With the Tastemaker Awards only days away, it’s time to celebrate the nominees Restaurant of the year. In a city full of exceptional restaurants, these nine nominees stand a little higher than the others.
In addition to these individual elements, they have also successfully mastered the challenges of surviving a global pandemic. Like many of their peers, these restaurants figured out how to serve their take-away, developed protocols to protect their employees from infection, and adapted to the difficulties of sometimes inconsistent supply chains.
They have overcome these obstacles while maintaining high standards of service and creating new dishes, cocktails and other offerings that guests keep coming back to. Each of them would deserve the title.
Who will win? Find out at the Tastemaker Awards Party on July 22nd. We’ll have canapés from this year’s nominated restaurants before host Bun B announces the winners.
Houston is home to many steakhouses, but none of them are like Doris Metropolitan. Rather than serving conventional dishes like creamed spinach and shrimp cocktails, Chef Sash Kurgan resorts to modern Israeli cuisine to deliver a lighter, fresher approach with bright flavors that contrast with the richness of Doris’ dry-aged steaks. Pastry chef Michal Michaeli oversees some of the best breads in town, as well as inventive desserts that use modern techniques in inventive ways. First class service guarantees that every guest feels like a VIP.
Customers turn to this Upper Kirby restaurant for precisely cut and flavored nigiri and sashimi – many use Japanese fish – but what’s special about kata is the specialties that appear on both the raw and cooked side of the kitchen. One day it will be a lobster-filled sando on homemade milk bread, while another it could be an Insta-worthy dish of barnacles. Kata also deserves credit for figuring out how her kitchen works for to-go dinners and for her comprehensive safety protocols that kept both employees and customers safe during the pandemic.
After falling under the media’s radar for a few years, the restaurant in Chris Williams’s Museum District has held its own again last year. First, Lucille hosted a special lunch between then-presidential candidate Joe Biden and George Floyd’s family, then hosted a series of pop-ups that provided unemployed bartenders with much-needed income and raised money for Williams’ 1913 Lucille nonprofit that serves will thousands of meals for hungry Houstonians. Meanwhile, the restaurant remains one of the most satisfyingly south-inspired restaurants in town, making the shrimp and grits by which everyone else is measured and hosting one of the liveliest brunch scenes in town.
After winning last year’s Tastemaker Awards Best New Restaurant Tournament, owner Ignacio Torras and chef partner Luis Roger’s energetic restaurant in the River Oaks District moves up to the main category. The restaurant has seen a number of changes over the past year, particularly in the management team, and physical changes will soon expand its seating capacity while retaining all of the elements that made it a popular spot for selfies. What stays constant is the MAD’s menu, which features both quirky dishes using modernist techniques, as well as more classic dishes that are satisfied with every visit.
Since opening in late 2016, Nobie’s has been attracting guests with its varied menu, creative cocktails and friendly service, but its success goes beyond all of these individual elements. While it’s easy to praise staples like the Texas tartare, Nonno’s pasta, and the “Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner,” the reality is that Houston restaurant professionals love it for its unique combination of food, service, and atmosphere – fueled by its vintage Stereo and the all-vinyl soundtrack – that makes even weekday dinner a special occasion. In addition, the cakes change life.
Chef Alex Au-Yeung has drawn diners from all over Houston to this Malaysian restaurant in Katy. From hearty beef rendang to crispy roti, rely on Phat Eatery for well-executed staples that transport customers around the world. Food staples aside, Au-Yeung’s relentless creativity means that even frequent visitors can find something new to try, from dim sum bites inspired by his time in Hong Kong to curry lobster, which is popular with the Viet Cajun Give a new touch to flavors. Hopefully the coming year will bring a new, inner loop location for the short experiment with a ghost kitchen.
Chef Ryan Lachaine’s Montrose Restaurant remains one of the most dynamic restaurants in town, drawing inspiration from both Houston’s immigrant communities and Lachaine’s Canadian and Eastern European heritage. Chef Peter Nguyen has put his own accents on the menu, from hits like the Chinese-inspired honey crabs with walnuts to newer additions like mussels with ginger-miso broth. Nominee Bartender of the Year, Derek Brown, brings experience from some of New York’s best restaurants to the Riel’s bar program, which means the drinks are as exciting as the food.
Goodnight Hospitality’s southern European restaurant offers plenty of calming bites in one of the most stylish dining rooms in town. Whether it’s a wood-fired pizza or a vegetable dish made with ingredients from Goodthyme Farms (also owned by Goodnight partners Bailey and Peter McCarthy), Rosie’s dishes have an effortless quality that hides the precise manufacturing techniques. An extensive wine list, seasonal cocktail menu (with alcoholic and non-alcoholic options) and a service that offers both a friendly demeanor and a thorough knowledge of the menu enriches every meal there.
When Squable opened in 2019, the focus was on its owners, James Beard Award winning chef Justin Yu and Anvil owner Bobby Heugel. As the restaurant has evolved, attention has shifted to Chef Mark Clayton’s menu, which uses European-inspired dishes made from locally sourced ingredients, and General Manager Terry Williams’s beverage program, which is based on an eclectic mix of wine and cocktails, the Clayton’s cuisine complement each other. Staples like the French cheeseburger and marinated clams are staples on the menu, but new dishes – summer melon and bubbly shisitos turned out to be the highlight of a recent visit – mean even frequent visitors might find a new favorite.