The Best New Texas Restaurants in 2022 – Texas Monthly – Texas Monthly

Two years into the pandemic, restaurants are still struggling. Yet new places keep stepping up to the plate. Here are our favorite dishes from the most impressive rookie establishments.
Patricia Sharpe writes a regular restaurant column, Pat’s Pick, for Texas Monthly.
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If you aren’t hungry and thirsty before you start reading this story, you will be once you finish—we promise. We’ve got towering tuna tostadas, oysters Rockefeller topped with duck-fat spinach, cinnamony New Orleans–style beignets, elk tartare, ethereal chickpea fritters, bare-naked gnudi, mesquite-grilled chicken, and a new take on the classic pornstar martini.
In this twenty-first edition of Where to Eat Now, our annual survey of the state’s best new restaurants, we’re relieved to report that despite COVID-19 contributing to the closure of nearly one out of five dining establishments in the state—that’s a shocking nine thousand between March 2020 and November 2021, according to the Texas Restaurant Association—our dining scene remains as delicious as ever.
As was the case last year, we’ve decided to forgo the traditional list of the top ten new restaurants, plus ten or so runners-up. Instead, we’ve highlighted dozens of our favorite dishes. Why the change? In the beforetimes, when profits were robust and dining rooms packed, we were fine with rating restaurants from high to low. But after the pandemic left so many venues struggling through no fault of their own, that approach didn’t seem fair. The idea of a large pool of favorite dishes sat better with us then. This year, in the wake of the delta and omicron coronavirus variants, we made the same decision.
The rules of the game haven’t changed. Eligible restaurants must have opened between December 1, 2020, and December 1, 2021 (there’s a grace period for latecomers we missed the previous year). If any of these choices pique your curiosity, please check them out—you can eat outside and order to go at many of them. We want the Texas restaurant community to be hale and hearty when it’s time for this story a year from now. 
You’ll want to gather a group to share Meridian’s magnificent whole octopus. Seared over a wood-fired hearth, the cephalopod is tender and flavorful in a complex, tangy-sweet white-soy marinade amped up by a chile vinaigrette. The presentation is spectacular too, the tentacles almost sculptural under a topping of greens grown in the restaurant’s garden. It’s one of many standouts at the sleek Brazilian venue. Instead of offering crowd-pleasers such as his native country’s hearty bean stew, feijoada, executive chef Junior Borges has emphasized imagination in dishes such as fluke tartare—a diced serving of the fish held together with a lush bonito-flake cream and accented by a bright finger-lime vinaigrette. Likewise, he avoids the usual Brazilian steakhouse shtick but still offers a fine sixty-day dry-aged Wagyu ribeye. His modern style is a global melting pot, inspired not only by the country’s long-standing mix of Indigenous, Portuguese, and African cultures but also by relative newcomers from Japan and Italy (the menu includes a pasta section). Borges’s most memorable dishes tap into his childhood, including the dessert of yuca-and-coconut cake topped with lime ganache and presented on a limpid pool of condensed-milk anglaise. The original recipe was his grandmother’s. Opened May 11, 2021. 5650 Village Glen Dr, 469-659-6382
