The Hit List: New Houston Restaurants to Visit in January 2019
Houston was home to a large number of restaurant openings in 2018. So far, 2019 is also shaping up to be a year full of new dining choices. This month’s Hit List includes recent, high-profile openings like B.B. Lemon on Washington Avenue as well as Coterie, the all-day eatery, coffee shop and wine bar downtown. New entries for this month include the unexpectedly excellent Elliot’s Table and meat-master Ronnie Killen’s Tex-Mex and Mexican barbecue entry, Killen’s TMX.
B.B. Lemon, 1809 Washington Avenue: This new, casual restaurant from Benjamin Berg is across the street from B&B Butchers. While the shotgun space is much smaller than Berg’s steakhouse, B.B. Lemon has its own a‑peel. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) The beautifully remodeled space that used to be Caddy Shack bar is now a bustling Irish pub in the front with a quieter back room outfitted with green leather booths that evoke a modest Irish steakhouse. Recently promoted sous chef, Emily Trusler (formerly chef de cuisine at Emmaline) now helms the kitchen. In addition to raw bar seafood selections like oysters on the half shell and shrimp cocktail, there are soups and salads, burgers and sandwiches plus hearty entrées and a large menu of classic desserts. It’s indeed worthy of the steakhouse pedigree. Can’t-miss comfort bar food includes French onion soup, Hog “Wings”, the BLT and a decadent lobster roll. On the beverage side, Berg has tapped Monique Cioffi-Hernandez to direct the worthy cocktail program accompanied by a rotating beer and wine selection.
Blanco Tacos + Tequila, 5115 Westheimer: Phoenix-based Fox Restaurant Concepts, which initially entered the Houston market with North and True Food Kitchen, (one of which it no longer owns and the other is being divested) is opening another restaurant: Blanco Tacos + Tequila. Like its predecessors, it is in the Galleria District. Unlike its predecessors, the focus is on upscale Tex-Mex. The dishes include like Snake River Wagyu Carne Asada Tacos with charred scallion relish, crushed avocado and spicy garlic butter and short rib with caramelized peppers, onions and cilantro topped with sour cream and cotija cheese. There are also grilled fish tacos and grilled avocado tacos for diners seeking lighter options. Snacks include Hamachi & Watermelon Ceviche, grilled Mexican street corn and guacamole made with roasted poblano chiles, Anaheim chiles, caramelized onion and cotija cheese. The bar menu consists of craft cocktails, Mexican beers and local craft brews along with over 45 tequilas and mezcals. The cocktails are indeed quite good; try the Blackberry Clementine margarita made with white tequila and hibiscus sea salt. As far as the food — it’s very good but upscale Tex-Mex was tried in that area before. It remains to be seen if Blanco is going to succeed where Añejo did not.
Blood Bros. BBQ, 5425 Bellaire Boulevard: There’s been high anticipation for the Wong brothers’ first brick and mortar barbecue restaurant has been high thanks to the cult-like following they’ve cultivated over the past few years. So many Houstonians have already been flocking to the new restaurant to try pitmaster Quy Hoang’s oak- and pecan-smoked brisket, pork ribs, turkey and sausage that sell-outs are happening even before the 3 p.m. closing time. On Saturdays, be sure to get in line early for a chance to try the beef ribs with a side of roasted creamed corn. Blood Bros. BBQ is still in its soft-opening phase, so additional menu items and specials are still being added.
Coterie HTX, 737 Preston: This all-day café in downtown Houston from Sean Marshall of Southside Espresso and Charles “Chaz” Lusk is serving up breakfast, lunch and dinner. Chris Welsley (formerly of Eatsie Boys, Better Luck Tomorrow and Oxheart) is in charge of the farm-to-table cafe that is poised to be a destination for both early and late risers thanks to a drink list of “coffee, wine, cocktails and everything in between”. Breakfast is served daily until 3 p.m. and features offerings like the (Hey Now!) You’re an ALL-STAR Plate with two eggs any way, daily-ground pork sausage, fried hash and toast with Satsuma jam and the Eggs Benny, Coterie’s take on eggs Benedict. All of the pastries are made in-house and include delights such as sweet and savory scones, kolaches and cinnamon rolls. The rest of the menu includes housemade pasta, brick oven pizzas such as Cacio e Pepe and mushroom and, currently offered as a small plate at happy hour, honey butter fried chicken. Coffee service is available from open to close and there is also a selection of Be Very Kind wines by the glass and bottle, over a dozen beers and a cocktail program by Michelle Dinh (formerly of Greenway Coffee and Dish Society). The drink list includes familiar classics like the Coterie Manhattan alongside new recipes like Sweater Weather with rye whiskey, honey and bitters.
Elliot’s Table, 465 T C Jester Boulevard: Helmed by owner and chef, Elliot Roddy, who earned his stripes at the defunct Bramble, among others, Elliot’s Table offers a rotating menu served in a family-style atmosphere. Nestled inside the corner end of a strip center, the small but comfortable space is warm and cozy and there’s also an outdoor patio. For dinner (served nightly except on Mondays and Tuesdays), guests can enjoy shareable starters like the Cake & Bacon bread service, deviled eggs and Thai chili ribs. For those looking for main courses, the Gulf Shrimp and Grits, 44 Farms Ribeye and the hand-formed cheddar or blue cheeseburger are perfect choices. While Elliot’s Table is currently only serving wine and beer, there are over a dozen well-priced wines by the glass and several by the bottle.
