The Hit List: New Houston Restaurants to Visit for August 2022

Common Burger at CounterCommon

There’s nothing like August in Houston, is there? This year, it follows the hottest June and July on record, so it’s safe to say that this month, diners are eschewing patios for air-conditioned comfort, icy drinks and chilled dishes. The only heat they may be seeking is from hot new Houston restaurants. Some of the hottest include a Danish restaurant in Katy, a relocated steakhouse recently in the news for other reasons and a truly local hot chicken chain. Plus, a chef acclaimed for his pasta has reemerged in a brand-new establishment. 

Siblings Lucianna “Louie” and Angelo Emiliani, the chefs at Cafe Louie. Photo by Becca Wright.

Cafe Louie, 3401 Harrisburg: Powerhouse sibling duo, Angelo and Lucianna “Louie” Emiliani, are taking the east side by storm with imaginative eats at their all-day cafe. Angelo first earned his stripes at Houston’s Uchi, while Louie made a career at Tiny’s Milk & Cookies. Their culinary journeys eventually led them to work in the world-renowned James Beard Award-winning baker, Tartine Bakery. Now the Houston-native team is using their wealth of experience to deliver a colorful selection of pastries, sandwiches, plates and more to the Second Ward.

The once-industrial space was converted by rootlab into a modern, airy bistro with cozy vibes. Cafe Louie’s menu is modestly sized, with a focus on high-quality, mostly local ingredients, with a nod toward Mediterranean flavors. Waking up early has never tasted better, with items such as the Egg on a Roll (soft scramble, cheddar, brown butter hollandaise, bacon), and the cleverly named McLouie (Redneck Cheddar gougére, maple sausage patty, sunny-side egg and dijonnaise). 

Dinner service commenced in late July, and it’s made for sharing, as it’s served family-style. The à la carte menu includes starters like fried chicken with black cardamom and black lime, second courses such as Garganelle Verdi (wild boar ragu) and entrées that cover land and sea with redfish, a dry-aged smash burger and brick chicken. Expand your meal with sides of roasted beets, charred okra or roasted carrots. For dessert, go decadent with Paris-brest (pâte à choux pastry with roasted banana cream, peanut praline and banana caramel) or classic with made-to-order Madeleines. Read more in David Leftwich’s First Bite article.

The Cookshack, 21640 Kuykendahl, Spring: This under-the-radar restaurant, part of a small Texas chain with only six locations, opened in early July and specializes in hot chicken and applewood-smoked baby back ribs. Order both together as the Ribs & Chicken Combo, or separately. Chicken here comes in many forms: spiced tenders, as part of a crispy chicken sandwich, alongside waffles or as part of big bowlfuls of salad, such as The Shack Salad or Chicken Kale Salad

dining room of Copenhagen Kitchen & Bakery in Katy
The dining room of Copenhagen European Kitchen & Bakery in Katy. Photo by Pernille Reck.

Copenhagen European Kitchen & Bakery, 981 Mason, Katy: Culinary adventures await at this new restaurant serving Northern and Central European cuisine. Owner Pernille Reck says that all the dishes are made from scratch. The spacious dining room is decorated with paintings by local artists and there’s also a patio. Start with sourdough and rye chips served with taramasalata (a salty and creamy fish roe dip from Greece) and aioli. Then move on to specialties seldom seen in the area, including flæskesteg, a sandwich stuffed with crispy pork loin, pickles, red cabbage, tarragon aioli and rye crumbs; and Pork And Stout Pie made with pork tenderloin and garden vegetable in a rich stout gravy. For dessert, we’d order the kransekake, a frilly concoction of almonds and meringue. Copenhagen has steak night with live music every Tuesday, and plans are in the works for other regular events, including poetry readings, art discussions and book signings. 

Those with no time to linger can pick up items to try from the bakery, which offers a variety of breads, such as rye and sourdough and desserts, like Sachertorte and træstammer (log-shaped cake-cookies made with marzipan, chocolate and strawberry jam). 

Cosmo Eatery, 9511 Westheimer: This casual Westchase restaurant is the second location of a business that started in the Medical Center. It serves breakfast (including an intriguing-sounding Merguez Benedict), lunch and dinner from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Pizzas are a specialty, and the dedicated menu includes not just staples, such as veggie and Hawaiian, but also an inventive Seafood Pizza with shrimp and crawfish tails. The restaurant is also 100% halal. 

Common Burger at CounterCommon
The Common Burger at CounterCommon with two 44 Farms beef patties, American cheddar, fried shallots and housemade dill pickles. Courtesy photo.