A strange and wonderful carafe of vermouth afloat with flowers, fresh herbs, and slices of fruit appears at your table the minute you sit down in the Lounge, the prelude to your meal at beguiling March. Once you’ve imbibed your welcoming aperitif, ordered a chic cocktail, and snacked on novel amuse-bouches, you move on to the art-filled, 28-seat dining room for your choice of a six- or nine-course tasting menu ($175 or $225, respectively). If you visited last fall, your evening would have featured chef Felipe Riccio’s highly inventive exploration of southern Spain, starting with a pristine crudo de cigala, a dish made of near-velvety raw slices of langoustine brightened with red chile oil and pale squiggles of aioli-like ajo blanco. You would then have progressed to setas confitadas, meaty brown nubbins of confited trumpet mushroom intermingled with glazed eggplant, pine nuts, and ruby-hued pomegranate seeds. Numerous delights later, you would have finished with naranja y azafrán—a dessert of mandarin orange supremes and Chantilly cream topped by a rakish tuile of caramelized sugar. The theme changes twice a year, each time diving deep into a different aspect of Mediterranean cuisine. (The Lounge is also open separately by reservation Friday and Saturday evenings for cocktails and light bites.) Opened March 30, 2021. 1624 Westheimer Rd, 832-380-2481
From the polished service and elegantly remodeled deco-style building to the menu of premium seafood, sushi, and steaks, Up Scale easily lives up to its name. Located a short distance from the lovely old houses of the King William Historic District, the venture is the work of husband-and-wife owners Houston and Emily Carpenter, who made a splash in 2020 with Little Em’s Oyster Bar. Their modus operandi here is doing a few things very well. Diver scallops, accompanied by fat trumpet mushrooms, arrive perfectly seared and imaginatively sauced with pumpkin curry and a tomatoey romesco. A Prime Black Angus New York strip is prepared simply, with salt, pepper, and a hint of thyme. And then there’s the raw fish. If a pristine slice of Ora King salmon on vinegared rice strikes you as too simple, consider the Up Scale Roll, an extravaganza of scandalously fatty bluefin tuna belly, caviar, citrusy yuzu kosho, and glittering gold leaf. No matter what you have, finish with the moist chocolate cake under a liberal pour of silky chocolate ganache. Opened October 21, 2021. 1024 S. Alamo, 210-396-7755
Beet salads were a huge hit in the eighties, and this one reminds you why. The pretty plate starts with roasted yellow and red beets, spicy arugula, and creamy puffs of Texas goat cheese. A bright vinaigrette and a drizzle of beet emulsion round out the presentation. Chef Paul Petersen has hit his stride in this remodeled frame house in the lovely old King William neighborhood, giving new life to the former home of longtime favorite MadHatter’s Tea House and Cafe. Opened August 5, 2021. 320 Beauregard, 210-757-3607
The exterior of these tidy French chickpea fritters is a bit crunchy, the inside as light as a soufflé. With sprinkles of grated pecorino and black pepper, the savory treats work well as a starter or a side dish. Birdie’s, a casual but ambitious East Austin restaurant, is the baby of wife-and-husband owners Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel (she’s the chef) and Arjav Ezekiel (he’s the beverage director). There’s seating inside along a wooden banquette with striped pillows and plenty more in the tented backyard. Opened July 16, 2021. 2944 E. 12th, no phone
At this breezy, contemporary Indian restaurant overlooking Lawrence Park, seasonal root vegetables—carrots, beets, potatoes—emerge from the oven tanned yet supple. Then the kitchen goes to town with a heady seasoning combo of cashew romesco sauce, a crumble of smoked paneer, and tangy chile oil. Shiva and Rick Di Virgilio, the couple behind Portugal-inspired Oporto, weave that nation’s traditions into Da Gama’s menu. That’s hardly a new idea; Portugal colonized much of India’s coast in the sixteenth century, soon after the restaurant’s namesake explorer, Vasco da Gama, reached its shores. The result here is a trove of novel small dishes, almost all of them ideal for sharing. Opened May 10, 2021. 600 N. Shepherd Dr, 281-888-7806
After a decade-plus hiatus, the popular pan-Mediterranean restaurant España has returned to its newly renovated original location with energy to spare and a new rubric, “nouveau Mediterranean.” That said, one of its most popular appetizers is all-American: oysters Rockefeller. The hefty bivalves get a quick dip in vermouth and are then covered in a generous layer of duck-fat-laced spinach puree and finished with an insanely buttery hollandaise sauce. Opened December 20, 2020. 701 N. Main, 956-627-2650 
