Get these trending Houston restaurants on your radar now

Photo: Mia Bella Trattoria/Yelp
Photo: Mia Bella Trattoria/Yelp (Photo: Mia Bella Trattoria/Yelp)

As fans of cronuts and cake pops can attest, food trends come and go. So how can you tell which tastes are trending right this minute?

We took a data-driven look at the question, using Yelp and SafeGraph, a dataset of commercial points of interest and their visitor patterns, to deduce which eateries have been in the limelight this month.

To find out who made the list, we first 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 increased their volume of reviews to identify statistically significant outliers compared to past performance. Then we analyzed foot traffic data from SafeGraph to validate the trends.

Read on to see which spots are getting plenty of attention this winter.

Upstairs Bar & Lounge

Photo: ashkan n./Yelp

Open since 2016, this well-established lounge, venues and event space and cocktail bar is trending compared to other businesses categorized as "Cocktail Bars" on Yelp.

Citywide, cocktail bars saw a median 2.1% increase in new reviews over the past month, but Upstairs Bar & Lounge saw a 2.3% increase, maintaining a convincing 4.5-star rating throughout. According to SafeGraph foot traffic data, the number of visitors to Upstairs Bar & Lounge more than tripled over the past month.

Curious about this business? We found this in its Yelp history section: "Located on the second floor of the expanded Hungry's location in Rice Village. We offer happy hour Monday through Friday, with tasty bar bites and appetizers, select wine specials, and craft cocktails made with fresh-squeezed juices and house-infused spirits. On Saturday and Sunday, join us for our Brunch on the Balcony, a fresh scene featuring many of Hungry's favorites in addition to off-the-menu features." 

Located at 2356 Rice Blvd., Floor 2, in University Place, Upstairs Bar & Lounge offers bar bites like beef nachos and fire-roasted Brussels sprouts, along with five types of pizza and cocktails like the Netherland twist with Ketel One Botanical Grapefruit and Rose, blood orange, lime and agave. (Check out the full menu here.)

Upstairs Bar & Lounge is open from 3–10 p.m. on Monday, 3–11 p.m. on Tuesday, 3 p.m.–midnight on Wednesday and Thursday, 3 p.m.–1 a.m. on Friday, 11 a.m.–1 a.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m.–10 p.m. on Sunday. According to SafeGraph, foot traffic is heaviest at 12 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays, with a slowdown on Thursdays.


Photo: victoria m./Yelp

Whether or not you've been hearing buzz about downtown Houston's Sambuca, the well-established lounge, music venue and New American spot is trending based on local foot traffic data.

While Sambuca stayed on par with the median 1.4% increase in new reviews businesses categorized as "American (New)" on Yelp over the past month, maintaining a mixed three-star rating, the number of visitors to Sambuca more than tripled over the same time frame, according to SafeGraph's foot traffic data.

Regarding specialties, "Sambuca features savory new American food and modern cocktails that will tempt any palate and nourish the soul. Our nightly live music will engage our guests in the energetic vibe of the restaurant, reminding them to enjoy the simple pleasures of life." — that's according to its Yelp page.

There's more that's trending on Houston's New American scene: Dish Society has seen a 2.4% increase in reviews, and Pinstripes and Bosscat Kitchen & Libations have seen 92.9 and 2.1% increases, respectively.

Open at 909 Texas Ave. since 2007, Sambuca offers soup, salad and meat and cheese boards as appetizers, along with entrees such as the miso sea bass and the shrimp & crab linguini. (Here's the rest of the menu.)

Sambuca is open from 11 a.m.–11 p.m. on Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.–midnight on Friday, 4 p.m.–midnight on Saturday and 4–11 p.m. on Sunday. According to SafeGraph, it's usually busiest at 8 p.m., 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., and people visit Sambuca most on Fridays and Saturdays, so go on Sundays if you want to avoid the rush.

Mia Bella Trattoria

Photo: justin t./Yelp

Greenway's Mia Bella Trattoria is also making waves. Open since 2008 at 3773 Richmond Ave., Suite 1A, the well-established Italian and breakfast and brunch spot has seen a 1.4% bump in new reviews over the last month, compared to a median review increase of 1.8% for all businesses tagged "Breakfast & Brunch" on Yelp. As for foot traffic, Mia Bella Trattoria saw visits more than triple over the past month, according to SafeGraph data.

What's the business known for? "Mia Bella, which translates to 'My Beautiful' Trattoria, is a delightful combination of Italian traditional dishes with an American regional flare. With multiple locations, the dining destinations are fun, intimate and moderately priced, just like the traditional Trattorias in Italy where families gather for wine and delicious food." — that's courtesy of its Yelp page.

Mia Bella Trattoria has three Houston-area locations. The restaurant offers a brunch menu featuring brioche French toast, eggs Benedict and the Mia Bella frittata. Over the past month, it's maintained a healthy 4.5-star rating among Yelpers.

Mia Bella Trattoria is open from 11 a.m.–10 p.m. on Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.–11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m.–10 p.m. on Sunday. According to SafeGraph, people tend to visit Mia Bella Trattoria on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and it attracts a quarter of its total visitors over those two days, with a slowdown on Mondays.

Politan Row 

Photo: politan row/Yelp

University Place's Politan Row is the city's buzziest bar by the numbers.

The bar and food court, which opened at 2445 Times Blvd. in November, is still relatively new to Yelp, but has seen a surge of new reviews. Meanwhile, the median new review count for the Yelp category "Bars" was up 1.8% over the past month.

According to the business' Yelp page, Politan Row offers "a chef-driven food hall platform featuring a thoughtfully-curated mix of local food and beverage talent." The spot currently offers nine restaurant concepts ranging from Egyptian (Torshi) to Chinese (Breaking Bao) to vegan comfort food (Nice Sprout). (Check out all of the restaurants at Politan Row here.)

Politan Row is open from 7 a.m.–10 p.m. on Monday-Thursday and Sunday and 7 a.m.–11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

This story was created automatically using local business data, then reviewed and augmented by an editor. Click here for more about what we're doing. Got thoughts? Go here to share your feedback.