To keep tabs on every Texas restaurant and bar opening is folly. But to keep tabs on the most worthy? Yeoman’s work, and we’re proud to do it. Thus we present Table Stakes, a rundown of five must-know spots that have swung wide their doors this season. Let’s eat.
After a busy summer that saw several high-profile openings — and more diners venturing into restaurants — the fall picked up right where summer left off. Chefs and restaurant groups across Texas continued to give us compelling reasons to eat outside our homes—we’re talking Guyanese plates, Mexican street food, and a fun-loving ode to America. These are five of the most exciting new restaurants to eat at right now.
You’re here because: It’s the latest project from Tavel Bristol-Joseph and the hospitality group behind other Austin favorites, including Emmer & Rye, Hestia, and Kalimoxto. Though the chef is usually praised for his inventive desserts and baked goods, Canje is focused on cuisine from Bristol-Joseph’s native Guyana (the canje pheasant is the country’s national bird) and Caribbean islands like Jamaica and Puerto Rico.
You’re dining on: Snacks like salt-fish-and-potato fritters or grilled blue prawns seasoned with spiced rum and lime. Get a couple of those under your belt alongside a cocktail from the bar—they get equally thoughtful treatment and feature Caribbean accents like curry-infused gin and mauby bark tincture. Then fill up on larger plates of Guyanese-style roti, wild boar pepper pot, and tilefish with coconut and tomato. And don’t miss the desserts, like the tres leches with coconut, roasted white chocolate, and guava.
1914 E 6th Street, Suite C (map)
Lao Sze Chuan
You’re here because: The much loved and lauded Chicago restaurant recently expanded to the Houston metro area (Katy, to be exact), which is good news for anyone who appreciates spicy Szechuan cuisine. The new outpost has large tables perfect for group dinners, and a carving station where you can see the chefs expertly break down an oven-roasted Peking duck.
You’re dining on: An extensive menu of Szechuan classics. Fill your table with dim sum (soup dumplings, steamed buns), mapo tofu, and dan dan noodles. There’s all manner of hot and cold appetizers, soups, pork, chicken, beef, and lamb to keep you busy. It’s hard to go wrong, but if it’s the duck you’re after, consider calling ahead to reserve one in advance — they go quickly, and you’d hate to miss out.
510 Mason Road, Suite H (map)
You’re here because: Chef Nick Badovinus knows the winning formula for food and atmosphere. The chef behind Town Hearth, Neighborhood Services, and Desert Racer opened National Anthem as the anchor restaurant in Downtown’s revitalized East Quarter neighborhood. Located in the historic triangular-shaped building on Commerce, it’s outfitted with big windows, wood floors, white tiles, and blue booths, plus accents like an American flag, a neon bar sign, and a ’70s Honda motorcycle, giving you plenty to look at between bites.
You’re dining on: A wide-ranging menu of comfort foods spread across appetizers, a raw bar, salads, handhelds, and entrees—it’s equal parts chef’s kiss and irreverence. Starters include steak nachos and Bar Harbor mussels spiked with white wine and sambal, while larger plates range from a decadent double cheeseburger to a low country-style pork chop. If you’ve got room for dessert, try the warm chocolate chip cookies with Yoo-hoo or the 21+ float made with pineapple rum, local root beer, cream, and egg white.
2130 Commerce Street (map)
You’re here because: It’s from the same duo behind Little Em’s Oyster Bar. Now, the husband-and-wife team are focusing on the higher end of the seafood spectrum, as evidenced by the name—but also the menu and design. The restaurant, located across the street from Little Em’s, is a welcome fine-dining option in the Southtown neighborhood, complete with splurge-worthy plates and wines to match. Bring someone special, and enjoy food and service that’s upscale without being stuffy.
You’re dining on: Attractive plates of seafood, from nigiri to scallops. The deviled eggs starter is topped with caviar and gold leaf, if that’s any indication of what’s to come. The Dover sole is presented tableside and served with foie gras, while the solo pasta dish is housemade tagliolini with lobster and black truffle. Seafood is obviously the star here, but meat eaters will appreciate the small selection of steaks, including the 12-ounce New York strip and the 32-ounce, 60-day dry-aged tomahawk that you can easily share with your date.
1024 South Alamo Street (map)
You’re here because: Chef Hugo Ortega (the man behind Xochi, Hugo’s, and other Houston favorites) has never led you astray. The hits continue at Urbe, where Ortega and chef Paula Leguizamon highlight traditional street foods served across Mexico, from Oaxaca and Puebla to Mexico City (Ortega himself sold street food at various stalls growing up in Mexico). The eatery is the restaurant group’s most casual concept to date, serving three meals per day in a space that’s bathed in natural light and colorful murals.
You’re dining on: A full day’s worth of good food, from breakfast tacos to enchiladas. Despite the fast-casual vibes, much of the food is slow-cooked, including flavorful barbacoa, carnitas, birria, and spit-roasted tacos al pastor. There’s a dizzying array of dishes, including tacos, tortas, enchiladas, and seafood cocktails, and the full bar is serving beers, margaritas, and frozen cocktails. If you’re in a hurry, the menu features a selection of to-go breads, pastries, and coffees, perfect for grabbing on your way to work or during a lazy morning stroll.
1101 Uptown Park Blvd, Suite 12 (map)
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