Dinner and a Show

Houston's 10 best restaurants for pre-theater dining.

A steady stream of cars let out diners who craned their necks at the protesters as they walked inside. "Eat somewhere that pays your workers!" yelled a few women from the picket line. Power tools on Corner Table's patio were conspicuously turned on to drown out the din. And in front of the large plate-glass window that faced the picket line, a giant white shuttle was pulled around so that the view was entirely blocked.

Inside the restaurant, a hostess graciously but nervously led over an elegant, well-dressed woman whom she identified as a manager. The manager, who wished to be identified only as Leslie, was calm but firm.

"This has nothing to do with the restaurant," she said. "This is about [chef Molzan's] former enterprise, and he's not affiliated with them any longer."

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Former Ruggles employees protested outside Corner Table last Wednesday, February 13. The new restaurant hired chef Bruce Molzan, who protesters claim owes them back wages and tips.
Katharine Shilcutt
Former Ruggles employees protested outside Corner Table last Wednesday, February 13. The new restaurant hired chef Bruce Molzan, who protesters claim owes them back wages and tips.

Along with other lawsuits Molzan has been involved in over the years, the former owner of Ruggles sued the employees who walked out on him at Ruggles — despite acknowledging that he owed them money. But Molzan is not an owner at Corner Table. That would be Darla Lexington. Lexington is perhaps best known as the longtime companion of famous Texas lawyer John O'Quinn, who died in a car accident in 2009. Should Lexington or Corner Table pay for Molzan's transgressions?

"We sent out pizzas," Leslie continued. "We don't want to be ugly. There's no need to be ugly."

But, Leslie finished, "I think there's some facts they don't have straight."

Back outside, the protest that had begun at 6 p.m. was still in full swing an hour later despite night falling. The lines of cars pulling in to Corner Table's valet seemed to be energizing them as much as the pizzas had.

"They're just trying to shut us up," said Perez-Boston. "It won't work."

Top 10

Close Your Eyes and Think of England
Houston's 10 best British pubs.

Katharine Shilcutt

You'll notice several things upon entering a British pub for the first time, especially if your only pub experiences to date have been in the States: The pubs are clean, bright and welcoming. The food is usually quite good. And pubs are family-friendly places — for the most part — which makes sense, as "pub" is short for "public house." The whole village should feel welcome at a pub.

Pubs are places where anyone can go, grab a chair and possibly a pint and feel right at home. You can watch TV, catch up with friends, eat a filling meal and come in from the dreary weather like we experienced last week. While it's not quite as cold as an English winter (I'll tell you some time about vacationing in northern England in early February), the drizzly weather last week made me think fondly of the British pubs I enjoyed across the pond.

Not all pubs are created equal, however. Most Texas pubs are more "bars" than "public houses," but the ones on this list are as close as you'll get to the real thing.

10. The Stag's Head

The food and service have slipped a bit here in recent years, but The Stag's Head is still my favorite place to hear an impromptu bagpipe solo at sunset. The massive central bar reminds me a bit of theater in the round, but it means you can always find an open seat and get a classic on draft whether it's Boddingtons, Fuller's or Newky Brown. The food menu offers a decent cottage pie and the option to add "real" Heinz baked beans to anything you order.

9. Boondoggle's

Clear Lake and Seabrook have dozens of great seaside bars, but it's Boondoggle's Pub I find myself frequenting most often down south. It may not offer the great views of other Clear Lake watering holes, but this one has the advantage of looking and feeling like an authentic English pub in its own odd way. It also has the advantage of offering some truly tasty food, like pizzas cooked in a wood-fired oven — a damn sight better than the Totino's-style pizza rolls offered by most bars.

8. The Ginger Man

The jukebox at Hans Bier Haus used to be stocked with the best British music in town, featuring everything from the Stone Roses to Simply Red. These days, the old-school jukebox at The Ginger Man has taken its place, but it also features plenty of local Houston bands. The massive beer list offers only a few British libations, however, and the food menu plays it pretty down-the-middle. The real draws here are the dark, cozy quarters and inviting patio.

7. Kelvin Arms

Technically, Kelvin Arms is a Scottish pub. But that just means it's got a great selection of Scotch in addition to a nice assortment of British beers. More important, it — like any good pub — is loyal to its regulars, whom the pub treats like family. There's a big screen for watching games or matches; board games if you get bored; oversized chairs and couches to sink into; and a suit of armor guarding the vault, a holdover from when the Rice Village building was University Bank in the late 1920s and early '30s, so the pub — unlike many Houston bars — has some history to it.

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