Originally, this article was going to be about 10 restaurants we were looking forward to in 2017, but in light of all of the cool newly debuted and about-to-debut spots that are set to open in the first half of 2017, we had to double the number of places mentioned.
Listed here in alphabetical order, the 20 restaurants we’re super psyched about for the new year:
Beaver’s on Westheimer
Though news of a second Beaver’s cropped up as early as January 2016, the anticipation didn’t start in earnest until we saw the video of a giant beaver statue being unloaded at the new digs. Executive chef Arash Kharat’s food porn posts of mouthwatering chicken fried steak, whole fried hot hen (a whole bird version of hot wings), and burgers built the anticipation even more. Officially open as of January 2, we can’t wait to check out, not just for the food (did we mention mac ’n cheese?) but for what we are sure will be killer cocktails as well.
Brasserie du Parc
We already love Etoile Cuisine and Bar in Uptown Park, so when we heard that its owners, chef Philippe Verpiand and his wife Monica, were opening Brasserie du Parc downtown, we couldn’t have been happier. Located in the One Park Place building on the La Branch side, where it faces Discovery Green, expect casual French brasserie fare—steak frites, moules (mussels), charcuterie, etc.—an excellent bar program, along with what we already know will be an incredibly popular walk-up creperie window called Creperie du Parc.
When this beloved landmark cafeteria — which had been operating continuously for more than 70 years— burned to the ground just before Mother’s Day in 2016, we were heartbroken. But good news, Cleburne Cafeteria is on track to return in the first quarter of 2017. And, it’s going to be bigger and better than ever, new beer, wine and steak service included.
Update 1/4/2016 at 1:15 p.m.: Yesterday, it was announced that Sam Governale would be leaving his tenure as operating partner of Fleming’s Steakhouse in River Oaks to head up a new restaurant group, DOCG Interests, with plans to open a new restaurant in the former location of Teala’s Mexican Restaurant at 3210 W. Dallas. Today, we learned from Greg Morago of the Houston Chronicle that the new space will be a neighborhood restaurant called Emmaline, and will be opening as early as March 2017. Anyone who has had a chance to experience Governale's hospitality will surely be excited, a reason why we've gone ahead and added it to this list.
Field & Tides
We broke the story that Travis Lenig would be opening Field & Tides in the former Zelko Bistro space in the Heights, and they’re pushing to open this January ahead of Super Bowl LI. When they do, Lenig and partner Chico Ramirez plan to wow with locally sourced American cuisine, an awesome brunch, and oysters. With Lenig’s background (he was a sous chef at Mark’s American Cuisine and executive chef at the original Liberty Kitchen and Liberty Kitchen and Oysterette), we have no doubt that they will.
Chef Ryan Hildebrand has been teasing foodies with his FM Burger for several months now, and if you’ve had a chance to sample it, you’ll know that it’s the real deal. There’s a potato bun. It’s the right size. It’s meaty and juicy and suffice it to say that it’s going to be a burger you’ll crave.
When Killen’s STQ opened reservations in late November, something like 400 reservations were made in the first hour. For a restaurant that only has 65 seats, that basically means that they were booked a week out starting from before they even opened. Before you dismiss it all as hype, consider the fact that when we tried to make reservations a month later, it was still booked a week out. The reason? Ronnie Killen put his heart and soul into this effort, and it shows. This is his baby, and it’s damn good. His pork belly burnt ends made No. 3 on our list of Top Houston Dishes of 2016, and we are positively chomping at the bit for a chance to explore more of the menu.
If you’ve been going through Indian food withdrawal since Kiran Verma closed Kiran’s in River Oaks, you’ll be happy to know that she’s coming back this January in her new Kirby Grove location on Richmond Ave. Hooray, because that means we can go back for chicken tikka masala, stuffed naan, Kiran’s lamb chops, pani puri and everything else she does so wonderfully.
If you loved the old Kitchen 713 on Canal Street, the new location on Washington might be a bit of a shocker. It’s about four times as huge, with about four times as much staff. But not to worry, chefs James Haywood and Ross Coleman still helm the kitchen, and that means you’re still going to get their signature gumbo or shrimp and grits. They’ve kept all their prices super affordable as well, a big plus because now they’ve got an excellent cocktail menu to match the food. Bonus — until they get their liquor license, they’re letting guests BYOB, so you wanna go, like now.
Maba Pan-Asian Diner
Newly opened during the last week of December, Maba, located in Midtown, is the first restaurant for chef/owner Wayne Nguyen, who is of Vietnamese descent. The Pan-Asian menu shows a mix of dishes that blend Vietnamese, Chinese, Singaporean and more. And at first read, the items on offer are enough to get you salivating. Pot Stickers, Pho Fries, Osso Buco Szechuan Salad, Singapore Vermicelli and Pan-seared Whole Lemon Grass Tilapia, anyone?
It’s still super under-the-radar, but we can’t help but get excited about Ohn, Mike Tran’s Korean restaurant and soju bar that’s going in the same Chinatown complex that currently houses the highly successful Mein Chinese Restaurant and the recently debuted Night Market grill and curry house. With his knack for creating fashionable restaurants with affordable, high quality food (he also owns Aka Sushi House and Tiger Den), the odds are, we’re going to love drinking soju with whatever cool Korean plates he’s got in the works.
