The Hit List: New Houston Restaurants to Visit in April 2024

Cornmeal - crusted Snapper

Spring has sprung, and the Houston dining scene isn’t slowing down any time soon. A slew of new restaurants have debuted just in time for patio season. Recent openings include fast-casual eateries, upscale affairs and some familiar names. Here are some spots to check out this month. 

Bar Bludorn
The dining room at Bar Bludorn. Photo by Claudia Casbarian.

Bar Bludorn, 9061 Gaylord: The Memorial area welcomed the third concept from chef Aaron Bludorn, his wife Victoria Pappas Bludorn and partner Cherif Mbodji at the end of March. Bar Bludorn is billed as an upscale tavern with a modern American bistro menu. The kitchen is led by executive chef Alexandra “Allie” Peña, an alum of both Bludorn and Navy Blue. The Houston native trained at the Culinary Institute Lenotre and brings influences from her Texas upbringing as well as her Mexican-American heritage. Diners can look forward to versions of American classics that feature ingredients from the Gulf Coast, such as oysters served three ways, Corn-meal Crusted Snapper served in a potlikker broth (liquid that is made by simmering greens) with kale and black-eyed peas. There are handmade pastas, too, including carbonara with a poached egg yolk, rendered bacon and English peas, and pappardelle with mustard-stoked rabbit ragout. Fans of Bludorn’s monthly fried chicken nights will be happy to find it on Bar Bludorn’s menu served with peanut butter gravy, mashed potatoes, collard greens and hot honey.

Desserts by executive pastry chef Marie Riddle include creations such as the Lemon Ricotta Ice Cream Sandwich served with blueberry jam and the Foie Gras Candy Bar made of marshmallow, foie gras and candied peanuts, and playfully presented in a branded cigar box which guests can take home as a keepsake. In keeping with the other Bludorn concepts, the wine and cocktail selections are just as well thought-out as the food. The wine list features a global collection with emphasis on the Napa and Bordeaux regions. Expect classic cocktails with a twist such as a Negroni with Jägermeister, a Pina Colada flavored with drops of absinthe and crème de menthe, and a rye-drenched Old Fashioned with maraschino liqueur and herbal Italian bitters. Bar Bludorn is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. Reservations are recommended and can be made on Resy

Dishes at Late August
An array of dishes at Late August in the Ion. Photo by Rebekah Flores.

Late August, 4201 Main: Long-awaited doesn’t quite describe the anticipation behind this opening from James Beard Award finalist, chef Chris Williams. After delays spanning more than three years since the initial announcement of the restaurant, and the departure of chef Dawn Burrell, Late August debuted with lunch service inside The Ion at the end of March. Dinner service begins on Monday, April 8. 

Williams, along with executive chef Sergio Hidalgo, formerly with The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation, have curated a menu that incorporates elements from their cultural backgrounds and culinary experiences. Fresh produce comes from Lucille’s 1913 Community Gardens, ensuring a seasonal rotation of dishes that highlight local ingredients. The current menu features small and shareable dishes such as the Texas Caesar with 1913 tomatoes, grilled corn and avocado in a spicy dressing, smoked chicken drumettes with mole and crispy chicken skin and Field Pea Hummus with chorizo and chapulines (grasshoppers) served with fry bread. Entrée options include Louisiana BBQ Seafood with jumbo Gulf shrimp and A1-basted strip loin served with yucca fries and chimichurri. General manager and Level Three Sommelier Danny Davis leads the wine and cocktail program. The wine menu features varietals from regions worldwide with a particular spotlight on small vineyards and wineries owned by women and people of color. The cocktails are bourbon and mezcal-driven. Starting on April 8, Late August will be open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. for lunch, with happy hour from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday will only feature dinner service from 5 to 9 p.m., and the restaurant is closed on Sunday. Reservations are recommended and can be made on OpenTable.

Little Rey
Ford Fry’s new taco eatery Little Rey is now open. Courtesy photo.

