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Houston's Restaurant Experts Sum Up 2014 in One Word

Defining the Bayou City's restaurant scene this year.


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 restaurant newcomers. 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. Readers, please add your survey answers in the comments.

What was your Restaurant Standby of 2014?

Mai Pham, food critic for Houston Press and freelance writer for My Table magazine, 002 Houston and Forbes Travel Guide
: Unpredictable.

Ellie Sharp, Eater Houston contributor and freelance writer for Bayou City magazine

Jodie Eisenhardt, Eater Houston contributor, freelance writer and marketing consultant at Two Chicks Communications: Exhilarating.

Dutch Small, proprietor of Forma Revivo and marketing consultant/publicist at Immersioncy Public Relations: Arrived.

Hank Lewis, food blogger at Hank on Food: Eclectic.  Many great places opened.  Many great places closed.  Houston has now become the target for higher end national chains and early expansions of tried and true restaurants in other parts of the country.  Houston's profile as a gourmet dining destination has risen in the national and international media.  However, in some ways we are still finding our way, but quite deliciously in the process as our dining scene continues to evolve.

Anthony Calleo, proprietor and chef of Pi Pizza Truck: Tumultuous.

Chris Frankel, food enthusiast and bartender at Captain Foxheart's Bad News Bar: "Expensive."  Inner loop restaurant rents now hover around $30-40/square foot in neighborhoods worth $10-15/square foot, so it's only the same handful of established companies opening new places.  Buildouts take forever and cost a fortune due to permitting delays and demand for contractors, so it's tough for places to get open until almost a year after being announced.  Wholesale prices on food and alcohol are quietly soaring too.  As consumers, we see those costs reflected in the fact that every other new opening identifies itself as "luxury" and is targeted at customers on expense accounts.  I've stopped trying to visit every hot new restaurant opening because I just don't have the budget to do so. Prediction: value is going to be a big factor in dining decisions in 2015.

Eric Sandler, food writer for CultureMap, monthly contributor to Houston Matters and The Cleverley Show: Expansion.