After reading Chris Gray's recent feature ("The Texas 30") on the 30 best Texas albums of the last 30 years, the question of the 30 best Texas restaurants naturally arose at the Houston Press offices. But not just the best -- the most seminal.
What are the restaurants that are most essential to the Texas landscape? Which restaurants speak the loudest to our past and present, our heritage and our future? Which restaurants best represent the culinary face that Texas presents to the rest of the country?
These are the questions we asked ourselves, and the questions we asked of 20 different food writers from across the state. The result is this week's feature -- "Eat Here: 30 Essential Texas Restaurants to Visit Before You Die" -- which will be online this Wednesday and in print on Thursday.
The food writers we polled ranged from the critics at the city's major dailies -- Leslie Brenner at the Dallas Morning-News, for example, and Edmund Tijerina at the San Antonio Express News -- to bloggers such as Daniel Vaughn of Full Custom Gospel BBQ and magazine writers such as John Mariani at Esquire. We even polled food writers who were vital in covering Texas food scenes, but have now moved on to other cities -- Bill Addison at the Atlanta Magazine and Hanna Raskin at the Seattle Weekly.
And sifting through those 20 peoples' contributions, it became quickly apparent which restaurants would rise to the top and make the 30 list. Many of the restaurants on the final list won't surprise anyone who's lived in Texas for even a year.
What did surprise me, however, were some of the restaurants didn't quite make the cut or were shut out all together. Later this week, we'll examine the feature in more detail across three different posts.
First, we'll examine areas of the state which seem to have been shut out in the final 30 list, but which were actually better represented across the total data set than expected.
Second, we'll take a look at surprising shut-outs -- popular restaurants that weren't submitted by any of the 20 food writers.
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Lastly, we'll let you in on which restaurants were near misses -- the ones that almost made it, Dan Marino-style, but didn't have quite enough votes to push them over the top.
Watch this space on Wednesday afternoon for the first of our meta-posts on all the interesting data we mined from the submissions we received. And before you ask, no; Whataburger did not make the list. Riots are being planned as we speak. The taquito flies at midnight.