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Alison Cook has released her list of the top 100 restaurants in Houston. Join us Friday, June 8 for a chat with her about the selection process and give us your feedback here:
Alison Cook's Top 100 Restaurants chat
Don't think I will be able to join the discusiion tomorrow but I have to say that our current favorite restaurants are all high on your list.
Uchi is tops for us right now, and we've been big fans of Feast and Kata Robata too. Glad to see Bernie's Burger Bus is pretty high too...it's currently our fave burger.
And we're finally going to Oxheart this weekend so we're excited it was ranked #1 on your list.
All subjective I know but there are at least 25 restaurants off the top of my head better than Spanish Village that serve mexican food alone. Beavers? Really? Decent bar food and creative drinks but you would place them above Freds? Kata Robata is fun and they have some interesting stuff but in my opion no where close to the quality, value and friendly atmosphere of a place like Oiishi. The only one I agree with is Tony's the rest of the list seems more for name recognition hippness than actual quality of restaurant.
I have to ask: what's Fred's??
I think Fred's is the small italian restaurant in the strip center at Holcombe and Greenbriar. Long time restaurant; decent but very mediocre food. I live a few blocks away and never go.
As predicted by Alison, let the second guessing begin starting wtih CK's uneducated comment. I am sure Taco Bell is one of the 25 mexican restaurants off the top of his/her head better than Spanish Village.
Snarky, snarky. I have eaten at Beavers and will pay NOT to go back. Couldn't find anything I even WANTED on the menu, much too "hip" and no food quality whatsoever. NEVER again.
Where is Mark's American Cuisine? I realize comparing Frenchie's with, say, Tony's indicates she is not really comparing head to head. That being said; Mark's is not an old school-old money irrelevant restaurant that no longer reflect the "spirit" or "new direction"; or whatever abstract reasoning was used. This list is NOT the top 100 restaurants. Without Mark's, it is merely a nice cross section of good places to eat compiled by a lady that works for a newspaper.
I'm just not a big fan of Mark's. I find that most of the dishes have too many ingredients and not enough focus. That's just my critical opinion, of course, but it's what I have to go by. I realize many people love Mark's, and I respect the fact that they have thrived for many years.
I know you can't explain each omission; but that is an explanation I can accept and respect. Thanks!
I have to agree with Marks being left off the list. It is so hit or miss there. I have been let down by the food the last 2 of 3 times I was there. It was not bad, but I was left with the feeling of, did I just drop all that money and felt unimpressed. I did not even blink an eye as to why it was left off and hose of you complaining need to try to eat there more often, not just once a year.
gotta agree with bigkev - I gave Ms. Cook's list a lot less credence when I saw Mark's was omitted. And I have read her column (and loved it!) for years.
Where is Sorrell?? Houston's only restaurant to make Gayot's US Top 10 and not on the list... Bad oversight!
I reviewed Sorrell earlier this year and found it wildly erratic. It's got promise, and I look forward to dining there in the future in the hopes they even out their performance.
Alison, I am pleased to have eaten at 1/3 of the restaurants on the list -- a couple questions for ya... how does Bernie's compare to Langford's Grocery? Also, have you ever had the puffy taco's at Fiesta Loma Linda? If not, they are a must... I've been eating there since I was a kid. Love it. Pondicheri & Indika, Reef, Branch Water, the Original Ninfa's, Au Petit Paris, and Irma's are all fantastic. I feel lucky to live in such a wonderful city with such broad choices for dining. I too also adore Beaver's even though the service is always lackluster at best. I really wanted to love Haven, but have not been wowed the two times I've been. What about Zelko? Again, I'd love to know your thoughts on the puffy tacos @ Fiesta Loma Linda: 2111 Telephone Road Houston, TX 77023,(713) 924-6074
Chris, I live right near Fiesta Loma Linda and I like those puffy tacos a lot. That said, I think overall the food there just isn't as consistent or as well executed as it is at the Mexican places that made my list. For me it's one of those one-dish restaurants. As to Zelko, I admire chef Jamie and was surprised that I didn't like her restaurant more when I reviewed it. The execution was really uneven, and after three or four visits I had run out of things I wanted to eat, because the menu doesn't seem to change. It's got its good points for sure, and maybe my opinion will change over time. I'd like to think that it would.
I could see that... I rarely get anything other than the puffy tacos.
Oh, and about Bernie's: I find it far superior to Lankford's. Better ingredients, everything from scratch, consistent execution. Lankford's has charm; Bernie's has superlative burgers and fries.
Great! I've been meaning to try it -- I wonder how they'll stack up in my mind against the Grim burger...
I don't understand why Teppay did not make your list. It is far superior and more authentic than most of the Japanese restaurants in Houston. And how is it that Yum Yum Cha made the list when Fung's Kitchen did not? Yum's dim sum is a disgrace to anyone that knows anything about dim sum. Even the deteriorated Golden Palace does a better job than Yum Yum Cha.
