The Hit List: New Houston Restaurants to Visit in July 2021
Summer is officially here, and with the heat, humidity, and afternoon showers come several new Houston dining options to keep you cool and dry. Whether it’s sipping a cocktail at the Museum of Fine Art’s sleek, new restaurant or grabbing a bite at a new casual café from one of the area’s hottest restaurant groups, Houston continues to offer something for every mood and culinary taste.
Acme Oyster House – Houston, 1201 Westheimer: This New Orleans staple, which has served oysters since 1910, opened its doors this April in the former El Real Tex-Mex Café spot. Inside the expansive former movie theater, Houstonians can now dine on Acme favorites such as Oyster Rockefeller Soup and Boo Fries (French fries topped with roast beef, gravy and cheese).
Tapping into Houston’s local culinary scene, Acme worked with Bread Man Baking Company to create the bread for its famed po-boys and added new menu items just for the this location. The latter include Crawfish Dip, which blends crawfish tails with cream cheese, onions, garlic, celery and Romano cheese, and assorted tacos such as Boom Boom Tacos, made with Acme’s Boom Boom shrimp, chipotle ranch slaw and green onions.
To sip alongside your oysters, Acme has an ample wine and beer list as well as cocktails, such as the Killer Buzz made with Sugar Island rum, Hiram Walker Blue Curaçao, Sierra Mist and pineapple juice.
Agnes Café & Provisions, 2132 Bissonnet: This new Mediterranean cafe and grocery in Rice Village springs from two longtime Houston friends and veterans of the restaurant scene, Molly Voorhees and Carolyn Dorros. Another familiar face, Brendon Fetzer, formerly of Canopy, is serving as general manager. The café serves Greek-influenced meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which debuted July 13, that also incorporate ingredients from local purveyors, such as Houston Dairymaids. There is also a specialty grocery section and to-go items.
Breakfast choices include Baklava Granola, made with oats, pistachios, walnuts, Bulgarian yogurt and honey, and the Breakfast Mezze with a nine-minute egg, labneh, hummus, pickled tomatoes, cucumbers, dates and flatbread. For dinner, guests can look forward to options such as half-roasted chicken with turmeric-green olive vinaigrette and saffron rice. To sip alongside meals, diners can choose from a current menu of assorted non-alcoholic items. There’s a curated wine and cocktail list coming soon. Once it arrives, guests can enjoy libations and wine selections from John Mason, the current wine and beverage manager at River Oaks Country Club and formerly of Camerata. Planned cocktails include Elderflower Spritz, Rosemary Paloma, Blood Orange Mezcal Margarita and Tomato Martini with vodka and fresh tomatoes.
Da Gama, 600 North Shepherd (M.K.T. Development): This restaurant, situated inside The M‑K‑T mixed-use development in the Heights, is from Shiva and Rick Di Virgilio, the industry veterans behind Oporto in midtown and the now-closed Queen Vic Pub. Poised as the “next level” Queen Vic, the Portuguese- and Indian-inspired menu harkens back to their combined heritage.
Da Gama currently offers a selection of tapas-style shareables broken out into four categories: do Quinta (vegetables), do Mar (seafood), do Carne (meat), and Pao (breads). We suggest the Tandoori Roots made with tandoor-roasted carrots and beets, whipped honey ricotta and pistachios, and the hearty Pork Vindaloo with braised pork curry, Kashmiri chili, peas and sweet potatoes. From the bar, diners can get wine on tap as well as unique cocktails, such as the Cashew Milk Punch with Old Monk Rum, cashew milk, sweet chai and passion fruit.
Fegen’s, 1050 Studewood: Lance Fegen and his restaurant group, F.E.E.D. TX, have converted the former Liberty Kitchen & Oyster Bar in the Heights into the chef’s first eponymous restaurant. Fegen’s is serving classic American fare that leans heavily into Southern Italian cuisine. Diners can start their meals with appetizers such as Meatballs & Fennel Sausage with tomato-veal gravy, basil, cherry pepper and salted bread and then order Linguine & Clam Sauce with a choice of red or white sauce.
