As we wrap up 2023, I am reminded of my great dining experiences I had throughout the year.  Many of them right here in Houston where I live, while others happened during my travels.  Some restaurants provided excellent cuisine or unique dishes, while others provided fun atmosphere.  Here is a recap of my Fave Dining Experiences of 2023.

Vine – Accra,Ghana

Mac and Cheese in clay bowl

Last year, I celebrated the New Year in Accra, Ghana setting the tone for a great year to come! We started out the year with brunch at Vine.  The patio style restaurant had a great fun atmosphere and delicious food too.  What stands out for me when I think back, are all of the different types of cuisine represented there.

Latha Restaurant – Phoenix, AZ

Goat Cheese Dip with Beets on top

I try to visit a Black owned restaurant each time I travel, so when I visited Phoenix for work this year, I made a point to stop by Latha Restaurant.  Each time it showed up on my timeline, they were serving up beautiful drinks and great entrees. My experience was just that.  It’s a beautiful restaurant with lots of outdoor seating as well.  If you make it to Phoenix, be sure to swing by!

Marked Restaurant -Toronto, Canada

2023 was the year of Renaissance for so many Beyonce fans like myself!  I traveled to Toronto with a group of friends and we had THE best time.  There were many great dining experiences in Toronto, but the one that stands out to me was the brunch at Marked Restaurant.   Bottomless mimosas, unlimited plates and a great DJ made for an excellent dining experience.

Siam Tea Room Marriott Marquis – Bangkok,Thailand

Bowl of Ramen

I traveled to Thailand for a work conference earlier this year.  I spent most of my time in our hotel due to the schedule.  Normally, that would be a fail in terms of dining, but this hotel had amazing food.  My favorite, the Thai food served during off hours at the Siam Team Room.  I ordered all of the things including a soft shell crab with ramen.  SO GOOD.

Ledger Restaurant & Bar – Salem, MA

I am still working on my recap of my fall foliage trip to the northeast, but here is a sneak peek.  After touring all of the historic sites in Salem,MA the weekend before Halloween, we ate dinner at the Ledger Restaurant & Bar.  Located in a bank from the 1800s, the space was beautiful.  What stood out to me? The subtle ways they played up the Halloween themes without being corny.  For example, our cocktails came out with vampire teeth and syringes filled with red syrup made to look like blood.  It was creative while also good!

Sepia – Chicago, IL

This summer, I headed to Chicago for a wedding and brought along two friends who had never been.  We had a great time! Chicago is included in the Michelin guide so we sought out Michelin rated restaurants including Sepia.  Their menu is seasonal and changes pretty frequently, but it is truly an experience.  It was a set menu with tons of great dishes like the beef tartare.

Brunch at Warwick – Houston, TX

Brunch platter Warwick

Warwick has been around for sometime, but two brunches I had there this year really stand out for me!  First, Warwick invited me out for brunch to try their speciality cocktails for the Beyonce concert. While there, my friends and I tried the brunch board.  It was SO good.  I came back a few weeks later with a larger group of my IG subscribers.  They also loved the experience and the brunch board got high marks.

Mystic Pizza – Mystic, CT

Pizza on white paper plate

If you’ve ever seen Mystic Pizza starring Julia Roberts, of course you would want to visit Mystic, CT if you were nearby.  We had to make a detour during my Northeast trip, and ended up in Mystic.  It was what I expect of every small town in this part of the country.  Our first stop was to Mystic Pizza in the heart of the city.  The staff really played up the connection to the film which I appreciated.  Now, we were going to order the pizza no matter how it looked, but turns out it was an exceptional pizza.

Southern Smoke – Houston, TX

Crowd at Southern Smoke

For the most part, the places on this list are restaurants because a great dining experience usually involves some relaxing, being seated and great service. However, the Southern Smoke food festival is worthy of this list even if I had to walk around balancing plates and drinks. Created by famed chef Chris Shepherd, Southern Smoke highlights top chefs from around the country while also supporting the Southern Smoke foundation. Where else can Aaron Franklin slice and serve you brisket, you grab a Trill Burger, and oysters grilled in front of you. Plus highlight Black chefs/restaurants like Chef Michelle Wallace, Chop ‘n Block, Gatlins and Lucille’s.

Brisket on a slice of bread

Hidden Omakase – Houston, TX

Hidden Omakase Sign

For someone who isn’t even much of a sushi fan, I gotta say I LOVED Hidden Omakase. As with many of the items on this list, the experience is top tier. A small intimate dining space with 90s hip hop and high quality fish prepared in front of you is generally a win.

Grace by Nia Boston, MA

Whenever I hear Black foodies describe the type of Black owned spot they want to see in their city, it’s literally Grace by Nia. Good desirable location, beautiful space, quality food & drinks, plus live music. Grace by Nia was all of these things!

CoCody – Houston, TX

Private Dining Space Cocody

It just opened the first week of December, and I knew I’d need to stop by before the year ended! CoCody is a new luxe concept in the River Oaks Shopping Center. The menu, location and vibe caught my attention, the Black owners/investors ensured I was visiting! While they seem to shy away from calling it this, it’s truly French cuisine. The menu, drinks, ambiance are unique to Houston which makes it stand out for me this year.

What were some of your favorite dining experiences from this year?