It seems like a lot of my favorite restaurants in town haven’t been around very long. It could be that the new places are just the latest shiny objects dangled in front of my short attention span, but I don’t think so. My theory is that the Fort has seriously upped its food game in the last two years. There’s finally a market for chef-driven restaurants in this town, and some supremely talented people are setting up shop.
To test the theory, I jotted down my foodie faves of the moment. Here’s the list, from my current top eatery on down.
1. AF+B (2869 Crockett St.): The word that comes to mind for the Consilient Hospitality concept is polish. This place also has an eclectic, creative menu of food and drink. The duck pot pie ($16) is upscale comfort food at its finest.
2. Sera Dining & Wine (2418 Forest Park Blvd.): Chef Brandon Hudson is the most under-appreciated chef in this city. The rotating menu has a bad habit of rotating out my favorite dishes, so try the chilled ajo blanco soup with almonds, shrimp poached in olive oil, cucumber, and green grapes ($8) while you still can.
3. Waters: Bonnell’s Coastal Cuisine (2901 Crockett St.): Chef Jon Bonnell’s elegant dining room provides the perfect setting for the city’s best selection of shellfish.
4. Ellerbe Fine Foods (1501 W. Magnolia Ave.): If there was ever a restaurant in town that could succeed in a place like New York, it’s Ellerbe’s. The constantly changing menu is fresh, seasonal, and creative.
5. 24 Plates (407 W. Magnolia Ave.): It’s only been open, like, seven minutes, but this place has it all: great service, cool atmosphere, and a menu that’s second to none. The tapas concept promotes sharing, but I hate the idea of giving up even a bite of the butterflied quail with two quail eggs ($10).
6. Café Modern (3200 Darnell St.): Café Modern would rank higher if it were open for dinner more often. But it remains my favorite lunch spot, thanks in part to the cool museum atmosphere and Chef Dena Peterson’s sophisticated, oft-changing menu of locally sourced ingredients.
7. Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine (4259 Bryant Irvin Rd.): Yes, the menu here includes a wide-array of hooves and snouts, but there are plenty of beaks, gills, and shells too. I could live off the elk tacos ($12), with roasted green chile cheese grits, pico de gallo, and queso fresco.
8. Clay Pigeon Food and Drink (2731 White Settlement Rd.): Chef Marcus Paslay is ambitious, and we all benefit. My idea of heaven involves an endless supply of his fois gras torchon ($19), with peaches, granola, and cream.
9. Revolver Taco Lounge (2822 W. 7th St.): Revolver and I got off to a rough start a few years ago, but now I don’t want to live in a world without it. The dining room has a sleek, modern vibe, but the kitchen is all about elevated, traditional haute Mexican cuisine. The gooey queso fundido ($12) in particular is Mexican-grandma good.
10. Bird Café (155 E. 4th St.): I love the small plates concept, and the dining room and bar are beautiful. The place is a magnificent anchor for the new plaza in downtown. The kitchen is still going through some growing pains, but Bird belongs on this list for its creativity alone.
No doubt there are other restaurants that probably should be on the list, but this spur-of-the-moment compilation tells me my suspicions were correct. More than half of the places in my top-10 of the moment have been around two years or less, and only Ellerbe’s, Cafe Modern, and Bonnell’s have been open more than five years.
If this keeps up, being a regular at all my favorite joints is going to become a real problem. But, hey, what a problem to have.
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