When a region of the city has as many great restaurants as the Heights and Hillcrest, it’s hard to pick just five favorites. So, we chose six. But trust us, narrowing it down wasn’t easy. Intense debate among our team raged for days, but we finally pared our long list of gourmet greats down to six solid suggestions. Read on for our suggestions on where to get superb service, award-winning food and creative cocktails.
1. Fantastic China
1900 N. Grant St., 663-8999
Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
and 5-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Another local mainstay, Fantastic China has been serving up delicious Chinese cuisine in the Heights since 1995. In case you’re keeping count, this year marks its 20th anniversary — a huge milestone in the restaurant biz. Perfect for lunch or dinner, we always start with the egg drop soup and follow it up with the shrimp with hot garlic sauce or the chicken lo mein. All of the menu items are made fresh daily, so you can’t go wrong no matter what you choose. Fantastic China also has a full bar and a great wine list. If you’d rather stay in, free delivery is available in a limited area.
2. Café Bossa Nova
Hillcrest: 2701 Kavanaugh Blvd., 614-NOVA
Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday
When it comes to Brazilian fare, Café Bossa Nova has the market cornered. But even if there were dozens of Brazilian restaurants in town, they’d still rank numero um (that’s No. 1 in Portugese). Why, you ask? That addictive cheese bread, for starters. Called Pao de Queijo, this Brazilian specialty is made with gluten-free yucca root flour, milk, eggs and cheese and yields perfectly light, savory rolls. When it comes to entrées, we’re always torn: the Salpicao, a Brazilian-style chicken salad served atop rice, or the Panquecas de Frango, Brazilian chicken crepes baked in Catupiry cheese sauce and served over rice. Both are so delicious they’ll bring tears to your eyes. That’s why we pair our meal with the Caipirinha, a concoction made of muddled limes, sugar and Brazilian rum. It’ll make you happy in no time.
Heights: 2010 N. Van Buren St., 663-5937
Hours: 11 a.m-9:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday
Cheers is one of the Heights’ most iconic restaurants. Located in the heart of the neighborhood, the intimate dining room and heated/cooled patio is perfect for lunch or dinner year-round. A Cajun-influenced menu features items like fried artichoke hearts and crawfish tails for starters, soups, salads, po’ boys and our personal favorite, the old fashioned cheeseburger. The spicy chicken and dumplings also ranks high on our list. Delicious dinner options include seafood and tender steaks. And like most of the restaurants we frequent, the wine and cocktail selection is on point.
4. SO Restaurant & Bar
Hillcrest: 3610 Kavanaugh Blvd., 663-1464
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Wednesday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 4-10 p.m. Sunday
Hillcrest’s SO Restaurant & Bar is one of our go-to date night restaurants. Quiet and intimate with a gourmet menu, this fine dining restaurant in Hillcrest can’t be beat. We dream about the seafood fondue, a blend of shrimp, crab and halibut in a Cajun fondue sauce — simply divine. Our entrée of choice is a grilled pork chop, which is hand-cut and served with a Granny Smith apple mustarda and au gratin sweet potatoes. Tender and juicy, this chop will certainly make an impression. SO is also known for its expansive selection of wine; the restaurant has been a recipient of the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for the past four years. Ask your server for pairing suggestions.
5. Boulevard Bistro
Heights: 1920 N. Grant St., 663-5949
Hours: 4:30-10 p.m. Monday-Wednesday; 4:30-11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
Boulevard Bread in the Heights has long been a favorite. So now that the space and offerings have been expanded, we couldn’t be happier. The European-style starters include pate de campagne with terrine of pork, peppercorns, mushrooms, pickled onions and more; frites with curried ketchup; and a baked pimento cheese. Amazing, right? Entrées include items like coq au vin and Parisian gnocchi as well as safer options like burgers and Falling Sky Farm chicken sandwiches. A new bar also serves up delicious cocktails and a selection of wine and beer to complement your dinner.
6. U.S. Pizza Co.
Heights: 5524 Kavanaugh Blvd., 664-7071
Hillcrest: 2710 Kavanaugh Blvd., 663-2198
Hours: 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m.Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday
How could we talk about our Heights/Hillcrest favorites and not mention U.S. Pizza Co.? Since 1972, they’ve been tossing up thin crust, made-to-order pizzas from scratch. The “Dave’s Favorite” happens to also be our favorite. This pie features creamy Alfredo sauce with olive oil and roasted garlic, fresh spinach, fajita chicken, squash, peppers, spicy tomatoes and a blend of four cheeses. And like any Southerner worth our salt, we like to dip it in the restaurant’s house-made creamy Italian dressing. Both locations also have expansive patios, perfect for beer sipping, pizza eating and people watching.