The Texas restaurant scene is as delicious as it’s ever been. I said, “THE TEXAS RESTAURANT SCENE IS AS DELICIOUS AS IT’S EVER BEEN!” It is also noisy (not to mention expensive and in a state of serious flux). Last year I was all worked up about small plates and the chaos they bring to the tabletop. This year, though I indulged in many glorious bites, I found myself stewing over another unsavory development.

Where is all this noisy energy coming from? Clubstaurants, mostly, and they’re here to stay. (In case you’re wondering, I didn’t make up that word.) Most restaurants cannot survive selling food alone. They need booze to stay in the black, especially in the big cities. That’s why more and more new venues feel like saloons. That $17 cocktail (or mocktail!) is why you didn’t pay $60 for your filet mignon. (Oh, you did? Sorry.)

On top of that, owners have figured out that they can get noise-averse patrons in and out early, then crank up the music for the young and thirsty. And I hate to break it to you, but “vibe dining”—which you can think of as a clubstaurant on a bender, with bands, DJs, dancing, pretty people dressed to the nines—has also arrived and may be coming to a neighborhood near you. (No, I didn’t make up that term either.) But even though drinking while dining is fast becoming the new normal, I’m glad to report that kitchens are as disciplined and chefs as talented and ambitious as ever.

After much laborious eating, I have picked my favorite new restaurants of the year (ranked one through ten), along with six honorable mentions. As usual, the diversity of the top ten is impressive: two French and three Italian concepts; one each representing Israel, Japan, Peru, and the southern United States; and, rounding out the group, a hard-to-pin-down venture from a New Zealand chef.

Here are the rules—there are just two—for the twenty-third edition of Where to Eat Now. To be eligible, a restaurant (1) must have opened between December 1, 2022, and November 30, 2023, and (2) must be the first location in Texas (preference is given to homegrown venues). And that’s about it. Are you getting hungry? Let’s eat!

The green tea Kakigori dessert at Katami.
The green tea kakigori at Katami.Photograph by Arturo Olmos

1. Katami


It’s not every day a James Beard–nominated chef stops by to shave a truffle at your table. But Manabu Horiuchi is friends with one of my dining companions, so he came over to say hi and stayed to garnish our excellent toro tartare. Then Chef Hori—as he is known—returned to his lookout at the sushi bar, where he could keep an eye on the expansive dining room of Katami, the most exciting restaurant to open in Texas this past year. 

The ambience is polished and coolly contemporary, quite the contrast to casual Kata Robata, where Hori first made his name in Houston. Predictably, the seafood—mainly raw but with a few cooked selections—is spectacularly fresh, much of it having departed Tokyo’s famed Toyosu Market a mere twenty hours earlier. I loved the many nigiri we sampled, especially the white-on-white simplicity of squid reclining on a pillow of rice and the subtle sweetness of freshwater eel with sea salt and lemon.

This being Texas, the menu also addresses carnivorous desires with a concise section of 100 percent Japanese Wagyu steaks. One fun option supplies your party with strips of Kagoshima Wagyu and a hot lava rock. If, however, you order the $65-an-ounce Kagawa Wagyu—which comes from cows fed the pulp of crushed olives—the kitchen will insist on cooking it for you. 

You could stick with pure protein and have a lovely meal, but that would be a mistake because then you’d miss traditional offerings such as chawanmushi, Japan’s savory custard soup, or tidy shumai (dumplings) stuffed with Ibérico pork and shrimp. The okonomiyaki is an umami-rich mélange of mushrooms, cabbage, and egg under a sprinkle of orange carrot flakes and squiggles of Japanese mayo.

But as comforting as these everyday dishes are, the most fun are those where Hori takes apart ideas from his Japanese past and American present and recombines them with imagination as a key ingredient. The foie gras PB&J consists of toasted squares of Japanese milk bread anointed with foie gras and Nutella and topped with a maraschino cherry. But for pure Instagram appeal, the undisputed leader is the surreal kakigori dessert, a mountain of finely shaved flavored ice outfitted with a bevy of add-ons. Our green tea–infused version was lavished with white chocolate cream, caramel sauce, condensed milk, and red-bean-paste ice cream. Oh, and did I mention that the blocks of ice are imported from Japan, which is renowned for its soft, neutral-tasting water? At Katami, one would expect no less.

