In the Local Palate’s 2022 Restaurants Issue, our state-by-state guide highlights the new restaurants that have emerged since 2020. Here, contributor Veronica Meewes gives an overview of new Texas restaurants.
March | Houston
Last spring, Goodnight Hospitality opened March, easily one of Houston’s most anticipated restaurants.
The food menu, developed by chef Felippe Riccio, focuses on the cuisine of the Barbary Coast— Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia. Beverage director Mark Sayre, master sommelier June Rodil, and bar manager Alex Negranza, on the other hand, designed a beverage program complete with cocktails starring Mediterranean botanicals and more than 11,000 bottles from around the globe.
The restaurant crafts two menus a year, closing for a month in January and August for the transitions. The March experience begins in the wood paneled, art-filled lounge with herb-forward cocktails and snacks like foie gras alfajor with hazelnuts, PX sherry, and tobacco butter with crispy potatoes and boquerones.
Guests then transition into the twenty-eight-seat dining room, which eschews tablecloths for millennial pink walls, brass details, and warm wooden furniture with goldenrod seat cushions. A six-course “discovery menu” or nine-course “exploration menu” offer different ways to experience the exquisite, artful cuisine. A recent Andalusian-inspired menu featured presentations like a tortilla de angulas, made with the baby eels native to southern Spain, and rabo de toro (a Spanish bull tail stew) with braised greens, Calasparra rice, and smoked garlic.
Two tiers of wine pairings—one classic and one premier—allow the lauded sommelier team to dive deep into the stories behind each wine and the producers who make it. Guests can also opt for region-specific sherry pairings or choose from a spirited cocktail menu starring seasonal housemade vermouth made with herbs and botanicals.
For a sweet ending, executive pastry chef Shawn Gawle might incorporate the flavors of sherry in a bay laurel ice cream sundae, topped with PX sherry caramel, honeyed marcona almonds, candied fennel, currants, golden raisins, and coffee chocolate cremeaux.
Drink: Opt for the wine pairings, at either the classic or premier level
Main: The six- or nine-course options change often but might include oysters with pastis and fennel and cassoulet with tarbaise beans
Dessert: Bay laurel ice cream sundae topped with sherry caramel and candied fennel
Other Newcomers to Texas Restaurants
Jennifer Hwa Dobbertin, along with business partner Quealy Watson, developed Best Quality Daughter to address the sparsity of Asian-American female chefs in South Texas. The concept began in 2018 as a pop-up. Their brick-and-mortar opened in fall 2020 in a historic Pearl district home. Influences from China, Thailand, and Taiwan characterize the menu, complete with dishes like yellow curry shrimp fried rice, cashew chicken, garlicky noodles, and short rib bao.
The Blind Goat | Houston
Chef Christine Ha (who is visually impaired) is best known for being the season 3 winner of MasterChef with Gordon Ramsey. She originally opened her Vietnamese gastropub inside Bravery Chef Hall. The eatery graduating to a permanent location in fall 2021. Find creative spins on Vietnamese cuisine. A favorite is the “rubbish apple pie”—a play on her dessert praised by chef Ramsey on the show—made with fish sauce caramel, lemongrass, star anise, and ginger.
The Nicolett | Lubbock
Chef Finn Walter accrued fine-dining experience around the nation and abroad, before returning to Texas to open the Nicolett in Lubbock in 2021. It’s quickly become a destination unlike anything Lubbock has ever seen. Look forward to artful, innovative offerings like elk tartare with juniper, peanut, and chive or local mushroom lasagna with bone marrow and raclette. The well-curated wine list features house wines crafted by McPherson Cellars, pioneers of the Texas wine industry.
La Onda | Fort Worth
With plenty of experience cooking at Dallas-Fort Worth dining mainstays, chef Victor Villarreal opened his first solo project inside a former ice cream shop in a historic bungalow in Fort Worth’s burgeoning Riverside Arts district. The Mexican- and South American-inspired menu features hyperfresh, high-quality seafood from both coasts, with highlights like a dry-aged sashimi of the week, house cured gravlax, and seasonal ceviche.
El Charlatan | El Paso
Seasoned from cooking in Michelin-starred kitchens, Enrique Lozano opened El Charlatan, the first ramen taqueria in West Texas. The restaurant is housed in the adobe Hacienda Apodaca on the historical Mission Trail on Socorro (just southeast of El Paso). Lozano uses his culinary experience to both elevate and marry his two loves—Mexican and Asian cuisine—in a vibrant, flavorful menu. Try the pork belly pastor taco paired with microgreens and topped with pineapple and red salsa in a warm handmade tortilla. There’s also the Samurai tonkotsu ramen bowl, topped with togarashi fried chicken, soft-boiled egg, tare, scallion, and toasted nori.
Musaafer | Houston
After a 100-day research trip throughout India, Mithu and Shammi Malik moved to Houston to open Mussafer (which translates to “a traveler” in Hindi) in order to show people the side of the country’s twenty-nine states so often left out of Americanized Indian cuisine. From Kashmir to Kerala, the chefs and partners gathered knowledge, acquired spices, and developed recipes for dishes lesser known to the Western world. Look for the pesarattu, roti, malpua, patrani macchi, and pyaz kachori.
This East Austin wine bar and restaurant landed on the New York Times’ restaurant list within months of opening. Chef Traci Malechek Ezekiel and wine buyer Arjav Ezekiel are partners in work and life who met in New York (while working at Gramercy Tavern and Untitled at the Whitney). The food is New American with heavy Mediterranean influence. Ezekiel’s well-curated wine list features organic and biodynamic bottles. There’s also a selection of sweet wines to accompany desserts like vanilla soft serve with tangerine agrumato.
Store House Market + Eatery | Bastrop
Like chef Sonya Cote’s original restaurant East Eden, the menu of snacks and mains at Store House is inspired by the ever-changing harvest and presented in farm-fresh glory with garnishes of fresh sprouts and blooms. The spinach and chard dip comes with cilantro, garlic chives, and wild sumac chips, while fried quail knots arrive on a bed of arugula with house-made hot sauce and buttermilk dressing.
Chef Tiffany Derry’s refined modern-Southern restaurant pays homage to the way her family grew up eating in the South: as zero-waste as possible and in accordance with the seasons. Her menu even features her mother’s gumbo—packed with chicken, shrimp, and blue crab—and her warm orange juice cake.
This East Austin culinary destination comes from the hospitality group behind top Austin restaurants Emmer & Rye and Hestia. Partner and pastry chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph developed the recipes for Canje based on family dishes from his native Guyana (the Canje pheasant is the country’s national bird). The vibrant Caribbean cuisine is complemented by both low-intervention wine selections and boozy, fruit-driven cocktails.
- by Hannah Lee Leidy
- by Hannah Lee Leidy
- by Amber Chase
- by Emily Havener