The Hit List: New Houston Restaurants To Visit In August 2018
August is in full swing and with it comes our latest list of new and notable places Houstonians should check out at least once. Whether you are in the mood for world-famous fried chicken, a five-course herbivore menu or an Instagram-worthy cocktail, Houston offers a plethora of tasty choices. With so many new exciting dining options opening monthly, it’s hard to know what’s hot and what’s not, even for us. Some places stay on the list, others go, but all are worth a visit.
Cantina Barba, 3701 North Main: Earlier this summer, the owners of Cantina Barba opened the doors of their first brick-and-mortar location. Those familiar with the Taqueria Barba food truck might recognize the name, as well as the tacos. A custom-built smoker allows for meats like barbacoa, pork shoulder and chicken prepared in-house, accompanied by addicting versions of sides like elotes and plantains. There is also a selection of tequila and mezcal cocktails like the Paloma and not-so-familiar daily specials. If ordering a shot of mezcal, we recommend bypassing the house shot and requesting the bartender’s choice. Cantina Barba is open from breakfast to midnight weekdays and past 2 a.m. on the weekends.
Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, 1815 Washington: This popular fried chicken restaurant, which started in Memphis, Tennessee, opened its first Houston location this past month. The secret family recipe has garnered praise over the years from the likes of GQ, The Food Network & Huffington Post. The fresh, hormone-free chicken is fried in peanut oil. Pieces can be ordered individually (breast, thigh, tender, leg or wing) or as part of plates served with a few sides. Starters and sides include baked beans, slaw, fried green tomatoes, fried okra and macaroni and cheese. The drink selections are as unfussy as a 16-ounce Lone Star or as fancy as a $300 bottle of Dom Perignon.
Restaurant Indigo, 517 Berry: Johnny and Chana Rhodes worked for years to make Restaurant Indigo a reality and it is finally open in an unexpected part of town. It features a five-course tasting menu that leverages Johnny’s prior experience at the likes of Oxheart, The Inn at Dos Brisas and Gramercy Tavern. Indigo offers two seating times Wednesdays through Saturdays at 6 and 8:45 p.m. Each seating offers both an “Omnivore” and “Herbivore” menu for $79 per person with the option to add wine pairings. The intriguing dishes include Chilled Watermelon “Kool-Aid” with blueberry preserves and mint, Aged Smoked Pastrami with Carolina heritage brown mustard and sorghum stewed beets and Magnolia Blossom Ice Cream with peach skin preserves, butterscotch and thyme.
International Smoke, 800 Sorella: Sprung from a pop-up collaboration between superstar chef and cookbook author Michael Mina and TV host Ayesha Curry, International Smoke’s menu blends flavors from Mexico, India, Thailand, Korea and Vietnam. They tapped E.J. Miller (formerly of Riel, Clark Cooper Concepts, and Down House) as executive chef to incorporate some local influences into the menu. With “smoke” in the name, it’s no surprise the menu emphasizes wood-fired cooking. Standout dishes include the Double Duck Wings appetizer with jerk spices and sticky mango and Smoked Korean Short Ribs with kimchi, scallion and sesame. Both pair perfectly with the “Boozy and Bougie” part of the cocktail list. The latter includes the Southern Charm with peach-spiced tea, lemon, mint and Wild Turkey.
Present Company, 1318 Westheimer: It’s not unusual these days for businesses to have an Instagram wall where patrons can snap selfies, but Present Company is a vibrantly hued venue where every spot is a hot spot. The kitchen serves a limited menu until 10 p.m. daily with dishes like the Chicken Parm Sandwich and an ample burger selection. (Note: unlike at owner Shawn Bermudez’s other restaurant The Burger Joint, these burgers are not available to-go.) The cocktail menu is as Instagram-worthy as the décor. Houston Food Finder’s Josh Armendariz recently visited and cited Stranger Danger and Principal Kisses Alligator served in topless La Croix cans as standouts. The real attention-grabber, though, is the Whispering Eye, a tequila-based cocktail with ginger liqueur, lavender syrup and a hot pink elixir made with blue butterfly pea flowers. There is also an ample wine and beer selection.