Can't speak to Teppay because until your comment it wasn't even on my radar. But I vastly prefer Yum Yum Cha to Fung's Kitchen, which has lots of variety but uneven quality in their dim sum service, in my opinion. My last visit to Yum Yum Cha (which was recent) was spectacular.
I used to rate Teppay at the top of Houston's sushi restaurants, but my last two visits were lackluster. The rice was a bit past it's prime and fish had muddled flavors you find across the rest of the city. Same thing happened at Sasaki, which has tumbled from being one of the best to average, despite retaining their sushi chef through an ownership change.
Kata Robata dining room and sushi bar are almost two different restaurants, and even if you order stock selections at the bar you won't get to see Kata Robata at it's best. Order omakase, however, and you'll have some of the best nigiri in Houston.
Only one visit to Uchi, but I liked the nigiri quite a bit. Need to go back.
Alison, I am very impressed on how you answered all the questions here. Very diplomatic. I agree with your analysis on Zelko, I have my favorites there but they are not consistent. Thanks for your comment on Bernie's vs Langford. I will definitely seekout Bernie's next time. Thanks for your hard work on this list. I already made reservations to 3 places on your list for the next few weeks.
Thank you very much. I didn't want to give the impression that the list was some stone tablet handed down from the Mount. It's a human document, I approached it seriously and worked hard on it, and I recognize that everyone who reads it will have a different take. I'll be happy if it prompts some interesting discussion and encourages people to try something new and different, as you are.
Where's Niko Niko!?
Right where they belong...NOT on the list.
5 of my favorite restaurants on your list. Nice! I would have added NW Fwy Pappadeaux's, Pappa's Seafood on Shepard, B B's Cafe on Montrose, Kojak's Cafe, Pappa Geno's Steak and Cheese and BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse, Auntie Chang's Dumpling House and ,Pho Long.
Tony's is on the money. Since Grant Gordon has been there it's my #1 again!
HOW could you forget to include Chez Nous???!!!
I wish you would include more restaurants outside of the loop. There are many great restaurants in Spring, The Woodlands, Conroe, Clear Lake etc. that are well worth the drive and definitely able to compete against all the restaurants you've listed.
Your argument would be sounder if you were to name a few of these great restaurants.
Where is Brasserie 19? I can't believe you put in that funky, worn out, over-priced Tony Mandola's and left out Brasserie 19!
789456, THAT, was funny!
i am surprised you didnt put TORCHYS TACOS on there after the great reviews you gave it!! i thought it was going to be at least in your top 5 and since it made headlines on chron.com the next day!
I think it's brave to do a top list of any kind. And enormously entertaining. But given how angry lists make people, why do you do it?
It was a personal challenge I wanted to undertake. But there were many points at which I thought it was crazy to try. Got to admit that.
It's not fine dining, but a gyro and plate of fries from Niko Niko's has left a lot of people satisfied. A Houston institution in its own way. Was surprised it didn't make the cut.
Happy to see Feast ranked so highly. I'll be there tomorrow night. Also, good call on Villa Arcos.
Just listing Beaver's Icehouse makes me completly distrust this list. Anyone who puts that place on a list of best restaurants should not be making a list of best restaurants. The food and service are horrible. Can they mix a drink, yeah, but does that make it a best restaurant? Maybe Cook had to decide whether Jack in the Box or Beavers, then she made a good choice.
Thank you very much Alison. That had to have been a very daunting task.
it kinda was. Thank you,
I cannot believe tnat not a single Jamaican eatery made the list!
So what's your favorite one?
Just wanted to say thanks for the top 100 list! I have eaten at many of the restaurants and now have many more to look forward to.
You need to do the chat more often. I'm sure it was hectic but it couldn't have been that bad, only an hour. Thanks, it was interesting.
Thanks, Chuck. It was sort of terrifying at first but it got less so as I went on. It is a very intense hour, though--very difficult to type and think fast enough.
Thank you for the great list. I was surprised to not see Kiran's on it though. I consider it one of my top five in Restaurants in Houston. I'd love to hear your reasoning.
Scott, I was really disappointed in my revisit to Kiran's. The food seemed tired and washed out compared to my memories of the place. It was at lunch and I wondered if that had something to do with it. I had a crab omelet with crab that seemed less than perfectly fresh, and even the standard Indian curries did not sparkle. I really hope next time I go I'll have a better experience.
Alison, have you hit up Danton's and/or McCormick & Schmick's? These are two that I've been wanting to try; may be interesting.
