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Top 10 Restaurants in Montrose

Cuchara will likely make this list next year.
Cuchara will likely make this list next year.
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt

It's been a while since we tackled neighborhood lists on Eating Our Words, yet posts such as "Top 10 Restaurants in the Heights" continue to be perennial favorites with our readers each month. The last time we compiled a Top 10 Restaurants in Montrose list was well over two years ago, at which time places like Underbelly and Uchi weren't even gleams in their chefs' eyes.

And while we still adore places such as Canopy, Brasil and Nippon, it's time to update that Montrose list to include some of the newcomers that have made Lower Westheimer the city's best culinary corridor. It's an all-star list, too; no filler here.

Honorable Mention: Cuchara and The Pass & Provisions

Although it's too new to be ranked on the full list right now, my first (and so far only) visit to Cuchara gives me high hope that this fascinating Mexican restaurant will turn out to be one of the brightest new restaurants in a part of town already saturated with heavy-hitters, including Hugo's. Ditto the even newer Pass & Provisions, which is shaping up to be the Best New Restaurant of 2013 with its casual atmosphere and wildly creative dishes (have you ever had uni on a pizza?).

See Also: - Houston's Top 10 Crawfish Joints - Houston's Top 10 Coffeehouses - Houston's Top 10 Sushi Restaurants

The Hay Merchant also offers a killer steak night deal on Tuesdays.
The Hay Merchant also offers a killer steak night deal on Tuesdays.
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt

10. The Hay Merchant

While the food can sometimes be hit or miss at the all-craft beer bar, it's a matter of finding the really terrific stuff on Antoine Ware's menu of jazzed-up comfort classics and sticking with them: crispy pig's ears that are chewy and slightly sweet; half a barbecued chicken on a bed of creamy mac 'n' cheese; Vietnamese-style chicken wings in a caramelized fish sauce; the Butcher's Burger, made with house-ground beef that's some of the best in the city; or the chicken-fried water buffalo on those rare days when it's offered as a special. One thing is for certain whatever you order, however: This is not your father's pub grub.

You can get migas all day long at La Guadalupana.
You can get migas all day long at La Guadalupana.
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt

9. La Guadalupana

Whether you're in the mood for all-day Mexican breakfast or just enjoying some of Trancito Diaz's freshly baked pastries with a cup of La Guadalupana's signature cinnamon-laced cafe de olla on the funky patio that shares space with a washateria, this old-school gem always offers you a dose of comfort and familiarity with your meal. Diaz is there every day greeting guests with a smile -- and sometimes a free slice of tres leches -- and the waitresses haven't changed in all the years I've been eating there.

Mark's gorgeous dining room is tough to beat.
Mark's gorgeous dining room is tough to beat.

8. Mark's American Cuisine

There are two ways to look at Mark's: as a restaurant that hasn't changed its game in years, or as a restaurant that figured out long ago what its customers love and has faithfully stayed that course. If you look at it as the former (and consider the prices, too), you'll be unimpressed -- despite the beautiful location inside a renovated church. If you look at it as the latter, you'll see a chef -- Mark Cox -- who's committed to keeping his customers happy by offering big, swaggering portions of exceptionally well-prepared exotic fare made with interesting seasonal ingredients, such as a coffee-roasted Kurobuta pork loin with bourbon-glazed short ribs (and that's only listing a few of the items on the plate). It's a paradigm not often found in modern restaurants and it works very well for Mark's.

 

L'Olivier offers both hearty and light French fare.
L'Olivier offers both hearty and light French fare.
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt

7. L'Olivier

I loved L'Olivier from the moment I walked in and saw the herringbone marble floors in the charming, bright bar that leads into a low-key, comfortable dining room fitted with mod fixtures and a floor-to-ceiling glass wine room. Where Brasserie Max & Julie is all rustic, old-school, cozy French bistro, L'Olivier is light and airy and entirely modern -- an aesthetic reflected in its menu. You'll find a scallop, shrimp and fish ceviche in yuzu juice alongside more traditional favorites like paté, or a smoked salmon risotto (topped with a luscious poached egg) alongside that Julia Child favorite, boeuf bourguignon.

Chef Anita Jaisinghani made her mark in Houston with Indika.
Chef Anita Jaisinghani made her mark in Houston with Indika.
Photo by Zagat Buzz

6. Indika

Although much of the buzz about chef Anita Jaisinghani's restaurants lately has been concentrated around Pondicheri, it's at older sister Indika where Jaisinghani first made her mark on Houston. Named the Best Indian Restaurant in Houston in 2006, 2007 and 2009 and "the best Indian restaurant in the country" by Robb Walsh, Indika doesn't skimp on spice and it offers the kind of exotic fare you wouldn't expect to find in gentrified Montrose: goat brains masala with apricot-pistachio naan, for example, or tandoori antelope.

Pork belly and potato cakes at Feast.
Pork belly and potato cakes at Feast.
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt

5. Feast

Although its chefs -- Richard Knight and James Silk -- are well-known for cooking the kind of nose-to-tail British cuisine they learned under Fergus Henderson, there are actually far more dishes on Feast's menu than pork heart tartare, lamb tongue and beef sweetbreads (although those are all reliably excellent options). Vegetarians will take comfort in a dish of roasted portobello mushrooms with braised lentils and goat cheese, while pescatarians will enjoy a pan-fried filet of Gulf tuna. The wine and beer lists are short but stellar, and cocktails are well-made. Dessert is also a must here, with sticky toffee pudding standing out as the best in town.

