Quiet little Café Unique has a new concept. When we walked in, we were greeted by a friendly owner and the smell of home-cooked Venezuelan food. We started with light and fluffy tequeños (deep-fried cheese sticks), then order three arepas: la jardinera (vegetable), la del gato (fried sweet plantains, sliced avocado and Guayenés cheese), and de pollo (grilled chicken). All were delicious and airy and allowed us to save some room for tres leches and fruit. This place adds some spice the local restaurant scene. (1/14)
For a tiny town, Jefferson has some fine restaurants. But this (relatively) new spot stands out. We camped out in the courtyard on a crisp, sunny afternoon and had a delightful meal that included, in addition to a nice red wine and some good live music, baked Brie, stuffed with apricot preserves and candied pecans and served with crisp apple slices, and a creamy, spicy shrimp étouffée accompanied by a cheddar-garlic biscuit. (1/14)
Don’t let the strip-center location discourage you. Aces is legit, with moist and smoky pulled pork (try it in a sandwich or a taquito with crunchy slaw) and sliced brisket that has a dark, caramelized salt-and-pepper crust and a nice red smoke ring from hours of indirect mesquite smoke. Request some crunchy burnt ends to sop up some of their house-made molasses and honey sauce. (1/14)
This new spot in Cresson, north of Granbury on 377, is worth checking out. The art of Texas barbecuing is mastering indirect heat, and they appear to have gotten it right here. Go for a combo plate with a slice of tender brisket, tasty sausage, ribs that fall off the bone, sliced turkey, and pulled pork. The sides aren’t the usual kind: cornbread salad, cilantro slaw with a little kick, chile-dusted pinto beans. Better get there early, because they close down when they run out of meat, typically around one o’clock.
An East Coast–style corner deli has touched down in South Texas, building subs, soups, and salads with urban wit and attention to detail. From house-cured pickles to bacon marmalade, the offerings allow for a dizzying degree of customization. Themed sandwiches include When Harry Met Sally, a pastrami-lover’s dream rich with Swiss cheese and Thousand Island, and La Cosa Nostra, thick with capicola, salami, ham, and provolone. (2/14)
Whether on the beach-view porch or in the dining room, this charming addition to the East End scene evokes Cape Cod in the fifties. But local chef Steve Griffith’s menu is adventurously twenty-first century. Chicken salad sliders were sparked with tangy arugula and strips of bacon; the day’s soup, creamy poblano, delivered a Texas kick; and pumpkin seeds and chopped mango made the kale salad sing. (2/14)
The widely anticipated opening of this New York–style bistro was worth the wait. Located in a restored historic building, it buzzes with the local business crowd and Plaza Theatre–goers. Tall ceilings and tiled floors set off classic furnishings, but the bar has a hip vibe, with its antique portrait of the building’s namesake, Anson Mills, made modern with fluorescent accents. Try the gourmet Frito pie, featuring ground sirloin, roasted green chiles, and red beans.
Faithful fans of Dr. Andrew Weil are already flocking to this casual temple of healthy food, which opened its first branch in Phoenix in 2008. We sipped a preprandial Kale-Aid of juiced kale, apple, cucumber, celery, lemon, and ginger and felt healthier right away. The toothsome caramelized-onion tart flecked with black figs, smoked garlic, and Gorgonzola was so good we could have eaten two. And the roasted vegetables are amped up with a zingy horseradish vinaigrette glaze.
Ascend to the sleek second floor (Village Kitchen occupies the first) and partake of the varied sushi, sashimi, and nigiri offered by chefs Andre Natera and Daniel Chau. Operating on the “when in Rome” theory, we chose the Pico de Gallo Roll: salmon, crab, avocado, tempura flakes, and a small dab of pico de gallo. Yellowtail sashimi arrived unadorned and beautifully plated, while the flying fish roe nigiri came loaded with brilliant orange roe that burst in our mouth like fireworks. (2/14)
Sophisticated copper accents and a subdued color scheme (not to mention a rooftop patio) make an inviting setting for some decidedly nontraditional Mexican food. Witness the appetizer La Rosa Pistola: skewers of seared scallops laid across the rims of shot glasses filled with warm prickly pear and coconut broth. And how about duck confit crispy tacos? Gilding that lily were caramelized onions and a green-tomato marmalade. (2/14)