Exploring Houston’s Melting Pot
In Houston, new restaurants marrying unexpected cuisines stole the scene in 2018, while continued international representation on new menus diversified Houston’s authentic tastemakers. The unique fusions coupled with the explosion of food halls gives Houston the green light to claim its status as an international food hub.
New and noteworthy restaurants are opening left and right:
Nikki Tran has returned to Houston with her trademark Vietnamese and Cajun blend —which she would never, ever call fusion. Her two restaurants in Vietnam earned her cult status including coverage on celebrity chef David Chang’s Netflix series Ugly Delicious. She credits her cuisine to her years in Houston from 2004 to 2008, and frequent trips since. Now she has returned with Kau Ba Saigon, and it’s worth the trip.
UB Preserv opened to preserve what Chris Shepherd started at Underbelly, which continues to tell the story of Houston food, featuring dishes inspired by the people and places of Houston. From pork dumplings and spicy laap wraps to duck egg curry and short rib fajitas with Vietnamese influence, cuisine focuses on Houston’s international diversity.
There are several must-try Houston restaurants that marry unexpected culinary fusions:
Gulf coast meets Southern fare at Field & Tides. Located in Houston’s historic Heights neighborhood in a charming airy space that once was home to a gas station, (where Bonnie & Clyde actually filled up!) Field & Tides features an open canvas menu from Executive Chef Travis Lenig that reflects Southern American, Italian, French and Asian influences. “Field” cuisine is represented by locally sourced vegetables, pork, poultry, beef and game, while “Tides” includes fresh seafood drawn from the Gulf of Mexico.
This hip, fusion restaurant and bar from Chef David Cordua promises a unique, modern take on Indian food and Southern comfort dishes. Located in a former gas station, this Tex-In kitchen creates traditional curries served alongside chicken fried steak and delicious hybrids like naan quesadillas. When the spice starts getting to you, cool things down with several local beers on tap.
Riel is a modern American restaurant in Houston, Texas led by Executive Chef, co-owner and Manitoba-native Ryan Lachaine. Dedicated to sourcing the highest quality seasonal ingredients, Riel is about highlighting local flavors, utilizing regionally-sourced products and allowing room for interpretation. Inspiration for the menu is pulled from the culinary landscape of Texas’ gulf coast, Lachaine’s Ukrainian heritage and French-Canadian fare.
Houston is quickly becoming a mecca for food halls with several new concepts opening:
The world’s first chef hall – the next evolution of the food hall – is slated to open January 2019 with six restaurant concepts under one roof
Newly opened Finn Hall boasts an Art Deco space that nods to European food halls. As of December 2018, Finn Hall features all local, up-and-coming chefs including Mala Sichuan, a 2017 James Beard Award nominee.
Opening early 2019 in the heart of Houston’s Theatre District, the market will be a fully immersive experience filled with chefs, artisans and purveyors from around the globe.
This underground space, set to debut in 2019, will blend art and culinary concepts. Leading down into the downtown tunnel space – the first tunnel network location to operate seven days a week – is a 30-foot wide dramatic staircase leading below, which is intended to be a gathering space with art.
Making its 2019 debut is the 3.6-acre Railway Heights Market. The 22,860 square foot space will house a grocery store, beer garden, container farm and farmer’s marker with at least 25 food vendors.