On Monday, Esquire magazine came out with its own list of the best new restaurant in 2013, and you know who was noticeably absent from the roundup?
We've certainly had some notable openings in the past year, The Pass & Provisions being one of them. And how 'bout MF Sushi, which also opened this year (and we just know is going to make a stunning comeback)?
What gives, Esquire?
I examined the list to try to get some insight into how John Mariani, for whom I have much respect, arrived at the 20 restaurants on this list. Yes, 20, as if there isn't room for one or two more to make it an even 20.
My first thought was how different this list is from Andrew Knowlton's roster for Bon Appétit. There are four overlaps: Hinoki & the Bird in Los Angeles; Rolf & Daughters in Nashville; The Ordinary in Charleston, South Carolina; and Spoon Bar & Kitchen in Dallas. I'm left wondering if, perhaps, Esquire did some hasty rearranging after Knowlton's list came out, or if, indeed, the palates of those two men are that different.
Also noteworthy is the fact that two Dallas restaurants made the list -- the only two spots representing Texas. Now, I'm not a native Houstonian, but I've already developed something of an animosity toward Dallas, especially when it comes to talk of excellent food. 'Cause I know we have way better food here in Houston, amirite?
The two Dallas restaurants receiving top honors from Esquire are Spoon Bar & Kitchen and Stampede 66.
John Tesar, formerly of The Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek (but more important, a former contestant on Top Chef: Seattle and once named "The Most Hated Chef in Dallas" by D Magazine), opened Spoon Bar & Kitchen last fall, and since then the restaurant has been garnering accolades for its unique seafood dishes faster than you can peel a shrimp.
Mariani writes that Spoon is "a restaurant whose coalescence of great, innovative food and sophisticated, casual ambience conspire to make it a totem of fine dining in Texas right now."
Stampede 66, the brainchild of chef Stephan Pyles, is described by Mariani as "the sublimation of down-home cooking into great cuisine, from the crunchy honey-fried chicken with buttermilk biscuits and mashed-potato tots to the smoky barbecued beef brisket with potato salad." Pyles has been creating what Mariani calls "new Texas cuisine" for the past 30 years, but critics seem to think that Stampede 66 is his best work yet.
That's great, and we're all super happy for Dallas, but we still can't help wondering: Why did Houston (and the rest of Texas) get the shaft? In a post on Eater Dallas about Esquire's list, the writer laments that Dallas "so often seems to get overlooked in favor of Austin and Houston on lists like these."
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We say, uh, no it doesn't, and if it ever actually does, it's because we have restaurants like The Pass, which reimagines "ham and eggs" into pork cracklings and caviar. Or MF Sushi, which crafts some of the finest Japanese food in Texas, if not the country.
So, Esquire, thanks for all of the entertaining and thought-provoking articles about Scarlett Johansson, and, of course, Frank Sinatra and Superman. But you really missed the boat with this one, friends.
One thing Mariani wrote I think we can all agree on, though: "There are just too many exciting phenomena happening in the world of American dining right now."
So tell us, which new Houston restaurant should be on the list? Or do you think Mariani got it right? (GASP.)