Sicilian-style pizza is also on the menu, with familiar staples such as Margherita and signature combinations like Purple Rain with fried eggplant, fresh ricotta, tomato gravy, basil and Sicilian olive oil. Those looking for meatier fare can choose from a selection of steaks, chicken dishes or a love-it-or-hate-it classic: liver and onions. To accompany dinner, Nicole Meza, whose bar experience includes Weights + Measures and Julep, has curated a cocktail list of classics such as the Sazerac and original concoctions like the Staycation with bourbon, lemon juice, passion fruit and grapefruit bitters.
Gatsby’s Prime Steakhouse, 4319 Montrose: Housed in the former Pax Americana space, Gatsby’s Prime Steakhouse opened its lavish doors in March. This intimately focused dining experience is hitting its stride as more and more Houstonians are now going out for special occasions. The menu is decadent and rich, as in, pricey. Start with two indulgent options for deviled eggs: fried or topped with fried shrimp and bacon jam. There are also customizable seafood towers and a bevy of steak options such as a 24-ounce Porterhouse and the 40-ounce “Tomahawk” Ribeye. Since no steakhouse is complete without sides, Gatsby’s offers up a dozen to accompany your steak, from the usual suspects such as steak fries and baked potatoes to specialties like Cream Corn Brûlée.
From the bar, Gatsby’s offers over 20 wines by the glass, a large selection of wines by the bottle and housemade cocktails such as the Great Gatsby made with Wheatley vodka, Lillet, and grapefruit juice, and the Plain James with Presidente brandy, honey, spice and ginger beer.
Gratify Neighborhood Bistro, 5212 Morningside: From Clark Cooper Concepts comes Gratify Neighborhood Bistro, which is housed inside the former Punk’s Simple Southern Food spot in Rice Village. Currently open for dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays (lunch is in the works), Gratify’s menu is comprised of posh fare such as Lobster and Crab Mac n’ Cheese made with gruyère, gouda, manchego, garlic butter and the Taglierini and Truffles, which Houston Food Finder’s Sandra Crittenden tried on her recent visit and found quite gratifying. From the extensive raw bar, diners can go decadent with choices like the Plateau de Fruits de Mer (in both grand and gratify sizes) or keep things on the lighter side with dishes like the Yellowfin Crudo with capers, onion and lemon olive oil.
Gratify’s wine list offers a good range of bottles and selections by the glass. There are also classic cocktails like the Negroni and the Manhattan and, on the Traveler’s List, drinks inspired by bars from around the country, such as The Good, the Bad and the Hombre made with Del Maguey Vida mezcal, Montenegro amaro, fresh squeezed lemon from the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood.
Homestead Kitchen & Bar, 600 North Shepherd (M.K.T. Development): Houstonian transplant Jeff Svenvold was looking for a cozy space to open his first restaurant and the mixed-use space at M-K-T fit the bill. Drawing inspiration from Tex-Mex, Cajun and Southern comfort food, Svenvold partnered with A’ La Carte Consulting Group for this café’s menu, which aims to hit the sweet spot blending all three influences into accessible fare. The resulting menu is ample, with the all-day breakfast section alone offering over a dozen “features” such as the Breakfast Huarache made with fried masa cake layered with refried beans, Mexican chorizo, sunny side up egg, crema fresca, shredded lettuce, queso fresco, avocado and cilantro. There are also five different pancake choices (like the Pina Colada Pancakes) and bakery items like churros and beignets.
The Lunch & Later section (billed as 11 a.m. until “close,” which is currently 3 p.m.) offers standouts such as Southern Fried Chicken served with mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and chipotle aioli, and the Backyard Beef Barbacoa made with adobo-spiced beef served with diced white onions, cilantro, lime, morita pepper salsa, creamy salsa verde, housemade flour or corn tortillas, Mexican rice and beans. House cocktails include classics like the Old Fashioned and Sazerac alongside originals like the Homestead Bloody Mary made with housemade mix and cucumber vodka.
