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Julie Soefer

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Houston’s 2017 Eater Awards Winners

Amy McCarthy is a reporter at, focusing on pop culture, policy and labor, and only the weirdest online trends.

After a full week of voting and countless hours of deliberation, Eater Houston is excited to announce the winners of the 2017 Eater Awards. In five categories, these restaurants and industry professionals have made Houston one of the best dining cities in the country. From an explosion of excellent fast-casual eateries to the continued evolution of Space City’s continually strong bar scene, 2017 was a banner year to be an Eater in Houston.

Without further ado, behold this year’s Eater Awards winners, and bask in their glory. Editor’s choice winners will receive a coveted tomato can trophies, and a full feature in the coming months on Eater.

Restaurant of the Year: One Fifth

The inside of a softly-lit dining room where people are moving about a bar. Julie Soefer

Only Chef Chris Shepherd would open up a steakhouse that’s packed solid every night of the week and then shut it all down to try something entirely different. With his goal of opening five different restaurants in the same building over the span of five years, Shepherd’s first two iterations of One Fifth — Steak and Romance Languages — have been equal parts ambitious and exciting.

Next year, Shepherd will take on fish when Romance Languages bows out in July, and at this point, it’s pretty much a guarantee that this ever-ambitious chef is just going to keep making One Fifth better.

Reader’s Choice: Riel

Chef of the Year: Hugo Ortega

It’s really been a banner year for Chef Hugo Ortega. In addition to opening Xochi, his much-lauded restaurant that landed on Eater critic Bill Addison’s list of the country’s best new restaurants, Ortega also took home the 2017 James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southwest.

Next year, Ortega’s empire is only going to get bigger. While he runs his restaurants in Houston and Oaxaca, the chef is plotting an expansion to Los Angeles alongside Chef Michael Mina. And really, it couldn’t have happened to a better person.

Reader’s Choice: Ryan LaChaine, Riel

Most Stunning Restaurant of the Year: Potente

Astros owner Jim Crane brought a real beauty when he opened Potente, helmed by Chef Danny Trace. The restaurant’s interior is bright and elegant without being pretentious, offering a cozy vibe that is still totally sophisticated. Both a date night destination and a solid option for dining with out-of-town parents, Potente is a gorgeous new addition to the city’s dining scene.

Reader’s Choice: Roka Akor

Bar of the Year: Better Luck Tomorrow

Jenn Duncan Photography

Bar empresario Bobby Heugel and James Beard Award-winning chef Justin Yu make a seriously killer duo. Their tiny new Heights bar has already become a fixture of the neighborhood, thanks to the one-two punch of expertly-mixed, thoughtfully considered cocktails and interesting and innovative bar food — the Party Melt is rapidly becoming a Houston classic. The friendly crowd of locals and regulars also plays a huge role in what makes Better Luck Tomorrow such a special place.

Reader’s Choice: Better Luck Tomorrow

Fast-Casual Restaurant of the Year: Peli Peli Kitchen

Ellie Sharp

The parade of quick-service restaurants with really excellent food continues, and Peli Peli Kitchen is perhaps one of the country’s most exciting realizations of that trend. An expansion of the South American original, Peli Peli Kitchen’s menu of budget-friendly, bright fare makes it one of Space City’s best options for a meal when time is of the essence.

Reader’s Choice: Peli Peli Kitchen

Hero of the Year: Houston, Texas

Jennifer Caswell/Reef

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, every single Houstonian showed exactly what makes this city special. Chefs, sommeliers, publicists, and volunteers of all kinds involved in Space City’s restaurant industry quickly sprung into action, feeding tens of thousands of meals to storm victims in the days and weeks after the storm. If Harvey showed Houston one thing, it’s that this city’s incredible spirit and unyielding resolve stands tall in the face of even the worst tragedies. #HoustonStrong

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