Houstonians are infamous for loving their food drown in butter, salt, and sauce. Don’t deny it, you know it’s true. That’s why the gastropub has been such a big hit. So when chefs go the opposite direction, I instantly have respect for them.
Lucille’s (Museum District)
Chris Williams, owner and chef of Lucille’s and graduate of Le Cordon Blue in Austin, prepares southern food with elegance.
I expect this tendency comes from eating all over the world in his travels. Unfortunately the venue itself is a little bright and loud for my liking, but no one else at my table seemed to mind. The mixologist at the bar and the sommelier on staff take as much pride in their contributions as well.
I had the pleasure of meeting all of them the night we visited on the expansive back patio overlooking the sizable herb garden, a perfect place for a private party.
Corner Table (Upper Kirby)
I don’t know that many Houstonians follow a Paleo diet, but they’ll be raving about that portion of Bruce Molzan’s menu at the new restaurant Corner Table, located in the old Brownstone building behind West Ave. The menu design is quite tacky, but that is not indicative of the food on it.
Bruce, famous and infamous in town for Ruggles and Ruggles Green, has always been respected for his talent. Now he is helming the kitchen himself to prepare some of the the healthiest and tastiest food in town.
I went with a group and tried a sampling of what felt like almost everything. Aside from the Paleo concept, each dish has yet another surprise to offer.
For example, the Paleo turkey bolognese combines a savory hearty sauce with sweet and light spaghetti squash noodles. That was hands down our favorite.
Salads were unlike anything you would make at home. The almond-meal crusted fried chicken was heavenly. He even made a simple roasted chicken and veggie plate interesting. I could eat there three times a week because the menu offers so many healthy options!
Molzan and his partners will be opening up The Oak Bar, a coffee bar, and some sort of lounge (in place of Red Door) to complete the complex. Coffee will be from one of my favorite local roasters, Boomtown Coffee.
Both Lucille’s and Corner Table are exceptional, although I prefer Corner Table as the menu is more extensive and the ambiance is more to my liking.Tweet this!
When I walked into Triniti hidden off South Shepherd tonight, I was so excited to see this dining room. Beautiful isn’t it?!
Instantly, from the looks of the room and the menu, I realized it is a once-a-month dinner, not a weekly stop.
All of my friends have been talking about Triniti’s popularity, so I knew sneaking in early on a Sunday night would be the best way to get in without a reservation. Because the AC was on full blast, we opted to leave the beautiful dining room to sit on their little outdoor patio.
The menu was right up my alley: refined and fresh “California French” as they call it.
On the other hand, for the the average Houstonian (aka my mother across the table), the dishes were unapproachable. Per usual in this situation, she requested the burger which they usually only offer at lunch. The root veggie app was all I was hungry for, but after getting the fresh tuna tartar as an amuse bouche, I wish I had room for the stripped bass.
My favorite part was asking the waitress who had to ask other staff for their twitter handle. Her response: we don’t have one! If you’re in the food industry and don’t have and frequently use a twitter handle, that’s stupid, and I tweeted as much. That tweet was quickly passed around and garnered a response from @TrinitiHouston and Exec Chef @ryanhildee with their presence.
The threesome that created Triniti wins because the decor and food are truly unique for Houston. The closest restaurants I can think of to it are The Grove downtown, Randy Evan’s Haven, or even the new and popular farm-to-table Sorrell. Although I didn’t get to see if for myself, the atmosphere for dinner should be trendy and alive going off of the buzz around town. However, I wonder how long the lust will last (a la Ava). Houstonians like the same old things. Historically, that cuisine would be described as “traditional,” not “modern.” So go now while it’s hot!Tweet this!
$10 mani. $38 mani and pedi. And it lasts!!
You have probably passed Nails Pro on Memorial Drive (just west of Westcott) a million times and never thought to stop in. One day I did, and was so pleasantly surprised with the quiet salon and quality service.
Her manicures last a week on my claws. I’ve been to her 4 times now to make sure her skills were consistent. She has yet to disappoint me!
They’ve got big comfy chairs for pedicures. And they’re rarely busy so just drop in.
5710 Memorial Drive 77007
In my opinion, Texas at its best: dancin’, drinkin’, boot scootin’, and laughin’ the night away…Here’s proof it still exists in the city limits.
(At Blanco’s on West Alabama)Tweet this!
If you’re local or just soooo curious about what you’re missing out on. The places mentioned here are the classic Houston spots, which is exactly where you should be going if you’re visiting.
Listed are the official winners and my favorites.
