As food editor of Texas Monthly, Pat Sharpe has weighed in with her take on the best new restaurants from across the state last year. Titled "Where to Eat Now," the annual list recognizes restaurants that opened across the Lone Star State between December 1, 2017 and December 1, 2018.
"Among an outstandingly diverse group, you’ll find a sausage specialist, a masa maniac, and a fermenting fanatic. The venues range from an industrial-chic emporium with a stunning skyline view to a teeny converted gas station bedecked with bundles of dried herbs," Sharpe writes. "The chefs include both a youthful newcomer hoping to make a splash and a James Beard Award winner who is known nationwide. If you can’t find something that strikes your fancy, well, you just aren’t hungry."
As was the case last year, Austin nabs two spots on the list. Among the local winners is the masa-obsessed restaurant Suerte, which ranks second. Sharpe marvels at the wide variety if dishes the restaurant makes out of heirloom kernels, writing “they fashion not just cushy tortillas and pillowy tamales but also bite-size molotes (a little like hush puppies) and other edibles not often seen this side of the border.”
Italian restaurant Intero holds down fifth place for the Capital City. After first nodding to the refreshingly contemporary decor, Sharpe singles out two of chef Ian Thurwacher’s dishes — a risotto with French and German influences and a quail served with “fat, sweet squares of butternut squash in a rich mostarda.”
Two upscale counter service eateries, Aaron Franklin and Tyson Cole’s Loro and Bryce Gilmore’s Sour Duck Market, earn honorable mentions, as does Fredericksburg's Emma + Ollie.
San Antonio's booming culinary scene also receives high marks. Clementine, the San Antonio restaurant where chefs John and Elise Russ let their locally sourced ingredients speak for themselves, takes ninth place, earning Alamo City's only spot on the list. Sharpe praises the casual neighborhood atmosphere and the Mediterranean and Southern-inspired cuisine, writing “the technique is expert.”
Meadow, from former Austin chef PJ Edwards and wife Lindsey Edwards, and Playland from Stefan Bowers and Andrew Goodman both appear among the honorable mentions.
Elsewhere in Texas, Houston earns four spots on Sharpe's list. Chris Shepherd takes number one for his 2018 trio of UB Preserv, One Fifth Mediterranean, and Georgia James. Sharpe wonders whether the chef should find a permanent home for One Fifth Mediterranean or simply ditch the plan to shutter the concept on July 31. "When you’ve just created one of the best restaurants of your career, it would be crazy to mess with success," she writes.
Other Houston restaurants on the list include Nancy's Hustle in third place, Poitín in sixth, and Indigo in eighth. Indianola, Agricole Hospitality's eclectic modern diner, lands Houston's only spot on the honorable mentions list.
Dallas earns three spots, starting with Macellaio, Lucia chef David Uygur's charcuterie-focused spot, in third. Petra and the Beast, chef Misti Norris' ode to "foraging, fermenting, and whole-animal cookery" comes in seventh, with modern Mexican seafood restaurant Tulum in tenth. The Charles, Billy Can Can, and Fachini all earn honorable mentions.
Fort Worth's only entry is an honorable mention for Four Sisters, which Sharpe describes as a "contemporary Vietnamese cafe."
Overall, Sharpe's picks seem to be very much on trend. Shepherd is the Beard Award winner she references in her intro, and Macellaio has ties to one of Dallas' most-acclaimed restaurants. Suerte has been recognized by publications such as Eater and Bon Appetit, while both Nancy's Hustle and Petra and the Beast made Esquire's list of America's best new restaurants.