In the Local Palate’s 2023 Restaurants Issue, our state-by-state guide highlights the new restaurants that have emerged since 2022. Here, local writer Veronica Meewes highlights new restaurants in Texas.
San Antonio gained a true culinary gem when the acclaimed Emmer & Rye Hospitality Group opened its first concept in the Alamo City. Ladino, unveiled this past fall in the historic Pearl district, pays homage to chef Berty Richter’s Sephardic roots with a menu centered on the charcoal grill essential to Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines.
Raised in Israel by an Hungarian American father and a Turkish mother, Richter first learned the love language of food from his family, before completing classic French culinary training and cooking for high-profile restaurants in Israel, New York, and Barcelona. He grew up speaking Ladino, the language of Sephardic Jews who migrated from Spain through the northern Mediterranean before settling in the Balkan states and Israel. His namesake restaurant takes influence from all the countries in that migratory route, both in its food and in its decor.
Richter’s menu highlights both traditional and lesser-known dishes mainly from Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, and Israel and their neighbors, but with his own playful—and often seasonal—variations. Chargrilled beets are served atop fluffy whipped date molasses, and a sumptuous almond-olive oil cake is brightened with a Campari-grapefruit sorbet.
“We make our muhammara with Texas pecans instead of walnuts. When peppers are in season, we use the many kinds available here to give a twist to our different chili condiments,” Richter says. “And, of course, the very high quality of pork, beef, and chicken raised here helps elevate the flavor and quality of our kebabs and other grilled dishes.”
The menu also includes Richter’s modernized versions of his family’s traditional Sephardic recipes, like the agristada de pishkado, a special dish his grandmother made for the family twice a year on Rosh Hashanah and Passover. He recalls the days of labor as she broke down whole gray mullets and juiced fresh lemons to slow-cook the fish in a lemony egg emulsion in small batches. His version is made from cold poached amberjack topped with dill, urfa, and onion relish.
“For me, the agristada represents the essence of my Ladino culture and background,” Richter says. “When I set out to make the menu, I knew I had to re-create a version of that dish, and my challenge was making it in a restaurant setting in a way that is attractive and compelling. Based on our guests’ reactions, I think my grandmother would be proud. My mom is for sure.”
12 New Restaurants in Texas
Chef-owner Greg Gatlin (also of Gatlin’s Barbecue) opened this fried chicken and Gulf seafood destination in Independence Heights last year. An homage to the historic neighborhood, the retro space features newsprint-covered tables, booth seating, and framed black-and-white photos of the area, while the kitchen puts an inspired spin on everything from gumbo to barbecue shrimp to jerk chicken. Don’t miss the H-Town hot sandwich: crispy chicken or fish tossed in Viet-Cajun hot sauce and topped with basil slaw and pickles.
From Jason Andaya and Raymond Chan (the team behind sushi concept Hando and cocktail bar Kanpai Club), this modern, fresh spin on Vietnamese cuisine in Houston’s Heights neighborhood specializes in gluten-free small plates like tamarind-glazed wings, shareable family-style dishes like turmeric-dill cod, and cocktails with fun names like Jean-Claude Pandan, an iced blend of rum, vodka, absinthe, pandan, coconut milk, and cinnamon.
Opened last summer on the second floor of the Exchange Hall, this space intends to feature a rotating cast of chefs and their concepts. First came Stepchild from award-winning chef Misti Noris (of Petra and the Beast), with her take on classic French-Cajun dishes like crab butter with sherry gelee and baguette, and koji-fried chicken. It was such a hit, it has been extended through the remainder of the year.
Sam Hellman-Mass and chef Fermín Núñez (of the award-winning Suerte) opened this highly anticipated coastal Mexican concept this past fall in the iconic space (and gardens) that once housed Eastside Cafe, the city’s first farm-to-table restaurant.
Much like at Suerte, all the nixtamal used for the tortillas and tostadas is made in house using masa from local heirloom corn. But at Este, seafood is the star of the show, with seafood towers and a menu of cold bar items, plus composed charcoal-grilled dishes like butterflied shell-on shrimp brightened with lime, chile costeño garlic butter, and cilantro, complemented by a coastally influenced wine list.
The writing on RR12 Supper Club’s front door reading “call us old-fashioned” is perfectly fitting. Servers are outfitted in white tuxedo jackets, and dishes are revealed with the swift lift of a silver dome—all accessories fit for the decadent menu, which features exquisite steaks and chops, seafood, and housemade pasta. There are also high-end starters like escargot en croute and caviar service.
In addition to a smart wine list, this new restaurant in Texas runs a top-notch cocktail program. Try the RR12 old-fashioned, brewed for 24 hours in a Japanese brew system before being smoked with cedarwood. They also offer a membership club.
When their daughter married a Peruvian and fell in love with the cuisine, the Peregrino family behind Don Carbon, the El Paso mesquite-grilled chicken chain, created AMAR to merge Peruvian and Mexican flavors and techniques. On this seafood-forward menu, you’ll find ceviche and tuna Nikkei alongside caldo de camaron and aguachile, presented beautifully in a sleek and elegantly rustic space with touches like lush green plants and woven lanterns and seats.
Cullum’s Attaboy, located just off the North Saint Mary’s Strip, serves as an homage to both chef Chris Cullum’s dad, the late renowned cornetist Jim Cullum, and the city of San Antonio, with treasures gleaned from its history and iconic dishes like La Louisianne’s pâté. The rest of the French-inspired menu includes luxuries like escargot in scotch compound butter paired with Cullum’s dad’s favorite Pinch scotch and moderately priced caviar and truffles, which the chef wants to make accessible to the city.
This unassuming restaurant, tucked into a strip mall in Junius Heights, serves as a culinary think tank of sorts for chef Ross Demers, who serves constantly evolving creations using French techniques, high-quality ingredients, and influences from North Africa to California. He keeps the atmosphere casual and the prices approachable at an average of $60 per person for dishes like duck heart and frisée salad with truffle vinaigrette and grilled octopus with beef tallow, chimichurri aïoli, pepper relish, and Marcona almonds.
This wood-fired Mexican chophouse in Five Points brings Tulum vibes to Texas with its pulsing soundtrack, disco-jungle decor, vibrant cocktails, and a beautifully presented seafood-and-veggie-focused menu. Go with a group and share a variety of their small and large plates, from nixtamalized heirloom corn tamales and wood-roasted bone marrow to coconut halibut ceviche and prime hand-cut steaks.
Restaurants in Texas on Our Radar
This fine-dining concept, opened in mid-December 2022, aims to “unite us all under one big ciel [sky]” with a nightly live DJ and performers as you dine on French and Japanese fusion cuisine.
Coming this spring to the iconic Reunion Tower is a steakhouse from Elizabeth Blau and chef Kim Canteenwalla focusing on all things grilled, including seafood and plant-based options.
Momofuku’s Richard Hargreave and Claudia Lee pair a sophisticated wine program with the food they describe as “Asian Australian with a Texas influence.”
- by TLP Editors
- by Hannah Lee Leidy
- by Amber Chase
- by Hannah Lee Leidy