It’s torture to choose just one dish at this contemporary Mexican outpost in the sprawling Bravery Chef Hall, but the lamb-and-pork meatballs give an everyday dish a gourmet turn. Dense and rich, with a whisper of sweetness and not a trace of fat, the lightly fried specialty comes deftly seasoned with earthy chipotle. An avocado puree and queso fresco add a creamy finish, while black cumin seeds and elegant carrot ribbons contribute a satisfying crunch. Credit goes to classically trained chef Tim Reading, who learned tricks of the trade under chef Hugo Ortega at Caracol. Opened July 16, 2021. 409 Travis, 281-653-6767
The garden hand rolls at Lutie’s will remind you a bit of Asian spring rolls, with a colorful twist. Instead of using rice paper, husband-and-wife chefs Bradley Nicholson and Susana Querejazu wrap the matchsticks of carrot, zucchini, and avocado in translucent sheets of purple-edged daikon radish before slicing them into bite-size coins. A cool cucumber-basil aioli comes alongside for dipping. Enjoy them in the small, plant-filled dining room or on the terrace overlooking the formal gardens of the lovingly restored Commodore Perry Estate. Opened April 7, 2021. 4100 Red River, 512-675-2517
Imagine ravioli stripped of their pasta wrappers, leaving just the delectable cheesy goodness. Then picture that pure white filling seasoned with bits of green sage and parsley and stirred with golden egg yolk. Finally, imagine it shaped and cooked into fat round dumplings. Served with almond brown butter, the gnudi—the name means “nude,” for obvious reasons; they’re ravioli’s unclothed sibling—are some of the Instagrammable Mediterranean nibbles and entrées served at the svelte rooftop bar and restaurant of the Thompson San Antonio–Riverwalk. Downstairs, you’ll find the big-deal dining room, Landrace, but only upstairs can you see the sun set and the moon rise. Opened March 25, 2021. 115 Lexington Ave, 210-942-6032
A significant boost to the Hub City’s dining scene, this downtown establishment, which features dining rooms in a renovated residential building and a greenhouse, has become a showplace for West Texas and New Mexico ingredients, which are transformed by the techniques that owner-chef Finn Walter perfected while working in Austin, Napa, Paris, and Santa Fe. His unique elk tartare comes properly cut, dressed with juniper-chive-shallot aioli and capped with a tissue-thin peanut tuile. Pair it with a glass of the house rosé, a proprietary custom wine from nearby McPherson Cellars. Opened November 12, 2020. 511 Broadway, 806-993-0144
The illusion of an old-school fancy Italian red-sauce joint is complete, right down to the waiters in smart red jackets, the chandeliers (each bulb tricked out with a small red shade), and the vintage photos on the wall. It’s no less than you’d expect from MML, the powerhouse Austin hospitality group behind such local favorites as Jeffrey’s, Lamberts, and Perla’s. While pastas and classic dishes abound—think chicken parmigiana or mafaldine pasta with black-truffle shavings—one of the best offerings is something that isn’t old-school at all: yellowtail carpaccio, the slices of fresh fish barely grilled and then scattered with crushed pistachios, torn mint leaves, and the salty cured fish roe known as bottarga. Opened April 29, 2021. 807 W. 6th, 512-474-2054
This riff on baba ghanoush has a special ingredient: char-roasted Japanese eggplant. Black sesame seeds, tahini, and a hint of garlic round out its distinctive toasty, smoky flavor, while a bouquet of colorful crudités, including sliced watermelon radish, complete the vegan treat. Italian- and Mediterranean-inspired dishes like this are making Sister a worthy inheritor of the space once occupied by dining stalwart the Grape, well loved and sorely missed. Opened September 28, 2021. 2808 Greenville Ave, 214-888-8660
