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.
Mai Pham, food critic for Houston Press and freelance writer for My Table magazine, 002 Houston and Forbes Travel Guide: Houston's best bets for 2015: It starts with fried chicken
Ellie Sharp, Eater Houston contributor and freelance writer for Bayou City magazine: "Gluten moves off bad list as studies tout it as new Super Food,"
"Dog owners rejoice as first dog cafe opens its doors."
Jodie Eisenhardt, Eater Houston contributor, freelance writer and marketing consultant at Two Chicks Communications:Only the Strong Survive
Dutch Small, proprietor of Forma Revivo and marketing consultant/publicist at Immersioncy Public Relations: Treadsack takes over the world; everybody rejoices.
Hank Lewis, food blogger at Hank on Food: Recent activity in Westchase, the Energy Corridor, Sugar Land, The Woodlands and 249/Louetta means those are areas set to experience some new dining growth in 2015--new restaurants, more variety, more local farm/ranch to table, and definitely more higher end restaurants from outside of Houston and Texas coming to plant their proverbial flag in our market.
Shrimp and Grits will show up at more restaurants as a side dish like Kale did a few years ago to the point it will be considered a "Houston Thing" and catch fire elsewhere in the country. I also expect there's going to be a bigger emphasis on adding more bitter flavours into the mix--think cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Kim-chi,
Over the top hoppy IPAs, Cacao and buttermilk making their way into some dishes.
Lastly, I expect Chef Randy Evans (formerly of Haven) will get some investors together and finally start a place of his own while continuing to work as a Consulting Chef in his other projects. In fact, don't be surprised if more Chefs from all over start their own Gastronomic Consulting Industry via working with entertainment venues such as higher end bowling alleys, theme parks, movie theatres, driving ranges and event venues such as iFly.
Chris Frankel, food enthusiast and bartender at Captain Foxheart's Bad News Bar: "The Restaurant Bubble Bursts"
I had the same bearish tone last year, and I think the numerous waves of restaurant closings we saw in 2014 were part of that. Between plummeting oil prices, unaffordable rents, and general market saturation, it's simply not a healthy climate for most restaurants to make money right now. So don't be surprised to see many more closings in 2015.
When the bubble does pop, it will be a positive thing in the long run. Houston has a savvy dining public and tons of talented people who have the potential to open up great spots, but are being shut out at the moment by an overpriced market. Market crashes bring prices back to earth, and that will finally create opportunities for the next wave of innovative restaurant and bar operators to get started.
Eric Sandler, former Eater Houston editor, food writer for CultureMap, monthly contributor to Houston Matters and The Cleverley Show: Bobby Heugel Announces Mayoral Bid
Shepard Ross, restauranteur (Glass Wall, Brooklyn Athletic Club, Pax Americana and forthcoming The Dell): Massive influx of "out of town" chef/restaurateurs try to capitalize on Houston’s newfound culinary celebrity status, while banking on our stable economy and population growth to build their empires!
Marcy de Luna, editor of Zagat Houston and freelance writer for CultureMap: Electronic wizardry becomes more mainstream: We'll see diners ordering food and drinks more often from their smartphones and tablets at their tables.