The Grove, Houston
Nestled within the city's newest park, Discovery Green, the Grove seems on track to be Houston's 21st-century answer to Tavern on the Green, except here, the food impresses as much as the setting. Designed by Austin-based architect Larry Speck, the enormous building is light and airy, with double-height window walls offering thrilling views of the downtown skyline and the lush park. The restaurant is also thoroughly green in another way, with low-energy LED lighting, solar panels, a rooftop herb garden, and biodegradable take-out carriers made from corn. Beyond the park outside, another wonderfully distracting view is of chef Ryan Pera and his team at work in the open kitchen. Pera, late of Houston's much-lauded 17 restaurant, calls his menu "American seasonal rustic," and it's driven by his finds at the market each morning. Start off with small bowls of gorgeous Sicilian olives and Marcona almonds that are slightly salty with a hint of anise. Move on to divine duck meatballs, red snapper with roasted lemon jam, or bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin with black-eyed peas.