The starters and sides at this inviting steakhouse set it apart from the pack. There’s rich celery-root soup with truffle crème fraîche; duck-fat-fried rice studded with duck confit; and, most indulgent of all, velvety seared foie gras atop pear tarte tatin with crushed pink peppercorns. The harmony of savory, sweet, and salty flavors—underscored by the buttery pastry—will make you giddy with pleasure. Paired with an appropriate wine, the nibble becomes a decadent dessert. Opened September 17, 2021. 1617 Hi Line Dr, 214-252-8595
When this venerable neighborhood grocery reopened, the new owners brought in a big prepared-food counter plus a coffee bar and wine section. Wisely, they kept certain basics in place. Case in point: the upgraded burger. A thick, seared patty comes with the standard fixin’s—a slice of cheddar, crisp lettuce, tomato, and onion—but the Dijon and mayo are house-made, and the warm potato bun is freshly toasted, elevating the new edition to an instant classic. Opened May 11, 2021. 2300 Merrick, 817-732-2863
Famous for Detroit-style pizza, Thunderbird also makes a smashburger that will recall every customer’s misspent youth. Properly thin, the one-third-pound patty is griddled to achieve a properly caramelized crust, topped with American cheese, and tucked into a squishy potato bun. Dressed with the kitchen’s secret-recipe double stamp sauce, horseradish pickles, tomato, and shaved lettuce, it’s a nostalgia trip for uncertain times. To make it modern, just add bacon–chile pepper marmalade. Opened August 30, 2021. 7328 Gaston Ave, 469-577-1077
Few would have dreamed that a dilapidated 1920s-era building in McAllen could be turned into a cool waterfront venue on the south shore of Town Lake. And yet University Draft House pulled it off. The restaurant’s laid-back atmosphere—with a breeze blowing over the lake and either a live band playing or a ball game on TV—may put you in the mood for the Graduate, a no-holds-barred burger made with melted Brie, caramelized onions, mushrooms, and arugula piled on an Angus beef patty and tucked into a brioche bun. Opened May 4, 2021. 100 W. U.S. 83 Business Hwy, 956-468-2040
The closest that Texas comes to a funky New Orleans watering hole, this Acadian “fancy sandwich” lounge in Houston’s Midtown is wowing Gulf Coast seafood lovers. The Peacemaker po’ boy, a boatload of hot, crisply fried, skillfully seasoned shrimp and oysters, could feed a Mardi Gras krewe. Shredded savoy cabbage, Duke’s mayo, creole mustard vinaigrette, tomatoes, and pickles, all served on a crusty Leidenheimer roll, complete the effect. The parade is led by chef Graham Laborde of the late, admired Bernadine’s. Opened October 1, 2021. 3622 Main, 713-520-0660
Prepare to be impressed: this dish’s juicy chicken pieces are slow-roasted, finished with mesquite and pecan wood on the grill, and then served hot and glistening with a soy glaze. Joining the platter are grilled whole scallions, shishito peppers, and blistered cherry tomatoes. A sneakily searing avocado-tomatillo salsa adds an electrifying accent, while earthy homemade yellow- or blue-corn tortillas serve as a comforting wrap. Enjoy it all on the colorful patio of this casa in the Heights. Opened October 28, 2021. 222 W. 11th, 832-767-1417
Don’t let fear of unfamiliar cuts keep you from trying chef Ross Demers’s luxurious Wagyu tongue. Cooked sous vide for 48 hours and then pan-seared and basted with butter, it will seduce you with its lightly caramelized crust and meltingly tender interior. A silky espagnole sauce (a reduction of beef stock and tomato puree) finishes the two neat rectangles, which come topped with chopped red chile, fresh greens, and fennel pollen. The restaurant’s industrial-looking concrete counter and white napkins belie its former existence as a Subway outpost. Opened November 23, 2021. 4422 Gaston Ave, 214-272-3066
Sweet and tangy, the striped bass is a scene-stealer as dramatic as it is delicious. The flaky meat and scored, flash-fried skin are amped up with a sweet-and-sour sauce spiked with pickled chiles, garlic, and ginger. A sibling of the popular Sichuan House, which opened in 2015, Dashi offers a more ambitious contemporary menu in its purple dining room and on its pet-friendly patio. Opened July 8, 2021. 2895 Thousand Oaks Dr, 210-562-3343
