Among the most diverse cities in the U.S., Houston is one of the great unsung food meccas. Boasting culinary influences from all over the world, impeccable fine dining, cozy breakfast nooks, and hole-in-the-wall gems, it’s home to some of the most innovative young chefs in Texas. “We all learn from each other and push each other to be better,” says Leonard Botello IV, the 33-year-old owner of Truth BBQ, where two-hour lines have been known to wind around the block. “We’re like one big family.” Next time you’re hungry in Houston, check out these amazing chefs under 40, and enjoy some of the best restaurants in the Bayou City.
Dustin and Addie Teague
Helmed by husband-wife chef duo Dustin and Addie Teague—Houston natives who met in high school—this five-year-old neighborhood spot with a wraparound bar showcases the couple’s culinary talents via maple Brussels sprouts, creamy Cajun crab dip served with homemade toast, and prime filet served with side options including bacon braised collard greens and southern style fried okra.
Indigo; Broham Fine Soul Food & Groceries
Thirty-one-year-old king of “neo-soul food” (which he defines as “classic soul food, but with higher-quality ingredients”), Chef Jonny Rhodes recently closed his popular restaurant Indigo despite having been named a James Beard Award semi-finalist and Time’s recognition of the establishment as one of the “World’s Greatest Places.” But the restaurant’s legacy will live on with Rhodes’s next venture, Broham Fine Soul Food & Groceries, a local farm and food-processing plant set to open in 2023. “I want quality food to be available to everybody,” says Rhodes, who aims to make his Indigo recipes affordable and sustainable at the boutique grocery. For now, customers can order sausages, deli meats, sauces, and preserves online.
When 37-year-old Aaron Bludorn, formerly of New York City’s Café Boulud, opened the contemporary American Bludorn in August 2020, it quickly became one of Houston’s most buzzed about restaurants, prompting Eater to name him the city’s 2021 Chef of The Year. Jazz, polished wood, oysters, and craft cocktails lend Bludorn’s light-filled space a hip vibe, and every dish is precise and fresh. The chef recommends the blackened grouper with tamarind, black garlic, long beans, and aromatic salad.
Tonight & Tomorrow
Thirty-eight-year-old chef Jonathan Wicks, of Tonight & Tomorrow at La Colombe d’Or Hotel, makes the most addictive crab ravigote in Texas. You can usually find him out back in his herb garden, cutting sage, dill, and thyme for his coastal European recipes with southern influences—French onion soup, truffle pappardelle with fresh pecorino, pork chops with grits, and beer-braised beans. Come for the crab ravigote, stay for the cocktails across the hall at swanky Bar No. 3 and a glimpse of the hotel’s 400 works of fine art.
Leonard Botello IV
“People have been cooking with fire since the beginning of time,” says 33-year-old Leonard Botello IV of Truth BBQ, the second location of which opened in 2019. “I’m a huge nerd about live fire.” That nerdiness pays off: Truth recently garnered the coveted No. 3 spot on Texas Monthly’s annual “50 Best BBQ Joints” list. Though most barbecue lovers who stand in the Truth line are craving brisket, ribs, and sausage, Botello recommends the turkey: “People think it will be dry, or it won’t be flavorful, but we brine it for three days and then cold smoke it.”
James Beard Award winner Justin Yu (2016 Best Chef: Southwest) helms the tiny but wildly popular Theodore Rex—a stylish fine-dining spot with a little French flare that Eater named among the best restaurants in the country in 2018. The 37-year-old native Houstonian reminisces about the origin of his most famous dish: At Oxheart, Yu’s previous restaurant, “we had this tomato fondant that I used to eat at the end of the night with a slice of homemade bread. I wished I could serve it, but it was too simple for a tasting menu restaurant.” And that’s how his famous “tomato toast” was born. “It’s a really intense, time-intensive sauce, served simply and without pretense, with some raw tomatoes, some nicely toasted bread, and herbs.”