Best Caffeine Fix
Finalists: Agora, Antidote, Catalina, Inversion, Paulie’s
MARY’S FAVORITE: CATALINA COFFEE
Winner: Buffalo Grille
Finalists: Barnaby’s, Buffalo Grille, Empire Cafe, 59 Diner, the breakfast klub
MARY’S FAVORITE: BARNABY’S
Best Hamburgers (No Frills)
Winner and Mary’s Favorite: Becks Prime
Finalists: Becks Prime, Christian’s Tailgate, Lankford Grocery, Pappas Burgers, Prince’s Hamburgers
Best Hamburgers (Creative)
Winner: The Burger Guys
Finalists: Bernie’s Burger Bus, Branch Water Tavern, Hubcap Grill, Max’s Wine Dive, The Burger Guys
Winner: Barnaby’s Cafe
Finalists: Barnaby’s Cafe, Benjy’s, Ruggles Green, Max’s Wine Dive, Beaver’s
MARY’S FAVORITE: RUGGLES GREEN
Winner AND Mary’s Favorite: Goode Co. Barbecue
Finalists: Demeris, Goode Co. Barbecue, Luling City BBQ, Otto’s, Pizzitola’s
Winner: Ragin Cajun
Finalists: Bayou City Seafood, Danton’s Seafood, Mardis Gras Grill, Pappadeaux, Ragin Cajun
Winner: Fung’s Kitchen
Finalists: Cafe Chino, Dragon Bowl, Fung’s Kitchen, Gigi’s Asian Bistro, Kam’s Fine Chinese, Shanghai River
Winner AND Mary’s Favorite: Cafe Rabelais
Finalists: Bistro Le Cep, Brasserie Max & Julie, Cafe Rabelais, Le Mistral, Philippe
(For a more affordable option, Mary seriously loves La Madeline)
Best Gulf Coast Cuisine (Casual)
Winner AND Mary’s Favorite: Brennan’s
Finalists: Brennan’s, Danton’s Gulf Coast Kitchen, Ouisie’s Table, Ragin’ Cajun, Tony Mandola’s
Finalists: Bombay Brasserie, Indika, Khyber North Indian Grill, Kiran’s, Red Lion Pub
Best Italian (Casual)
Winner AND Mary’s Favorite: Carrabba’s
Finalists: Carrabba’s, Collina’s, D’Amico’s, Damian’s, Giacomo’s Cibo e Vino, Prego
(Although Pasqual was not mentioned and Damian’s is not casual in my opinion.)
Best Italian (Upscale)
Winner: La Griglia
Finalists: Da Marco Cucino e Vino, Grotto, La Griglia, Nino’s, Vincent’s
MARY’S FAVORITE: DA MARCO
(La Griglia should be under casual and I would choose Carrabba’s over LG.)
Finalists: Amazon Grill, Americas, Churrascos, El Meson, Julia’s Bistro, Mi Luna, Tintos
MARY’S FAVORITE: AMERICAS
Winner: Niko Niko’s Greek
Finalists: Aladdin Mediterranean Cuisine, Dimassi’s Mediterranean Buffet, Fadi’s Mediterranean Grill, Niko Niko’s Greek, Yia Yia Mary’s
MARY HATES NIKO NIKO
Winner: Ninfa’s on Navigation
Finalists: Chuy’s, Cyclone Anaya’s, El Tiempo, Hugo’s, Ninfa’s on Navigation
MARY’S $$ FAVORITE: ESCALANTES IN HIGHLAND VILLAGE (then El Tiempo or Cantina)
MARY’S CHEAP FAVORITE: CHUY’S ON WESTHEIMER
Best Pizza (Traditional)
Finalists: Antonio’s Flying Pizza, Candelari’s, Collina’s, Fuzzy’s Pizza, Star Pizza
Winner: Star Pizza
MARY’S FAVORITE: PALAZZO’S
Best Pizza (Nontraditional)
Winner: Pink’s Pizza
Finalists: Bombay Pizza, Cafe Pita, ERA, Pink’s Pizza
MARY’S FAVORITE: TINY BOXWOOD’S
Winner: Goode Co. Seafood
Finalists: Eddie V’s, Goode Co. Seafood, Masraff’s, Pesce, Reef
MARY’S FAVORITE: EDDIE V’S (OR PESCE)
(However, Goode Co. is the only casual one on the list. The other ones are upscale and $$)
Winner AND Mary’s Favorite: Pappas Bros Steakhouse
Finalists: Fleming’s Steakhouse, Pappas Bros Steakhouse, Perry’s Steakhouse Taste of Texas, Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse
WAIT! IT’S A TIE: I REALLY LOVE VIC AND ANTHONY’S TOO! (They’re on opposite sides of town. Let geography decide.)