It’s going to be a wild ride at chef Chris Shepherd’s One Fifth, which will debut in the former Mark’s American Cuisine space on Westheimer Road this January as One Fifth Steak. The concept — five different restaurant concepts in the same space over five years — is one of the most imaginative that we’ve heard of, and also the most ambitious. With the exception of the first concept, each restaurant will open from September 1 to July 31, closing in August for renovations to reveal a wholly different concept from building decor, to staff uniforms, menu and wine list. So at the end of July, One Fifth Steak will close and make way for One Fifth Romance Languages featuring foods from France, Spain and Italy. And we say, bring it on. We’re ready.
Osso & Kristalla
Named after Astros owner Jim Crane’s children, whose nicknames are Osso & Kristalla, the two new Italian concepts — one fine dining, one casual, respectively — should be opening imminently in the 500 Crawford building across from Minute Maid Park. From Osso’s website, “The Northern-Italian menu will feature daily seafood selections, homemade pastas and the signature dry-aged in-house steaks.” Kristalla will be a more casual trattoria.
Update 1/4/16 at 1:15 p.m.: Osso & Kristalla released a name change on social media yesterday. “Behind the scenes, we’ve been trying to find a way to incorporate the names of all of Jim’s children into the restaurants,” says Andrea Andrus, the media relations representative for the restaurants. The Italian fine dining restaurant will now be called Potente (Italian for “mighty”), which is the nickname for Jim Crane’s youngest son. Osso & Kristalla (Italian for “bone” and “crystal”), the original names for the two concepts, is now the name for the trattoria. The concepts remain the same. Both restaurants are scheduled to debut prior to Super Bowl LI.
In case you haven’t heard, James Beard Best Chef Southwest winner Justin Yu is closing his award-winning Oxheart Restaurant in March, with plans to debut a casual eatery with an a la carte menu in its place two months later with chef Jason White as chef de cuisine. He hasn’t yet announced name for the new spot (which is why we called it 2.0), but if his track record is anything to go by, it will definitely be something to talk about. We’re secretly hoping that it’s going to have some of his Moneycat pop-up dishes, so Justin, if you’re reading this, we’d love to see those red oil dumplings from your Cochon 555 win on your future a la carte menu.
There are so many poke restaurants that are about to open that we’ll just call them out here and say, “Yes, we are excited about all the new poke spots that are opening in Houston.” The ones in our radar are currently Ono Poke, which should open any day now, Seaside Poke, which is still searching for a location, and Pokeology from chef Jason Liao, which is set to debut in a brick and mortar location inside Doc Holliday's in Rice village this January if all goes according to plan.
Slated to open in late January, Presidio joins the talents of Charles Bishop (Liberty Station, Cottonwood, Southern Goods) with chef Adam Dorris, who is best known as the executive chef at Pax Americana in Montrose. As reported by Greg Morago of the Houston Chronicle, Presidio recently announced that Kenten Marin, executive chef of Shade, signed onto the project. Expect great beer, an awesome patio, and a more everyday approach to Southern food than what you’d find at Pax Americana.
Five years ago, we didn’t have a single restaurant that specialized in ramen. Now they’re opening faster than we have a chance to try them. On the heels of the recently opened Ramen Bar Ichi, Nao Ramen House, and Agu Ramen comes Austin’s most highly lauded ramen house, Ramen Tatsu-Ya, which is slated to open in Montrose anytime now, so get your slurping skills ready.
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There’s been so much anticipation for chef Ryan Lachaine’s Riel Restaurant in Montrose that that he’s already getting mentions in magazines like Esquire and Food and Wine. Debuting this very week, Riel’s menu will be a reflection of Lachaine’s roots, incorporating his Ukrainian and French-Canadian with a look to Gulf Coast cooking and local ingredients for inspiration. Opening menu items include a 44 Farms Hanger Steak with Potato & Cheddar Pierogi, served over Haricots Verts and Horseradish Cream and Québécois Tourtière meat pie, and we are definitely looking forward to digging in.
The Branch Craft Beer & Foodery
A collaboration project between Kyle Pierson (the bar manager at Hay Merchant), chef Madeline Cabezut (owner of Mexican Girl Foods, former Head of catering for Hay Merchant/Underbelly) and Amanda Mixon, The Branch is going to be a cool beer and neighborhood hangout in Spring Branch located in the former Otilia’s Mexican Restaurant location. We haven’t seen a menu yet, but the name they chose paints a pretty picture, and frankly, we’re totally down for whatever craft beer and foodery these three come up with.
Chef Hugo Ortega and his restauranteur wife Tracy Vaught have a history of opening the kind of enduring restaurants that win awards, so we have no doubt that the debut of Xochi within the Marriot Marquis Hotel, where the food is described as cocina de autor (chef-driven creative kitchen) with a focus on the cuisine of Oaxaca, is going to be spectacular. Among other things, there will be several types of mole, housemade chocolate, and plenty of Mezcal. Hashtag “Yes, please.”
Last but not least is Yauatcha, which to date, has been very coy about releasing information on its upcoming Houston location. Perhaps the most high profile of the restaurants coming to Houston, Yauatcha originally debuted as a contemporary dim sum tea house with patisserie in London’s Soho area in 2004. In 2005, it was awarded a Michelin star, and has retained it ever since. Houston will be one of two U.S. locations being debuted (the other is in Honolulu), where it’s set to go into a standalone structure just across the pavement from Shake Shack. Authentic dim sum, curated teas, and Instagrammable French pastries all under one roof? Needless to say, we can’t wait.