The Hit List: New Houston Restaurants to Visit in October 2019
Fall is usually a busy season for new Houston restaurants and, as the temperatures threaten to dip into the 80s, this autumn is already off to a tasty start. From a recently revamped Houston classic to Mike Tran’s latest venture in Chinatown, Houstonians have a plethora of new dining options. To help you decide where to go, here’s our list of whats worth your time and appetite this month.
Annie Cafe & Bar, 1800 Post Oak: James Beard-award winning chef Robert Del Grande has teamed with Benjamin Berg of Berg Hospitality Group (B.B. Butcher, B.B. Lemon and B.B. Italia) and Sam Governale of Emmaline to retool his Houston classic into The Annie Café & Bar. Offering Houstonians what Berg refers to as a brighter and more comfortable space, the redesigned restaurant features new private dining areas, a larger bar and an updated patio.
The menu includes new starters such as Rabbit Pot Pie and Ahi tuna crudo with queso fresco, avocado and grapefruit, and entrées that include lumache pasta with broccoli rabe, tomato fennel and shrimp sausage and Scottish salmon with black lentil stew and Fresno chile romesco. For those who want to share, the Dinner Bell Chicken served with sweet potato, cornbread dressing and green bean salad is one of three dinner-for-two options. Burger lovers will want to check out the 30 Count Burger early, since word has it only 30 of these wagyu burgers are made each night for dinner. But don’t fret: they offer three other burgers at lunch. On the cocktail menu, the Almost Famous with El Silencio mezcal, yellow Chartreuse, Aperol, and lime and the Post Oak Boulevardier with Bulleit bourbon, hibiscus infused Campari and Cocchi Torino vermouth are definitely worth a sip.
Bori,1453 Witte: Those in the mood for Korean barbecue have a new spot to visit in Spring Branch’s Koreatown, home to other frequented eateries such as Korea Garden and Jung Deun Jib. The housemade pork and vegetable dumplings (served steamed or pan fried) and japchae, sweet-potato-based glass noodles with pork and vegetables, make good starters. However, the real emphasis at Bori is the meat. They offer eight beef options, including rib eye that’s dry-aged for at least 41 days, four pork choices and combinations of both meats that can be grilled in individual portions at your table. Add-ons such as corn cheese and mini soybean stew are also worth the visit.
Candente, 4306 Yoakum: From Sambrooks Management Company, the team behind The Pit Room and 1751 Sea and Bar, comes Candente, in Cane Rosso’s former Montrose location. Combining their background in barbecue with Tex-Mex, the menu sizzles with offerings such as Prime Niman Ranch ribeye fajitas and pork carnitas, all served with the usual fixings and your choice of housemade flour or corn tortillas. Those with even heartier appetites will find satisfaction in one of the seven grill combinations, ranging from the smaller sized Laredo (half a rack of ribs and carnitas) to Feast #4, a hefty combination of fajitas, carnitas, quail, a jalapeño cheddar link, jumbo chili lime shrimps, shrimp brochettes, a half rack of ribs and chile relleno. You can also order traditional dinner items like enchiladas, tamales, tacos and burritos as well as lighter selections such as ceviche and redfish halfshell. To help wash down these meaty dishes, diners can choose from a selection of margaritas (frozen or on the rocks), classic cocktails, and refreshing agua frescas. Our editor and publisher Phaedra Cook visited a few weeks ago and says that tough enchilada tortillas and overly salty salsa indicate there are a few fresh-out-of-the-gate kinks to iron out, but that’s not unusual for a new restaurant. Overall, it’s good and worth a visit.
One Fifth Gulf Coast, 1658 Westheimer: With only one iteration left in their five-year plan, Chris Shepherd and his team opened One Fifth Gulf Coast in August. Chef de cuisine Matt Staph’s family has a house in Rockport, and culinary director Nick Fine and pastry director Victoria Dearmond both grew up on the coast, so the team has the background to show off the diversity of the region. Shellfish aficionados can dine on standouts such as the roasted oysters with Mama Shepherd’s smoked oyster dressing, blue crab fingers in caramelized fish sauce and New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp with poblanos and corn.
