There’s no basic need more fun than food, especially here in Houston, where the restaurants just keep getting better and better. And no one is more synonymous with the high quality of food in Houston than James Beard Award winner Chris Shepherd.
In December Shepherd and business partner Kevin Floyd announced plans to close their incredibly successful, city-defining restaurant Underbelly and open a new steakhouse, Georgia James, inspired by Shepherd’s previous One Fifth Steak venture, in its place. To fill the void left by Underbelly and continue its good work, Shepherd opened UB Preserv in May, with Nick Wong leading the kitchen and a menu reflective of Houston, including dishes such as Vietnamese short rib fajitas, wok-fried collard greens and queso fundido. And lest we forget Shepherd’s ambitious five-year, five-concept One Fifth restaurant, One Fifth Romance shuttered on July 31 with plans to reopen under its third concept, One Fifth Mediterranean, on September 1.
Some things aren’t changing, however, like fellow James Beard Award winner Hugo Ortega’s Xochi, which is still bringing the flavors of Oaxaca to downtown Houston, and his namesake restaurant Hugo in Montrose, where the Street Foods of Mexico menu, with slow-roasted brisket tamales and dulce de leche-stuffed churros, remains a local favorite.
It goes without saying that Houstonians can’t get enough Szechuan cuisine, especially over at Heng Chen and Cori Xiong’s Mala Sichuan Bistro. Luckily, a new location in the JPMorgan Chase Tower food hall was announced this year, with two more locations, in Sugar Land and Katy, still to come. But if Latin American cuisine is what you’re craving, Batanga, known for not only its tapas but also its superior patio, is the place to go.
Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan’s adjacent, dual-concept restaurants, The Pass & Provisions, offer you the choice between going classy or going casual. Or, if classy joints are your preference and you’re in the Greenway Plaza area, you can check out the fine Italian dining at Houston institution Tony’s, owned for more than 50 years by Tony Vallone.
There are plenty of playfully named cocktails around the city, but if you prefer a happy hour that supports a good buzz and a good cause, swing by Boheme for Fresh Arts’ weekly fundraiser, Cultured Cocktails. Each Thursday, 10 percent of all drink sales during happy hour will go to a different artist, organization or project, with Zine Fest Houston set for August 23, Art Colony Association on September 6, Next Iteration Theater Company on September 13 and Women in the Visual and Literary Arts on October 4.
If you’re planning to make a night of it, consider Damian’s Cucina Italiana, where a complimentary, after-dinner shuttle will take you directly to your show at the Wortham Theater Center, the Alley Theatre, the Hobby Center or Jones Hall. After the show, the shuttle will even pick you up and take you back.
Now use the information provided here to go forth into the city’s culinary scene. Remember, the world is your grilled oyster.