Latest Dish: September 2019

Houston’s Best Food News, in Small Bites ...


Beginning in January, The Dunlavy will offer nightly dinner service, transitioning from a private-events venue to a full-service restaurant in the evenings. Expect a menu of chef-driven, locally sourced food paired with Clark Cooper Concepts’ very reasonably priced wine list. The restaurant group announced the closing of Ibiza in Midtown, also in January. 3422 Allen Pkwy., 713.360.6477

After stints in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, Texas native Justin Yoakum has joined the culinary team at State Fare Kitchen & Bar (947 Gessner Rd., 832.831.0950) as executive chef. He wasted no time revamping the menu, introducing a new section coined Lighter Fare, with guilt-free options that include a poké bowl and vegan spaghetti. This fall, the popular concept expands to Sugar Land Town Square.

The home stretch! Bringing the concept’s ideology closer to home, Chris Shepherd has transitioned One Fifth Mediterranean to One Fifth Gulf Coast, the fourth iteration of his ever-evolving restaurant. Options are endless: Gulf Coast gems will be represented on the menu in the way of oysters, crab, clams and crawfish served raw, cold, cured, fried or roasted. Don’t skip the made-to-order traditional flounder almondine and jambalaya — and for the first time, One Fifth now serves Sunday brunch. We’ll raise a glass to that! 1658 Westheimer Rd., 713.955.1024

Nearly two years after suffering the wrath of Hurricane Harvey, Reef has reopened in Midtown. The iconic restaurant under the direction of Bryan Caswell boasts updated interiors and a menu of mouthwatering new dishes like the Crab Fat & Dough, featuring a whole blue crab enveloped by fluffy bread, its claws jutting out — and it’s as delicious as it is photo-worthy. 2600 Travis St., 713.526.8282

Roka Akor has launched Roka Reserve, an exclusive four-course omakase dining experience limited to eight seats at the robata grill, available Sunday through Wednesday evenings. With a menu of chef’s picks, courses may include prime cuts of Japanese wagyu or skewers garnished with bacon-wrapped enoki mushroom, filet and tsukune. 2929 Weslayan St., 713.622.1777

‘Tsukune kushiyaki,’ chicken meatball skewers, at Roka Akor’s new Roka Reserve dining experience‘Tsukune kushiyaki,’ chicken meatball skewers, at Roka Akor’s new Roka Reserve dining experience

Now open! California-based Mendocino Farms (5510 Morningside Dr., 713.487.0965) has opened its first Houston outpost at the Rice Village Arcade. The fast-casual concept with an “Eat Happy” ethos boasts a menu of salads and sandwiches using responsibly sourced ingredients, including a pork belly banh mi with house-pickled daikon, marinated beet salad and curried couscous. Nearby, salad-bowl-serving national chain Sweetgreen (2551 Amherst St., 832.720.7500) also opened its first H-Town locale, spotlighting its relationship with local farmers and two only-in-Houston menu items: the garlic-chili shrimp salad, and a warm “superfood” bowl. A followup opens in Montrose this fall. 

Downtown diners have even more delicious options than ever! Bravery Chef Hall (409 Travis St., 713.909.0691) inside the Aris Market Square high-rise tower has bowed. The sprawling food-court-plus features original concepts Atlas Diner by chef Richard Knight, Christine Ha’s The Blind Goat, BOH Pasta by Ben McPherson, Felix Florez’s Cherry Block Craft Butcher + Kitchen, and Kokoro from chefs Daniel Lee and Patrick Pham — plus three cocktail and wine bars. Shake Shack (702 Main St.) has opened a Downtown outpost on Main Street just steps away.

Tobiuo Sushi & Bar chef Mike Lim will continue offering exclusive seatings for his one-of-a-kind bluefin tuna dining experience, during which the chef breaks down a whole fish and creates a multi-course tasting menu. The restaurant will announce upcoming dates and available reservations. 23501 Cinco Ranch Blvd., 281.394.7156

A’bouzy has launched new items perfect for pairing with bottles of bubbles during the warmer months. Imported Burrata is made sweet with grilled peaches and balsamic; roasted warm beets from Huckleberry Farms taste earthy and fresh dressed in walnut oil and mint; and the local seafood pasta is hearty with mussels, shrimp, scallops and white fish. 2300 Westheimer Rd., 713.722.6899

Now open: Sambrooks Management (The Pit Room, 1751 Sea & Bar) continues its hot streak with the opening of Candente in the space formerly housed by Cane Rosso in Montrose. Like its sister restaurant down the road, expect plenty of smokey, protein-heavy dishes like saucy Tex-Mex ribs, beef and chicken fajitas, and Niman Ranch prime beef. 4306 Yoakum Blvd.

The double-vaulted Montrose building previously home to Paul Qui’s Aqui will soon be Traveler’s Table from owner Matthew Mitchell and chef Jordan Economy. The menu, comprised of dishes carefully selected to showcase the flavors experienced by former journalist Mitchell during his international sojourns, is broken down by region; expect Italian classics and adventurous Moroccan offerings alike. The cocktail menu spans the globe, too: Try a Mumbai Bule or Bursting Boba Tea. 520 Westheimer Rd.

Lazy Oaks Beer Garden has sprouted in Spring Branch. The family- and dog-friendly beer garden has a fenced-in patio, lawn games, big-screen TVs, a full bar and a menu of crowd-pleasers like wings doused in Thai curry, espresso-barbecue or buffalo sauce. 10158 Long Point Rd. 

AT TOP: Find this roasted-pineapple-upside-down cake with cherry sorbet on the menu at Chris Shepherd’s latest restaurant, One Fifth Gulf Coast


“I WISH I came here sooner to experience this amazing city,” says advanced sommelier Rachel Van Til of her move to Houston just one year before the pandemic lockdown. When Covid appeared in 2020, along with layoffs and closings, it led to a career swerve for Van Til, a working mom who was a sommelier at Pappas Steakhouse. She took over the wine program at The Clubs at Houston Oaks, a posh (initiation fees can range into the six figures) members-only club northwest of the city with 10 lodges, 17 lakes, 900 acres and six dining options. Speaking of lots of good food and vino, the club’s 2022 Wine and Food Classic is this February 12 — it’s a great chance to taste hundreds of wines from around the world and learn about them from winemakers and professionals. “It’s our largest event of the year and it’s open to the public.” In our Q&A, Rachel dishes on her favorite date night, best wines to try this year and her brush with the me-too movement!

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HOUSTON IS HOME to hundreds of steakhouses, but the Museum District has been pretty barren of big beef — until now.

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