Observing Houston's restaurant spaces can feel like being backstage at a fashion show with its constant cycle of wardrobe changes: the cheerful colors of Tex-Mex replace the rich tones of Italian heritage in a matter of days, for example. Despite this nightmare of here-today-gone-tomorrow uncertainty Houston still supports a substantial number of businesses that each garner distinct praise and devoted followers. These 10 (okay, one entry counts twice) restaurants are so full of promise - and regulars -they will surely be featured on local "classics" lists 20 years hence. Lucky us.Read More
10 Contenders for Houston's Next Wave of Classic Restaurants
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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
1. Dolce Vita Pizzeria & Enoteca
When Chef Marco Wiles introduced his upscale-casual pizzeria to Montrose he did more than offer delicious goods; the place oozed Italian charm with its cozy rooms and inviting patio, which made it an instant hit with locals. Folks still flock there for the authentic wood fired pizzas, fresh seafood, pastas, and creative greens such as the parsley & pancetta salad. Ordering the homemade desserts is essential; all signs point to a sweet future, pun sincerely intended.
[Photo Google Maps ]
Hugo Ortega and Tracy Vaught’s Montrose collaboration is such a mainstay of Houston it is difficult to believe they have only been open since 2002. They continue to present faithful and respectful interpretations of Mexico’s incredible cuisine while keeping flavors approachable to the local palate through their exquisite menu of Ceviche, mole, chiles, seafood, and more. This foundation of award-winning quality makes Hugo’s a shoe in for future success.
[Photo Google Maps ]
3. Onion Creek Café
The Creek Group brought us The Heights’ Onion Creek Café in 2002 and continues to churn out massively successful spinoffs with different-enough atmospheres catering to singles, families, and everyone in between. In addition to creating yummy foods and serving a solid beer, wine, & coffee program, these beloved locales also have a history of supporting community events including cook-offs and farmers markets. This philosophy of involvement and local pride sets the stage for long-term residency for Onion Creek and its sisters.
[Photo Onion Creek Cafe/Facebook ]
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4. MAX's Wine Dive
Two things in life never go out of style: Champagne and fried chicken. Fortunately both can be enjoyed at Max’s along with all sorts of elevated variations of classic comfort dishes from local Chef Michael Pellegrino like the Max’n Cheese featuring a truffle cream sauce and three kinds of cheese or the chicken friend ribeye with eggs. An edgy-yet-comfortable interior and high-energy vibe ensure this Houston-based chain will stay on the radar for years to come.
[Photo Max's Wine Dive/Facebook ]
5. Bernie's Burger Bus Stop
5407 Bellaire Blvd
Bellaire, TX 77401
Bellaire, TX 77401
The concept of the hamburger is not new but Bernie’s interpretations make you feel like every bite is a revelation – because it is. From the juiciest and most flavorful Angus beef to the homemade condiments and inventive toppings, addictive fries, and to-die-for shakes there simply are no failing grades. As such, Bernie’s will always get straight A’s and perfect attendance, clichés be damned.
[Photo Eric Sauseda/Groovehouse ]
6. Kata Robata
Incomparable ingredients and original interpretations from Chef Manabu Horiuchi culminate in the remarkable indulgences enjoyed by guests at this renowned Upper Kirby establishment. Given its consistently positive press and loyal following one should expect to keep Kata reservations in the rotation for a long, long time.
[Photo Kata Robata Sushi + Grill/Facebook ]
Memorable meals in Houston can mean many things but when consumed at Chris Shepherd’s Montrose destination the experience is truly exceptional. With a daily evolution of menu options representing the complex melting pot of Houston’s diverse cultures, guidance from one’s server is to be taken seriously and this is a good thing since the eyes will inevitably steer towards, well, everything. Enjoy what you can and go back for more. Relax, you’ve got the time.
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8. Peli Peli
Five years ago South African cuisine had but a sole promoter in Houston via the delightful Leibman’s store in west Houston, until Peli Peli made its debut. Since that time Chef Paul Friedman has welcomed guests who have embraced the flavors of South Africa’s rich and varied culinary history with such enthusiasm that the second location is set to open in The Galleria this March. Given that the menu is inspired by classic dishes of French, English, Indian, and Dutch origins it’s only natural that Peli Peli itself will command a timeless presence.
[Photo Peli Peli ]
9. Killen's Steakhouse and Killen's Barbecue
Skill and ingredients alone do not create definitive dishes or enduring endearment, though they do play an integral role in the final result of an experience and there is no shortage of either in Pearland. Also crucial is the appreciation and respect paid by the person behind the meal, in this case Ronnie Killen and his unfailing attention to the minute details of his operation – so finely and expertly tuned that he quite literally cannot keep his product on the carving board due to popularity. There are few guarantees in the restaurant business but as long as beef has Ronnie Killen Houstonians will have two extraordinary havens for carnivorous gratification.
10. Ruggles Green
Defined as Houston’s First Certified Green Restaurant™, this organically and locally focused fast-casual favorite is well on its way to classic status thanks to its promotion of good-for-you and good-for-the-environment menu and business practices, which is a theme that is likely to enjoy solid longevity (as well it should). Of course, it helps that everything on the menu tastes good too.
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