Finn Hall, 712 Main: Downtown’s newest food hall is now open in the JP Morgan Chase & Co. building and is home to 10 independently-operated dining establishments. Together, these represent an eclectic range of Texas and global fare and there are also two full bars. Local favorites Dish Society, Mala Sichuan, Goode Co. Taqueria, Craft Burger and Amaya Coffee all have counters along with Oddball Eats, Korean-inspired Yong, and Vietnamese Sit Lo. Find Gulf coast seafood at Low Tide (from Alli Jarrett, the owner of Harold’s Restaurant & Tap Room) and pizzas from Mr. Nice Pie. The hall’s primary bar on the ground floor, St. Jac’s, serves specialty cocktails and wines on tap while the upstairs lounge, Swallow’s Nest,is an intimate hideaway with a great view of the goings-on below. Finn Hall is open Mondays through Thursdays from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Fridays from 7 a.m. to midnight, Saturdays from 8 a.m. to midnight and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Jack and Ginger’s, 2416 Brazos: The Houston location of the Austin-based Irish pub Jack & Ginger’s opened in Midtown around the end of November. There are more than 70 beers on tap, over 50 whiskeys and a cocktail menu with selections such as the Violet Crown made with Hendrick’s gin, St. Germain, lavender and rosemary. The pub serves food, too, including traditional Irish fare like shepherd’s pie and Guinness beer-battered fish and chips and standard American bar grub like potato skins and chicken wings. Jack & Ginger’s also offers a daily full English Breakfast with eggs, bacon, sausage, black pudding, potatoes, beans and toast.
Ishin Udon, 9630 Clarewood: Restaurateur Mike Tran continues his takeover of the plaza on Clarewood with his latest venture, Ishin Udon. The Japanese spot opened in early December next to Tran’s Ohn Korean Eatery, Blkdog Coffee, Mein and Night Market. On the menu are traditional udon bowls and standouts include Niku Tana Ankake, a thick, egg-based soup with sliced beef and scallions; and the very spicy Tan Tan Udon with Szechuan-style minced pork. Interestingly, there are also untraditional, Italian-inspired noodle dishes such as Crab Meat Truffle Cream Udon and Carbonara Udon. Ishin also offers a selection of curry rice and udon selections like the Brisket Curry Rice and the Creamy Curry Udon with bacon, onion, mushroom, potato cream and cracked pepper. Those looking for a little more to eat with their noodles can choose from two dozen extras and appetizers such as the Pumpkin Tempura or Takowasa (marinated raw octopus, sesame and roasted seaweed). While there are currently no alcoholic beverages, local craft beer from Saint Arnold, 8th Wonder and Karbach —as well as regional beers like Kirin Ichiban and Asahi and a selection of cold and hot sake — are supposed to be coming soon.
Killen’s TMX, 9330 Broadway, Pearland: Barbecue master, Cordon Bleu-trained executive chef and restaurant owner Ronnie Killen (of Killen’s STQ, Killen’s Barbecue, Killen’s Steakhouse, Killen’s Burgers) opened the Tex-Mex restaurant in December in Pearland. As it turns out, though, the menu is deeper and more thoughtful than expected, incorporating not only traditional Mexican dishes but also the smoked meat perspective that is an important part of that culture. The scratch-made Mexican essentials include salsas, tortilla chips, corn tortillas and mole. Standout dishes include Barbacoa Short Rib, charred octopus and creamed corn empanadas. Make sure to leave room for dessert though as pastry chef Samantha Mendoza has put together a show-stealing assortment of Mexican-themed treats such as churros with housemade cajeta ice cream and chocolate sauce and an imaginative take on Tres Leches. While the full food and beverage menu is not online yet, word is the Getaway Car cocktail does not disappoint.
SING, 718 West 18 Street: SING brings a much-needed stop for great, authentic Asian fare to the Heights. It is a collaboration between pop-up cook and former Houston Press restaurant critic Cuc Lam (previously also of several pop-up meals around town) and Jerry Lasco of Lasco Enterprises (Max’s Wine Dive, Tasting Room). The menu reflects Singapore’s melting pot of Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Indian and Malaysian cuisines. The dishes include soups and light bites such as Prawn Crackers (flash-fried shrimp puffs); appetizers such as Lemongrass Pepper Riblets (marinated pork with lemongrass, chili and garlic); and wok-fired noodle dishes like Laksa, a Malay curry noodle soup with chicken, and Curry Noodz, sweet potato noodles with chicken, shrimp, carrots, bell peppers and onions. There is also a selection of rice & stir-fried dishes. To drink, there are wines by the glass, local craft and Asian brews plus some unique jelly sake, which has a texture kind of like boba tea.
Siu Lap City, 2808 Milam: Originally located in the now-closed Long Sing Supermarket east of downtown, Siu Lap City now has a storefront next to Pho Saigon Noodle House and Khon’s Wine Darts Coffee Art. Siu Lap offers a selection of Chinese-style roasted meats by the pound, such as pork belly, duck, barbecue pork and ribs. There’s also whole Peking duck, steamed or soy sauce chicken, beef tripe and braised organ meats. Patrons can even order a whole roasted pig, as long as it is done three days in advance. (An up-front cash payment is required.) The lunch special is a good way to sample the meats. It comes in two sizes (small and large) with one to two meat choices, and vegetable (we like the baby bok choy) topped off with a choice of duck sauce, hot chili oil, or ginger onion sauce.
Coming soon: Since the Houston restaurant scene moves so fast, we are keeping an eye on upcoming following openings. These include Roma from Shanon Scott in the former Sud Italia space (opening this Friday, January 11) and the long-awaited Bravery Chef Hall, which may finally open before the end of this month.
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.