Nothing puts the spurs to progress like a hard deadline. With Super Bowl 2017 approaching, top Houston chefs have raced to open exciting new restaurants downtown near the George R. Brown Convention Center, as well as in the restaurant-packed Montrose and Upper Kirby areas. If you're coming to town for the game, here are the reservations to make right now.
James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Shepherd of Underbelly has set up his second restaurant in a former Lutheran cathedral built in 1927. The concept, which Shepherd plans to change once a year, is currently One Fifth Steak, or Shepherd's vision of a steakhouse. (In August, it will close for a month and reopen as One Fifth Romance Languages, which will feature French, Spanish and Italian food.) Under the current iteration, Shepherd is grilling and roasting traditional steaks as well as off-cuts like lamb neck and pork collar. Don't skip the gorgeous carrot salad, with its featured ingredient shaved, pureed and roasted all in one dish. 1658 Westheimer; onefifthhouston.com
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Hugo Ortega and his wife, restaurateur Tracy Vaught, are introducing Houstonians to Oaxacan cuisine with Xochi, their fifth restaurant (and fourth in Houston). The menu revolves around mole, including a version made with ants served on the excellent Bistec con Mole de Chicatana, a black Angus rib-eye. Ortega's brother Ruben is the pastry chef, and his primary medium is chocolate—which he makes from cacao beans that he roasts and grinds in-house. Beverage director Sean Beck spotlights Mexico's burgeoning wine market and has developed an extensive mezcal list. 1777 Walker; xochihouston.com