Winner and Mary’s Favorite: Kata Robata
Finalists: Azuma, Blue Fish House, Kata Robata, Oishii, RA Sushi, Sushi King
Winner: Thai Cottage
Finalists: Asia Market, Nidda Thai, Padthai Thai, Thai Cottage, Vieng Thai
Winner: Mai’s Restaurant
Finalists: Huynh Restaurant, Kim Son Restaurant, Les Givral Cafe, Mai’s Restaurant, Van Loc Restaurant
Winner and Mary’s Favorite: Brennan’s
Finalists: Brennan’s, Hugo’s, Mark’s American Cuisine, Mockingbird Bistro, Tony’s, Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse
Best Fine Dining
Winner and Mary’s Favorite: Brennan’s
Finalists: Brennan’s, Hugo’s, Mark’s American Cuisine, Mockingbird Bistro, Reef
Winner and Mary’s Favorite: Backstreet Cafe
Finalists: Backstreet Cafe, Benjy’s, Brennan’s, Max’s Wine Dive, Ninfa’s on Navigation
Best Vibe Newcomer: Up
Winner: Rainbow Lodge
Finalists: Arista, Beck’s Prime (Memorial Park), Brenner’s Steakhouse on the Bayou, Rainbow Lodge, The Grove
MARY’S FAVORITE: BRENNER’S
Best Food On Wheels
Winner: Bernie’s Burger Bus
Finalists: Bernie’s Burger Bus, Eatsie Boys, Htown StrEATS, Fusion Taco, Melange Creperie
MARY’S FAVORITE: EATSY BOYS
Winner: El Real Tex-Mex
Finalists: Ava Kitchen & Wine Bar, Brasserie 19, El Real Tex-Mex, Philippe, Pondicheri
MARY’S FAVORITE: BRASSERIE 19
Winner and Mary’s Favorite: Backstreet Cafe
Finalists: Backstreet Cafe, Brenner’s on the Bayou, Cedar Creek, Onion Creek, Tiny Boxwood
Best SLGT (Support Local Grow Together)
Winner and Mary’s Favorite: Haven
Finalists: Haven, Laurenzo’s, Revival Market, Stella Sola, T’afia, Zelko Bistro
Best Farmers’ Market
Winner: Urban Harvest Farmers Market
Finalists: Canino’s Produce, Houston Farmers Market at Rice Village, Midtown Farmers Market/T’afia, Revival Market, Urban Harvest Farmers Market
Winner: The Chocolate Bar
Finalists: Amy’s Ice Cream, Cheesecake Factory, Crave Cupcakes, Dessert Gallery, The Chocolate Bar
- Chocolate Cake: La Griglia (have them heat it until it melts)
- Bananas Foster: Eddie V’s
- Bread Pudding: Brennan’s
- Pecan Pie: Goode Company
- Cupcakes: Crave
- Cookies: Tiny Boxwoods
OMGoodness, I have been missing out!
Friends have told me that Vietnamese food is super fresh and healthy, but I never dared try it on my own (mostly because I have no idea where the restaurants are in Houston).
I saw people devouring this bad boy outside of Agora and I was in line to order from the food truck next door immediately. GOOD decision. I loved every bite of fresh lettuce, cucumber spears, jalapenos, cilantro, pickled carrots, and roasted chicken topped with Hoi Sin and mustard. The sandwich is actually a huge hoagie which I downed in one breath.
So excited to try more Vietnamese! I know that makes me sound sheltered…but I grew up eating steak, potatoes, and brownies which is why food if such a fun adventure for me.
If you’re in Houston, I scored this banh mi, which they call “The Bomb,” at the Eatsie Boys food truck next to Augora coffee on Westheimer. Get there early because they have been known to run out of chicken.Tweet this!
I cannot think of a better way to enjoy a Sunday afternoon during PERFECT spring weather than outside on a beautiful patio with a bottle of something delicious in the company of great friends.
When I’m trying to find a patio on the fly, I can never remember my favorite spots. Seems ridiculous, but you’ve felt the same way I’m sure. It’s like when you want to try out a new place, but you can’t think of the 10 places you talked about with friends during the week.
So, off the top of my head here are a few of my favorites (in no particular order):
- Central Park (bring a picnic)
- Peninsula roof top – Midtown
- Soho House roof deck – Meatpacking
- Friend of the Farmer – Gramcery Park
- Soho Grand Hotel
- Locanda Verde – TriBeCa
- Pastis – Meatpacking
- Mole – Meatpacking
- Crosby Hotel – Soho
- Elizabeth – Soho
- Dos Caminos - Soho
- Extra Virgin – West Village
- Sant Ambroeus – West Village
- Beverly Hills Hotel pool
- Four Seasons West Hollywood
- Urth Cafe
- Bread – 3rd @ Robertson
- Moonshadows – Malibu
- Anywhere on Sunset Plaza
- The Abbey – West Hollywood
- Tiny Boxwoods (pictured above)
- Houston Country Club (private)
- La Griglia
- Four Seasons pool
- Ruggles Green – City Center
- Tasting Room – Uptown Park
- Cyclone Anaya’s – Midtown
Dallas – I only know the Hotel Zaza – I prefer it’s intimate and small setting over the Houston location
Austin (the few I know):
- Four Seasons
- Hotel Saint Cecilia (private)
- San Jose bar
- Taco Express
- Hula Hut
- Salt Lick
Unfortunately spring hasn’t blown into the north yet, so we feel for you guys up there freezing. I hope this list keeps you strong until Spring comes!
Add your favorites below!Tweet this!