The Hit List: New Houston Restaurants to Visit for July 2022
This month is full of exciting developments including the long-awaited relocation of Underbelly Hospitality’s steakhouse, an indoor-outdoor tequila cantina on the bustling Washington Corridor, an eagerly anticipated sequel from the family who brought us Gatlin’s BBQ and a dog-friendly American food chain bringing mountain town hospitality to Stafford.
Read on to discover the tastiest ways to dine and stay refreshed this summer.
El Venado, 6502 Washington: A modern cantina-inspired ice house has opened on Washington. It’s serving Mexican street food and craft cocktails in a a luxe interior 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.
Fins & Feathers, 302 West Crosstimbers: Greg Gatlin, owner and pitmaster of Gatlin’s BBQ, is unveiling his highly-anticipated sister concept that specializes in fried chicken and fresh Gulf Coast comfort cuisine. It opens on July 15 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 is being developed with Gatlin’s BBQ executive chef Michelle Wallace, is not yet published, however, teasers on Instagram include po’boys, campechana (a tomato-based take on ceviche), mole duck, Louisiana BBQ shrimp, and, naturally, “finger-licking good” fried chicken. Read more about Fins & Feathers in Ellie Sharp’s article.
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 opens 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.
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 warehouse was converted by rootlab into a modern, airy bistro with cozy vibes. Cafe Louie’s menu is modestly sized, with a clear focus on high-quality, mostly local ingredients that nod to 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). Their lunch menu, referred to as “Day Time”, includes shareable, family-style dishes such as the “Ham Sammich” — a simple sandwich elevated by fried potato strings — the Shrimp Louie (a new take on the classic salad of blue crab, Gulf shrimp, new bay aioli and pickled celery), and the Preserved Lemon Chicken with carrot salad and poached egg served over vadouvan-seasoned rice. Dinner will be available soon, as well as a walk-up window. Read more in David Leftwich’s First Bite article.
Ramen Moto, 401 Franklin: Chef-owner Mike Tran has added a 10th concept to his impressive list of Houston eateries, which includes Mein Restaurant, Tiger Den and Night Market Noodle. Ramen Moto’s home is inside of POST Houston’s buzzing food hall, POST Market. Japan-influenced shop offers ramen crafted daily using high-quality ingredients. The tonkotsu ramen consists of a rich-and-creamy pork bone broth that takes over 24 hours to prepare, slow-braised chashu pork belly and housemade noodles. Ramen-hungry guests are advised to show up early since these premium bowls are sold in limited batches. On Apple Tuesdays, customers can enjoy 20% off of all food purchases at Ramen Moto (or any POST Market Restaurant) when using Apple Pay to check out at the register. Visit POST Market’s website for more information.
Georgia James, 3503 West Dallas: Nationally acclaimed Underbelly Hospitality is relaunching their popular steakhouse concept in the Regent Square development. “This is our first new-build site, which created a variety of benefits for the resulting design and functionality of the space,” said James Beard Award-winning chef and Underbelly Hospitality co-founder Chris Shepherd. “We are so excited to welcome guests in to this cosmopolitan, serene and airy dining room that is as much a representation of Houston’s evolution as it is of our own.” The eagerly awaited restaurant debuted its modern, 7,000 square foot first-floor steakhouse dining room and raw bar on Friday, July 1 The second-floor lounge, which features two expansive terraces and views of the skyline, is slated to follow in late July.
Though the restaurant has shifted to a permanent home in the Allen Parkway corridor, the menu still embodies the flavors and essence of the original Georgia James. In addition to the signature cast-iron steaks, cold seafood dishes and seasonal sides, executive chef Greg Peters is delivering fan-favorites such as Viet-Cajun Oysters. The renowned beverage program continues to impress with a list of 500 wines from around the world and cocktails that focus on global spirits such as the Pear n’ Tonic, made with gin, bermutto (a Japanese sake-based vermouth), pear and citrus tonic.
