Many have said that 2013 was a disappointing year for restaurant openings in Houston. Writers and eaters alike lamented the fact that there was no Uchi this year, no Underbelly, no Oxheart. Plenty of great restaurants opened to be sure, but nothing with the immediate star power of some of 2012's best new restaurants.
Fret not, though, for there are exciting things on the horizon for Houston. There's already buzz surrounding a number of high-profile openings, and we're sure as the year goes on eateries will pop up that we didn't even see coming.
Based on promises from chefs and restaurateurs, we've compiled a list of the most anticipated restaurants that should be opening in 2014. As is the case with all restaurant openings, there can be setbacks and shuffles that delay the eventual debut. Most of these are looking good for 2014 though, and we're pretty excited to see what the year has in store.
Here are our top picks in alphabetical order.
1. Bradley's Fine Diner/Ogden Pour Society Two-time James Beard Award-winner Bradley Ogden recently opened Funky Chicken, an American comfort food restaurant, but he's not stopping there. The recent transplant to Houston is planning to open Bradley's Fine Diner (BFD) in March and Ogden Pour Society in April. Both will be slightly more upscale than Funky Chicken, with BFD featuring a Midwest-meets-California menu and Ogden Pour Society offering craft beer in a pub environment. All the food at both restaurants will be made from scratch in-house featuring as many organic products as possible. BFD will be located in the Heights and Ogden Pour Society will be in Memorial City.
2. Christine Ha's Restaurant OK, yes, it seems pretty presumptuous to put a restaurant that doesn't even have a name on our list of the most anticipated openings, but we've got faith that Ha will create something awesome in the new year. Ha, a MasterChef champion, has said she does plan to open a restaurant in her hometown of Houston with help from MasterChef judge Joe Bastianich, but there are no further details regarding where and when. We were able to get a possible preview of the type of food that will be served when Ha held a pop-up featuring dishes from her cookbook, Recipes from My Home Kitchen, back in September.
3. Coltivare Pizza & Garden The owners of Revival Market, Ryan Pera and Morgan Weber, are planning to open a new restaurant on White Oak called Coltivare, which means cultivate in Italian. And by planning, we mean they announced it in September 2012 and said it would probably be open by Spring 2013. Obviously that didn't happen, but we have a good feeling 2014 is the year! The menu will be authentic, casual Italian with a focus on small plates and dishes to share, most of which will be $15 or less. It will also have a pizza oven and a 3,000-square-foot garden, which will supply produce to both Coltivare and Revival.
4. Common Bond If you regularly drive down Westheimer between Montrose and Shepherd, you've likely seen the buildout happening in a spacious brick building on the corner of Westheimer and Dunlavy. We've been watching it for months, hoping for a sign of croissants or the smell of fresh bread, but so far, no luck. Pastry chef Roy Shvartzapel of elBulli, Cyrus and Bouchon fame will be joined by Drew Gimma, Tony Stein, Jillian Bartolome and Alec Bartee, a talented group of chefs. In a press release, Shvartzapel explained that he is the "common bond" among this diverse crew, and that good food bonds people from all walks of life together. As of now, the restaurant/bakery is expected to open in early 2014.
5. Dish Society The website still says "opening December 2013," but with only one day left in 2013, we're gonna go ahead and say Dish Society is headed for a 2014 debut. The site describes Dish Society as "a casual farm-to-table restaurant featuring local ingredient-driven and chef-inspired options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch." Restaurateur Aaron Lyons and chef Johnny Romo originally planned to open in Austin, but found rent too high there. They've since settled on a spot in the Galleria.
6. Foreign Correspondents/Hunky Dory Two restaurants, same lot. Treadsack, the restaurant group behind Down House and D&T Drive Inn is set to open two new but differing concepts in 2014. Foreign Correspondents will be an authentic northern Thai restaurant with a farm-to-table mentality helmed by PJ Stoops, who will serve as head chef. Richard Knight, formerly of Feast, will be stepping in as head chef at Hunky Dory, which will focus on simple gourmet food with a British edge. Neither restaurant has provided a timetable for opening, but expect to see both in the new year.
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7. JINYA Ramen After making waves in New York and Las Vegas, the California-based ramen chain, JINYA, is coming to Houston with two franchises opening in 2014. One will be on Louisiana Street in Midtown, and the other will be located way outside the Loop in Webster. JINYA is known for its tonkotsu ramen and izakaya concept, and it's garnered much praise from food writers in L.A. With the ramen scene exploding here in Houston, we have two words for JINYA: Bring it.
8. Killen's BBQ Perhaps one of the most anticipated openings of 2014 is Ronnie Killen's new barbecue restaurant. Killen has been holding pop-ups since the summer, and Houstonians have fallen in love with his juicy brisket, smoky ribs and spicy sausage. The brick and mortar spot in Pearland is making headway, according to photos on the restaurant's Facebook page, but until it's open, expect Killen to be outside, rain or shine, slinging brisket to hungry folks who've driven 30 minutes or more just for some meat. It's that good.
9. Kuu Last May, former Blue Fish and Sushi Raku chef Adison Lee announced his plans to open Kuu in Memorial City in the fall. The restaurant was supposed to open in the same development as Vallone's Steakhouse and the new Churrasco's a couple of months ago, but the debut date has been pushed to January. Kuu will differ from other Japanese restaurants in town by offering upscale tapas instead of tasting menus. Lee recently told Eater that "kuu" means both "the art of eating and something that's delicious and tasty."
10. Ramen Tatsu-Ya This one is a big ol' maybe, but that doesn't mean we're anticipating it any less. For months, rumors have circulated that the restaurant that made ramen hip in Austin has plans to expand to our fair city. Back in June, we reported "an inside industry source states Ramen Tatsu-ya chefs/owners Tatsu Aikawa and Takuya "Tako" Matsumoto have been negotiating a lease for their first Houston location at 11138 Westheimer at Wilcrest." Clearly, we haven't seen any new moves to make Ramen Tatsu-Ya a reality, but we're not abandoning the idea until we get a definitive "no" from on high. We'd rather start the new year with happy dreams of ramen anyway.