Have you considered exploring more of Bellaire Chinatown? I can confidently tell you that Confucius is pretty mediocre by Cantonese standards, especially their lobster. I understand that special menus only in Chinese may be challenging to access without a native speaker, but I would recommend looking at more restaurants with particular effort at realizing certain specialties appear only in Chinese or at different times of the day and year. The chefs really shine during Chinese New Year. Along those same lines, early in the afternoon (1-4 PM) is probably the best time to get the most consistently amazing roast pork belly at Sinh Sinh. It's on par if not better than that found at Feast. Plus, it's decently cheap. You shouldn't have to spend more than twenty dollars to haul away an entire take out box full of it. You have to ask for 五花腩 (5 flower belly), which is the best cut of roast pork belly available. Good luck finding it outside that time frame. It's usually the first cut to go. The char siu (bbq pork) at Welcome Supermarket is the best in the city currently. Likewise, judging dim sum outside the 11-1 PM rush is like judging a restaurant on leftovers. Yum Yum Cha has abominable dim sum. While Fung's and Ocean Palace have declined in overall quality within the recent past, they are far better than what is served at Yum Yum Cha. Arco Seafood has wonderful dim sum as well. Jade Garden in Sugar Land has managed to recruit a very talented dim sum chef too. They collectively as a group use better ingredients, employ better technique, and are far more consistent in producing infinitely better quality. What's also interesting is your omission of Chinese haute cuisine. No, there is no decent Peking duck in Houston, sadly. On the other hand, there is plenty to enjoy at Ocean Palace, Arco, and Fung's Kitchen if you know what to order (which usually involves speaking and reading Chinese, unfortunately). I'm sure you can find an eager friend that can help you out. Just my two cents. There's a lot to be learned about Chinese cuisine in Houston, especially by critics and foodies, who apparently have only recently swarmed it. I've been eating it almost daily for 22 years, and I'm still learning more about it every day.
This is such a patronizing comment I almost didn't respond. I think people romanticize Houston's Bellaire Chinatown wildly: just because it's on Bellaire does not mean it's good. I cannot begin to tell you the number of mediocre meals I have had over the decades I have been on the hunt for excellent Chinese food in Houston. It's still an elusive goal. As for your restaurant critiques: I disagree so strongly with your assessment of Yum Yum Cha that I almost feel we have no more room for discussion. My last visit there, in late spring, with 3 demanding guests from out of town, was fabulous. Fab-u-lous. I keep going and going and going to Chinatown in hopes of good dim sum results, but I have no current favorites. I have heard good things about Chinese Cuisine and maybe that will turn out to be a winner. But your favorites are not mine, that's all there is to it. And I am sorry, but you are wrong squared about the lobster at Confucius Seafood. I never order lobster in restaurants, because it is usually so ghastly, but they know what they are doing with it there--and with many other dishes, right down to the freaking amazing tofu with King mushroom, which is one of the best damn tofu dishes I have ever had in my life. As my friend Gene Wu says, Chinese people know that the minute the chef changes in Chinatown, it's a new restaurant and a new game. I suspect you are going on visits in the past rather than the present. How recently have you been to Confucius or Yum Yum Cha? In the past 3 or 4 months? I suspect it has been much longer than that. I could go on, but I will not.
Alison, I don't want to start anything but I am surprised at your response. I read the comment and it sounded like opinion to me. I could not figure out what was "Patronizing" about it. Maybe you can explain.
It was patronizing from the very first sentence. Gee, no, as a food writer who has worked in Houston for decades, no, I never considered exploring more of Chinatown. Not for a second. Right. That alone assumes a lot. Then, after that, to dismiss my choices as "abominable," etcetera....fine, it's opinion, but the whole context of the comment is patronizing in the extreme. After a week of enduring the slings and arrows this one just pushed me over the edge. I'm human. But if you don't see what's patronizing about it after my explanation, I can't be any more clear.
"Have you considered exploring more of Bellaire Chinatown?" Alison, maybe you have thin skin but all I see is a question. Have you tried this place (area)? That's it. Not everyone is a professional writer and can express themselves the way you expect. I understand that as a food critic, you take a lot of guff but to take it out on this poster seemed a bit over the top. Have you indeed explored every district and restaurant in the city? Don't people always send you tips on places to eat? Why is this different? And more to the point, why is everybody always looking for a fight these days? Someone looked at me wrong, I didn't like the way they said this or that etc. Seems like the whole world needs to chill out - so much anger and hostility. I enjoy your posts and think you are a fine writer and are spot on in your reviews. That said, you are developing a tendency of late to get snippy with your readers. When they call you an idiot, I say go get 'em. When they type an innocuous sentence like the one above that you interpret as something personal, let it go and you will be the bigger person. Your penultimate statement reveals that you are becoming tired and jaded and contemptuous of anybody who has the gall to disagree with you. Just remember that being a food critic simply means writing your opinion. You are not the food goddess nor are you any better than any of your readers.