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. Passerella (which translates to “footbridge” or “catwalk”) is a waterfront restaurant at The Boardwalk at Towne Lake, where diners can take in the gorgeous view and indulge in an elevated dining experience.
Complete with antipasto, pasta, pizza and upscale entrées, the extensive seafood-forward menu showcases an array of Italian fare to satisfy any palette. Classics such as the fritto misto and bucatini e polpette (an updated take on spaghetti and meatballs) are familiar favorites, while more adventurous dishes include the 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 in Phaedra Cook’s article.
Uchiko, 1801 Post Oak: Hai Hospitality, the masterminds who brought us Uchi and Loro, debuted its second Uchiko outpost in Zadok’s Post Oak Place on May 23. (The original location is in Austin.) Uchiko, sister concept to Uchi, is led by chef de cuisine Shaun King, former executive chef of Momofuku Las Vegas. “We’ve been experimenting a lot with charring and juicing vegetables, and the use of smoke to strike a balance between bold and more delicate flavors, “said King. “The Dry Aged Duck is rich, delicate, and smoky, and I think it is representative of the evolution of the Uchiko concept.
The Japanese-influenced menu carries over signature favorites from Uchi, such as Hama Chili, Sunomono, Hotate Crudo and the P-38 roll, to name a few. Two tiers of omakase are available at market pricing: the Chef’s Tasting and the Signature Tasting. New dishes that embody Uchiko’s hallmark smoky flavors include the Hearth Roasted Lobster wrapped in a banana leaf and the Charred Onion Aged Bar N Ranch Beef, which is seared four times and served with A5 Wagyu beef fat-fried fries and foie au poivre (creamy peppercorn sauce with foie gras added for richness). The “hearth-centric” theme even applies to the desserts that include an inventive version of s’mores made with the marshmallow toasted tableside over binchotan (white charcoal). The cocktail list plays off of the textures and robust flavors found throughout all of Uchiko’s offerings. Try the Tea Smoked Martini, which features smoked gin concentrate, jasmine tea and a “not smoked” gin for balance. Happy hour features 50% off of bubbles and is available daily from 4 to 6 p.m.
Goode Co. Fish Camp, 8865 Six Pines Drive, Shenandoah, TX: The latest venture from Goode Company pulls from the father/son connection between owner Levi Goode and his late dad, Jim Goode. “This newest concept is especially personal to me because it’s inspired by time spent fishing with my dad on Christmas Bay,” says Goode.
Expect fresh Gulf oysters along with heartier fare such as Crispy Boudin, Christmas Bay Gumbo with shrimp and crab served over seafood rice, the company’s famous Damn Goode Burger and hearth-roasted Yellowfin Tuna topped with Gulf shrimp and Veracruzana sauce with tomatoes, olives, jalapeños and capers. Fish Camp also serves a selection of local beer in addition to classic and signature cocktails such as Fish Camp Punch made with both light and dark rums, fresh pineapple, passion fruit, tiki bitters and fresh lime.
Hamsa, 5555 Morningside: From Itai Ben Eli, chef Sash Kurgan and Itamar Levy of Sof Hospitality — owners of Doris Metropolitan steakhouse and pastry shop Badolina (also in Rice Village) — comes Hamsa Modern Israeli Cuisine. The menu from Kurgan and Yotam Dolev is aimed at delivering “dishes rich with vegetables, spices and one-of-a-kind flavor profiles.” With a heavy emphasis on family-style dining, guests will be encouraged to order a variety of salatim, a Hebrew word for a first course of dips, spreads and slaws. Dishes on the lunch menu include Cauliflower Couscous Salad, Shakshuka and grilled branzino, with dinner options such as Eggplant Balady and Arak Mussels.
Sommelier and General Manager, Melissa Rogers offers a wine list that spotlights Middle Eastern wines, including those from Israel and Lebanon. Hamsa serves lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. (The restaurant is closed on Mondays.) Valet is complimentary (gratuity only). For more details, check out Phaedra Cook’s article.