Opened October 31, 2023
2701 W. Dallas
D 7 days.

The hot fudge profiteroles at Le Margot, in Fort Worth.
The profiterole at Le Margot.Photograph by Brittany Conerly

2. Le Margot

Fort Worth

Pink crystal chandeliers. Black-and-white tile floor. Floral-print cowhide wall covering. At Le Margot, French is spoken with a Texas accent and a sense of fun. The owner is Felipe Armenta, a restaurateur with some eleven venues and counting. His executive chef and partner is Graham Elliot, winner of two Michelin stars and a former Top Chef judge. The two stick to the rules with dishes such as a satiny French onion soup fashioned from portobellos under a cap of melty Gruyère toast. Ditto a super-slow-cooked salmon filet resting in a buttery Cabernet reduction—it defines perfect fish cookery. But they go crazy with the burger, named the Royale with Cheese, which arrives beneath a pour-over of béchamel, Brie, and Parmesan. For dessert, they shamelessly aim for laughs with a chocolate-drenched profiterole the size of a baseball.

Le Margot
Opened June 22, 2023
3150 S. Hulen
L & D 7 days.

The dining room at Quarter Acre.
The dining room at Quarter Acre. Photograph by Brittany Conerly
The SNIX dessert at Quarter Acre.
The SNIX dessert at Quarter Acre. Photograph by Brittany Conerly
Left: The dining room at Quarter Acre. Photograph by Brittany Conerly
Top: The SNIX dessert at Quarter Acre. Photograph by Brittany Conerly

3. Quarter Acre


When I saw peanut butter and jelly (I’m detecting a trend) listed as part of an appetizer, I thought, “This chef is either nuts or he knows something I don’t.” Turns out to be the latter. A native of New Zealand, Toby Archibald cooked in top kitchens, such as Café Boulud in New York and Toronto, before coming to Texas in 2016 (his wife was born in Dallas). Quarter Acre’s beef tartare arrives in a dramatic cloud of smoke under a glass dome, the chopped meat bound with an olive oil emulsion and jazzed up with shaved brisket jerky. Hot smoked salmon and nuggets of fried sourdough star in a seaweed-and-lettuce salad, while a novel linguine is enlivened with black olives, prosciutto, and earthy sunchoke puree. As for that peanut butter, it’s cooked with cream and piped onto a thin cracker that’s served alongside delicately battered chicken-fried quail on a plate swiped with house-made blueberry jam (yep, it works).

Quarter Acre
Opened December 30, 2022
2023 Greenville Ave

D Tue–Sat.

The serpente at 61 Osteria, in Fort Worth.
The Serpente at 61 Osteria.Photograph by Brittany Conerly

4. 61 Osteria

Fort Worth

Faced with a hollow, sixteen-inch piece of pasta, most chefs would cut it into sensible lengths. Not Blaine Staniford. He stuffs the broad, ruffle-edged noodle with ricotta, turns it on its side, and coils it like a snake. Covered in mushrooms and a preserved-Meyer-lemon sauce, the Serpente has become a signature dish at 61 Osteria

The modern venue has also brought tablecloths and carpets back to dining, rejecting the naked surfaces that turn restaurants into noise pits. Seafood is beautifully handled here and includes wood-grilled blue prawns in a caper-studded salsa verde. The kitchen is equally adept with beef. The short rib comes sided by kale, radicchio, and tender white beans in a golden broth. Should overindulgence make you ready for a nap, the triple-threat tiramisu—espresso, cold brew, and coffee liqueur—will wake you right up.

61 Osteria
Opened February 2, 2023
First on 7th Building
500 W. 7th
D 7 days.

Chef Lucas McKinney at Josephine’s Gulf Coast Tradition, in Houston.
Chef Lucas McKinney at Josephine’s Gulf Coast Tradition.Photograph by Arturo Olmos

5. Josephine’s Gulf Coast Tradition


Jimmy Kimmel’s loss is our gain. Chef Lucas McKinney happily gave up a plum job cooking at the late-night TV host’s famed South Fork Lodge, in Idaho, to open his own restaurant in the humidity-ridden Bayou City. At welcoming Josephine’s, the menu takes the flavors of his Mississippi childhood and gives them the international flair he soaked up while working with Houston’s prestigious Underbelly hospitality group. One of his favorite openers is a dip of house-smoked redfish infused with a lemony rémoulade and served alongside fried saltines flavored with ranch seasoning. A fitting follow-up is a modern fusion creation: plump barbecued shrimp splashed with “worsh butter” (a Worcestershire reduction enriched with cream and butter, plus a dash of Vietnamese fish sauce). McKinney brings Mexico onstage with his thyme-infused corn flan, accompanied by a blueberry compote and a topping of tiny cornflakes.