From the Small Stuff section, the Steen’s Sugar Cane-Glazed Pork Belly, which Shepherd made famous at Catalan, and the fried shaved catfish with Prewitt’s pickled greens are solid choices. Those looking for some heartier fare can indulge in entrées such as smoked pork, chicken and shrimp jambalaya for two and the Gulf catch of the day. Wine director Matthew Pridgen has curated a wine list that focuses on white and lighter reds and the cocktail menu by Underbelly Hospitality beverage director Westin Galleymore showcases playful drinks like the Bend and Snap with tamarind-infused Wheatley vodka, Cappelletti Aperitivo, lemon and orange.
Penny Quarter, 1424 Westheimer: Penny Quarter, located in the former Etro space behind Anvil, debuted in August. After opening Squable, owners Justin Yu and Bobby Heugel, along with partners Steve Flippo, Terry Williams, wine director Justin Vann and coffee director Alex Negranza, focused on finishing Penny Quarter. Billed as an all-day cafe and bar, it is open daily from 7 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Wednesday, and until 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Food service features 15 breakfast and lunch options that are created in an onsite food truck and available until 3 p.m. (Note that is the time when espresso drinks stop being available as well, but there’s always drip coffee.) Try the breakfast salad with hard-boiled egg, marinated tomatoes, kale and sprouts or the fried chicken sandwich with sprouts and green zhug, a spicy chili sauce from Yemen. Dinner features 13 selections such as bistro steak with fried eggs, kale and salsa verde. Also, don’t sleep on the French fries with pecorino and black pepper. Vann’s wine list is available all day, except Sundays, when wine service begins at noon.
Postino Wine Café, 805 Pacific: Phoenix-based Postino Wine Café has opened its second Houston location in the former Montrose Mining Company on Pacific. With over 3,000 square feet of space, Postino’s latest outpost is almost twice the size of the Heights location and has seating for over 100 inside, an ample bar area and room for over 70 on the covered patio. Featuring the same menu as other locations, guests can dine on snacks such as crispy cauliflower, NYC Grilled Cheese and sweet potato wedges in addition to hearty cheese boards such as The Bounty and The Butcher’s Block. In addition to the regular menu, Postino also offers brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. featuring dishes such as country toast with Italian ham, Gruyere and sunny side up eggs and the B.E.L.T, a breakfast panini on ciabatta with sugar-cured smoked bacon, scrambled eggs, lettuce and tomato. Wine lovers should also note Postino’s happy hour, which offers selected wines by the glass for $5, is until 5 p.m. everyday.
Rosalie Italian Soul, 400 Dallas: Chef Chris Cosentino’s homage to his great-grandmother Nonna Rosalie opens up this week inside the C. Baldwin Hotel downtown. For Cosentino, winner of season four of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, and business partner Oliver Wharton, Rosalie is their first entry into Houston’s food scene. Drawing inspiration from traditional Italian dishes, the menu (released this week to coincide with the grand opening) puts a Texan slant on old school favorites like adding jalapeños to the spicy red version of Shells & Clams and wild boar to the rigatoni. While baked pastas hold a focal point, meat lovers will revel in the Big Stuff offerings of the 32-ounce bistecca alla Fiorentina and the three-and-a-half-pound chicken Milanese and the daily specials like Chicken Cacciatore Wednesdays and Lasagna Fridays will most certainly draw a crowd. The wine list is equally impressive offering upwards of 75 different wines from Italy, Argentina, Spain and California broken out into categories based on price: $120 & Under, $80 & Under, $60 & Under and $45 & Under per bottle, with over 20 wines (red, white and sparkling) offered by the glass. Rosalie’s cocktail list offers a selection of crafted drinks like The Dalai Mama with vodka, St. Germain, lemon juice, flower syrup and peach bitters and the Eleanor Rootevelt with pisco, beet syrup, lime and lemon juice with egg whites. In addition to dinner, Rosalie also serves a breakfast menu as well as a Good2Go menu for quick bites with items like donuts from Morning Star and pizza swirls and while there is no lunch menu on the website yet, we have our eye on the reported Double-Decker Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich.
