In our My Top 5 series, we turn to the Houstonians who create and shape Houston’s character and ask them to share their own favorite things that make H-Town home. This week, we’re delighted to feature Brandi Key, culinary director of Five 12 Restaurant Concepts, which includes Dish Society and Daily Gather, and executive chef at Daily Gather.
My Top 5 Things to Do in Houston
by Brandi Key
1. The Heights – I am blessed that collectively my family lives here, works here, and plays here. I am so proud to have one of our restaurants in the Heights—shout out to the team at Dish Society! Get the Hot Chicken Sandwich, you won’t be disappointed! I live around the corner from the Houston Farmers Market, El Bolillo Bakery and (fingers crossed) soon-to-be-reopened Tampico that has my favorite ceviche tostada in town. Alice Blue will always have a piece of my heart but seriously, go get one of Claire Smith’s pastries—the monkey buns on the weekend are shear bliss! Take a walk down the street for the best shopping. My favorites are Vinal Edge, AG Antiques, Manready Mercantile, and Dramatika. Lastly, don’t miss out on my favorite martini in town, made by some of my favorite people in town: Terry’s Martini at Squable.
2. The Menil Collection – The first time I walked up to the manicured lawns, this place had my heart and has ever since. I have been blessed with picnics on the lawn, quiet moments in the chapels, interesting conversations centered around new exhibits and lazy afternoons on a blanket with my partner. My life has changed many times at this place but never as much as the amount of talented artists that have been showcased here for all to experience.
3. Texas Art Supply – Truth be told, while living in Houston, I’ve never completed a new menu or restaurant opening without walking through the aisles of this store! They have my favorite notebooks, pens and pencils that I’ve used to draw out all of the food ideas for new projects. The colors and textures of pencils and paper inspire me, and this store has it all!
4. Tiny Champions – For date night! Jason Vaughan is my favorite chef in town and I absolutely love what he does with vegetables, how he layers flavors together and the copious use of herbs on their dishes. I could eat the braised butter beans every single day if I could! The thoughtfulness and heart that is put into all of the small plates, pizza, and pasta are addictive and the comfortable environment is the perfect backdrop to unplug for a moment and enjoy time with friends and family.
5. Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern – This underground, former water reservoir is a site to be seen and felt! This tour is so simple but the space is breathtaking. You can feel so much within this space. My bucket list event is to attend a concert that is held in this space—I can’t imagine how the music bounces through the space and how that vibration feels while you experience the music. Gives me chills just thinking about it!
About Chef Brandi Key
Brandi Key grew up in the Texas Panhandle eating from her mother’s robust edible gardens and cooking Southern comfort food and seasonal produce alongside her grandparents. Key began working at Pappas Restaurants in Houston, where, over the next 12 years, she worked her way up from line cook to research and development chef. She then learned French technique in San Francisco before returning to Houston, where she opened Coppa Ristorante Italiano and launched Coppa Osteria, Punk’s Simple Southern Food, SaltAir Seafood Kitchen, and The Dunlavy. In January 2022, she helped launch Five 12’s second brand, Daily Gather, a more ambitious sister restaurant to Dish Society, located in CityCentre. As executive chef, Key offers a vibrant menu of reimagined American classics that’s heavily influenced by local, seasonal ingredients and the many global cuisines represented in Houston.