Introducing the winners of the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards 2022. This collection of restaurant industry professionals showcases the best of Houston’s food scene.
As a reminder, our jury of former winners and experts from the Houston restaurant industry has selected winners in nine categories this year. CultureMap readers have chosen the Best New Restaurant winner in the leaderboard.
Finding a theme that unites them is difficult. Maybe that’s the point. This year’s winners cover a wide range of territories, from a tiny establishment that shares a parking lot with a gas station to an upscale establishment known for its lobster pie. One of our winners doesn’t have a canteen but serves some of the most delicious Filipino food in Houston. The other works from a clothing store.
Maybe that’s the theme. In Houston, it’s important not to judge a restaurant by its surroundings. Delicious food can be found wherever passionate people dedicate themselves to their craft. Let’s celebrate their accomplishments and look forward to next year.
Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year – Click Virtual Food Hall
What makes Chef Gabe Medina’s ghost kitchen concept so compelling is the sheer number of desires it can fulfill. From Japanese cuisine and Filipino dishes to burgers, pastas and vegan options, Click has something for just about everyone. The wide delivery radius from his home at Rice Military means many domestic lovers can experience Medina’s creations.
Bar of the Year – Tongue Cut Sparrow
This award is a bit bitter. While people loved Bobby Hugel’s formal Japanese-style cocktail bar, the entrepreneur turned the space into Refuge, a new concept that retains some aspects of Tongue-cut’s premium service — like hot towels and elegant glassware — but more lively. atmosphere. While it may not be available at this point, this award recognizes that the bar has inspired a wave of other cozy, upscale cocktail bars that have made Houston a more fun place to drink.
Bartender of the Year – Sarah Crawl, Better Luck Tomorrow
Nominated for her work at both Coltivare and Rosie Cannonball, Crawl finally wins as bar manager at Bobby Heugel and Justin Yu’s laid-back patio bar. Wherever she works, you can expect drinks made with seasonal ingredients and Instagram-worthy decorations. She was also one of Houston’s leading proponents of zero-strength cocktails because even people who don’t drink alcohol deserve a flavored drink.
Wine Program of the Year – Tiny Champions
Instead of picking a restaurant with thousands of dishes, our judges chose Sean Jensen’s neat list of a dozen options by weight and about 50 bottles. Accordingly, the selection of wines is produced in accordance with environmental regulations, which go well with the restaurant’s eclectic pizza and pasta. Jensen cites the Donnhoff Estate Trocken Riesling as an example; The acidity of the wine goes well with shrimp pesto campanelli.
Pastry Chef of the Year – Christina Au, blacksmith
A veteran of places like Common Bond and four-star hotels in California, Au found a home as a staff pastry chef at one of Houston’s finest coffee shops. Menu staples like Blacksmith’s signature biscuits have gained renewed attention, and Au’s weekend specials like cheesecake, chocolate cake and her classic instant millionaire pie are selling fast. Similarly, her occasional pop-up appearances include many coveted items such as pop tarts and candy bars she served at today’s awards.
Best Pop-up – Luis Mercado and Paolo Justo, Neo
These two veteran uchis have earned a loyal following for their elaborate omakase progressions that use dry-aged fish. The intimate experience held at the Montrose clothing store is characterized by an almost one to one ratio of staff to visitors, which means a very personal experience. As chefs evolve, they incorporate more and more varied influences, as in the recent green curry belly of lamb, inspired both by the Mexican-style mole verde and the dish served at mainstream South Asian restaurant Aga’s. Of course, reserving seats to sample these new creations can be a bit tricky right now.
Best New Restaurant – d’Alba Craft Kitchen & Cocktails
In the end, the tournament boiled down to comparing Le Jardinier’s gourmet restaurants with this nearby restaurant in Garden Oaks. Thanks to d’Alba for making his supporters win the title.
Fans of the restaurant know d’Alba for its hospitable atmosphere, spacious patio and Italian-style vegetable chef Jeff Hundt. Combine these strengths with the hospitality shown by owner Dawth Elshani, who applies his experience of opening several nightlife hotspots in a family-friendly destination that already seems to be a staple of the area.
Chef of the Year – Aaron Bludorn, Bludorn
Few chefs who have moved to Houston have made more of an impression in such a short time than Aaron Bludorn. His legacy of working in New York at the Michelin-starred Café Boulud and his stellar performance at Netflix’s Final Table culinary competition have garnered some attention, but the way Bludorn has embraced his adopted hometown really stands out. Whether it’s serving food at the Southern Smoke festival ahead of his restaurant’s opening, or his recent fundraiser for World Central Kitchen, in which he partnered with Truth Barbecue Master Leonard Botello IV, the chef never misses an opportunity to contribute to the development of of your community. Expect him to play an even more prominent role in the community as he prepares to open his new Navy Blue seafood restaurant later this year.
Rising Star Chef of the Year – Benchawan Artist & Restaurant of the Year – Street to Kitchen
This year’s two top prizes go to this modest East End restaurant that specializes in serving “brazen Thai” cuisine. Painter, known to friends and loyal customers as “Chef G,” combines the culinary traditions she learned from her family while growing up in Thailand with professional experience at restaurants such as SaltAir Seafood Kitchen and Theodore Rex to create Thai dishes, made from local ingredients. On Fridays and Saturdays, she prepares unique dishes made with fresh farm produce and high-quality proteins that are not to be missed.
Food at Street to Kitchen is a true family affair. Graham Painter, the chef’s husband, watches the front of the house and helps diners navigate the menu, which pairs familiar dishes like Thai noodles with regional delicacies. Those who forget BYOB will find Thai beer at a gas station next door.