Best in Show

Jim Burwell spends his days driving between River Oaks, Memorial, and West University with a fanny pack full of moist lamb loaf. The loaf, a two-pound roll that comes in a tightly packed tube like Jimmy Dean sausage, is among the more effective tools of his trade. Burwell is a dog trainer, and his unofficial specialty is handling wealthy pups—ones that split their days between three states, go to camp twice a week, and have agility courses in their upstairs ballrooms.


Founding chef Ryan Hildebrand isn’t seen in the kitchen much these days, but the food still hits all the right notes. The oenophile in our group was smitten with the new smartly priced three-course petite tasting menu (available until 6:30), each course paired with a wine. From the creamy tricolored cauliflower soup to the cinnamon duck to the pumpkin cake with mocha gelato, it was a joy ride. Our other guest enjoyed a generous entrée of seared tuna cut into gorgeous medallions with assorted wild mushrooms and mildly spiced red-curry cream.


We often order the warm pretzel bread with mellow Grayson cheese and black garlic mostarda, the perfect munch while we scope out the crowd and ponder the menu. Massaman soup was rich and full of sweet onions (though the chunks of ginger came on a bit strong). Our hamachi crudo with nori, mustard, and a sprinkling of crunchy buckwheat, all covered in wafer-thin radishes, proved to be the highlight, though the pasta with hen of the woods mushrooms, roasted yeast, and Parmesan always pleases.

Eatsie Boys

Offering imaginative ice cream concoctions, plus breakfasts, sandwiches, and pastries, this little counter-order space in a tree-lined inset of Montrose Boulevard makes a welcome resting place for customers tired of chasing the boys’ food truck. We managed to down an almond croissant and lattes before our Eggman arrived—fried egg topped with cheddar, chicken poblano sausage, and bacon on challah—an item whose habitual consumption would render us more Walrus than Eggman. The lighter mushroom and asparagus strata tasted pretty good, though some of the asparagus was tough.

Corner Table

Longtime chef-restaurauteur Bruce Molzan is hoping to breathe life into the old, often shuttered Brownstone complex. Private-party venues augment the smallish dining area, whose menu offers burgers, pizzas, and even “paleo” dishes, as in the unprocessed foods “our ancestors would have eaten.” We doubt they would have recognized the Paleo Buffalo Wings, and neither did our table’s one-time resident of that fair city.

Roots Bistro

Several hits and a few misses marked our visit to this pretty inner Westheimer spot presided over by chef Chandler Rothbard. The mantra is “Local, organic, green,” which translates to dishes like raw beet “ravioli,” thinly sliced and layered with cashew crème and tarragon, and fire-roasted oyster and cremini mushrooms served on a stone with a smoking piece of wood. The bone-in pork chop and the braised veal mac and cheese, rich and creamy with white cheddar, fontina, and goat cheese, were both terrific.

Pizaro’s Pizza Napoletana

We’ve had a few “best pizza ever” moments: Rome, Naples, Chicago, and now, west Houston. The pizzaiolo here turns out seriously good pie, like a white pizza with garlic, cremini mushrooms, Boursin, and house-made mozzarella. We gushed over the Calabrese, with spicy soppressata and basil on a thin crust with a slight char and that delicate crunch that opens to soft, chewy goodness. You can carry out your pizza (no phone orders), but the pizza is primo right after its 90 seconds in the wood-fired brick oven.

Mala Sichuan Bistro

You’ll be wowed by the array of mouth-searing dishes at this Chinatown eatery. We opted for milder choices, starting with the delicious pepper prawns, tempura-fried in their shells and served with raw cabbage, caramelized onions, and jalapeños. Stir-fried green beans were tasty except for the tough bamboo; we were also disappointed with the “special fried rice,” which was bland and included inedible strips of gristly pork, none of the promised chicken, and two lonely little shrimp.

Costa Brava Bistro

With a neighborly feel appropriate to its Bellaire locale, this cozy gem features a menu of elegant Spanish and French bites. We did a bit of fork-fighting over our appetizers: grilled octopus bites with patatas in a fruity olive oil and pimentón and a seafood salad of calamari, crab, and shrimp aside arugula and charred tomatoes.

RDG + Bar Annie

Chef-owner Robert Del Grande knows his way around a kitchen. Some of his dishes, updated here and there, hark back to the original Cafe Annie, like the black bean terrine: a colorful mix of beans, tomato, goat cheese, and avocado, it seems to have gotten lighter and fresher through the years. The chilled soups are stellar, like a sweet corn concoction with cotija cheese and smoked chile and a pea soup with pea greens, crème fraîche, and mint.


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