Little Rey, 2345 Mid Lane: Chef Ford Fry added to his Houston presence in late March (his other restaurants include Superica, La Lucha and State of Grace) with the second location (the first is in Atlanta) of his new, Northern Mexican-inspired, fast-casual spot. Where sister restaurant Superica is Fry’s take on Tex-Mex, Little Rey is influenced more by traditional Mexican taquerias. The signature dish is the smoky, marinated, wood-roasted chicken al carbon, available on its own or in tacos, and served with tortillas, rice and beans. Other offerings include beef and pork al carbon tacos, street-style tacos of carne asada, suadero (brisket) and carnitas (crispy pork belly) and quesadillas

Houstonians loves breakfast tacos, and diners can find them here on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., along with other breakfast dishes such as a chalupa, hotcakes and huevos rancheros. Beverage options include margaritas, Mexican beers, local craft beers and housemade aquas frescas in various flavors. Finish the meal with soft serve ice cream in flavors such as cajeta (Mexican caramel) and tres leches. The restaurant features a covered patio and an outdoor walk-up window for to-go orders. It is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 10, Saturday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Reservations are not required. 

Magdalena’s Pizza and Trattoria, 5110 Buffalo Speedway: The late-February opening of this West University Italian restaurant may have gotten lost amid all the other new Italian and pizza restaurants across town, but locals have taken notice and are filling the dining room of this new neighborhood gem. The restaurant is casual but still has an elegant charm to it, and the menu has a little bit of everything, making it a good option for different occasions. Owner Nicolas Nikic is no stranger to the restaurant industry or to Italian fare, having spent almost 20 years as the general manager and sommelier for Marco Wiles’ long-standing Houston Italian restaurants Da Marco and now-closed Dolce Vita. (Wiles has accused Nikic of copying Dolce Vita’s dishes for Magdalena.)

Helming the kitchen, and bringing Nikic’s vision of authentic Italian cuisine to life is executive chef Luis Silva, whose experience includes La Griglia and Vic & Anthony’s. The menu includes handmade pasta, including hearty pappardelle with chicken cacciatore and delicate sweet corn ravioli with lobster and tomato olive oil sauce. Delve into secondi options of oven-roasted branzino, baked quail with polenta and duck breast with Brussels sprouts and fennel salad. 

The hand-tossed, wood oven-baked pizzas are the main draw. There are 14 different selections on the menu including a classic Margherita, the Vongole with clams, garlic, cherry tomatoes and mozzarella, and the Tonno E Cipolla with tomato, preserved Sicilian tuna and tropea (sweet red) onions. Desserts by pastry chef Maribel Zarate include classics such as panna cotta, cannoli and tiramisu. Nikic has curated the restaurant’s wine list himself, an extensive selection of domestic, French and Italian wines. Magdalena is open Tuesday through Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m., Friday 4 to 10 p.m., Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Reservations are recommended and can be made on the website

Roasted Oysters
Roasted Oysters from new Berg Hospitality restaurant Prime 131. Photo by Minh Truong.

Prime 131, 2505 West 11th: Ben Berg has opened his 13th restaurant under the Berg Hospitality umbrella. Located in the Timbergrove neighborhood in the Heights, Prime 131 may be his most ambitious venture yet a combination of three distinct concepts: steakhouse fare, Korean barbecue and Japanese sushi. Much like his flagship B&B Butchers (in fact, the restaurant is named after the best seat in the house at B&B) the menu highlights premium cuts of meat as well as prime seafood. Diners can expect indulgent offerings such as the fire-grilled shellfish tower which features Alaskan king crab, grilled head-on shrimp, roasted oysters and a whole roasted lobster, the Dinosaur Bone Marrow topped with onion jam and braised short ribs, American, Australian or Japanese Wagyu beef grilled over wood-fired grills or on the table-top grills and the omakase platter, which includes a selection of  sashimi, nigiri and specialty rolls

The kitchen setup is just as over-the-top as the food. The restaurant is centered around four wood grills and two coal-powered Josper ovens, giving diners a show with their dinner as the chefs navigate their culinary “stage”. Almost every dish has an element of smoke or flame, including desserts, such as the take on s’mores that are roasted at the table. Cocktails include retro classics such as a Cosmopolitan and Manhattan and Champagne cocktails like the French 75. Prime 131 is open Monday through Thursday from 4 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 4 to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 4 to 9 p.m. Reservations are recommended and can be made on OpenTable

Wokker
Dishes from Asian fusion stall Wokker at the Conservatory Galleria. Courtesy Photo.

Conservatory Galleria, 5353 W Alabama: Native Houstonians won’t be able to help the feelings of nostalgia as they step into the new food hall that was once The Roxy, the long-standing Galleria-area nightclub that shuttered in 2014. The three-level, 12,000-square-foot space opened in February and is now home to over 10 restaurant options including crispy fried hot chicken spot, Bird Haus, Pakistani food truck favorite Rollin Phatties, Wokker with its signature Tex-Asian fare, and Seoulside Wings, which specializes in Korean fried chicken and rice bowls. The hall also features two bars serving beer, wine and craft cocktails. The upstairs bar, dubbed The Roxy Room, pays homage to its predecessor. It is open daily from 11 to 1 a.m.

