Houston’s Most Surprising Restaurant Earns Major National Love — Tatemó and Texas’ Best New Restaurants in America Power
Where the Corn ReignsBY Chris Baldwin
Austin's Canje is rated the fourth Best New Restaurant in America by Esquire. (@canjeatx)
Tatemo is no ordinary Houston restaurant. It puts corn in the spotlight and is only open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. But it still made Esquire's Best New Restaurants in America. (@tatemo_htx)
Birdie's is a very casual and wine centric Austin restaurant favorite. And Esquire is all in. (@birdiesaustin)
Tatemo offers a Sunday brunch that is unlike anything else in Houston. (@tatemo_htx)
One of Houston’s most unusual and daring restaurants is enjoying something of a national moment with Esquire magazine declaring Tatemó one of The Best New Restaurants in America in its latest issue. Tatemó is one of only three Texas restaurants to make the expanded 40 strong rankings.
But in many ways, it’s nothing like the others. After all, how many restaurants are obsessed with corn?
That is how Tatemó makes its mark, how it grew into a Houston sensation and found this national moment. By making it all about the masa. Tatemó partners Emmanuel Chavez and Megan Maul even have 55 pounds stacks of corn from Mexico stacked against the walls of their modest restaurant in a nondescript strip mall at 4740 Dacoma Street in Spring Branch.
This isn’t the kind of restaurant that’s built to make these kinds of lists, which makes its inclusion all the sweeter. But Tatemó’s corn and tortilla focus isn’t the only thing that sets it apart from many of its slick Best New Restaurants in America counterparts.
It is only open three days a week — Friday and Saturday nights for tasting menu reservations and Sundays from 10 am to 1 pm for a walk-ins only brunch. It also only has 13 seats inside. Yes, it takes some work to get to eat at Tatemó. Esquire is convinced its more than worth that effort, raving about “the jagged purple shards of totopos,” Cacahuazintle maize and a purple quesadilla.
Yes, corn can be plentiful colorful.
Tatemó is ranked 19th on Esquire’s new 40 power restaurant list. Austin restaurant Canje comes in at the No. 4 spot, behind only Portland’s Kann, Los Angeles’ Yangban Society and Asheville, North Carolina’s Neng Jr.’s. Canje is all about Caribbean flavors and Chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph is a native of Guyana who brings the food of his homeland to Texas’ trendiest food scene.
Still, it’s the joy of Canje that Kevin Sintumuang, one of the food writers entrusted with coming up with Esquire’s Top 40, really seems taken by.
The last Texas restaurant that makes The Best New Restaurants in America rankings is a little more traditional. Or at least it seems that way at first. For while Austin’s Birdie’s is lauded for its wine, its glasses of pét-nat and orange wine that get singled out by Esquire.
It turns out rebels come in disguise too. Birdie’s is a counter service spot and that just seems to add to its charm. Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel and Arjav Ezekiel created what Esquire lovingly dubs a hangout. One where the vanilla soft serve ice cream, dazzled with olive oil, earns a special mention.
This Austin wine haven comes in at No. 25 on the list. Of course, where a restaurant falls in this Top 40 doesn’t matter as much as making it. California dominates this list with 10 of the 40 restaurants lauded calling the Golden State home. New York is not surprisingly second with seven restaurants. But Texas’ unique three hold their own, giving the Lone Star State the third most restaurants in the Top 40 with Oregon matching that number for a third place tie.
There is only one Tatemó, one Canje, one Birdie’s, though. That is what really counts.
With this year end 2022 Best New Restaurant in America list being something distinctive is a major part of the food adventure.