Peony & Crane, 626 West 19th: This neighborhood eatery serves Chinese food in the Heights. The menu includes a variety of vegetarian and meat-based dishes, many of which feature slightly risqué names, such as Numb-Ass Shanky Leg with Sichuan beef, peppercorn, celery, Thai pepper and green pepper; smoked bacon belly on chives; Sichuan dry-fried green beans, Smoking Lotus (spicy fried Chinese cabbage) and Fuzzy Balls for dessert (ube mochi rolled in coconut flakes). The restaurant offers a small selection of beer, sake and wines by the glass or bottle.
The Warwick, 5888 Westheimer: Named after one of Houston’s oldest luxury hotels and housed inside the former Houston’s space on Westheimer, The Warwick aims to deliver high-quality food in a luxurious atmosphere to those missing both the hotel and previous restaurant. New Orleans native Antoine Ware is consulting chef, drawing from his extensive background while also collaborating with local chefs to bring The Warwick’s Southern-influenced American menu to life.
Inside the marble and tiled space, designed by Nicki Dooms of NHI Design, diners can choose to sit in one of the custom banquettes or grab a seat in the shade on one of two outdoor patios. There is also a private dining room for events.
Highlights on the menu include Charbroiled Gulf Oysters; Chili-Glazed Gulf Shrimp, jumbo fried shrimp tossed with a spicy red glaze; the Hawaiian Ribeye, a 16-ounce boneless prime ribeye marinated for 48 hours in pineapple, brown sugar and ginger; and grilled lobster tails poached in butter, sprinkled with Cajun spices and laid on a bed of Andouille Jambalaya Risotto.
Beverage director Andrew Grala’s cocktail list features selections such as the Desperado made with Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, turbinado sugar, raspberry puree and walnut bitters in addition to an affordable wine list by both the glass and bottle. Read more in Staci Davis’ first impressions article.
Marmo Italian, 888 Westheimer: Baltimore-based Atlas Restaurant Group, which also operates Loch Bar and Ouzo Bay, debuted a lively, Italian chophouse in mixed-development hub Montrose Collective. The vibrant 120-seat dining space also features a 10-seat lounge and U-shaped bar. The menu from executive chef Eli Jackson and chef-partner Julian Marucci (of parent company Atlas) includes classics such as chicken and eggplant parmigiana and chicken marsala next to innovative dishes like squid ink campanelle with blue crab, uni cream sauce, basil and chile, and a colorful hamachi dish topped with basil, avocado and squid ink rice chips served over passion fruit ponzu.
With a wine list spanning over 20 pages, Marmo also offers ample beer, Italian aperitifs and both signature and classic cocktails. Happy hour features Peroni beer on tap from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Those looking to dine al fresco can take advantage of Montrose Collective’s shared outdoor area, which houses Marmo’s covered patio.
Lees Den, 2424 Dunstan: Local Foods owner Benjy Levit has opened this new wine bar in Benjy’s former lounge space. The “den” offers guests ample-but-intimate seating for over 50. The interior was designed by Brittany Vaughan of Garnish Designs, the company that also worked on other unique spaces, such as Theodore Rex. The wine list (created by GM certified sommelier Chrisanna Shewbart) highlights selections by the glass and bottle designed for pairing alongside locally sourced seasonal bar bites and entrées (den-goers can also grab a bottle from Local Foods Market next door). Those looking for cocktail-themed wine libations can choose from a rotating list, such as the Spring Thyme Spritz made with a peach and thyme vermouth.
Chef Maria Gonzalez (of Benjy’s and Local Foods) offers outside-the-box bites, such as Benjy’s Hurricane Popcorn with Korean red pepper salt and chocolate covered peanuts and Bread & Caviar made with Japanese milk bread, smoked trout roe and European butter. Those looking for a heartier meal can choose from entrée-sized mains like the Roasted 44 Farms Steak and Potato or Midnight Pasta with tomato sauce, Calabrian chilies and olives.