Phat Eatery, 23119 Colonial Parkway: This sleek new Malaysian restaurant is bringing some seriously swoon-worthy food to Katy. Phat offers a diverse selection of menu items like the Roti Canai (Indian flatbread with curry dip), Beef Rendang (shank in coconut curry) and CK Teow (flat noodles, shrimp, calamari, Chinese sausage, bean sprouts and chives in smoky soy). Phat Eatery also offers red and white wines by the glass with Texas draft beers from Karbach and Saint Arnold as well as imported, bottled beers like Tiger and Tsingtao. The fresh young coconut, though, is a great drink (and snack) for those seeking a non-alcoholic beverage option.
Poitin, 2313 Edwards: Ian Tucker’s ode to his Irish heritage opened in Sawyer Yards this May. (He also owns Balls Out Burger in the Heights.) The executive chef is Kiran’s alum Dominick Lee and the glassy space is casual yet sophisticated, with a stunning view of the downtown skyline. Small plates are decidedly southern-inflected, like the Pick Ya Flavor Pork Skins with your choice of tomatillo-guajillo, Cajun or Saigon kick seasonings and the Heritage Breed Pork Shank. Vegetarian-friendly dishes include Skillet-Basted Cauliflower Steak and Cornmeal-Dusted Okra. The Wild Strawberry dessert, with Ponchatoula strawberries, miso, meringue and black pepper, is an interactive dish from pastry chef Dory Fung. Half the fun is cracking the big meringue with a huge spoon into bite-sized pieces. The other half is eating it.
Saint Arnold Beer Garden, 2000 Lyons: After almost five years of planning, Saint Arnold opened a cathedral-inspired beer garden and restaurant next to the brewery at the end of July. The indoor space is full of vibrant murals by local artists like Mario E. Figueroa (aka @Gonzo247) and the landscaped outdoor space is outfitted with picnic tables, ceiling fans, bocce ball courts and Adirondack chairs for seating. Craft beer lovers can sip on the full range of Saint Arnold beers as well as rotating seasonal specialties and experimental brews. While the food menu is somewhat limited in the brewery itself, executive chef Ryan Savoie has rolled out more than 40 items for the new spot. Options include cheeseburgers, ribeye steaks, TX Hot Fried Chicken and pizzas like the Major Mushroom. The beer garden is open daily.
UB Preserv, 1609 Westheimer: James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Shepherd’s new restaurant, described as the “evolution of Underbelly,” opened in May just down the street from its Montrose predecessor. Head chef Nick Wong has given UB’s menu new perspective and the dishes are influenced just as much by Eastern fare as by Southern. So far, the execution has been exemplary. The Crispy Chicken Wings are tangy on the outside but juicy and soft inside. The Crispy Rice Salad showcases UB Preserv’s flair for combining fresh ingredients and textures by way of crisped rice, mint, cucumber, tomatoes and Serrano pepper. Spirit’s Director Westin Galleymore’s cocktail menu includes festive, well-made tiki bowls for small groups, like the Wild Man of Navidad with both rum and bourbon. Of course, there are innovative, individually sized cocktails, too, such as the Adult Entertainer with dry gin, passion fruit, lime and vanilla served with a shot of rosé alongside.
Coming soon! While our August Hit List only includes places already open at the time we go to press, other notable openings expected before the end of the month include: Vibrant, QJD Peking Duck and Peli Peli Kitchen at Whole Foods 365.
About the author: Beth Levine writes about food, drinks, lifestyle and travel for local and national publications including My Red Glasses, Houstonia, Local Houston Magazine, Charlotte’s Book and Houston Food Finder. An executive assistant by day and freelance writer by night, Beth is originally from both New Jersey and California, but currently calls Houston home. You can follow her on IG @Yogaspots.