At a time in the world when so much feels uncertain, restaurants continue to provide a bright spot for Houstonians. Whether it’s a simple desire to get out of the house and enjoy the hospitality of a hot meal in a cool dining room or the opportunity to celebrate special occasions with friends and family, the city’s restaurants have sustained residents in more ways than one.
And, against the odds, some restaurants created hope and excitement with new decor, new menus, new chefs, and a new lease on life. From upscale steakhouses to a 1980s-themed bar, these seven new and updated restaurants are the must-book stops of the season.
Tonight & Tomorrow (Midtown/Montrose)
Housed in the historic La Colombe D’Or boutique hotel, Tonight & Tomorrow made its debut this year following an extensive renovation of the property. The new interiors, with pops of jewel-toned greens and blues, bring a modern stateliness to the fine-dining restaurant, which centers on European-inspired dishes with a touch of Southern influence. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the seasonal menu takes advantage of the region’s specialties in dishes such as the classic crab ravigote with Gulf crab, snapper with a sorghum-lime vinaigrette, or the Texas-sourced heirloom tomato and peach salad. Diners don’t have to be staying at the hotel to enjoy the restaurant’s lively yet sophisticated late-night scene, where a slice of honey cake makes a sweet companion to a nightcap from the bar.
Hungry Like the Wolf (Heights/Washington)
There’s no time like the present to escape into 1980s nostalgia, especially if it comes with a stack of Belgian waffles topped with fresh strawberries, vanilla bean glaze, and whipped cream. The recently opened Hungry Like the Wolf marries the beloved decade of neon with a retro diner and bar, complete with glitter-covered tables and graffiti-painted lockers. The extensive menu offers classic diner favorites with modern sensibilities, and, in many cases, on-theme puns, such as the “Optimus Prime Burger,” the “‘Paul’ Reuben,” and the aforementioned “Pretty in Pink” waffle with strawberries. Of course, there are traditional milkshakes to wash everything down, but fans of adult beverages will appreciate the boozy shakes, signature cocktail list, and the weekday happy hour deals.
Gatsby’s Steakhouse (Midtown/Montrose)
Red leather booths, gold accents, and black marble set the scene at this new neighborhood steakhouse channeling 1920s-era glamour. Named after the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel that epitomizes the ritzy social scene of the Jazz Age, the restaurant serves as a welcome spot for steak and seafood lovers ready to celebrate the finer things in life. In addition to traditional surf-and-turf favorites — like a 40-ounce Tomahawk ribeye or twin lobster tails — appetizers such as prime beef tartare and deviled eggs with fried shrimp and bacon jam set the stage for any special occasion. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Prohibition-era experience without the requisite cocktail list, which features favorites like a dark & stormy and the bee’s knees.
Roma (Rice Village)
Known for its trattoria-style dining and traditional Italian fare, Roma recently welcomed chef Sandro Scarafile to helm the kitchen and spend time tableside interacting with diners. Informed by his southern Italian roots and years spent cooking in restaurants around the globe, Scarafile brings experience along with a fresh sensibility to the popular Rice Village spot. Regulars can rest easy knowing favorites like the osso bucco aren’t going anywhere, but new menu additions include dishes inspired by his Pugliese background and early childhood, such as the orecchiette con cime di rape, or “little ear” pasta with broccoli rabe. Roma’s focus on its excellent wine program and wine pairing dinners will continue under the chef, along with Italian winemakers joining remotely from Italy.
Thirteen by James Harden (Midtown/Montrose)
It’s impossible to mention upscale restaurant Thirteen without noting its famous owner, former Rockets player James Harden, who named his dining establishment after his jersey number. Though Harden has moved on from Houston’s basketball team, he left the city with a parting gift: the culinary talents of chef Tobias Dorzon, who runs the kitchen and was given free rein to craft Thirteen’s menu. Though the menu could be described as Southern-comfort-meets-steakhouse, that doesn’t give enough credit to Dorzon’s creativity. Dishes such as seafood fried rice, or a deboned, whole fried chicken with sweet and sour Maryland mambo sauce, plus a very popular deep-fried lasagna draw in crowds looking for something beyond the typical steakhouse experience. That said, the posh banquettes and velvet armchairs create an ambience perfectly suited to a bone-in ribeye or oysters on the half shell, plus a bottle of wine from the globally curated wine list.
Gratify (Rice Village)
This new upscale bistro in Rice Village was designed to elicit the joy of being transported during a dining experience with fresh, straightforward food and a convivial atmosphere. Central to the restaurant’s draw is a substantial raw bar, featuring freshly shucked oysters, crudo, tartare, and caviar. Bistro classics such as pommes frites, a crab Louie salad, cheese and charcuterie boards, and chicken Provençal round out a menu primed for celebrations in the modern boho space. In addition to a selection of low-markup wines, the beverages stand out for a cocktail list that features a curated selection of agave-based favorites from beloved restaurant bars, in addition to classic options like the manhattan or the negroni.
Acme Oyster House (Montrose)
The highly anticipated arrival of this New Orleans staple brought new life to Montrose and its Tower Theater building, now outfitted with a fresh coat of red paint and an iconic neon sign. Like its famous predecessor, this lively Houston outpost specializes in oysters served up raw on the half-shell or chargrilled with an herb-butter sauce, with an extensive menu that satisfies any number of Creole cravings. Gumbo, etouffee, fried seafood platters, and more than a dozen different po-boys are joined by a few Texas-only offerings, like tacos with fried alligator. Whatever the order, it’s all good washed down with a cold beer or a specialty cocktail, such as the classic sazerac.
Tried them all? Check out other options here.