Josephine’s Gulf Coast Tradition
Opened July 5, 2023.
318 Gray
L & D 7 days.

The steak frites at Bureau de Poste.
The steak frites at Bureau de Poste. Photograph by Mackenzie Smith Kelley
The clafouti dessert at Bureau de Poste in Austin
The clafouti at Bureau de Poste. Photograph by Mackenzie Smith Kelley

6. Bureau de Poste


On any given day, the courtyard and indoor space of Bureau de Poste are filled with diners who are kidding themselves. They think they can be sensible and order just the Gruyère-capped French onion soup and a simple endive salad with citrus and hazelnuts—oh, and perhaps the eggplant-tomato-and-zucchini ratatouille. 

But when the server arrives, they will in fact kick willpower to the curb and demand the scandalous pommes dauphine, four perfectly fried globes of whipped potato topped with crème fraîche. And when they’re finished with that, they will indulge in a fourteen-ounce ribeye in peppercorn sauce (avec frites, s’il vous plait). By dessert, all pretense will be gone. They know they should order the clafouti, a demure, cakey French custard, but are helpless before the lure of dark chocolate mousse. Merci to chef Jo Chan and restaurateur Steph Steele for keeping us honest.

Bureau de Poste
Opened October 3, 2023
4300 Speedway
D 7 days. B Sat & Sun.

Behind the bar at Leche de Tigre, in San Antonio.
Behind the bar at Leche de Tigre.Photograph by John Davidson

7. Leche de Tigre Cebichería Peruana

San Antonio

In a small cottage near downtown San Antonio, three brothers are tutoring the curious in the way of tiger’s milk. Equal parts metaphor and marinade, leche de tigre is the complex, citrusy potion that gives Peruvian ceviche its distinctive kick. Ask Emil, Axel, and Alec Oliva—the chef, general manager, and beverage director, respectively—and they will happily explain that the key to a superlative Lima-style ceviche (the siblings spent eight years in the capital city) is a quick soak in a precisely blended and strained mix of lime juice, bits of raw fish, red onion, garlic, cilantro, celery, and ginger. The selected seafood—kampachi, yellowfin tuna, octopus—is quickly immersed in the bracing liquid, the appropriate garnishes (avocado, plantain, roasted sweet potato, two kinds of Peruvian corn) are added, and then it’s rushed to eager diners.

Leche de Tigre Cebichería Peruana
Opened February 24, 2023.
318 E. Cevallos
L Sat & Sun
. D Tue–Sun.

The lasagna al forno from Via Triozzi, in Dallas.
The lasagna at Via Triozzi.Photograph by Brittany Conerly

8. Via Triozzi


Dallasite Leigh Hutchinson wasn’t born in Italy, but she got there as soon as she could. The Italian American remembers standing on a corner in Florence seventeen years ago, during a semester abroad, and imagining how it would feel to own a restaurant like the ones she had come to love there. Last year she realized her dream with Via Triozzi, a lower Greenville Avenue spot where exposed-brick walls are softened with a trove of family photos. Many dishes owe their inspiration to Hutchinson’s thrifty grandmother; others she learned while studying with an Italian chef in Florence and eating her way around the country—one fine example being coccoli, yeasty orbs of fried dough served alongside San Daniele prosciutto and stracchino cheese. Entrées are likely to be traditional, including her lasagna with besciamella and her robust pork-and-beef Bolognese, but she takes liberties with cannoli, substituting waffle-textured pizzelle cookies for the usual tubular pastry shells and giving the well-worn favorite a fun new twist.

Via Triozzi
Opened August 16, 2023.
1806 Greenville Ave
D Wed–Mon.

