Max's Wine Dive Moving to Montrose

What does that mean for Houston?

While it's exciting to see friendly faces cropping up throughout the city — especially if you're a Flying Saucer fan, for example, but don't want to drive from your home base in Missouri City just to pound a pint — part of me bristles at the ongoing trend of homogenization.

Houston has long been the city where chain restaurants come to die, a place where there is no place for On the Border or Marie Callender's. When chain expansion goes wrong here, it goes terribly wrong. One only needs to eat at the original location of Carrabba's or Ninfa's to see just how embarrassing every other incarnation is by comparison. Some even tend to regard our own legitimately good, homegrown chains like James Coney Island or the Pappas family of restaurants with unwarranted disdain.

What worries me is the idea that established restaurateurs and their moneyed backers are driving up the cost of real estate in popular areas with these second, third, fourth locations to the point where independent operators can no longer enter the market. (Coincidentally, this is nearly identical to the fiscally-based concern expressed by those opposed to the City of Houston's parking ordinance revisions.)

Rice with kimchi, pork and egg.
Joanna O'Leary
Rice with kimchi, pork and egg.

I am not saying this has happened yet, nor will it definitely happen. But I'd hate for that to be the case. Houston prides itself on ingenuity and eccentricity, but we're also a city driven by the whims of developers and fattened up on pure, unadulterated capitalism. It's a delicate balance — and one that's served the city well lately — and one that we'll hopefully maintain as we continue blazing our own defiant path.

In its press release, Lasco Enterprises crowed its accomplishments from the rooftops, as well it should: It was named "one of the fastest growing private companies in the U.S." for three years in a row by Inc. The Houston Business Journal listed it as one of the "fastest-growing private companies in Houston" for four years running. It employs 500 people in four cities across Texas. Lasco Enterprises should rightly be proud of itself and its business model.

In my ideal Houston, however, there's room for both the Lascos and the little guys. Not just in the fringes where land is cheap, but in our urban core as well — and especially in landmark neighborhoods like Montrose. Will our city support them both?


A Cooler Coffee
Get your caffeine fix without the heat.

Darla Guillen

I've always hated the phrase "movers and shakers," but if applied literally, it's an accurate description of our city right now. With locals running around town implacably, outpacing frequent mentions from national publications (which have taken to calling us the new "it" city), it's easy to forget that Southerners are said to keep a leisurely pace.

Blame it on highly addictive frozen and iced forms of caffeine, without which many of us would cede to summer's oppressive heat and humidity. As luck would have it, getting your caffeine fix is becoming more convenient and more interesting.

Although there are plenty of consistently good warm classics — such as the Valrhona mocha at Blacksmith, a cortado at Southside Espresso or pretty much anything at Catalina Coffee — there are other less-known, summer-friendly takes on coffee that even the most devout purist would enjoy.

Undertow at Tiny Boxwood's

You'd be hard-pressed to find a Tiny's fan who doesn't immediately mention the popular chocolate chip cookies at this tiny nursery-turned-cafe. But for me, it's mostly the Undertow that could justify waiting in the long Sunday brunch line.

Warm layers of java and cooled cream create a beige-to-brown ombré design in a small highball glass. Those layers then fold into each other as you sip, becoming progressively cooler and sweeter, until you're left with one last, sugary slurp of creamy coffee. Fair warning: Don't take a spoon to that glass or you'll look like a novice.

Cajeta latte at Black Hole and Antidote

For many Mexican households, cajeta is the equivalent of Nutella. Consumed almost impiously, this syrup-spread hybrid is smeared or poured onto anything that can stand up to its weight. ­Montrose coffee shop Black Hole and its sister shop in the Heights, Antidote, know all about this caramel-like ­ingredient.

The cajeta latte is one of Antidote's best-­selling drinks, hot or cold. Now that both Black Hole and Antidote sell their cold-brewed coffee in to-go containers, you can make your own latte at home without worrying about being caught licking the extra (always use extra) ­cajeta directly from the glass.

Vietnamese iced coffee at Les Givrals Kahve

I'd be remiss not to mention Vietnamese coffee in Houston, given this city's rich profusion of quality Vietnamese fare. And if I'm craving banh mi, it almost goes without saying that I'll be eating my sandwich while thick, dark Café du Monde trickles from the drip filter into a generous amount of ice and condensed milk. The ratio of condensed milk to actual coffee makes this drink more of an iced treat than an effective caffeine fix, but the concentrated coffee will ensure that your drink isn't overbearingly sweet.

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