CounterCommon Beerworks & Kitchen, 5413 Bellaire: The newest addition to Bellaire Triangle is a “family-friendly neighborhood brewpub” led by co-founders Jaime Robles and Dennis Rhee, who is also the head brewer, and chef Iggy Olivera, formerly of El Big Bad, Bramble, Riel, and Dak & Bop. The drink focus is on German-style session beers brewed in house, while Olivera’s menu incorporates Latin and Asian ingredients in unexpected ways. The results show up in creative dishes such as Elotitos — battered and fried baby corn topped with smoky mayo, cotija cheese, smoky honey habanero dust, cilantro and lime wedges — and Viet Beef Ribs & Potato Rosti

Davanti restaurant
Davanti’s bright orange awning is hard to miss — and the restaurant offers plenty of outdoor seating. Courtesy photo.

Davanti, 2900 Weslayan: Chef Roberto Crescini earned a following and attention from Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” for his prior restaurant, Fresco Café Italiano. He’s now joined forces with Francisco “Paco” Calza, general manager of BCN Taste & Tradition, to open this new restaurant in the former Weslayan Café space. Crescini’s pasta at Fresco had an excellent reputation, and that’s a strength here as well. The pasta offerings include tagliatelle with lamb sauce all’Abruzzese, crowd-pleasing lasagna alla bolognese and linguine con vongole alla Napoletana (a Neapolitan dish with clams, garlic and basil). There’s a create-your-own-combination pasta and sauce option, too. We’re also eying the bresaola della valtellina con Parmigiano (an appetizer of thinly sliced, cured beef with gorgonzola and ricotta cream) and sautéed chicken marengo made with marsala wine sauce, crawfish and tomatoes. 

A spread of Mexican street food and tequila-spiked cocktails at El Venado
A spread of Mexican street food and tequila-spiked cocktails at El Venado. Courtesy Photo.

El Venado, 6502 Washington: This modern cantina-inspired watering hole is serving Mexican street food and craft cocktails in its luxe dining room and casual outdoor space. “Inside, it will feel like an upscale mezcal bar, and outside will be an approachable space for familiar cocktails and bites with friends,” says owner Alexander Noons.

Their drink menu is an ode to agave, with an array of handcrafted cocktails, 14 mezcals and more than 40 tequilas. Beat the Houston heat with a Cucumber Fresco made with blanco tequila, lime, cucumber, mint and Topo Chico; or the Sabor Fresa made with reposado tequila, Amaro Montenegro, strawberry, lemon and saba (unfermented grape juice syrup). Those craving something more traditional can find classics such as house margaritas (served frozen or on the rocks), palomas or ranchwaters.

Pair your libations with Tex-Mex favorites such as queso blanco served with housemade chips, ceviche or elote, roasted corn coated in mayo, crema, lime, Tajín, cotija cheese and chili powder. Heartier fare includes tostadas, sopes, nachos and tacos, each served with a choice of chicken tinga, pork carnitas, beef birria or crispy cauliflower, to name a few. Mexican-inspired desserts include the Tequila Sunday, an ancho chile brownie with dulce de leche ice cream and a churro. Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Guests can order chilaquiles, a variety of brunch tacos, or the Latin Shakshuka made with tomatoes, poblano and bell peppers and topped with a poached egg, avocado and queso fresco. 

tray of fried chicken and biscuit
A plate of fried chicken at Fins & Feathers in Independence Heights. Photo by Lindsey Cooper.

Fins & Feathers, 302 West Crosstimbers: Greg Gatlin, owner and pitmaster of Gatlin’s BBQ, has opened a highly-anticipated new concept that specializes in fried chicken and Gulf Coast comfort cuisine. Located in the former home of Herrera’s Mexicatessen Restaurant in Independence Heights, the space holds fond memories for the Gatlin family, and the aim is to build a neighborhood place where members of the community can feel connected. 

In addition to lunch and dinner, the weekend brunch is expected to be a booming affair. The menu, which was developed with Gatlin’s BBQ executive chef Michelle Wallace, features Gulf Coast classics such as F&F Chargrilled Oysters topped with garlic herb butter and Parmesan cheese and New Orleans-Style Barbecue Shrimp. There is, of course, fried chicken — a half a bird with a choice of a side — fried catfish, fried shrimp and po’ boys. There’s also the intriguing sounding F&F Clucker, a chicken-focused charcuterie board featuring southern-fried gizzards, Szechuan-spiced chicken, smoked chicken liver pâté and more. Read more about Fins & Feathers in Ryan Kasey Baker’s article.

georgia james smoked redfish dip
Georgia James’ smoked redfish dip, and, in the background, pho-inspired carpaccio with crispy rice noodles and sprout salad dressed in lemongrass aioli and hoisin glaze. Photo by Phaedra Cook.

Georgia James, 3503 West Dallas: Nationally acclaimed Underbelly Hospitality relaunched this popular steakhouse in the Regent Square development. Shortly after, the company landed in the news when local celebrity chef Chris Shepherd — who co-founded the company and was the face of the business — shocked diners and fans by announcing his departure.

That said, it’s executive chef Greg Peters who’s in charge of the day-to-day kitchen operations at Georgia James, and it seems to be off to a good start. A recent visit (which you will hear more about soon) revealed a long, rectangular dining room decorated in cool grays and warm woods. Anchoring the space is an open kitchen, raw bar and spacious, glass-walled wine cellar. 