Le Jardinier, 5500 Main: At Museum of Fine Arts Houston’s new Kinder Building, Houstonian’s can now snack on baked items from the casual Café Leonelli or indulge in elegant, fine dining at Le Jardinier, which is helmed by French chef Alain Verzeroli. Le Jardinier’s menu emphasizes locally sourced items and influences. With seating alongside artful views of the Cullen Sculpture Garden, the dishes are almost as pretty as the views. À la carte selections such as grilled Spanish octopus with romesco and smoked marble potatoes and the ricotta agnolotti with spiced tomato coulis, pinenuts and herbs deliver on taste as well as presentation. There is also a seasonal tasting menu for $125. Specialty cocktails include the Noguchi Garden with Meyer lemon vodka, sake, cucumber & tomato water, lime and soda and the Cromosat & Tonic with gin, butterfly pea flower, lemongrass, lime and tonic.
NoPo Café Market & Bar, 1244 North Post Oak: Berg Hospitality Group (B&B Butcher and Restaurant, B.B. Lemon, Turner’s) recently opened NoPo Café Market & Bar — an all-day café with breakfast, lunch and dinner, in addition to a marketplace. NoPo’s menu has an East Coast-vibe with breakfast dishes like the Smoked Salmon & Schmeer and the I “Heart” NY Egg Sandwich and cocktails like The Upper East Side made with Jameson, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, Angostura Bitters and Luxardo Cherry.
Diners can opt for easy on-the-go items both at the counter and in the market, or stay for a full-service meal such as Steak Frites, a Wagyu flat iron steak served with green peppercorn sauce and, of course, fries. Inside the ample space guests can choose from café seating, the dining room, patio service and even a small six-seat bar. In addition to the cocktail list, NoPo also features a wine list with over 30 bottles hailing from Northern California to a few European options, and 10 wines by the glass.
Roots Wine Bar, 3107 Leland: Wine lovers have a new destination in the East End; one where they can even pour their own wine. With a rotating list of over 50 wines on tap available in one-, three- and five-ounce pours, Roots Wine Bar aims to provides guests with an interactive, “try-before-you-buy” experience. In addition, patrons can purchase wines by the bottle for both dining in and taking home.
Poised as a destination for both wine and food, Root’s kitchen, led by executive chef and general manager JD Fouché, who has cooked at Houston favorites Reef and Riel, focuses on locally sourced Gulf Coast cuisine with roughly a dozen items that regularly rotate. Current selections include lighter fare such as roasted beets with caraway roasted beets, whipped goat cheese, fennel and arugula topped with sunflower seeds, and fried Galveston Bay oysters with cornmeal, sugarcane-crystal crema, peppadew relish and cilantro. Heartier options include Chicken Ballotine served with pea puree, turnips, oyster mushrooms and jus de viande.
YELO, 23119 Colonial Parkway, Katy: Good news: (Yes we are still keeping them on the list) Yelo, from Phat Eatery‘s Alex Au-Yeung and Cuc Lam, who established her reputation by hosting private dinners via ChefsFeed, then later as the driving force of the short-lived restaurant SING, is now open next door to Phat Eatery. That means its head-turning bánh mì is available every day, including the Char Siu Xiu Mai Bánh Mì that Houston Chronicle restaurant critic Alison Cook cited as a favorite dish of 2020. Other must-orders include Lam’s excellent crab rangoon, specialty drinks like the Pandan Iced Latte and freshly pressed juices such as the Green Goddess with celery, cucumber, green apple, pear and lemon.
Disclosure: Phat Eatery and MFAH/Le Jardiner are Houston Food Finder sponsors and make it possible for us to pay our writers and publish informative articles like this one about Houston bars and restaurants. Interested in helping our mission? Email us.