Texas Monthly adds and updates approximately sixty restaurant listings to our Dining Guide each month. There’s limited space in the print issue, but the entire searchable guide to the best of Texas cuisine is at your fingertips online!
Here are a few highlights from the new restaurants reviewed this month. (Restaurant critic Patricia Sharpe’s pick—this month, it’s Macellaio in Dallas—can be found here.) Click through on the links for more detail:
All the King’s Men
The recent reopening of the landmark Queen movie theater marks the pinnacle of downtown Bryan’s resurrection. Along with this renovated venue comes the need for quick, pre-show dining spots. In 2012 Aaron and Stephanie Curs claimed the sliver of space on the theater’s north side for their popular Proudest Monkey burger and taco bar. This new venture flanks the theater’s south side, providing a much-needed barbecue option. In terms of meat, ATKM sticks to the basics, offering brisket, turkey, sausage, and chopped beef. We found the turkey tasty (if a bit on the salty side), but we were carried away with the brisket: the beef combined the kind of tenderness and smoky flavor that points to the skill of a true pitmaster. Sides included twists on the standards, with such offerings as Gouda mac and cheese and dill potato salad. We were drawn to the jicama apple slaw but found the vinegar too overwhelming. We had better luck with the creamy Havarti grits. For those who would rather grab a drink after the show than dinner beforehand, the restaurant also offers an impressive beer and bourbon selection.
It takes just one good thing to put you on the map, and so it goes with Carnitas Lonja, a tiny spot just south of downtown. Inside there’s a counter with a big metal tina, or tub, filled with the juiciest, most luscious pork carnitas, cooked in the style of Michoacán, the homeland of owner Alex Paredes. Outside, a few picnic tables under leafy trees make for the perfect eating venue. A modest place, yes, but Paredes earned his chops in upmarket kitchens before opening this homage to pork. Actually, you might also find menudo or birria (here, a savory deep-flavored beef stew), but it’s the full-fat flossy carnitas tacos with fiery chile de arbol salsa or freshly chopped pico de gallo that keep us coming back. Corn tortillas are patted out as you order, with a scoop of guacamole and a few chopped onions as the finishing touch. If you haven’t been, make a pilgrimage soon: this modest spot was recently named a best new restaurant by Eater and Bon Appétit. (Although in theory the cafe is open until seven, in reality the doors close when the carnitas are gone, usually a few hours after lunch.)
This global concept from internationally renowned chef Nobu Matsuhisa has finally made it to Houston, 24 years after it first opened in New York, and it’s drawing the predictable flocks of foodies to a stunning spot on the second level of the Galleria. The Japanese-Peruvian menu is as modern as the soaring space and prices, but the portions are small. Some dishes are worth it; for one, the perfectly bite-size melt-in-your-mouth smoked salmon and the bigeye nigiri with asparagus. Ditto the signature marinated yellowtail sashimi dotted with fresh jalapeño (but not too spicy). Another favorite dish was the delicately fried tempura king crab served in a pool of bracing rice wine with pickled red onions. Listen up for nightly specials (they can be terrific), bring lots of dough, and expect the noise level to ramp up as the evening progresses (we think the graceful sushi bar, slightly tucked away from the hubbub of the polished white oak dining room, is the best seat in the house).
Crusty’s Wood Fired Pizza
An eclectic aesthetic meets backyard hospitality in this new brick-and-mortar version of a favorite Lubbock food truck. Bluegrass plays in the background, and a colorful collection of music festival posters livens up a sparse decor. It’s a hole-in-the-wall, but it exudes casual welcome, like dinner at the cool friend’s house. Try the crowd favorite green chile chicken pizza for West Texas flavor. But if more-eclectic pies aren’t your thing, don’t fret; the essentials—like a classic margherita or a supreme with pickled jalapeños and thick-cut bacon—are well executed. Foldable slices are soft and lightly sauced, with just enough toppings to be satisfying but not enough to be unwieldy. As the name suggests, the crust is the real treat: charred and crisp outside, soft and flavorful inside. The chalkboard menu assures guests that eating a whole pie is acceptable (we think it might be inevitable). An unexpected bonus is an assortment of craft sodas from Dallas’s Oak Cliff Beverage Works, all made with real sugar and good pairings for a spicy slice. The food-truck feel remains, with personal pies delivered on wax paper to your picnic table.
Downtown’s bustling Rainey Street is a narrow, crowded thoroughfare that’s heavy on bars and light on parking, but it’s worth braving the madness to get to El Naranjo. If a recent meal is any indication, the cozy wood-floored bungalow is serving up some of Austin’s finest interior Mexican cuisine. The bread service alone is ingenious: tiny ciabatta served with a nutty seven-chile salsa macha, butter infused with arbol chile and orange zest, and the most balanced, subtle escabeche we’ve ever had. That masterful command of texture and flavor characterized every dish we ordered, from the spritely ceviche blending gorgeous cubes of yellowfin with habanero and sweet plantain to the exceedingly tender Prime filet in a smoky chintextle and tequila sauce.