The Hot List: Houston’s Top Restaurants

Food critic John Mariani finds the best tables in this booming Texas town.

Sep 26, 2012
  • Petrvs Pomeral wine at Tony's, Houston, Texas
  • Underbelly’s large casual dining room, Houston, Texas
  • Quattro’s thin crust pizza, Four Seasons Hotel Houston, Texas
  • Combo platter at El Real Tex-Mex Cafe, Houston, Texas
  • Goode Co. Texas Bar-B-Q jalapeno cheese bread, Houston
  • RDG + Bar Annie’s bar and dining room, Houston, Texas
1/6
Tony’s, 1 713/622-6778, 3755 Richmond Avenue
Why go: For four decades Tony Vallone has kept this the finest restaurant in Texas, with a commitment to authentic Italian food and wine as good as the best in Italy.
You must try: Any of the stuffed pastas, like the raviolini with chanterelle mushrooms and walnuts.
And this: The nearly 1,200-label wine list with top selections from around the world.
Photography courtesy Tony’s
2/6
Underbelly, 1 713/528-9800, 1100 Westheimer Road
Why go: Chef and owner Chris Shepherd is featuring what he calls “The Story of Houston Food” at this big, new, casual dining room with an open kitchen and great vibes.
You must try: Roasted pork belly with pimento cheese grits and duck egg.
And this: Go next door to the Hay Merchant beer bar for an amazing array of craft beers and small plates.
Photography courtesy Underbelly
3/6
Quattro, 1 713/276-4700, Four Seasons Hotel Houston, 1300 Lamar Street
Why go: As close to a stylish restaurant in Milan as you can get, Quattro is where chef Maurizio Ferrarese is serving everything from first-rate, thin-crust pizzas to sumptuous pastas.
You must try: Risotto with black truffles and a perfect veal alla milanese.
And this: The Vinoteca here serves small plates and wine after 4:00 pm.
Photography courtesy Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts
4/6
El Real Tex-Mex Cafe, 1 713/524-1201, 1201 Westheimer Road
Why go: You’ll learn everything you need to know about Tex-Mex food in this reconfigured Art Deco movie theatre, playing Clint Eastwood movies against the wall.
You must try: Any of the combo platters, like the Chingo Bling—smoked chicken relleno, chicken enchilada and pork tamale.
And this: Bring friends and order the margarita pitcher for USD 29.50.
Photography courtesy Laurie Smith/El Real Tex-Mex Cafe
5/6
Goode Co. Texas Bar-B-Q, 1 713/522-2530, 5109 Kirby Drive (and two other locations)
Why go: Since 1977 this has been Houston’s best place for great Texas barbecue, with gloriously smoked meats by the pound (they’ll wrap it up and you can take it on the plane) and whole dinners that don’t run above USD 14.95.
You must try: The classic beef brisket with jalapeño cheese bread.
And this: The Brazos bottom pecan pie.
Photography courtesy Goode Co. Texas Bar-B-Q
6/6
RDG + Bar Annie, 1 713/840-1111, 1800 Post Oak Boulevard
Why go: Robert Del Grande was one of the creators of “New Texas Cuisine” back in the 1980s, and RDG + Bar Annie is better and more exciting than ever, in a two-storey bar and restaurant that tells you all you need to know about Houston’s glamorous side.
You must try: Signature smoked quail with bacon and a jalapeño-buttermilk dressing.
And this: Go for lunch, when Houston’s best-dressed ladies come to nosh and gossip over hot crab beignets.
Photography courtesy RDG + Bar Annie

Texans may brag about Tex-Mex—though great barbecue is not easy to find—but they are prouder still of their state’s eclectic dining scene, and that some of the most innovative chefs in America call themselves locals.


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