Well, there’s a 100 percent turnover this month in our hot list, with no carryovers from April. Welcome to Houston’s dynamic food scene, where all of us avid diners are struggling just to keep up.
Another change this month is that the Heights finally relinquished its firm domination of the list, thanks in no small part to a few Midtown entries. That said, there are still three Heights restaurants on the list, and one in particular is very hot indeed.
Let’s get started, shall we?
KA Sushi, 1901 North Shepherd
This Heights-area Japanese restaurant was on the list in February but tumbled off after just not getting much buzz, especially in a scene dominated for months by high-profile openings like Bernadine's and Southern Goods. That said, though, our visits, which culminated in a very positive review, revealed that it’s just as packed with patrons as ever. A few of our favorite things include an irreverent cocktail list (Brandy Alexanders in a Japanese restaurant? Sure, why not?), the 20-piece chef’s sashimi selection and mochi in six different flavors. The menu is huge and there’s plenty to have fun with visit after visit.
The Durham House, 1200 Durham
Fresh off an excellent review from the Houston Chronicle’s Alison Cook, The Durham House has really kicked it into high gear with special wine dinners, beer dinners and happy hours. A recent Passover dinner completely sold out. It’s taken a while, but it looks as if this restaurant is finally on firm ground and finding its audience. There’s a better-than-the-average-bear crawfish boil with Brash Brewing coming up on May 29, by the way. Go "Like" Durham House's Facebook page to keep up with all the fun events.
Midtown Barbecue, 2708 Bagby
Does Houston need one more barbecue joint? Well, inside the Loop we absolutely do. Chef Eric Aldis of Corner Table in Upper Kirby and Agave Rio in Katy has joined forces with pitmaster Brett Jackson, formerly of Louie Muller Barbecue. Their new endeavor is in the former Bourbon On Bagby spot in a more sedate part of Midtown not too far from Charivari.
Stoked Tacos & Tequila, 2416 Brazos
The Houston-based homage to Big Star in Chicago is now open and serving — well, tequila and tacos, as might be assumed from the name. The vibe is lively, and Stoked also serves lunch. Be prepared to chill out with a cocktail if visiting Thursday through Saturday nights. Opening the new restaurant included a bit of remodeling and better visibility for Chris Frankel’s upstairs bar, Spare Key, which is a bonus.
Morningstar, 4721 North Main
Who knew The Heights needed another doughnut shop? Talk about hot; the line was out the door this past Sunday around 2 p.m.! The key to Morningstar, actually, is that while the high-quality doughnuts, iced in flavors both ordinary (chocolate and strawberry) and unusual (matcha and pomegranate cream-filled), are a big draw, there are many others. Those include rice bowls in both sweet and savory varieties, kolaches stuffed with brisket from Feges Barbecue, and probably the biggest selection in the Heights of both matcha tea drinks and alternative milks. Don’t worry, espresso lovers: It’s brought to you by the folks behind Greenway Coffee, so there’s plenty of that on hand, too. Check out our First Look article for more details.
Enoteca Rossa, 4566 Bissonnet
This under-the-radar Italian cafe is now front-and-center after a good review from Alison Cook of the Houston Chronicle, who called it a welcome addition to “the restaurant desert that is Bissonnet between West University Place and downtown Bellaire.” Among the recommended delights are tagliolini primavera, lamb chops with gremolata and house-cured salmon.
Biskit Junkie, 403 Westheimer
This restaurant started in Oak Forest but has found a new home in the heart of Montrose in the former Mango’s building. It sounds like a winner, with over-the-top biscuit breakfasts in the morning (the Chattanooga, with Black Forest ham, redeye gravy, fried egg and pico de gallo, sounds like a winner) and equally hearty burgers for lunch and dinner. It's potentially nap-inducing, and that's not always a bad thing.
Conservatory, 1010 Prairie
What do you get when you put together a ramen shop, a crepe maker, a Greek restaurant, a barbecue joint and a beer bar? Apparently, Houston’s first underground food hall! Conservatory is from the owners of Prohibition Supper Club + Bar and is right next door. The food hall is underground, which gives it a cool, secret-club vibe, and features Samurai Noodle, Melange Creperie, Myth Café, El Burro & The Bull and a whole lot of craft beers on tap. For more details, read our First Look article.
Kenny & Ziggy’s New York Delicatessen, 5172 Buffalo Speedway
Jovial Jewish chef and star of the movie Deli Man (which just screened at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday, by the way!), Ziggy Gruber, has opened a second Kenny & Ziggy’s location, in Rice Village. Honestly, who isn’t going to be happy to have one more place to pick up housemade pastrami on rye? This location is going to have a few menu items that are different from those at the original, on Post Oak, such as breakfast bagel sandwiches. http://delimanmovienews.tumblr.com/post/143603148399/deli-man-at-cannes
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Toulouse Cafe & Bar, 4444 Westheimer
It’s great to know that chef Philippe Schmit (formerly of Philippe Restaurant + Lounge and Drexel House) is in charge of a French kitchen again, and Houston diners are decidedly curious. It does sound as if the place is working through some initial wobbles and bobbles, though. Consumer reviews so far have been rather negative, especially about the “untrained service.” If you go, we’d like to hear from you on how it went.
Our "Oldie But a Goodie" Pick of the Month: Cafe Annie, 1800 Post Oak
In the “Well, That Was Completely Unexpected” category, Cafe Annie has returned from the dead — sort of. Chef Robert Del Grande has decided to rename RDG + Bar Annie, giving it the name of his old, acclaimed restaurant. Although it’s really a trip to see the new signs sporting the old logo up on the building, it feels right, like a course correction. Del Grande considers it to be re-establishing continuity, the picking up of an old thread. A few of the Cafe Annie classics have returned to the menu, and there’s something decidedly homey and comforting about that. Check out our in-depth look and interview with Del Grande for more details.