There is a down-the-rabbit-hole aspect to CBD Provisions. If you step from the arty, modern Joule Hotel lobby into this cleverly designed dining room, you may think you’ve wandered into a secret chamber that was boarded up decades ago and only recently rediscovered. Dish-towel napkins, old buff-brick walls, and reclaimed-wood floors speak to farmhouse aesthetics.
No chef needs a reason to open an Italian restaurant, but John Sheely has a good excuse: he’s Italian on his mother’s side. This fact gives his newest venture, six-month-old Osteria Mazzantini, a homey vibe, despite the fact that the swellegant modern space in the Galleria area is as different as it could possibly be from the small, cozy rooms of his popular, long-established Mockingbird Bistro. The menu at Mazzantini draws from sources old and new.
Inspired by the tidal wave of creativity pouring out of Spain over the past decade, chef Omar Flores has taken that country’s abundance of ingredients and ideas and given them a radical yet reverential twist. The results are electrifying, with flavors so complex that you find yourself pausing mid-bite to ponder what is going on. One such dish is his crispy fried artichokes topped with thin-sliced salt-cured tuna.
A gem among the boutique restaurants of a reinvigorated downtown Bryan, the Lemon Wedge has taken great strides to transform its original tearoom atmosphere to one more welcoming to the male persuasion. The tasteful decor complements an attractive menu, with options ranging from a Canadian bacon, Brie, and asparagus sandwich at lunchtime to heartier selections of lamb, Muscovy duck, and Prime beef for dinner.
While the Alamo and the Tower of the Americas are two of the more famous San Antonio attractions, the Tipsy Texan is drawn to another of that city’s architectural wonders: the tilting bar that stands (miraculously, it seems) at the corner of Josephine and Avenue A. One of the oldest bar buildings in town, it was built in the 1890’s as a dry-goods store and saloon.
I am sitting at Caracol—distracted by the lively buzz of conversation and the blur of servers hustling past—pondering a weighty question: Could this Houston dining establishment have existed before now? Twenty-five years ago, a seafood restaurant with dishes from the interior of Mexico would have catered to homesick exiles and a few fanatical purists in a strip center in southwest Houston.
When it comes to the art of selecting and cooking a good steak, it seems as if you need an advanced degree from A&M in order to confidently ruminate on such complexities as marbling scores, grass-fed beef versus grain-fed, and dry aging versus wet. Your best bet? Consult your butcher, bring home the nicest piece of meat your wallet will allow, and introduce it to a little salt and pepper and an open flame.
Beware of the addictive fresh bread with marinara or you’ll spoil your appetite for robust dishes like the Italian Special (penne tossed with grilled chicken, spinach, mushrooms, and artichokes), the Pescaraz Special (breaded chicken topped with a creamy seafood sauce over angel hair), and the eggplant parmigiana. Servers are knowledgeable, and the large bar makes waiting for a table pleasurable. (2/14)
A few months after he opened Spoon Bar & Kitchen, at the end of 2012, chef John Tesar said wistfully to me, “When people in Dallas think of seafood restaurants, I want Spoon to be on the list.” He has his wish. Not only is Spoon a hit in Dallas, it’s got a growing fan base in the rest of the state and beyond. In few other places is the bounty of the sea more pristine or prepared with more imagination and care.
You could call it a tipping point.Over the past few years it’s become undeniable that something big is happening in the Texas culinary world. To put it plainly, the food scene here is not just hot, it is on fire, burning at a rate that I’ve never seen before. Texas chefs are winning national culinary awards left and right—the James Beard Foundation named two Austin chefs as Best Chef: Southwest, in 2011 and 2012, and seven Texans have been named to Food & Wine’s annual “ten best new chefs” list since 2001. In our cities, excellent new restaurants are opening so fast it’s impossible to keep up with them. Scores of local culinary celebrations are springing up not only to extol the likes of whole-beast cookery but also to benefit hardworking farmers. Meanwhile, national food festival planners, seeing how much fun we’re having, are starting up Texas editions. Television megastars like Anthony Bourdain of Parts Unknown and Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods, not to mention professional gluttons like Adam Richman of Man v. Food, can’t stay away. Every other week, the New York Times seems to run another travel story trumpeting the culinary attractions of our cities.