Roasted Seafood Platter Duchess
The Roasted Seafood Platter at new Uptown restaurant Duchess. Courtesy Photo.

Duchess, 1131 Uptown Park: This new, contemporary restaurant in Uptown Park opened in mid-February. It takes over the space that was once home to cocktail bar, Belvedere. The fare is described as inspired by the coastal cultures of the Mediterranean, Asia and South America. The inventive menu comes from the mind of Love Croissants chef-owner Omar Pereney in collaboration with owners Peggy and Daniel Chang, who also own neighboring restaurant Uptown Sushi, and Roveen Abante — a Houston nightlife veteran and partner of the aforementioned Conservatory Galleria.

The main attractions of the menu are an array of dishes cooked over a wood-fired grill. One such dish is the Roasted Seafood Platter which features Oysters Rockefeller, sautéed mussels, wood-grilled lobster tail, octopus and tiger prawns. An entire section of the menu is dedicated to wood-fired skewers, with options including Atlantic salmon with a honey, garlic and lemongrass glaze, lobster tail with beurre blanc and caviar, and ribeye served with cucumber yogurt. Other main dishes include bucatini with mussels, pan-seared snapper and steak frites.

The interior of jewel tones of blue and green is upscale but refrains from being over the top, and is elegant, yet understated. The industry veterans know their way around cocktails, and the menu features several handcrafted cocktails such as the aptly named Uptown, Duchess’ version of a Manhattan made with Redemption Rye, China China Liqueur (a blend of sweet and bitter orange peels) and bitters blend. Duchess is open for lunch and dinner Sunday through Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Reservations are recommended and can be made on the website

MF Lobster & Ceviche
The new MF Lobster & Ceviche is in a unique, round-shaped building in Autry Park. Photo by Stephen Gutierrez.

MF Lobster & Ceviche, 3711 Autry Park: Autry Park, the mixed-use “urban village” on the edge of Buffalo Bayou Park, is the latest culinary hotspot thanks to Annabelle Brasserie and Auden opening late last year. The latest additions of MF Lobster & Ceviche, which opened in February, is from chef Chris Kinjo of MF Sushi, in partnership with long-time partner chef Miguel Alvarez.

Kinjo’s travels to New England inspired the concept, so menu highlights lobster, which appears in such dishes as lobster tacos, lobster grilled cheese and Brown Butter Lobster Bao. Those who want to have lobster in its purest form can order whole lobster steamed or grilled. A favorite on a first visit was the clam chowder, which was creamy but not too heavy, making the generous portions of clam the star of the show, with crisp bacon bits adding a pleasant contrast of texture.

As good as the hot dishes are, it would be a shame to not order the cold options of sashimi and crudo of tuna, Madai, salmon and Hamachi. Kinjo uses the same Japan-based purveyors for MF Sushi. The ceviche is also a must-order, particularly the madai, as the sweetness pairs well with the acidity and creaminess of the avocado. Japanese-inspired libations are the highlights of the cocktail list, including the Glass Noodle, made with coconut liqueur, pineapple, cucumber and sesame oil.

MF Lobster & Ceviche aims to be the more casual sister to MF Sushi, but it is still a stunner as Houston’s only completely round restaurant. The sleek interior is very minimal, keeping the attention on the 15-foot steel tree-like centerpiece and the onyx bar. It is an ambiance that can be a little confusing there were diners dressed very casually and others that were dressed for a night out, but there is no confusion about the food and the quality of which MF has come to be known. MF Lobster & Ceviche is open for lunch Monday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and for dinner Sunday through Thursday 5 to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5:30 to 11 p.m. Reservations are recommended and can be made on OpenTable

Tsujita Artisan Noodle, 12230 Westheimer: Tsujita Artisan Noodle opened its doors last month in the new West on West shopping center in the Westchase District, The popular ramen restaurant originated in Tokyo, Japan in 2003 and has since expanded to multiple locations in the U.S. This location marks its first in Texas. Tsujita is known for its 15-hour simmered broth and the signature tsukemen noodle options, where the “dipping noodles” are served separately from the thick, flavorful broth. Other dishes on the menu include a variety of baos and appetizers such as fried gyoza. It is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m to 10 p.m. and on Sunday from 12 to 9 p.m.

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