In the years since I left Houston, my hometown has developed its own distinctive style of high cuisine, said Salma Abdelnour in The New York Times. Local chefs like Textile’s Scott Tycer incorporate flavors borrowed from the diverse ethnic groups that make up the city. Housed in an 1894 burlap factory, this is one of Houston’s more “impeccably styled, serene” restaurants. The only reason people might think twice is the price—either a $170 five-course tasting menu or à la carte selections that can run $100. If you take the plunge, you’ll be rewarded with “savory versions of bread puddings, tarts, and strudels.” In Tycer’s hands, bacon goes into a “powerfully rich” tart topped with a runny quail egg. An herb-filled tarragon bread pudding comes draped in caramelized onion with a side of pungent takali rasam—a South Asian soup with cumin and the spice asafoetida. “It’s probably safe to say that particular combination exists nowhere else.” 611 W. 22nd St., (832) 209-7177
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“Monica Pope is possibly one of the most serious chefs in Houston,” said David Landsel in the New York Post. “A champion of the local, the sustainable, the seasonal, the responsible, and the artisanal,” she often earns comparisons to the San Francisco Bay Area’s legendary Alice Waters—only she has “a better sense of humor.” While Pope’s quiet, refined midtown restaurant, T’afia, “draws die-hard eaters from around the state,” the chef really shows off her culinary muscle at this downtown BBQ joint. Designed as a “roadhouse bar,” Beaver’s boasts hearty fare—including a smoky queso dip, a house-made jalapeño pork sausage, and chicken-fried steak—as well as bold cocktails such as the Mayahuel Fizz (mescal, rosemary, lime juice, bitters, and egg white). 2310 Decatur St., (713) 864-2328
Chef and restaurateur Bryan Caswell has long been a darling of this city’s eating scene, and his newest place “makes me happy about the state of the restaurant arts in Houston,” said Alison Cook in the Houston Chronicle. The fare at Stella Sola is a pairing of Texas Gulf Coast and Tuscany, and its brief, “smartly edited menu shifts daily to reflect the market.” Caswell is best known for his seafood, and here the striking specials include roasted grouper collar. But many of the chief attractions are “carnivore’s delights,” meant to reflect the restaurant’s Tuscan inspiration. “I’m pretty sure my eyeballs rolled back in my head when I crunched up the fragile, crackly skin on the roast local suckling pig for two, a platter of sumptuously soft meat and roasted vegetables.” One tip: Often, the bar—where a “butcher-paper-covered table” is easier to come by—offers a more comfortable setting for a meal than the crowded dining room. 1001 Studewood St., (713) 880-1001
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