The 10 Best New Restaurants of 2011

Categories: Top 10

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Houston is the birthplace of Third Coast rap. Let's own Third Coast cuisine, too.
The challenge in choosing 10 of the best restaurants to open in Houston each year is a daunting one: Many of the restaurants I think are "the best" have little to nothing to do with each other, making for a list that falls all over the map when it comes to price, cuisine and location.

Then again, the amusing disjointedness represents Houston itself -- as does the fact that three of last year's top 10 best new restaurants no longer exist in the same incarnations (Caffe Bello, Umai and Bootsie's). Houston is nothing if not transitory, constantly tearing down and rebuilding itself over the years.

The challenge this year is trying to overcome that mutability -- to select restaurants that I hope and believe will be around in the future -- and to also choose restaurants that best represent our current Third Coast culinary climate and the bright direction in which it's headed.

These 10 restaurants are not only the best of a large group that have opened this year, they are what makes Houston such a fun and unique city to dine in. Dig in.

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Photos by Troy Fields
From run-down taqueria to vegan Tex-Mex paradise.
10. Radical Eats

A few years ago, it would have been unthinkable to me to place a vegan restaurant on any year-end Best Of lists. But Radical Eats is about so much more than just vegan food: It's about bringing a healthy, relatively inexpensive dining option to a low-income neighborhood. It's about making the most out of local and seasonal produce sourced from all over the city. It's about taking a traditional Houston cuisine -- Tex-Mex -- and making it new again with a few vegan twists on old standards. Owner Staci Davis does all this and more in her remixed Northside Village taqueria. Oh, and did we mention that Sunday's vegan brunch is all-you-can-eat?

Honorable mention also goes to Green Seed Vegan's food truck for doing the same thing in its Third Ward neighborhood. I can't wait to see what becomes of owners Rodney Perry and Matti Merrell when the have a full-fledged restaurant of their own.



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19 comments
Jimmie
Jimmie

Phillippe?  They offer a severly limited menu.  Food was cold when we got it.  Wait staff service very poor.  All in all a very disappointing evening.  Simply a C-grade restaurant.

Car Hire Birmingham
Car Hire Birmingham

I am satisfied with this information & it is really nice to know about these options. I am grateful to you for updating us with this post. Thanks for this.

JB
JB

I am very hungry right now, but I would seriously one day like to take a bowl of Queen Vic's vindaloo side by side with a bowl of Pondicheri's and see which one I like better.  They are both two of the favorite things I've eaten this year.

I agree with you on Coppa, Katherine.  It completely blew me away and exceeded my already high expectations. 

No
No

Why is there always so much hate on these boards? I've been lucky enough to try 7 of these restaurants, and hopefully will get to the other three soon. Is this my list for the top ten? No. But then I'm not the author. Rather than quibble, why not make suggestions? (and I like the food at el Real, but the service blows, and I have ABSOLUTELY no connection to Robb Walsh)

Steve Marques
Steve Marques

Katherine, Queen Vic, Really.  They opened in 2010.  They were on 29-95 top 10 with us last year.  You are better than that.  

David Raffetto
David Raffetto

Good call on Queen Vic. Wife and I love that place.

ec
ec

I just hope 2012 results in better restaurants than these places.  Several of these like Xuco Xicana, Coppa and Pondicheri were one time is enough for me places.  Very disappointing.

Doc Ricky
Doc Ricky

From here we see the standards and conceits that define the ideals of the reviewers and their target audience. But then again, I decry the ranking of "best". And Pondicherri has yet to earn my voice in singing its praises.

Mala, on the other hand...

Edward
Edward

Can't wait for the comments on this list!! Bracing myself now.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Yes, the Queen Vic opened in late 2010 (a fact which we address in next week's print issue). I'm glad they were on 29-95's list of Top 10 restaurants last year; they deserve the accolades. But that wasn't my list. I'd not even had a chance to visit the Queen Vic until the middle of this year.

Just like I wouldn't include Roost or Triniti (which I also haven't visited yet) or any place that opened so close to the end of the year on this list, I couldn't include the Queen Vic last year. It sucks, admittedly, because there are lots of great restaurants each year that open in the last quarter, and really can't be considered fair game until the year is over.

I'm not sure what solution you propose that we come to on this fact, but I'm all ears.  :)

Floatdub
Floatdub

I'm surprised Down House didn't.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Ricky, are you honestly going to tell me you're surprised that restaurants I've been enthusiastically talking about all year have made the year-end "best of" list?  ;)

Not that I would, but were I to write a list that came completely out of left field, with places I'd never or rarely mentioned, wouldn't that be antithetical to the entire idea of this post? I can imagine the comments now... "You've never even reviewed that place!" or "What? Why haven't you ever discussed this place before?"

We can talk about "conceits" or "target audiences" all day long but the fact remains that these are my top picks -- not targeted to anyone's preferences except my own, as stated in the first paragraph -- and that once again, taste is subjective. I really, really like these places. I hope our readers do too. That's all there is to it.  :)

CMN
CMN

Its ridiculous how repeatedly we commentators, even the apparently intelligent and informed, miss the point.

You really need a canned auto comment for every "best of" list on this blog, as it seems explaining the methodology behind the list in your intro is asking far too much of readers and instead the lists are taken as if they were decreed by the damn President for national recognition and respect, and that exclusion from a list automatically implies worst. Calm. Down.

Doc Ricky
Doc Ricky

LOL, no, not surprised at all. I decry the ranking of "best" in general, for any restaurant. You're definitely entitled to your opinion, and this list tells of the desired archetypes. 

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