The Houston Hit List: The Best New Restaurants In Houston guide image


The Houston Hit List: The Best New Restaurants In Houston

The new spots we checked out—and loved.

The Hit List is where you’ll find our favorite new food and drink experiences in Houston—including food trucks, pop-ups, takeout-only spots, and exciting new restaurants. Every week we track new openings across the city, and then visit as many as we can. One thing you can always rely on is that we’ll only include places that we have actually checked out—and loved.

Our goal is for this list to be as diverse as the city itself—inclusive of a wide range of cuisines, price points, neighborhoods, chefs, and owners of all backgrounds, and the multifaceted communities within the industry. If you think we missed a great new place, we want to hear about it. Shoot us an email at


photo credit: Richard Casteel

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4740 Dacoma St, Houston
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Walking up to a blacked-out, unmarked door in an eerily sparse strip center could go any number of ways. Maybe you’re the main character at a climactic turning point in a gripping crime drama, or perhaps you’re about to have the best tortillas of your life. The latter is the case at Tatemó, a Mexican restaurant in Spring Branch. At night, when Tatemó serves a six-course small plates tasting menu that books up weeks in advance, the room is nearly pitch black, with only flickering candles and wall sconces providing a faint glow. The food is beautiful in its simplicity: aromatic blue corn quesadillas with wonderfully smooth guacamole, crispy pan-roasted vegetables and smoky salsa, thick sopes obscured in a blanket of soft shaved cheese. Sometimes (every time) we just shove the tortillas in our face and take a deep breath to inhale the tender roasted nuttiness of fresh masa. 

Drive past this little white and yellow corner building any night of the week, and a line will inevitably be wrapped around the corner. Inspired by the iconic bodegas of New York City, Burger Bodega resembles a Houston-themed millennial-smashburger fever dream, with “713” plastered across faux corner store products lining every wall. Only three food items grace the menu: a smashburger, a chopped cheese, and fries. Patties on the smashburgers are crispy, caramelized, nearly wafer-thin, and are served on a soft potato bun—nostalgic bliss. The chopped cheese is a mashup of American icon meets cross-cultural innovation, wrapped in a squishy hero roll. That line is worth it. 

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Dining at Jūn in The Heights is all hits and no misses. One bite of the charred whole fish with guajillo and lime could turn anyone into a cartoon cat. We thought about putting the whole fish in our mouth and pulling the bones out clean (and we kind of did). Every dish at this self-described “New Asian American” restaurant is capable of blowing you away: buttery grits with roasted tomato and crispy bites of carne seca, savory roasted sweet potato with labneh—and that’s just the beginning. Dinner here feels familiar and different all at the same time, because the flavors are Houston melded together, but with a fresh take, and in a space that someone with an actual personality put together. Make a reservation for your birthday or a special date (far in advance) for a knockout experience.

photo credit: Liz Silva

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Maderas Kitchen & Cantina



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Housed in a bland strip center, Maderas in Montrose is anything but. The Mexican restaurant is filled with tropical plants, massive floral murals, and plush booths. You could literally bring anyone here—a date, a grandmother, a third-tier friend—and have a fantastic time. Yeah, there’s queso on the menu, but there are also spicy squash blossom quesadillas, savory barbacoa birria ramen, and blue corn tacos with paprika-rubbed whole octopus tentacles. Even better, a meal at Maderas doesn’t cost an entire paycheck, in fact, you might feel like you’re getting away with something when the bill arrives. 

photo credit: Richard Casteel

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Some places require a suit jacket or dress that says “I’m at an event.” The latest spot that requires this type of primping? Karne, a high-end take on traditional Korean barbecue in The Heights. With chandeliers that might cost more than your mortgage and smoking Old Fashioneds presented on platters, Karne looks like the kind of place where the Real Housewives Of Houston would go for a casual lunch, meaning it’s not casual at all. Prioritize it for a celebratory date night or group dinner involving anyone who takes their meat seriously. For a little bit of everything, get the $60 per person “karnivore platter” which comes with five different cuts and plenty of banchan. The platter changes daily, so cross your fingers and hope that the hanger steak and smoked rib meat make the board (and if not, they’re worth adding on).

photo credit: Richard Casteel

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We’re not sure what our favorite thing about Toyori is. On the one hand, the ramen at this Japanese spot in Chinatown is totally craveable, but the restaurant also gives you adorable tiny probiotic drinks at the end of the meal, which, you know, cute. While the interior feels nondescript in the same way most new spots in Chinatown do—dark walls, rows of utilitarian booths and tables—the dim lighting and floor-to-ceiling gold "Toyori" mural feel special. As does the food. Dig into glistening pork buns or spicy tan tan ramen with crispy charred chashu pork. Or have a rib eye sizzling plate, serced with a pile of spaghetti, and steamed freezer-grade vegetables, ‘cause, why not? Everything shows up fast, and you’ll probably want to eat it equally as fast (this is where the yogurt drinks come in handy). And while the menu at Toyori may feel like any other ramen spot, the quality and consistency are what keep us coming back for bowl after bowl.

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HOU Guide

Houston's New Restaurant & Bar Openings

You can tell the folks at Dinette in The Heights don't take themselves too seriously. There’s a sly sense of humor to the food, which starts with a solid foundation in Vietnamese cuisine, but turns the irreverence up to 11 with dishes like lobster fried rice with the quintessential combo of peas and cubed carrots, all blanketed in salted egg. Or a crisp Vietnamese rice paper “pizza” piled high with cheese, pineapple, and a spicy sate mayo. Tiki cocktails arrive in ridiculous glassware, like a ceramic elephant or saguaro cactus, and the table settings, from the napkin rings to the plateware, are very vintage 99 Ranch. This isn’t your regular stoner-level sauced-up menu, rather more tongue-in-cheek, as though the folks behind Dinette want to first grab your attention, and then see if you’re really picking up what they’re putting down. Which we hope is another one of those Vietnamese pizzas.

Some problems can only be fixed with mountains of red sauce and aperol spritzes that were made by candlelight. That’s what you’ll find at Louie’s, the Italian-American spot in the Second Ward that feels like you’re enjoying a romantic home-cooked meal without having to do the dishes afterwards. That’s why most folks dining here are on at least their third date, and if they’re not, they’re probably sitting across from someone they’ve known for a decade. While you might see a few couples canoodling on the same side of the table, you can get just as cozy with the chicken parmesan and the meatballs that are each the size of a small Texas grapefruit. Add in a slab of buttery garlic bread and make googly eyes at your special someone while you two split a fluffy tiramisu. 

Parked on the patio of Spring Street Bar in the First Ward is Clutch City Tacos, a small-but-mighty food truck that mostly serves tacos, but with a few tricks up its sleeve. There are three taco options, including a carne asada, a pollo asado, and a vegan. But the real stunner is the Clutch Burger, in which two huge, tender brisket and chuck patties are stacked on top of each other and melted together with layers of cheese. You do have to unhinge your jaw a little to take a bite of this behemoth, but the pillowy buns provide ample comfort. Importantly, the burger can also get turned into a chopped cheese, where the burger meat gets minced with hot peppers and sweet caramelized onions, filling any empty space with cheese. After a few rounds of drinks at the bar, we can’t think of a better place to be than parked on a picnic bench in front of Clutch City.

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Suggested Reading

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Houston's New Restaurant & Bar Openings

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