Rosie Cannonball and Montrose Cheese & Wine, 1620 and 1618 Westheimer: Over the past few weeks, Goodnight Hospitality, the company that also operates honky-tonk Goodnight Charlie’s, has taken over the corner of Westheimer and Kuester. Goodnight partners David Keck, Felipe Riccio, Peter McCarthy, and June Rodil have opened both Montrose Cheese & Wine and the restaurant Rosie Cannonball. Rosie’s menu features ingredients that are locally sourced from Goodnight Hospitality’s farm in Bellville and dishes that are influenced by both Europe and the Napa Valley. Standouts on Felipe Riccio and Adam Garcia‘s menu include well-executed, vegetable-focused dishes such as charred brassica, roasted eggplant and grilled mushrooms. Also excellent are the pizzas and housemade pastas. Master sommeliers David Keck and June Rodil have curated an exceptional list of Italian, Spanish and French wines as well as house cocktails such the Safe Harbor Sour made with rye, charred grapefruit and lime. To learn more about Rosie Cannonball, read about our first visit. Make sure to secure reservations before heading out on Friday or Saturday nights as the place gets packed.
Next door is Montrose Cheese & Wine. Occupying 800 square feet, the quaint space evokes a European atmosphere with white oak shelves and marble accented with custom-metal designs. The shop offers a constantly rotating menu of cheeses, pastries, assorted meats, marinated olives and a sandwich of the day. Plus, it features 10 wines by the glass in both three- and six-ounce pours.
Savoir, 1344 Yale: After a year of teases on Instagram, owner Brian Doke (formerly of Tiny Boxwood’s) opened Savoir last month at the corner of 14th and Yale in the Heights. Chef Micah Rideout (formerly of Potente and Reef) has crafted a menu that includes Ribeye Cruda with sunchoke crumble, sorrel, forest mushrooms and black garlic balsamic and Jasmine Tea-Smoked Yellowtail. Those craving carbs might check out the pizzas and pastas such as Lemongrass Capellini with sauce vierge (a French sauce made from olive oil, lemon juice, tomato and basil), citrus zest, green olives, crispy garlic and capers and the Cauliflower Gnocchi with jumbo lump crab. Meatier dishes include the catch of the day and the Brie Burger made with ground wagyu, brie, aioli, blistered tomatoes and charred red onion. Doke also owns the recently opened wine bar and retailer next door, La Grande Rue.
Toasted Coconut, 1617 Richmond: Martin and Sara Stayer, and beverage director Sarah Troxell — the team behind the acclaimed Nobie’s — have opened tiki-inspired Toasted Coconut. While some might expect it to be a bar, it is a full-service restaurant with both shareable plates and full-sized entrées to dine on while sipping tropically inspired concoctions. Chef de cuisine Ben Ruiz offers dishes such as eggplant in vadouvan curry and marinated cucumber salad, which deliver on both taste and presentation — especially the spicy, crispy eggplant. Those in the mood for full-on dinner fare can enjoy whole fish with mala sauce (which can easily feed 2 people) and the Baja-Style Mussels with guajillo and cilantro.
On the cocktail side, Troxell is debuting brand-new drinks, such as the exquisitely boozy Sherry Sells Seashells By The Seashore with reposado tequila, manzanilla sherry, apricot and bitters, and The Seaward with Rhum J.M. blanc, coconut water, lime, mint and falernum.
Toukei, 9630 Clarewood: Two years in the making, Toukei Izakaya opened this month, continuing local restaurateur Mike Tran’s takeover of a Clarewood strip center in Chinatown (which is also home to Tran’s Mein Restaurant, Ishin Udon, Ohn Korean Eatery, Night Market and Blkdog Coffee). The new space features a bar focused on Japanese whiskey and a dining room full of booths arranged so guests can dine with a view of the kitchen and wood burning grill. While the full menu isn’t available online yet, offerings include a range of cold and hot otsumami, shareable snacks, from cold salted chicken and soy duck breast (seared duck breast, onion, garlic, soy, shanso pepper and mustard) to the hot fried chicken skin with salt and lemon and spam katsu made with spam cutlets, mustard and ketchup. Those in the mood for yakitori can choose from a selection of single serving skewers such as garlic wings, cheese meatballs (chicken, cheddar and tare), whole prawns, baby octopus as well as beef, pork and veggie selections. If you’re interested in dinner-sized options, there is whole squid, cod, yellowtail and lamb chops.
Japanese whiskey is the bar’s star attraction and is the only place in Houston with a Suntory Toki Highball machine, dispensing a perfectly calibrated and chilled Japanese Highball. Toukei’s bar is also home to over 25 Japanese whiskies, ranging from $8 a pour of Suntory Toki to $30 for a Yamazaki Single Malt.
Coming soon: With only two months left in 2019, we have our eyes on Musaafer at the Galleria, March from the Goodnight Hospitality team and Traveler’s Table.
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.