My wife and have eaten at 19 of the 100 listed, and largely share your perspectives. We have no particular bias, except for good food and service. Clearly, this is a snapshot of a dynamic process. Not on the list, but which left a favorable impression are Masraffs, Hubbell and Hudson, Aldo's, and Triniti. The foie gras at the first was consistently the best we've had. Aldo's is "new" and was a pleasant surprise in good service and taste. I had the lunch chicken salad with pickled beets at the latter and rate it the best chicken salad I've ever had. And I like to imagine that I'm as discriminating as you. But that may just be my imagination.
I AM ASTOUNDED THAT NINO'S ON WEST DALLAS DID NOT MAKE THE LIST. WE LIVE OUT OF STATE, BUT HAVE TRIED MANY OF THE "100". I LIVED IN SOUTHERN ITALY FOR 3 PLUS YEARS AND AM FAMILIAR WITH THE CUISINE OF THE SOUTH AND SICILY. FOR MY TASTES, NINO'S DOES A SPECTACULAR JOB OF REPRODUCING THE FLAVORS AND ESSENCE OF THE SOUTH OF ITALY. THOUGH WE HAVE ONLY KNOWN IT FOR ABOUT 20 YEARS, IT HAS APPARENTLY BEEN A HOUSTON INSTITUTION FOR MANY YEARS, WHICH SAYS A LOT ABOUT ITS QUALITY. I RECOGNIZE THAT TASTE IN FOOD IS HIGHLY SUBJECTIVE, BUT HAVING EATEN AT MOST OF THE ITALIAN RESTAURANTS ON THE LIST, I STILL PREFER NINO'S.
I'm disappointed that Sam's Burgers,Fries and Pies didn't make the list. I know it's a new restaurant, but it has the best burgers in town!The sweet potato fries are very appetizing and healthy!
I don't live in Houston, but a list of this sort that includes Virgie's and Gatlin's for BBQ choices is reason enough to celebrate it. A lazy and out of touch food critic would have either left this genre off a top 100 list or sadly placed some well respected but past their prime joints on the list based purely on their reputation. The fact that these two relatively new joints doing some of the best smoked meat in the state were recognized tells me that the list was well researched and not taken lightly. Keep in mind that Ms. Cook's 100 list came out the same day as a national publication's list of best BBQ towns and listed Louisville, KY (I don't think even the Louisville mayor would agree with the inclusion of his city). That goes to show how many thoughtless lists are out there, and this isn't one if them. Thanks Alison.
In visiting the burger joints, do you inquire about the content of the meat used as to whether they use meat with fillers or the beef trimmings (pink slime)?
I am almost afraid to inquire about one of my favorite restaurants in fear of being viewed as "patronizing".
Well here goes; have you ever been to Jonathan The Rub? My wife and I, being from New Orleans, consider ourselves "foodies" and we found this restaurants menu adventurous, delicious and the well staffed exceptional servers were very attentive in a quaint and casual yet elegant atmosphere. The food is hardly pretentious and the atmosphere is very comfortable and sophisticated without being stuffy.
Would like to know your thoughts.
Jonathan kicked me out of his restaurant a couple of years ago, which certainly was a first for me. The story's here http://is.gd/g2DZF0 . So as you can imagine, I had no wish to return, which is kind of a shame because I thought the dishes I tried were mostly good.
"Kind of a shame" indeed. It seems Jonathan allowed his "upbringing " as a New Yorker and too many episodes of Seinfeld's Soup Nazi to justify his rudeness and attitude.
I totally agree with you and Chris that you should have sent the steak back. I once sent a steak back from Emeril Lagasse himself at his restaurant Emeril's in New Orleans to the shock and horror of my dinner guests. However, he was gracious, accommodating and seemed eager to please.
It would be nice if you two could both bury the hatchet and try to get past the one bad experience and in the immortal words of the late Rodney King; "can't we all get along?"
I will tell you, his restaurant is worth a second attempt and I am confident that knowing that he was short staffed and the kitchen was in the weeds lets me know that there in lies "the rub". Sorry, i just couldn't resist.
All are entitled to their opinion. It is kind of funny though. Tony's hasn't been the same since Mark left and to thank it no 3 in the city is just poor judgement. As to the food being too complex and not having focus, it is true that others are more pedestrian. I have gone to Marks countless times over the years. In all that time, I have had one good but perhaps not great meal. I found out Mark who is always there was out - Sous Chef night. The other times Sous Chefs were there, the food was superb. The food is always perfect and the atmosphere great. And probably the best wait staff in the city. When i compare it to the best I have been to in various parts of Europe, NY, San Fran... - I always come back to thinking none better and not that many its equal. Many thanks to all the Marks people for always creating a fantastic evening of food, wine and atmosphere. Those that know, get how good Marks is.
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