Can a tostada be a work of art? This towering tuna creation starts with a pair of crisp tortillas and adds seared tuna and tuna tartare, avocado two ways, microgreens and cabbage, pickled onion, Fresno chiles and radishes, and two colorful sauces alongside. Located on the River Walk level of the new Canopy Hotel, the dining room features century-old limestone walls, a stone cistern turned banquette, and an airy patio that make it a delightful retreat from breakfast till late at night. Opened April 22, 2021. 123 N. St. Mary’s, 210-404-7516 
As its name implies, warm and comforting buns and dumplings are specialties at this Sichuan newcomer, but it’s the meticulously prepared classic Peking duck that’s the showstopper. Presented on a large tray for sharing, the glossy, crispy-skin fowl is attractively carved and served with a bamboo steamer full of paper-thin crepes. Fill those pancakes with pieces of the tender roasted bird, spoon on hoisin sauce, and finish with julienne cucumber and scallions. Opened October 23, 2021. 5535 Memorial Dr, 832-849-1783
About fifteen miles southeast of downtown El Paso, a charming old adobe-style building has been turned into an inviting dining venue. The quirky menu focuses on Mexican specialties and ramen (chef-owner Enrique Lozano’s obsession), then throws in a few other Asian dishes for good measure. The Bourdain ramen—named for the late culinary traveler Anthony Bourdain—hits the requisite marks with squiggly noodles, pork belly, Japanese fish cake, scallions, and a soft-cooked egg in a rich and creamy tonkotsu-style pork-bone broth. Opened October 28, 2021. 10180 Socorro Rd, no phone 
Another entry in chef-owner Felipe Armenta’s mini-empire, which includes the Pacific Table, Press Cafe, and Tavern, this well-appointed newcomer offers upscale takes on Mexican dishes inspired by his mother, who grew up in Guanajuato. Perhaps the best of them is a juicy, tender half chicken bathed in a fragrant and earthy mole that boasts many layers of flavor, including chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, and chiles. A crisp, acidic escabeche of pickled corn, cauliflower, zucchini, and carrots keeps the plate from being too rich or overpowering. Opened May 10, 2021. 1712 S. University Dr, 817-916-0550
This eponymous dish is creative and vegan but still feels like an authentic pie. Atop a thin, slightly chewy crisp-edged crust, a layer of savory red sauce serves as the base for meaty, soy-based chorizo; charred corn kernels; a mozzarella-style, almond-based nut cheese; and plenty of fresh cilantro. A drizzle of bright, fresh lime crema (vegan, natch) makes all the flavors meld and pop. Opened November 22, 2021. 5716 Locke Ave, 817-349-9852
Chef and co-owner Tiffany Derry’s modern Southern cooking recasts the region’s classics: think duck-fat-fried chicken and innovative shrimp-and-grits fritters. The menu at her contemporary dining room in this Dallas-area city also honors the South’s multicultural roots, the Caribbean-influenced lamb chops being a notable example. Marinated in a jerk spice mix that includes allspice and habanero, they are grilled to rosy perfection and accompanied by a refined hoppin’ John made with delicate jasmine rice and dainty East Texas crowder peas or other field peas, depending on the season. Opened June 18, 2021. 13050 Bee, 214-346-4441
The creamy white walls, posh furnishings, and live lobsters on ice set the tone of a luxe Greek resort. This destination in the heart of downtown from former New York restaurateur George Theodosiou emphasizes seafood from the Mediterranean. One of the simplest and best dishes is the sumptuous whole branzino, which is char-grilled, finished in the oven, deboned, and prettily scattered with herbs, capers, and caper berries. Later in the evening the place takes on a clubby feel, with a deejay every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. Opened May 7, 2021. 601 Congress Ave, 512-886-0999
