By Kaitlin Steinberg
By Minh T Truong
By Molly Dunn
By Brooke Viggiano
By Kaitlin Steinberg
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By Molly Dunn
By Eating Our Words
The other chicken wings she coated in a spicy red-bean paste (which definitely helped distinguish the two kinds of wings) and vodka, caramel, garlic, apple cider vinegar and sesame seeds, making for one heck of a spicy wing.
The meal ended with a Thai-inspired dessert drink made with coconut milk, cream, lychee, longan, green grass jelly, palm seeds, jackfruit and coconut jelly. The top of the drink was only liquid, but once you dug your spoon down to the bottom, you could scoop out all the tropical fruits and jelly pieces. It was a welcome sweet refreshment after the spicy chicken wing.
Judging by the looks of satisfaction on the faces of diners, Ha's first pop-up dinner was a success, and the Houston community is even more excited about the prospect of the chef opening her own restaurant. If we're lucky, "Episode One" means there will be a sequel to this fine freshman outing before then.
Houston's Top 10 Wine Bars
Enjoy good vino and good food with good friends.
In an effort to make new friends and explore more of what this fine city has to offer, I've been venturing out to wine bars across town.
The last time we ranked wine bars was in 2011. Since then, some on that list have closed and newer ones have blossomed. So here's the list, updated for a new year and a new crop of wine aficionados. Cheers!
Honorable Mention: French Country Wines isn't a wine bar per se, but it hosts great tastings on Saturdays and imports some of the best wine in Houston.
10. Memorial Wine Cellar
Memorial doesn't have a kitchen that prepares fanciful dishes to pair with wine, but it does have a great selection of wines from all over the world. There's absolutely nothing wrong with not having a full restaurant at a wine bar, of course, and food trucks like GastroPunk do a great job of providing grub to the hungry masses. The wine prices are very reasonable, and owners Dwayne and Mary Harrison are always on the hunt for new and different products to stock. This is a small family business, and they aim to please. If there's something you want them to try to get, just ask. They'll be happy to oblige.
9. Sonoma Wine Bar
There's a distinct California theme to the wine lists here, but what else would you expect from a place named after one of the best wine-producing regions in the U.S.? Sonoma is a comfortable place to sit and sip surrounded by plush Persian rugs, modern woodwork and warm track lighting. The food menu is extensive and diverse, with great hand-rolled pizzas and a variety of French- and Italian-inspired dishes. The wine is very California-centric, but there are also some great European wines to be ordered by the glass and an even larger selection of bottles.
Its tagline is "Over 200 wines for $20 or less!" And as budget-conscious journalists, we love that. The wine list features bottles from all over the world, with an emphasis on California, but the food platters are all Texas. Choose from the Texan, the Houston, the Austin or the Lone Star, none of which are fancy, but all of which provide great sustenance to go along with a glass or three of wine. The laid-back but chic atmosphere makes this a great place to meet friends or even host a fancy event in the Founder's Room.
Wine-bar chain CRÚ prides itself on being unfussy and seeks to demystify wine for everyone from experts to newbies. The by-the-bottle list is 21 pages long and offers wines from all over the world at a variety of price points. CRÚ tends to have a great selection of European wines available by the glass, and even though it's a chain, the food menu changes seasonally to reflect availability. It's a trendy joint, so you'll find plenty of young professionals stopping by for a drink after work. A note for gentlemen: Many say it's a great place to pick up chicks. While I can neither confirm nor deny this, I can say it's a great spot to get happy-hour drinks and appetizers.
6. Absolve Wine Lounge
This small wine bar is quirky, with large reproductions of famous Baroque and Pre-Raphaelite paintings in gilded frames adorning the dark purple walls. The by-the-glass list features 21 wines (the bottle list has many more), but it's a diverse one with something that will appeal to everyone. On Monday nights, you can get half-price wine by the glass, and the food menu is lengthy without being overwhelming. I mainly love Absolve for the decor, though, which is wonderfully funky.
5. Vine Wine Room
The wine selection at Vine is handpicked by the owner, Joe Rippey, who likes to focus on small-production boutique wineries. The food menu is simple, featuring tasting plates, sandwiches and a few pizzas, which are paired with a glass of wine every Thursday for only $10. The ambience is Old Word antique-y with a little country charm. Next door is Two Saints restaurant, co-owned by Rippey, so head to Vine and then wander into Two Saints to make an evening of it.