As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, bloggers, and readers. We've already covered Best Standbys of 2011, and we'll have a lot more before the end of this week.
El Gran Malo, a popular pick for this year's favorite newcomer. [EHOU]
Q: What are the top restaurant newcomers of 2011?
Sarah Rufca, associate editor, food writer, Culturemap Houston: Pondicheri and Philippe, with Coppa and Xuco Xicana as honorable mentions.
Michael Fulmer (@fulmer on Twitter), server at Vic & Anthony's, Houston food expert, leader of Houston coffee crawls: El Gran Malo, Torchy's Tacos, Triniti, Philippe.
Nishta Mehra, food blogger, Blue Jean Gourmet: Coppa Ristorante Italiano, Pondicheri, Xuco Xicana.
Ruthie Miller, freelance food blogger: I haven't been impressed with a lot of the higher-end newbies, so my favorite newcomers are Pondicheri, Xuco Xicana, Revival Market, Good Dog Hotdogs, and Green Seed Vegan.
Nikki Metzgar, freelance food writer, regular Eater Houston contributor: Revival Market. Say what you will about untoasted bread on a BLT, but it's still a top sandwich.
Teresa Byrne-Dodge, editor/publisher of My Table Magazine: Philippe, Pondicheri, Restaurant Cinq, Revival Market and Sorrel. I liked Triniti at a friends-and-family service last night, and it has the makings and pedigree to be one of the best, too. I would possibly include Felix 55, too, but I have not been back since chef Michael Kramer left.
Greg Morago, food editor for the Houston Chronicle: Ava and Alto; Philippe; Pondicheri; Brasserie 19; Tony Mandola’s; El Gran Malo; El Real Tex-Mex Café; Convivio; Down House; Xuco Xicana; Cru at West Ave.; the new bar menu at Ninfa’s on Navigation; Sorrel; Liberty Kitchen & Oyster Bar; and just under the wire, Triniti.
Bobby Heugel, co-owner Anvil Bar & Refuge and others: El Gran Malo, Downhouse, Moneycat Brunch.
Rebecca Masson, owner, Fluff Bake Bar, cheftestapant on Top Chef Just Desserts: I am biased, but Revival Market for the awesome lunch. Everything on the menu is standout. Did Queen Vic open this year? Cause that would be one. Pondicheri.
Robb Walsh, former Houston Press food critic and co-owner, El Real Tex-Mex Cafe: El Real Tex-Mex according to many local and national sources. (Full disclosure: I work as the Wal-Mart greeter there.)
Katharine Shilcutt, food critic for the Houston Press: Pondicheri, Philippe and Coppa. In that order.
Chris Shepherd, former chef of Catalan, co-owner/chef of Underbelly: Revival Market.
Hannah Siegel-Gardner, freelance food writer, wife of chef Seth Siegel-Gardner of Pilot Light RG: Local Market, Moneycat, Pilot Light RG, Les Sauvages dinners, Phoenicia Downtown.
Christina Uticone, food writer for 2 Dine For: El Real. It has its haters, but we’ve always had great food & service. Their queso is evil.
Amber Ambrose, editor of Eater Houston: Triniti for fancypants dining, Pizaro's Pizza Napoletana (haven't been yet, based on early reviews from trusted sources), Pondicheri for breakfast, Niko Niko's in Market Square Park for al fresco dining.
Leave your own favorite newcomers in the comments section if we've left anything out.