Unsure where Houston's in-the-know crowd is eating and drinking? It's easy to spot lines out the door, but some underlying trends are harder to see.
We took a data-driven look at the question, using Yelp to analyze which eateries have been getting outsized notice this month.
To find out who made the list, we looked at Houston businesses on Yelp by category and counted how many reviews each received. Rather than compare them based on number of reviews alone, we calculated a percentage increase in reviews over the past month, and tracked businesses that consistently increase their volume of reviews to identify statistically significant outliers compared to past performance.
Read on to see which spots are on a hot streak this spring.
Iwa Ya Teppanyaki & Sushi
Open since December, this sushi bar and teppanyaki spot is trending compared to other businesses categorized as "Sushi Bars" on Yelp.
Citywide, sushi bars saw a median 3.4 percent increase in new reviews over the past month, but IWA YA Teppanyaki & Sushi saw a 75 percent increase, with a slight upward trend from a 3.5-star rating a month ago to four stars today. Moreover, on a month-to-month basis IWA YA Teppanyaki & Sushi's review count increased by more than 300 percent.
Located at 9600 Bellaire Blvd., Suite 101A in Sharpstown, IWA YA Teppanyaki & Sushi offers seafood, steak, soup and rice. Try the Teppanyaki steak, served with veggies and a side of rice, or the Chicken Katsu, topped with Japanese bread crumbs.
Napa Udon House
Whether or not you've been hearing buzz about Sharpstown's Napa Udon House, the Japanese spot, which offers noodles and soup, is a hot topic according to Yelp review data.
While businesses categorized as "Japanese" on Yelp saw a median 2.3 percent increase in new reviews over the past month, Napa Udon House bagged an imposing 205.3 percent increase in new reviews within that timeframe, maintaining a convincing four-star rating.
Open at 9889 Bellaire Blvd., Suite 229, since January, Napa Udon House offers udon in two basic broths — chicken or fish. Then it's topped with beef, chicken or a side item. From the menu, look for the Nikutama Udon, a soup with sweet beef and soft egg yolk topping.
Sam's Fried Chicken & Donuts
The Heights's Sam's Fried Chicken & Donuts is also making waves. Open since December at 601 Heights Blvd., the chicken shop and Southern spot, which offers doughnuts and more, has seen a 52.6 percent bump in new reviews over the last month, compared to a median review increase of 3.1 percent for all businesses tagged "Southern" on Yelp. Moreover, on a month-to-month basis Sam's Fried Chicken & Donuts's review count increased by more than 200 percent.
Sam's Fried Chicken & Donuts offers chicken, sandwiches, salads, donuts and kolaches. Look for chicken and waffle wings special in the morning, while the lunch crowd will likely go for a fried chicken combo, with wings, breasts, one small side, one slice of homemade cornbread and one dipping sauce. (The rest of the menu can be found here.)
Over the past month, the eatery has seen its Yelp rating improve from 2.5 stars to 3.5 stars.
Spring Branch West's First Watch is the city's buzziest breakfast and brunch spot by the numbers.
The breakfast and brunch spot, which opened at 9778 Katy Freeway, Suite 600, in October, increased its new review count by 40.5 percent over the past month, an outlier when compared to the median new review count of 3.9 percent for the Yelp category "Breakfast & Brunch." It outperformed the previous month by gaining 3.4 times more reviews than expected based on past performance.
First Watch is a national chain that caters primarily to early risers. The spot serves up traditional breakfast items like pancakes, eggs and toast, but the large menu also features sandwiches, wraps, bowls and salads.
Go for breakfast and fill up on the "traditional," which comes with eggs and meat (your choice of bacon, smoked ham, chicken sausage patties, turkey or pork sausage links) served with toast, house preserves and seasoned potatoes.
Get there soon before the"million dollar bacon" (signature hardwood smoked bacon baked with brown sugar, black pepper, cayenne and a maple syrup drizzle) leaves the seasonal menu. (Find the entire menu here.)
Hopdoddy Burger Bar
Memorial's Hopdoddy Burger Bar is currently on the upswing in the burger category on Yelp.
While businesses categorized as "Burgers" on Yelp saw a median 3.7 percent increase in new reviews over the past month, this burger spot increased its by 47.6 percent—and kept its rating consistent at three stars. Review counts increased by more than 250 percent on a month-to-month basis.
Hopdoddy Burger Bar is a national franchise with locations stretching along the southern part of the country from Florida to California. Open for business at 798 Sorella Court, Suite 199, since October, the business offers burgers, salads, sides and shakes.
From the menu, try the Goodnight/Good Cause Burger, made with Angus beef, Tillamook cheddar, caramelized onions, jalapeños, caffeinated BBQ, sassy sauce, lettuce, tomato. Every time someone orders it, $1 is donated to a local charitable organization. (Check out the rest of the menu here.)