With the construction three new Carrabba's family restaurants along Kirby and the continued success of West Ave -- the mixed use shopping/living/dining development on the corner of Kirby and Westheimer -- the Upper Kirby district is a stronger dining out destination today than it has been in years.
The last time that we rounded up the 10 best restaurants in the area was two years ago, and things have certainly changed since then. Gone are seafood favorites Pesce and Yelapa Playa Mexicana -- in their place are the decidedly less interesting Brio Tuscan Grille and Estate nightclub, respectively. On the bright side, however, is the addition of so many new and interesting restaurants in the Upper Kirby district that it's hard to narrow the list down to 10 anymore.
In fact, some of the city's best restaurants -- perennial favorites and Best of Houston® winners among them -- now lie within the Upper Kirby confines, making this recently repaved stretch of road one of the best spots to hit for a night out.
Disclaimer: For the purposes of this post, Upper Kirby is defined as west of Shepherd, east of Buffalo Speedway, north of Bissonnet and south of Westheimer.
Honorable Mention: Elevation Burger and Nosh
While both restaurants are far too new to be included on the list, both have already been garnering great reviews. Our own Joanna O'Leary enjoyed "the fresh eggy bun and wonderful caramelized onions" on her Elevation Burger, while Greg Morago at the Houston Chronicle writes of Nosh that "its thoughtful menu tugs at a communal foodie soul despite what some might interpret as 'fancy' pretensions."
Before you stop reading right here, consider this: Chuy's is consistently packed for a reason. The kitschy decor and equally kitschy Tex-Mex food -- while transported here from Austin -- are fun, enjoyable crowd-pleasers. The margaritas (especially the Texas Tinis) are strong and well-balanced. The happy hour offers a free build-your-own-nacho bar with unlimited visits. In season, the Hatch chile specials are unrivaled. The creamy jalapeño dressing (which we all know is just Ranch dressing with a kick) is a Texas treasure. The Elvis Presley Memorial Combo is the stuff of legend. And Chuy's will gladly top anything -- anything at all -- with a fried egg.
Turquoise Grill began its life serving office building snack bar-type items like breakfast tacos and burgers alongside more traditional fare like Turkish kebabs made by friendly owner Yilmaz "Jim" Dokuyucu. Over time, it grew to be one of the most popular Turkish restaurants in town, and not solely by virtue of being one of only a handful of Turkish places in the city, and gradually did away with most of its American fare. Dokuyucu's dishes like the meat-topped lahmajun and inegol kofte (Turkish meatballs) brought Turquoise Grill such acclaim, in fact, that he opened a second location in Sugar Land not long ago. These days, one of the best ways to spend a low-key evening is grabbing dinner at Turquoise Grill before heading across the street to catch a show (and down a few pints of local beer) at the great McGonigel's Mucky Duck.
8. BB's Cafe
The fourth -- and, so far, the largest at 1,800 square feet inside and 1,400 square feet of patio outside -- location of popular Houston chain BB's Cafe offers the same great Cajun food that made the original Montrose BB's such a hit when it first opened in 2008. It's also the prettiest of the three locations, with a light-and-bright dining room that features just enough Cajun flare to let you know to expect excellent po-boys, gumbo, oysters and two of our favorite dishes in town: Grillades & Grits and the so-called "Cajun poutine," the Tex-Cajun Virgin.