Tagliarini with truffles at Da Marco, one of Marco Wiles' three excellent restaurants along Lower Westheimer.
Tagliarini with truffles at Da Marco, one of Marco Wiles' three excellent restaurants along Lower Westheimer.
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt

4. Da Marco

We named Marco Wiles's signature restaurant, Da Marco, the Best Italian Restaurant in this year's Best of Houston® issue and the Best Restaurant (yes, in the entire city) in last year's Best of Houston® issue in part because you can be assured of a fantastic meal here along with some truly lovely service. Gourmet once called Da Marco, "as close to Italy as you can get without leaving Texas," and this still holds true. Part of that is due to Wiles's insistence on flying in the best Italian ingredients on a weekly basis such as fresh Mediterranean seafood and items for its separate cheese menu. And part of that is due to Wiles's deep knowledge of Italian cuisine made modern, seen in dishes such as branzino carpaccio with pine nuts and foie gras or simple, house-made tagliarini with shaved black truffles.

 

This ain't your average buffet; the Sunday brunch at Hugo's requires reservations.
This ain't your average buffet; the Sunday brunch at Hugo's requires reservations.

3. Hugo's

Owner/chef Hugo Ortega has become a Houston legend alongside wife and restaurateur Tracy Vaught -- who also operates Prego, Trevisio and Backstreet Cafe -- and their longtime sommelier, Sean Beck. The Hugo's team established the interior Mexican restaurant as one of the finest restaurants in the city, period, and set the bar for modern Mexican food across the country with their success. Ortega has continued to turn out stunning food since opening in 2002, including his famous lamb barbacoa, mole poblano and the best Sunday brunch in town.

Shiro sake at Uchi: King ivory salmon, fennel, cataloupe, lemon and mustard seed.
Shiro sake at Uchi: King ivory salmon, fennel, cataloupe, lemon and mustard seed.
Photo by Mai Pham

2. Uchi

James Beard Award-winning Austin chef Tyson Cole's ultramodern Japanese import, Uchi, occupies the old building that housed Houston classic Felix Mexican Restaurant for half a century -- and the young restaurant is already just as popular, positioning itself as a neighborhood restaurant that emphasizes high-quality food and the city's best service. You'll have to make reservations for this dinner-only spot if you want to sit in the steely-chic dining room, but walk-ins can usually be accommodated at the cozy bar. A spot-on sake list (as well as beer and wine) accompanies a menu of "hot" and "cold" "tastings" along with more traditional Japanese items such as sushi, sashimi and rolls. Happy hour is every weekday and offers some of Uchi's favorites -- machi cure with smoked yellowtail, for example, and the skewers of pork belly called bacon sen -- for a drastically reduced price (and you don't need reservations for happy hour!).

The calm before the dining storm at Underbelly.
The calm before the dining storm at Underbelly.
Photo by Troy Fields

1. Underbelly

So many of what we've named Houston's best restaurants over the years have been in Montrose -- Da Marco in 2011, Feast in 2009, Da Marco once again in 2007 -- and Underbelly is no exception. The 2012 winner of Best Restaurant in our Best of Houston® issue made Time's list of places to eat prior to Armageddon before it was even open. Billed as "the story of Houston food," chef/owner Chris Shepherd's menu is heavy on the Mexican, Vietnamese, Korean, German, Middle Eastern and other ethnic influences that have shaped Houston's food scene in the last generation. It's heavy on meat, too, as befitting a chef known for his charcuterie, with a full butcher shop attached to the kitchen and a case full of cured meats as a focal point in the dining room. Lunch is quiet and the wood-toned wine bar inviting after work, but dinner services are consistently packed. And expect them to be even more crowded lately: We just named Underbelly's Korean braised goat and dumplings No. 1 on our 100 Favorite Dishes list and Houston Chronicle food critic Alison Cook just gave the restaurant a coveted four-star rating.

Check out our other Top 10 neighborhood lists:

Top 10 in the Heights Top 10 in Rice Village Top 10 on Washington Avenue Top 10 in the East End Top 10 in the Galleria Top 10 in Midtown Top 10 in Memorial Top 10 in Upper Kirby Top 10 in Greenway Plaza Top 10 in The Woodlands Top 10 in Spring Branch Top 10 in Little India Top 10 in Far Northwest Houston Top 10 in Chinatown



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Related Locations

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Cuchara

214 Fairview St.
Houston, TX 77006

713-557-2608

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The Pass
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The Hay Merchant

1100 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77006

713-528-9805

www.facebook.comHayMerchant

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La Guadalupana Bakery and Cafe

2109 Dunlavy St.
Houston, TX 77006

713-522-2301

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Mark's American Cuisine

1658 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77006

713-523-3800

www.marks1658.com

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L'Olivier

240 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77006

713-360-6313

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Indika

516 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77006

713-524-2170

www.indikausa.com

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Pondicheri
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Feast - Closed
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Da Marco

1520 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77006

713-807-8857

www.damarcohouston.com

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Hugo's

1600 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77006

713-524-7744

www.hugosrestaurant.net

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Uchi
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Underbelly

1100 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77006

713-528-9800

www.underbellyhouston.com


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