At Hugo Ortega’s casual, bustling all-day spot in Uptown Park, the stupendous huarache (named for a Mexican sandal) looks like a cross between a giant tostada and an open-faced sandwich. The base, a stone-ground-masa cake, is paved with soulful refried black beans and loaded with tender, smoky carnitas and rajas (poblano chile strips). The final touch is a vibrant salsa verde, capped by swirls of crema and crumbles of tangy queso fresco. Opened August 27, 2021. 1101 Uptown Park Blvd, 713-726-8273
This classic upside-down apple tart will spirit you directly to north-central France, where the dessert was born in the 1880s. (Cook Stéphanie Tatin reportedly left apples cooking in butter and sugar too long; to her surprise, the results were divine.) In Mon Chou Chou’s version, caramel oozes around the fruit, while sharp crème fraîche cuts the sweetness. Enjoy it inside the tall-ceilinged brasserie or at a table on the wide covered walkway outside. Opened December 7, 2020. 312 Pearl Pkwy, 210-469-3743
Imagine that Britain’s plum pudding and America’s fruitcake met in a bar, got rip-roaring drunk, and eloped to the Caribbean. Their love child would be black cake, a rum-and-brandy-soused treat that comes with a squiggle of cream-cheese frosting. Besides being an island Christmas tradition, black cake is a favorite of Canje chef and co-owner Tavel Bristol-Joseph, whose Guyanese heritage inspired the menu of the splashy restaurant and bar. Along with business partner Kevin Fink, he’s also the owner of Austin restaurants Hestia and Emmer & Rye. Opened October 5, 2021. 1914 E. 6th, 512-706-9119
Creativity and gorgeous plating mark every course on Carte Blanche’s frequently changing tasting menu, including the finale: a sculptural mousse perched on a crisp pastry round. The star ingredient is subtly salted, caramel-rich Caramelia chocolate, from premium French maker Valrhona. Hidden inside the sleek cylinder is a dark vein of chocolate crémeux, while the surface all but glows with chocolate pearls, toasted hazelnuts, and bits of jewellike candied orange peel. Opened June 15, 2021. 2114 Greenville Ave, 214-434-1538
To really nail his dough recipe, former science teacher Trey Smith, along with his wife, did a beignet crawl in NOLA. The effort paid off. His rendition, fried to order, may be the best this side of Louisiana. The colorful Cowtown King Cake edition is punched up with a sweet, slightly tangy cream-cheese glaze and a generous sprinkling of cinnamon sugar. Order it as part of the Sweet Trio, and you’ll also get the OG version, the French Quarter, topped with a mound of powdered sugar, and the Bourbon Street, with sugary maple glaze and a dusting of smoky bacon bits. Opened November 6, 2021. 411 S. Main, 817-841-9255
It looks like the survivor of an explosion at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. The luxurious mound of chocolate mousse is covered in daubs of meringue and broken shards of dark chocolate, all drenched in espresso crema poured at the table. The shareable treat is one of the finales at J. Carver’s, downtown Austin’s seafood-and-steak-house of the moment. Opened July 27, 2021. 509 Rio Grande, 512-782-0650
An exquisite pastry butterfly flutters near a ring of citrusy, startlingly green yuzu mousse, one of the dependably dazzling desserts at the chic Le Jardinier in Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts. An intense raspberry compote is hidden within the creamy confection, which is joined by pistachio shortbread cookies and dollops of Chantilly cream. This singular sensation is the work of culinary artist and executive pastry chef Salvatore Martone, who also plies his trade at the Michelin-starred Le Jardinier in Manhattan. Opened May 18, 2021. 5500 Main, 713-714-3015
Floor-to-ceiling plate-glass windows and silvery light fixtures make this contemporary restaurant (located inside Lubbock’s stunning Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences) a fine happy-hour or date-night destination even when there’s no symphony or ballet in town. Dressy renditions of comfort dishes are the draw, notably the seven-layer coconut cake. The towering creation of Italian buttercream, vanilla crème anglaise, and toasted coconut is music on the palate. Opened February 11, 2021. 1300 Mac Davis Ln, 806-451-1837
