James Beard Awards 2018 Houston Nominees

Book a table before the finalists are announced

When the James Beard Foundation released its semifinalist list last week, Houston clearly had something to celebrate with 12 names across the board in a number of categories. Book a table while you still can, because once the finalists are announced, it's going to get crowded. Here are five restaurants we're particularly jazzed about, and you can see the full list here

Xochi: Best New Restaurant

Chef Hugo Ortega won the Best Chef: Southwest award last year, and he's going for more gold in this prestigious category with his latest restaurant, which highlights Oaxacan cuisine.

Anita Jaisinghani: Best Chef, Southwest

Pondicheri is the epitome of all-day excellence. You can start your day with masala eggs, enjoy turmeric soup for lunch, and then go all out with various thalis at dinner. Just don't forget about the baked goods.

Anvil Bar & Refuge: Outstanding Bar Program

If you're looking for a classic cocktail education, this is where you go. The lengthy menu, aptly called The 100 List, is a ready-made checklist that pairs perfectly with the menu of classic bar snacks.

Ryan Pera: Best Chef, Southwest

This is Pera's first time being up for the award, but after you taste the pizza at Coltivare, you'll sincerely wonder how it evaded him in the past. You can't make a reservation at the Italian neighborhood spot, so go early if you want to get your arancini and cacio e pepe without waiting.

Jillian Bartolome: Outstanding Pastry Chef

If you're dining at Aqui, you'll probably be tempted to skip the main course—as wonderful as it is—and cut straight to Bartolome's desserts, which include a kalamansi tart, vegan green banana sorbet and warm brownie with miso Chantilly.