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Get to These Houston Restaurants in February and Hurry

Dancing squid at Pepper Twins
Dancing squid at Pepper Twins
Photo by Chuck Cook Photography
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January just flew on by, didn't it? It's time to focus on where you'll be eating in February, the year's shortest month, which means you'll have to get on top of those dining plans even sooner than you think.  Here now, our top picks.

Szechuan chicken at Pepper Twins
Szechuan chicken at Pepper Twins
Photo by Chuck Cook Photography

Indulge in Spicy Szechuan Food With Pepper Twins

I always make it a point to try at least one item that is recommended by the server, prefacing the request with a genuine trust bestowed upon him/her to guide me as a fellow diner and not as an opportunity to sell the most expensive item on the menu. This practice seems to work better at places like Pepper Twins than at more high-end restaurants. Upon the suggestion of the server, we ordered the Pepper Twins chicken, the first item on the specialty list.

In the margin next to the dish were two pepper symbols, denoting the level of spice, which looked as if it fell somewhere in the middle between a simmer and a burn with its “pepper and fresh nine-leaf peppercorn.” Fair warning for adventurous diners who love the thrill of the spice: Szechuan peppercorn spice is different from Louisiana hot sauce-hot, and although it’s not like the ghost pepper’s try-to-burn-a-hole-through-your-insides hot, it does something to your palate that may throw you for a loop.

Cochinita pibil tacos. Translation: killer braised pork tacos.
Cochinita pibil tacos. Translation: killer braised pork tacos.
Photo by Jamie Alevar

First Look at Ambriza Social Mexican Kitchen

Over the past year, the Vintage Park area has grown tremendously. There are ample choices when it comes to shopping and dining, giving consumers options for all tastes and budgets. Among the new restaurants to open is Ambriza Social Mexican Kitchen.

Ambriza, as your server may point out, is not Tex-Mex. The menu and decor are a nice change of pace from your typical Mexican restaurant. Whimsical calaveras welcome you in the doorway as well as appear on the vibrant murals that adorn the walls. La Catrina, the iconic symbol of Día de los Muertos, is prominently on display, keeping a watchful eye on hungry diners.

Brisket at The Pit Room
Brisket at The Pit Room
Photos by Troy Fields

The Pit Room Is Already a Bright Light in Houston's Barbecue

I really like the pulled pork at The Pit Room, one of the city’s newest and most highly praised young barbecue joints. I didn’t expect that. While the stuff is popping up on barbecue menus across the state with more and more frequency these days, it still tends to take a backseat to the Texas Trinity of brisket, pork ribs and sausage. Not so at The Pit Room.

A generous quarter pound came as part of our “Feast No. 1,” a fixed-format deal meant to serve four to six people. The Feast offers a romp across the menu, delivering on its portion promises and then some. Lush and porky-sweet, the pile of tender, fall-apart chunks (the textural variation providing for a more interesting, less mushy experience than you may have had previously) come laced through with tang and pepper, the smoke itself a sure but subtle backdrop. It’s a head rush of meaty savor and salivating acid kick, fatty enough to feel indulgent; rich and yet suave.

Save room for croissant bread pudding at Beaver's West.
Save room for croissant bread pudding at Beaver's West.
Photo by Cuc Lam

A First Look at Beaver's West

Beaver's celebrated the start of 2017 by opening its second outpost at 6025 Westheimer on January 2. Known as Beaver's West, the Galleria-area location has a quirky charm and dishes out Texas southern comfort foods and pretty good barbecue.

A high, arched ceiling with low-hanging, dark wooden beams and a wall littered with mounted game trophies in the main dining room evoke the inside of a rustic hunting lodge. The Beaver's Den, a separate area set off from the outside back patio, is similarly decorated, with lots of high-top bars and chairs for an adults-only kick-back without the kiddos. AstroTurf lines the home of the giant criss-cross fire pit that captures the eyes immediately. The larger-than-life signage by the front entrance reminds diners that the "less you give a dam, the happier you will be." Complete with Adirondack chairs, a vintage Airstream trailer and whimsical white lights strung from tree to tree, Beaver's backyard has all the makings of a great gathering place for friends.

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