A steak dinner at the historic Hotel Paso del Norte, which recently underwent an extensive renovation, has always been El Paso’s way to celebrate promotions, engagements, and quinceañeras, often preceded by a libation under the lobby’s famous stained-glass dome. And what better way to end the evening than with a seasonally available panna cotta Creamsicle, an updated version of the frozen childhood treat, with blood orange sorbet, blueberry mousse, fresh berries, white chocolate, and a meringue kiss. Opened April 29, 2021. 10 Henry Trost Ct, 915-516-6383
The Charlemagne is a globe-spanner. The cocktail’s base is Woodford Reserve rye, with depth and roundness provided by two brandies: Pierre Ferrand cognac and its sweeter cousin, Pineau des Charentes. Chicha morada—a Peruvian drink made from purple corn—adds a distinctive touch, and a few dashes of bitters lend balance. For a final layer of flavor, the Charlemagne takes a quick trip through a chamber of applewood smoke. The drink is available by request from the barkeeps at Âme and is on the cocktail list at the Parisian-style space behind the velvet curtain known as the Elephant Bar. Opened April 9, 2021. 418 N. Bishop Ave, 214-782-9696
Named in honor of redheaded mixologist and co-owner Misty Villarreal, this signature cocktail is the perfect match for chef/co-owner/husband Victor Villarreal’s wildly inventive seafood. Served in a rocks glass rimmed with ginger-tinged salt, it’s deceptively simple: Misty infuses tequila with ginger for four days, then mixes it with coconut syrup and fresh lime juice. Have it with the Shark-cuterie, an ever-changing seafood platter that always includes caviar and smoked fish dip (and, to the best of our knowledge, never includes shark). Opened June 15, 2021. 2905 Race, 817-607-8605
Invented in 2003 at London’s Townhouse bar, the passion-fruit-flavored pornstar martini is having a Houston moment at this watering hole. This edition, crafted with vodka, a passion-fruit cordial, lime juice, and a bit of vanilla, adds a final flourish—a shot glass of chilled sparkling wine served alongside. Hungry? Consider the fabulously crispy double-fried plantain cakes with cool, tangy crab slaw. That’s bar food with international style. Opened July 5, 2021. 3501 Harrisburg Blvd, 832-930-6421
This zany, semisubterranean grotto and fun house is irrepressible chef Tatsu Aikawa’s trippiest bar and restaurant yet. It’s a veritable stage set of fishnets, simulated stalactites, faux human skulls, and tiki tchotchkes. If you hear a mysterious recorded rumbling sound, it means someone has ordered one of five extravagant drinks for multiple people. The one we witnessed came with orchids and billowing clouds of dry ice. But the drink menu’s real specialties are a dozen novel takes on famous drinks, such as the gin-and-brandy-based Slurping Bastard. This riff on the Suffering Bastard, which was created in Cairo in 1942, adds a splash of Japan’s shochu liquor and a bit of plum-based drinking vinegar. The food’s fun too. Check out the Crab Lagoon, a crispy stack of flattened wonton wrappers and a saucy crab-and-cheese dip. The place is tiny; reservations are a good idea. Opened October 4, 2021. 1300 S. Lamar Blvd, 512-772-3700
Additional reporting by Tina Danze, June Naylor, Patricia Rodriguez, Robin Barr Sussman, and Texas Monthly Dining Guide reviewers.
This article originally appeared in the March 2022 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Where to Eat Now.” Subscribe today.
Patricia Sharpe writes a regular restaurant column, Pat’s Pick, for Texas Monthly.
Mimi Swartz is a staff writer based in Houston.
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Daniel Vaughn is the country’s first barbecue editor, and he has eaten more barbecue than you have.
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