in Friendswood. For those who don’t live there, is it worth driving for? Considering his track record at the prior establishment, that’s a pretty good bet. The menu looks ambitious and international, with dishes ranging from jerked wood-roasted chicken to classic Belgian mussels and frites. The gorgeous wood-fired oven used for the chicken is also employed in producing Neapolitan-style pizzas.
Oldie But a Goodie: Shade, 250 West 19th. Chef Claire Smith’s respected restaurant in the Heights, Shade, has a new executive chef. Kenten Marin has been honing his skills in Houston at other restaurants for years, most recently at Holley’s Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar. Marin was born in Wisconsin but raised in Peru, and his eclectic résumé includes Underbelly, Plonk! Bistro and Brasserie 19. Along with a new chef, the restaurant itself has had a makeover by RMMR Projects to make it feel more like being on an outdoorsy vacation. For diners who have not visited Shade in a while, it sounds worth checking out.