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Where to Eat Now 2014

Honorable Mentions

AUSTIN

Barlata, a mod place with splashy graphic art, doles out reasonably priced tapas, including excellent papas bravas (Spanish fries) and morcilla sausage on white beans with a generous splat of aioli for dipping. . . . If ever there were a place where man could live on pizza alone, it would be at Bufalina, which produces impeccable pies with thin, puffy-edged crusts lavished with toppings like prosciutto piccante, shards of Parmesan, and fresh arugula. . . . With a completely new look and (mostly) new ownership, headed by Larry McGuire, beloved bistro Jeffrey’s has shape-shifted into a luxe destination for those moments when only a dry-aged Niman Ranch porterhouse or a wood-roasted lobster thermidor with Thai chile drawn butter and Mornay sauce will do. 

DALLAS

Belly & Trumpet’s mishmash of accessories (white-leather banquette, crystal chandeliers) does not detract from its delicious dishes, like a whole crispy-skinned Cornish hen with foie gras and raisin compote, courtesy of chef Brian Zenner. . . . Mural-size blackboards feature changing original art at Lark on the Park, a restaurant whose chefs, Dennis Kelley and Melody Bishop, exceed expectations with starters like beef carpaccio with fresh ginger and sesame oil and entrées such as braised lamb shank with Israeli couscous scattered with pine nuts and feta. . . . Nationally known Dallas chef Stephan Pyles has pulled out all the stops at sprawling Stampede 66. Waltz across Texas with reimagined classics like his “Sonofabitch 2014” stew, a fabulous veal-based version of the original, and popovers with pimento cheese, a tribute to Dallas culinary maven Helen Corbitt. 

HOUSTON

At Cove Cold Bar, a small but lofty room attached to Haven, chef Jean-Philippe Gaston is sending forth some of Houston’s most ravishing raw fish, giving his own twist to crudo with dishes like his Borneo-inspired hinava, slices of blue marlin attractively ruched and then accented with jalapeño, yuzu juice, and brown sugar. . . . Philippe Verpiand, chef-owner of country-French Etoile, has graced Houston with its best duck leg confit yet, a tender and rich dish bolstered by a sumptuous demi-glace. . . . Saltillo-based Carlos Abedrop has re-created his famous Mexican steakhouse, La Casa del Caballo, featuring an over-the-top red-and-black color scheme, beautifully char-crusted steaks, and fine shrimp cocktails drenched in red sauce, just as they are in the owner’s home country. 

SAN ANTONIO

The folks from the Monterey have a new baby, Barbaro, a civilized outpost in a historic building that draws customers for cocktails and unpredictable pizzas (taleggio, hash browns, kale, and honey). . . .Vivid fresh-fruit cups are definitely on offer at the Frutería, a casual dining spot from chef Johnny Hernandez, but so are more-substantial entrées, like a seared yellowfin-tuna sandwich with avocado cream and gorditas stuffed to the gills with roasted poblano strips. . . . At Minnie’s Tavern & Rye House, in the crazily tilting old Liberty Bar building, chef Andrew Weissman is doing brasserie fare both fancy (such as a sybaritic torchon of foie gras with sour cherries) and plain (like buttery chicken-liver mousse with a dapper parsley salad).

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