The second-floor lounge has a different personality. With the big, upstairs bar leading out to a huge rooftop terrace that runs the length of the building, it’s prime real estate for big parties. When there are no parties, couples will enjoy the outdoor two-top tables with skyline views. The upstairs is still under construction, but should open relatively soon. 

But you want to hear about the food and drink, right? Georgia James’ cast-iron steaks haven’t gone anywhere, and the raw bar is the source of impressive seafood towers, raw oysters from the East and Gulf Coasts and a divine smoked redfish dip with housemade saltines. For this weather, the Freezer ‘Tini with gin, citrus vodka, dry vermouth, blanc quinquina and pickled ginger is highly recommended. Feel free to just pop by the bar for one of these and the Steakhouse Helper (yes, like Hamburger Helper, but 1000% better). 

The new Georgia James is a little tricky to find, as there’s not yet a street-facing sign, but there is plenty of parking in the garage. 

BBQ Bison Meatloaf made with all-natural Durham Ranch grass-raised Wyoming bison at Lazy Dog in Stafford. Courtesy photo.

Lazy Dog Restaurant, 12223 Southwest Freeway: The food scene in Stafford is exploding, but none deserve a round of “a-paws” more than this dog-friendly restaurant that specializes in reinvented American classics and has a mini-menu for four-legged friends. The nationwide chain has six brick-and-mortar concepts across Texas, including one in Cypress. The Stafford location opened on July 13 with a massive indoor space, a 1,526 square-foot patio and an extensive menu with a bit of everything — small plates, salads, sandwiches, burgers, soups, bowls, noodles, entrées, desserts and a full bar.

The casual restaurant, inspired by Jackson Hole, Wyoming, emits the spirit of the mountains with in-house favorites such as the Campfire Pot Roast and the BBQ Bison Meatloaf made with all-natural Durham Ranch grass-raised Wyoming bison. Must-order starters include Crispy Deviled Eggs and cheddar cheese curds served with scratch-made Nashville hot ranch. Thirsty patrons can order handcrafted cocktails like the Mango Chile Margarita or Smoked Maple Bacon Old Fashioned made with housemade bacon-washed Tincup whiskey, cedar smoke, maple syrup and a strip of bacon candy. The Pup Menu has grilled hamburger or chicken breast options for your Fido and complimentary water bowls to keep them cool.

Brunch is Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and happy hour Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. There is also a late-night happy hour Sunday through Thursday from 9 p.m. to midnight, although drink specials end at 11 p.m. Additional experiences include the Lazy Dog Beer Club, which grants members access to small-batch beers, 10-percent off takeout orders and draft upgrades.  

Wagyu meatballs at Passerella
A duo of hunky Wagyu meatballs at Passerella in Cypress. Photo by Phaedra Cook.

Passerella, 9945 Barker Cypress: The owners of Gr8 Plate Hospitality, the company behind Jax Grill and The Union Kitchen, have launched their first Italian concept — and have already announced that a second one is coming to the Heights. So, if you want a preview of that one, visit this one.  We do highly recommend checking out the original, which is an elegant addition to the Cypress restaurant scene. With its waterfront views at The Boardwalk at Towne Lake,  diners can take in the gorgeous scenery and indulge in an elevated dining experience.

The extensive seafood-forward menu showcases an array of Italian fare.. Try classics such as the fritto misto and bucatini e polpette (an updated take on spaghetti and meatballs), or indulge in more adventurous dishes that include  ricotta montata — soft, whipped ricotta garnished with fresh mint, parsley, honey and extra virgin olive oil served with polenta — and pan-seared Branzino alla Calabrese with spinach risotto. Make sure to pair your meal with a glass of wine from the sprawling, 55-bottle wine list or a whimsical beverage from the Dante’s Inferno-themed cocktail menu. Learn more about Passerella inPhaedra Cook’s news article about the opening — and watch for her post-visit article, which is coming soon

Chicken & Waffle at Urban Bird Hot Chicken
Chicken & Waffle at Urban Bird Hot Chicken. Photo by Blackbird Aperture.

Urban Bird Hot Chicken, 5404 Kirby: Is one more hot chicken restaurant needed in Houston? In this case, we’ll definitely say yes. This is the third location of a rapidly expanding local chain (the first Urban Bird was in Katy and second in Cypress) — and more are expected across the region. One of Urban Bird’s selling points is its hormone- and antibiotic-free chicken tenders. According to Eater Houston, the hot chicken is the end product of 60 test recipes. Ordering options include chicken tenders in a sandwich, with waffles or simply as the main dish. There are six heat levels, including Country (no heat), Tennessee BBQ (rich and savory), Nashville Hot (beautiful burn) and, the hottest, Fire In The Hole (“Will burn you twice”). The restaurant also serves homestyle coleslaw, seasoned street corn and a variety of kids’ meals

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