Tuna on toast, smoked kanpachi, and sausage pizza at Elro Pizza + Crudo, in Houston.
Clockwise from top left, the tuna on toast, smoked kanpachi, and sausage-and-rapini pizza at Elro Pizza + Crudo. Photograph by Arturo Olmos
The bar at Elro Pizza + Crudo.
The bar at Elro Pizza + Crudo. Photograph by Arturo Olmos

9. Elro Pizza + Crudo


Your first reaction will be “pizza and crudo?” Your next will be “pizza and crudo!” The novelty of the Italian twofer is the main attraction at a remodeled Houston bungalow outfitted with cheery tortoise-and-hare-print wallpaper inside and a meandering wooden deck outside. The concept is the brainchild of Terrence Gallivan, who from 2012 to 2019 was half of the lauded team behind the Pass & Provisions, an acclaimed near-downtown
restaurant with two utterly different dining rooms—one high style, the
other easygoing. Elro’s seven pizzas include a fine sausage-and-rapini combo brightened by stretchy scamorza and pickled Fresno chiles (its superb puffy-edged crust is slightly crisp and boasts a delectable trace of char). Among his continent-spanning crudos is chopped tuna on toast, adorned with nori, pistachios, scallions, and ’nduja spices. And if a customer craves a little variety, there are seven other dishes, ranging from Caesar salad to a meatball sub.

Elro Pizza + Crudo
Opened July 4, 2023.
2405 Genesee
L & D Tue–Sun.

The smashed cucumber at Ezov, in Austin.
Clockwise from top, the frena bread with lamb butter and beet horseradish, smashed cucumber, snapper crudo, and Tom Selek cocktail at Ezov.Photograph by John Davidson

10. Ezov


In a long room spanned by wooden rafters, amid paper lanterns splashed with colorful graffiti, chef/co-owner Berty Richter puts a personal spin on Israeli and other Middle Eastern dishes. He cites the lively culinary scene of Tel Aviv as an inspiration, but Ezov’s menu has as much to do with his penchant for unbridled flavors. 

I was taken with the Smashed Cucumber, the chunky slices atop a bed of smoked labneh enhanced with Aleppo chiles and amba (a tart fermented-green-mango condiment). The Moroccan-tinged cigarim (looking rather like long, thin flautas) came stuffed with sweetbreads and chicken heart, all kicked up with schug, a piquant herbal sauce popular in Yemen. After all the sinus-clearing spices, I was astonished to find that the menu’s most mild-mannered dish, grilled lamb with fingerling potatoes, was the delicious equal of everything else I had tried.

Opened April 27, 2023.
2708 E. Cesar Chavez
D 7 days.

Honorable Mentions


At Bacalar, a striking contemporary design bolstered by Mayan-inspired accessories makes a splashy backdrop for dishes that call on ideas from the Yucatán Peninsula. The offerings range from octopus tostadas to cochinita pibil, the region’s famous citrus-and-achiote-marinated pork shoulder. 


Seventeen stools surround a blond wood counter at Naminohana, tucked into a strip center on upper Greenville Avenue. It’s a pleasant, unpretentious spot focusing on excellent nigiri, sashimi, and rolls. Here you can dive into an order of luxurious otoro (the richest part of the belly of the bluefin tuna) or sample a selection of uni (sea urchin) from Hokkaido and Santa Barbara.  


In a small, stark white dining room with dramatic dark wood accents, an ambitious menu—described as “New Asian American” by chef-owners Evelyn Garcia and Henry Lu—is luring diners to Jūn with dishes such as the moist, beautifully cooked salmon with leeks, trumpet mushrooms, and a sprinkle of gremolata. Little’s Oyster Bar, the latest addition to the Pappas family restaurant empire, has been packed pretty much from the day it opened. Well-turned-out customers—some of whom remember when the location debuted as Little Pappas Seafood House, in 1987—indulge in dishes from executive chef Jason Ryczek, including superb Louie-style lump crab and insanely creamy scallop chowder with parsnips and bacon.  

San Antonio

A flotilla of gently glowing lanterns illuminates the white walls and pale woods of Nineteen Hyaku, one of the most luscious-looking dining rooms in the city. Here, the Japanese menu boasts alluring items such as crisply fried vegetable tempura and miso-glazed eggplant. The Mexican and Cuban specialties at recently opened Paladar are far more ambitious than you’d expect from its small, modest dining room, outfitted with nicely set tables and staffed by affable servers. A trio of creamy, colorful soups—corn, chayote, and red bell pepper—goes well with deftly seared tuna salvaje in red ponzu served over thin slices of vivid yellow mango.