Where To Eat Now 2008

Our best new restaurant of the year: Fearing’s, in Dallas.
Photograph by Artie Limmer

What’s up, what’s down? What’s in, what’s out? I got dizzy trying to tease out the trends in the 2008 edition of our annual roundup of the state’s new restaurants. At first I thought I saw a seafood restaurant fad; two good ones opened last year, one in Dallas and one in Houston. Just a coincidence? Two worthy Italian restaurants also popped up, but Italian has become the default cuisine of American restaurants, so nothing significant there. What does seem worth noting is the energy and quality in the classy-comfort-food genre: Three promising newcomers—Lamberts Downtown Barbecue, in Austin; the Porch, in Dallas; and Max’s Wine Dive, in Houston—all fit that description. In fact, I’m tempted to throw this year’s top pick, Fearing’s, in Dallas, into the mix, although that megasaurus has such an eclectic menu that it’s hard to decide on a dominant theme. And why would comfort food be so popular? To steal a quote from a chef I know: “People like what they can pronounce.”

A quick word about the rules: To be included, a restaurant needs to either be new or have a new chef, a new name, and a new idea. Our culinary year of eligibility traditionally ends on November 1 of the last year and begins on November 1 of the year before that, but I am allowing a three-week grace period for the Grill at Leon Springs, an excellent restaurant that opened in San Antonio on October 10, 2006. It was

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