January 3rd, 2011
2010 Bestus Prospectus: Restaurants of the Year
We consider ourselves a little bit better traveled since last year’s list. That doesn’t mean that some of our favorites from last year didn’t find their way on to the 2010 list of favorite restaurants. There are a good number of newbies on here, so help yourself and make some reservations today.
11] Tiny Boxwoods
Honestly, we’re glad you’re hard to find. The term “hidden gem” doesn’t really do Tiny Boxwoods justice, because frankly, we thought you were a nursery until not too long ago. As in, a place you buy plants and pottery, not a place that has a justifiably delicious 20-something dollar burger on its menu or funky takes on comfort desserts. The perfect date place for that shortribs and grits kind of lady.
Gravitas is one of those places that doesn’t get much hype anymore but it is quietly doing consistently tasty “New American” cuisine. Whether you are a pork chop fan or you love flank steak with chimichurri salsa, Gravitas has some great choices when it comes to protein. The other stand out dish is the gnocchi, seared on the outside and served with mushrooms and wilted arugula. It’s one of those dishes I find myself craving randomly in the middle of the day. And let’s not forget the Sunday brunch! Gravitas is putting out awesome dishes for the after-church crowd with a Gruyere grilled cheese sandwich that leaves me wishing that I could fit two of them in my stomach or the eggs benedict that comes perfectly poached, covered in a wonderful hollandaise. Don’t count Gravitas out next time you’re making meal plans!
9] Zilla Street Eats
The first trip to this little yellow food truck was an accident. I can assure you, the many trips since have been purposeful. Zilla Street Eats serves up delicious items like chicken-n-waffles, fried Nutter Butters & maple syrup, and my personal favorite—The Dirty Burger, featuring a heaping helping of mac-n- cheese and french fries atop a scrumptious beef patty. The food alone puts this monster of culinary indulgence on the list, but it sure doesn’t hurt that it stakes temporary homes at Grand Prize and Liberty Station, two places we here at The Loop Scoop enjoy thoroughly.
8] Moon Tower Inn
Some would say we visit it too often, but we’re fine with that considering that the brats these gentlemen are producing are the best in Houston. Nestled on Canal Street, you can listen to the trains go by while you enjoy a “Ghetto Bird”, pheasant with cognac served on a pretzel bun, and one of that evening’s beers on tap for less than $10. It’s delicious, it’s affordable, and we salivate just thinking about Moon Tower Inn.
7] El Tiempo Cantina
One tequila, two tequila, three tequila…floor. The margaritas at this metro-mex hotspot aren’t the only thing that have us out for the count though. El Tiempo is the kind of place you recommend to folks from out of town, but have a difficult time telling them exactly what they should order. Not because everything is delicious (which it probably is), but because you got the carnitas there on your first trip and crave them every. single. time. Just-right queso and chips will have you misremembering 8th grade Spanish. El Tiempo….Houstonian for “delicious”.
6] RDG + Bar Annie
This year, Robert del Grande and his horde of chefs decided that it might be fun to try their hands at redefining the fine dining landscape of Houston. We have to say, they almost outdid themselves. They packed up, moved out and got as far away as they could from what was becoming a rustic trip down memory lane in dissolving Cafe Annie. What sprouted forth from its place (or just a few blocks away from the original location) was a sight to behold. They modernized the menu and dining rooms for RDG + Bar Annie, but were able to maintain that lofty perch atop the dining totem- both on your plate, and as a must-have experience as well.
Hey, I’ve got an idea. Let’s rip off the restaurant right across the street and put a big-ass red cock in our parking lot. Yeah, it sounds like a lame idea to me, too, but BRC did something right because it’s become a hip place to grab dinner and drinks off of Washington Avenue. While the food lacks the pretension of many of its contemporaries, the decor and low lighting lends to the experience of being at a chic hotspot. If you love burgers and grilled cheese but your girlfriend loves dressing up and a night on the town, I think we’ve found your compromise.
4] Petrol Station
The old standby for the best burger in Houston is still churning out amazing food in the most unlikely location. One of the reasons that we love Petrol Station is that no matter how many people we send there, they always love it… as long as they can find it. I still dream about the Rancor burger, which I haven’t found an equal to within the Houston city limits… or many other city limits for that matter.
Have you ever had an employee make you feel completely welcome at a restaurant? If not, then a visit to Gatlin’s BBQ should remedy that. I feel like family every time I walk in to place my order. Next thing I know I’m sitting in front of a hot plate of BBQ. The brisket falls apart as I eat it while the sausage has a decent amount of heat behind it. This isn’t knockoff, Hill Country BBQ, but BBQ that reflects the diverse flavor of Houston. In a word…it’s Texscendent.
Going to Feast is a challenge in some regards, but in the best way. It’s not too often that we get a chance to challenge our culinary conventions, but that’s exactly what going to Feast is all about. You didn’t think that you were going to have to eat the jawbone and cheek of a pig wrapped around said pig’s tongue? Well, pull up those boots a little tighter and get ready for a ride, buckaroo. It’s time to put sqeamishness aside, turn off those desires for the mundane, and sit down for a true gastro-journey at Feast.
1] Zelko Bistro
When we started The Loop Scoop, it was one of our goals to find establishments that were quintessentially Houston. This year, Houston was graced with one more such place in Zelko Bistro. While we the various writers rarely agree on much, Zelko is a place we all just plain like. From its relaxed atmosphere to its neighborhood charm, the restaurant has something for everyone. Add to that that you will be hard pressed to find a restaurant that prepares better food in Houston and what’s not to like? Thanks, Zelko, you make it easy for us to love what we do.