In his first solo venture, Chef Chris Shepherd imparts his extensive knowledge of locally-sourced food, fine wine, and passion for the city of Houston on a menu inspired by the city’s cultural diversity.

Houston is getting quite a bit of attention for its culinary scene. The trifecta of excellent farming, ranching and fishing in the area is a major contributor, and there are a slew of new restaurants, bars, and markets that are worth checking out. Here’s what’s hot in Houston right now:

Chef Chris Shepherd opened Underbelly in April 2012 after having trouble finding a restaurant that truly celebrated Houston. His “American Creole” cuisine recognizes the city’s ethnic diversity, and his dedication to “only buy from friends” ensures that ingredients are locally and sustainably sourced.  This casual restaurant takes food seriously; from the “Korean Braised Goat & Dumplings” ($14) to the “Vinegar Pie” ($9) to the list of jams that guests can take home with them, no detail has been overlooked.
Anvil Bar & Refuge serves cocktails featuring hand-pressed juices, house-made bitters, simple syrups, ginger beer, and herbal infusions, each poured into beautiful vintage glassware you might find in your mother or grandmother’s china cabinet.
This new hotspot just opened in September with industrial design and a chef-focused menu utilizing plenty of creative ingredients. The idea was to create a place that chefs would want to “hang out,” with hearty and flavorful dishes like the “cresta de gallo” pasta which is served with hen of the woods mushrooms and enlivened with roasted yeast and parmesan ($14).
In the heart of the Lower Westheimer neighborhood (voted one of “America’s Hippest Hipster Neighborhoods” by Forbes) is Anvil Bar & Refuge.  This low-key spot specializes in impeccably crafted cocktails like “The Trotter” ($10). Their 10’x12’ kitchen provides hearty snacks like flatbreads and cheese plates.
This Heights-area market, serves up everything from produce and dairy to specialty coffees and artisan breads, complete with a full butcher shop and prepared foods.
Revival Market is an elegant food shop offering everything from a perfectly brewed cup of coffee to fresh fish caught in the Gulf that morning. The BLT sandwich, homemade pastries, and fresh produce keep locals loyal, and tourists can bring the flavors of Houston home with culinary souvenirs like Sam Houston’s BBQ Sauce or Market Grill Rub.
Provisions is built around a pivotal element, a mammoth wood-burning oven designed to churn out anything with smoky traces and a pizza-like crust. This casual concept is juxtaposed with The Pass, a more refined fine dining experience.
On the Radar
Here’s a look at some highly-anticipated upcoming Houston restaurant and bar openings:
  • Houston’s beer scene will grow with the addition of City Acre Brewing, with an on-site garden. Early 2013.
  • The team behind Revival Market is opening a rustic Italian restaurant, Coltivare. Spring 2013.
  • A group of independent restaurant and bar owners are collaborating on a bar where 100% of the proceeds are donated to charity, OKRA Charity Saloon. Early 2013.
  • The Pass is the space adjacent to Provisions, with the same chefs but a more upscale experience and only 36 seats. Fall 2012.
Where to Stay
The Hotel Icon in downtown Houston has spacious rooms with plenty of local flavor, like prints of Texas Longhorns. Once home to the Union National Bank, the building still retains elegant architectural details, including the vault door behind the front desk. Weekend rates from $144.
This 135-room hotel, located Downtown in the 1912 Union National Bank Building, has spacious rooms with a touch of Texas style.
More on Houston: Houston Gets Arty 
This trip was sponsored by the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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