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 uncover which restaurants have been getting a significant increase in attention 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 extra cool this spring.
Open since September, this bar and traditional American spot, which offers seafood and more, is trending compared to other businesses categorized as "Bars" on Yelp.
Citywide, bars saw a median three percent increase in new reviews over the past month, but La Lucha saw a 25.3 percent increase, maintaining a healthy 4.5-star rating throughout. Moreover, on a month-to-month basis La Lucha's review count increased by more than 210 percent.
Located at 1801 N. Shepherd Drive in the Heights, La Lucha offers seafood (including the popular "Gulf Gem" oysters), fried chicken, burgers, fries and late night snacks on the weekends. The bar serves up wine, craft beer, tequilas, mezcals and many signature cocktails. (Find the full menu here.)
Whether or not you've been hearing buzz about Greenway / Upper Kirby Area's Roka Akor, the well-established sushi bar, steakhouse and Japanese spot is a hot topic according to Yelp review data.
While businesses categorized as "Steakhouses" on Yelp saw a median 2 percent increase in new reviews over the past month, Roka Akor - Houston bagged an 8.3 percent increase in new reviews within that timeframe, maintaining a strong 4.5-star rating. It significantly outperformed the previous month by gaining 2.3 times more reviews than expected based on its past performance.
Open at 2929 Weslayan St., Suite 100 since 2017, Roka Akor has other locations in Illinois, California and Arizona.
The upscale eatery serves up sushi, seafood and steak, including certified Japanese wagyu. The spot offers just six sushi counter seats at a time, and, according to the business website, guests "will enjoy premium, exotic, and rare fish selected daily by the chef and available a la carte." (Check out the full menu here.)
Bowl & Barrel
Memorial's Bowl & Barrel is also making waves. Open since August at 797 Sorella Court, Suite 118, the bar and bowling and New American spot has seen an 8.8 percent bump in new reviews over the last month, compared to a median review increase of 2.5 percent for all businesses tagged "American (New)" on Yelp. Moreover, on a month-to-month basis Bowl & Barrel's review count increased by more than 220 percent.
In addition to this outpost, Bowl & Barrel has locations in Dallas and San Antonio. The spot combines a bowling alley with a restaurant and bar. The menu includes small bites, charcuterie boards, chicken, beef, pizza and desserts. The bar serves up cocktails, beers, wine and $3 drink specials before 5 p.m. (Explore the menu here.)
Over the past month, it's maintained a mixed 3.5-star rating among Yelpers.
Crazy Alan's Swamp Shack
Clear Lake's Crazy Alan's Swamp Shack is the city's buzziest Cajun/Creole spot by the numbers.
The Cajun/Creole spot, which offers seafood and more and opened at 1330 Bay Area Blvd. on December, increased its new review count by 33.3 percent over the past month, an outlier when compared to the median new review count of 4.4 percent for the Yelp category "Cajun/Creole."
This is the second outpost for the local chain. Crazy Alan's Swamp Shack offers Creole specialties like catfish, shrimp and crawfish year round. Also look for spicy chicken, salad, gumbo, bisque, soup and chile. Stop in from March through August to enjoy live music every night.
Unos P'nches Tacos
The Heights's well-established Unos P'nches Tacos is currently on the upswing in the Mexican category on Yelp.
While businesses categorized as "Mexican" on Yelp saw a median 2.1 percent increase in new reviews over the past month, this Mexican and breakfast and brunch spot, which offers sandwiches and more, increased its by 7.6 percent—and kept its rating consistent at 4.5 stars. Review counts increased by more than 300 percent on a month-to-month basis.
Open for business at 1402 Northwood St. since 2016, the business offers authentic in Mexican food created from family recipes. On the menu, look for tacos, sandwiches, quesadillas, burritos, flautas and Nopalitos con Chorizo, a traditional Mexican dish made with cactus. (Here's the entire menu.)