8 New-Wave Southern Restaurants in Houston

By Robin Sussman  |  March 28, 2016

Love Southern food but tired of the same fried chicken and collards? Forward-thinking Houston chefs are taking Southern classics, stirring them up in our diverse culinary melting pot, and turning cuisine from the South on its head. Here are eight spots where comfort food gets mighty creative. Ya’ll come hungry!

  • Credit: Julie Soefer

    “When you’re talking about Southern food, it should encompass the communities that make up the South — Vietnamese, Korean, Indian, African, Chinese,” says owner-chef Chris Shepherd. Hence, on his seasonally changing menu (served family style), expect Cha Ca snapper with rice noodles; Korean goat dumplings, or maybe roasted beet salad with pickled green strawberry and Romesco sauce. The organic blending of cultures that produces incredible foods, like Vietnamese crawfish, is the reason it’s so exciting to live and cook in the South today," says Shepherd.

    1100 Westheimer Rd.; 713-528-9800

  • Credit: courtesy Lucille's

    Museum District denizens are flocking to this bungalow with owner-chef Chris Williams’ grandmother’s updated recipes, like her famous hot rolls. Here, shrimp and grits come alive with a generous handful of tasso ham, a spirited hit of sherry tomato broth and micro greens. A massive pork shank, aka pork and beans, is brightened with grape tomato confit and a lemony dollop of agrodolce, and duck gets lavished with yams and lavender blueberries. Whatever you do, sample the salad with big chunks of watermelon laced with iced red onion and tons of tangy feta. Invigorating!

    5512 La Branch St.; 713-568-2505

  • Credit: Craft Burger

    Craft Burger
    Recent Food Network's Chopped winner chef Shannen Tune (formerly with Revolve at Hotel Derek) is rolling out a new food truck any minute now. He’s defined the fare as “decadent Southern” so get ready to sink your teeth into free-range chicken or grass-fed beef in dishes like The Morning After burger served on a waffle with thick crispy bacon. Indulge in battered deep fried chocolate pies with black vinegar caramel or the maple bacon porter milkshake with pecan porter stout. Follow the opening progress here: craftburgerfoodtruck.com.

  • Credit: Chuck Cook

    When dinner begins with smoked ribs slathered in sorghum popcorn and grilled strawberries, or crawfish pull-apart bread with pimento cheese, you know this will be elevated Southern dining at its finest. Chef Graham Laborde celebrates the South from South Texas fried fish, to luscious Louisiana oysters, from Hill Country grilled beef to Dr. Pepper–glazed duck served with pepper biscuits. For sides, classic braised greens share menu space with “dirty farro" (instead of dirty rice) and roasted carrots are jazzed up with mojo. The cool, modern space with a shady patio is the perfect foil for the food.

    1801 N. Shepherd Dr.; 713-864-2565

  • Kitchen 713
    Don’t let the bare bones cafeteria look of this still young Southern cafe in the Second Ward fool you. In case you haven’t heard, the menu is delightfully complex. At lunch, brunch and dinner, we always find menu surprises from chef-owners Ross Coleman (formerly with Hotel ZaZa) and veteran chef James Haywood. From the oxtail grilled cheese sandwich, or Panko-crusted shrimp croquettes topped with Thai-style papaya salad, to mountainous — and quite addictive — tres leches pancakes drizzled with dulce de leche and toasted pecans (pictured), it’s all hits here. The drill: Order at the counter. Self serve your iced tea and water (no booze in the house).

    4515 Canal St.; 713-239-2498

  • Southern Goods
    Known for its 90-minutes waits, this snug dinner-only Southern spot in the Heights is still smoking hot. Run by three talented chefs, a meat-and-three here might entail a sophisticated interpretation like Gulf catch with seasonal squash and local Satsuma beurre blanc. Night owls especially like the late hours for noshing on plump pig wings with sweet and sour sauce, fried green tomatoes with remoulade, or the mammoth beef belly burnt ends served over cheese grits, for which Southern Goods has become famous.

    632 19th St.; 346-980-8152

  • Punk’s Simple Southern Food
    Expect a backyard porch sippin’ vibe here, but a full Sunday brunch with a biscuit bar is a delicious novelty. That’s one of the many draws to this spacious, rustic-chic haunt in Rice Village. Barrel up to that biscuit bar —  but order a raspberry fizz cocktail first — and dig into a buttermilk biscuit stacked with bacon, egg and cheese. Other must-orders include crispy buttermilk fried chicken with horseradish mash or pickled Gulf shrimp with fennel, jalapeno and spice vinegar. Carbs are your best friend here (we already told you about the biscuits), so get your paws on the sweet corn hush-puppies with spicy remoulade or the moist cornbread with butter and honey, which could easily stand in for dessert.

    5212 Morningside Dr.; 713-524-7865

  • Harold's Restaurant, Bar & Terrace
    A grocery store downstairs and restaurant upstairs occupies what was once Harold’s men’s clothing store, a Heights landmark. Chef Antoine Ware, originally from New Orleans, weaves dishes from home into the menu, like oysters Rockefeller (but with fried oysters), or braised oxtail with Atkinson collard greens and a unique black-eyed pea ragout. Double-brined cast iron chicken is the standard, but for supper, Ware ventures into fancy land with crispy sous-vide duck parts marinated in soy, ginger and garlic sauce; Gulf blue crab spaghetti and Meyer lemon cream topped with mirliton slaw, or 44 Farms Butcher’s cut with oyster mushroom, smoked tomato and charred broccoli salad.

    350 W. 19th St.; 713-360-6204