The 9 Stupidest Things in the Houston Restaurant Scene Right Now

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"Honestly, right now we are focusing on expansion, and I don't mean other breweries; I mean in the state of Texas," Ambrose says. "Right now we are still trying to navigate the new laws and [what] they mean to us. We could stop doing the tours and totally go to a bar model...but we don't want to do that because we have built this up for 19 years."

Ambrose explains that Saint Arnold wants to share its Texas craft beers with more states, and joining the Colorado Front Range and northern Florida beer scenes will help spread the word about the brewery.

"It will just give us and, we hope, Texas beer more visibility outside of the state," Ambrose says. "I don't know if any other Texas breweries sell in Colorado. If someone from Colorado were to hear about our beer, that would be a good thing for Texas craft beer in general."

As beautiful as it may look, it's food, not a painting.
As beautiful as it may look, it's food, not a painting.
Happy Hour at Cove Cold Bar
Minh T Truong
Happy Hour at Cove Cold Bar

Bishop's Barrel No. 4 was released on August 12. It is a barrel-aged Weizenbock made with locally sourced cocoa nibs.

"There's a chocolate company, Tejas Chocolate, and they did the cocoa for us," Ambrose says. "We already had that recipe ready, and we thought maybe there is someone local we can source the cocoa nut."

Don't forget to visit the brewery for tours on Saturdays. Bring your lunch (or enjoy the brewery's selections), enjoy some beer and have a grand old time. Cheers!

Happy Hour Scene

Cove Cold Bar's Happy Hour
It's cozy and cool.

Minh T. Truong

Cove Cold Bar, a "self-contained mini-restaurant," opened inside Haven late last year with chef de cuisine Jean Philippe Gaston taking charge. The regular menu is a trip around the world with offerings from Tahitian poisson cru to Mexican ceviche to Italian crudo. But the "seafood haven of sorts" also explores options with four legs with French steak tartare, lamb heart carpaccio and a goat-heavy cheese selection. It's a culinary adventure you have to take.

Also worth the trip is the happy hour, which is short but definitely sweet, from 4 to 6 p.m. and from 9 p.m. to close. Make your way to the little enclosed haven inside Haven, grab the corner table and enjoy a cozy couple of hours away from the world, or grab a seat at the bar and chat it up with the man who's shucking your oysters. Either way, inside the little bubble that is Cove, the hustle and bustle of the restaurant are forgotten — on the afternoon my girlfriends and I met there, we noted it was almost too quiet. We were afraid our laughter was going to draw too much attention until some light samba music began to play.

We ordered everything on the Cove bar bites menu at $6 each. First to the table were the iced shrimp, six large boiled shrimp served simply with wedges of lemon and house-made cocktail sauce. The ceviche spoons consisted of tilapia, tomato, onion, cilantro and chiles — the citrus was just right and all the other ingredients remained crunchy. The oysters on the half shell came four to an order; the server let us know they were Conway Royales from northern Prince Edward Island, Canada. They were briny but not deeply salty, and the beautiful orange-and-shallot vinaigrette that came as a condiment was the perfect complement to the salinity. The last item was the oyster shooters, which come three to an order and with an option of three different flavors — a michelada, a vodka-based and a sweet liquor-based.

We added a couple of items from the Haven side of the menu — also $6 each. The barbecue sauce on the pork sliders was a little too sweet, but the buns for the sliders were actually the famous yeasty rolls with coarse salt that you get at the beginning of your meal at Haven — you know the ones I'm talking about — so I didn't even care about the sauce. And you can't go to Haven and not have their shrimp corn dogs.

Haven's happy hour was always a winner, but the addition of all the cold items — $4 8th Wonder beer on tap, $5 wine (including a bubbles option) and reverse happy hour — definitely makes it one of my favorites.

Restaurant News

Openings and Closings
Tequila bar, French food and how many Dunkin' Donuts?

Kaitlin Steinberg

So many awesome openings, so little time to try all the new places!

Bobby Heugel and Alba Huerta of Anvil opened a new bar, The Pastry War, downtown on August 13 to major crowds interested to see what the Anvil boys had up their sleeves. The Pastry War is a tequila bar, or mezcaleria, with an em­phasis on Mexican cocktails and beer. Last week was technically the soft opening, so recipes are still being tweaked. The bar, which is next door to Bad News Bar and Goro & Gun, is part of the ongoing revitalization of the Market Square Park area. With places like these, we're excited to see what comes next!

French Bistro La Balance opened August 15, but we were able to get in early for a sneak peek of the restaurant and the impeccable food. Chef Jose Hernandez chose to open the restaurant in Katy because rent is less expensive there, and he isn't working with any investors. The menu "offers classic French standards that include beautifully plated salads, seared foie gras, buttery-garlic escargots de Bourgogne, the ever-popular steak frites made of grass-fed beef, magret de canard (duck breast) and, most important, [Hernandez's] famed desserts."

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Kaitlin, I'm a burger purist, too. But I've grown to love some of the designer burgers that are being created around town. Chefs like Ricky Craig (Hubcap Grill), Jay Stone (Wicked Whisk, now Vallone's), Jake Mazzu (Burger Guys) and Austin Simmons (Hubbell & Hudson) are creating some remarkably innovative burgers. All deliver a top-notch traditional burgers, but when they let their creativity run wild, the results can be spectacular. As an example, Chef Austin substitutes flash-fried pancetta for bacon, and generic lettuce gets replaced with lemon-infused arugula. The beef swagger is still leading the band, but these new backup players combine for a burger that both unique and superb. Check 'em out before you dismiss them.