Photo: Christopher Anderson/Solomon Sixteenth
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Indigo, the 13-seat restaurant that has become the darling of the local and national food scene, adds another major accolade to its recent achievements. The Northline-area spot has been named one of the top 10 restaurants in America by Food & Wine.
Coming in at No. 8 on the list of 2019 Best New Restaurants in America, Indigo was cited for chef Jonny Rhodes’ neo-soul menu inspired by the experiences of African-American and indigenous people. Each course in Indigo’s prix fixe dinners comes with a historical lesson delivered by the 28-year-old chef.
“It’s hard to know exactly how to talk about Indigo, but the truth is it’s better to listen. To 13 seats, two times a night, chef Jonny Rhodes delivers a thesis in five courses — the historic oppression and creativity of African, African American, and black people, told through the lens of what he has named neo-soul food,” Food & Wine writes. “Several courses are presented with context from Rhodes, derived from years of research into the African underpinnings of American vernacular cuisine. A theme of preservation ripples through the menu—techniques like curing and pickling were vital to the survival of agricultural oppression experienced by African Americans. So you might encounter sweet and sticky preserved figs, smoked fowl, or vegetables submerged in spice-spiked vinegars years before the restaurant ever opened its doors.”
INDIGO’S JOURNEY: How chef Jonny Rhodes created one of the nation’s top restaurants
Since it opened last summer, the restaurant at 517 Berry (at 819-square feet it can accommodate only 13 guests seated around a horseshoe-shape counter) has steadily built momentum and foodie buzz. In March, Rhodes was named as a semi-finalist for the 2019 James Beard Awards’ Rising Star of the Year distinction for young chefs. That nod came after Texas Monthly included Indigo in its 2019 list of Best New Restaurants in Texas in February. Eater Houston named Rhodes 2018 Chef of the Year. And in her end of the year roundup of the city’s best new restaurants, Houston Chronicle restaurant critic Alison Cook found much to admire about Indigo: “Dining at this audacious restaurant is like attending a one-man off-Off-Broadway play.”
Rhodes and his wife, Chana Rhodes, operate the Indigo Thursday through Sunday with two seatings per night ($79 for herbivore menu, $125 for pescatarian menu). Critics have found it one of the most intimate and special dining experiences in the country.
And one of the most unusual, as Food & Wine writes: “Rhodes, who put in time at Gramercy Tavern in New York and Oxheart in Houston, is a gifted cook. And so while all of this may be delicious, none of it is comfortable—it isn’t intended to be. Sometimes the things we need the most are the hardest to swallow.”
Indigo is in prestigious company. At No. 3 on the list is Frenchette in New York, named Best New Restaurant at the 2019 James Beard Awards, considered the Oscars of the food world. Cadence in Philadelphia was No. 1 on Food & Wine’s list and Suerte in Austin, the only other Texas restaurant included, was at No. 3.
Greg Morago writes about food for the Houston Chronicle. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter. Send him news tips at email@example.com. Hear him on our BBQ State of Mind podcast to learn about Houston and Texas barbecue culture.