As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends and food writers. This year, we asked the group eight questions, from Meal of the Year to Top Headline Predictions for 2014. We'll be posting their answers each day until we ring in the new year. Responses are related in no particular order; all are cut, pasted and unedited herein. Below is the first of eight questions. Readers, please add your survey answers in the comments.
Uchi [Photo: Gary Wise/Flickr]
Q: What were your top standbys of 2013?
Alison Cook, restaurant critic at the Houston Chronicle: Dolce Vita counter for pizza and interesting Italian wines by the glass. It's always so good.
Greg Morago, food editor at the Houston Chronicle: The restaurant I've gone to most often (when I'm not working) this past year was Liberty Kitchen & Oyster Bar in the Heights. I love their queso, salads and burgers. They have a great brunch. Always had good food and good service there. I also enjoy Last Concert Café for chips and salsa and the chance to see the incomparable Dawn Fudge.
Teresa Byrne-Dodge, editor & publisher at My Table Magazine: I wish I had the luxury of a regular "standby" this year. The accelerated rate of new restaurant openings has meant that we rarely are able to go back to a favorite for months at a time. But I will note that Brennan's paired with guest chef Mark Holley for a series of family-style Southern fried chicken dinners in 2013, and we did manage to go twice.
Mai Pham, Forbes Travel Guide correspondent and freelance writer: Kata Robata -- I can't seem to get enough of it, and I get hard cravings for their spicy soy milk ramen.
Robb Walsh, food editor at Houstonia Magazine: Soma for the amazing ramen.
Amber Ambrose, former Eater Houston editor & current Zagat Houston writer : Provisions side of The Pass & Provisions. My husband was in love with their anchovy pizza (which is off the menu now), and I with pretty much everything else. Also - Fusion Taco is one that I frequent. I have yet to have something there I don't like.
Katharine Shilcutt, features editor at Houstonia Magazine: Triniti.
Misha Govshteyn, food enthusiast: Casual - Pico's & Lupe Tortillas, at least 2-3 times a month. More ambitious - I've had more meals at Oxheart than anywhere else.
Syd Kearney, reporter at the Houston Chronicle: El Real (Montrose Mondays are the best!).
Kaitlin Steinberg, restaurant critic at Houston Press: Simply Pho because it's cheap, delicious and close to the office, and Ciao Bello because I get mad pasta cravings that only Ciao Bello can satisfy. And House of Pies in the middle of the night.
Dutch Small, freelance writer at PaperCity: Uchi.
Eric Sandler, former Eater Houston editor & current CultureMap staff writer: My restaurant standby remains Paulie's. It's quick, inexpensive, close to my house and always delicious.
Phaedra Cook, My Table Magazine contributor: Underbelly, because they have a great lunch. Whenever I was stressed and didn't want to think too hard about where to go eat, I'd head that way.
Carla Soriano, freelance writer at Houston Press: My go-to restaurant is Étoile. Like a good friend, it's always there for me. I know I can expect to have a delicious meal there on any night of the week. My favorites are consistent and the service is always spot-on.
Shanna Jones & Felice Simmons Sloan, bloggers at Urban Swank: We gotta go with Latin Bites. They are always on when it comes to food, cocktails, service, and ambiance.
Katherine Whaley, KHOU anchor & reporter: Blacksmith, for their scratch square biscuits. My TV call time is early, so breakfast is a must, and this is my standby. The biscuit dough is perfectly tender, and Blacksmith's crème fraiche and marmalade make perfect toppings.
Lily Jang, KHOU anchor & reporter: Eleven XI.