By Kaitlin Steinberg
By Minh T Truong
By Molly Dunn
By Brooke Viggiano
By Kaitlin Steinberg
By Molly Dunn
By Molly Dunn
By Eating Our Words
4. Vinoteca Poscol
We all know Marco Wiles's Italian food is simply fantastic, but pair that with some Old World wines and you've got a killer hangout. The wine list changes often, but the small tapas-style dinner offerings are consistently excellent, and the prices are very reasonable. It's a laid-back (albeit cramped) space that encourages you to relax and get to know your neighbors. The waiters are very knowledgeable about the wine list, so ask them for help in finding the perfect pairing.
3. The Tasting Room
The Tasting Room now has four locations across Houston in an ever-expanding effort to keep local wine drinkers satisfied. Its tagline is "A comfortable place to get serious about wine," and though the vino may be the real deal, there's nothing stuffy or overly "serious" about the place. It's a casual but sophisticated spot to indulge in wine by the glass served at decent prices and comfort food with a gourmet twist.
2. 13 Celsius
For the past several years, we've named 13 Celsius the Best Wine Bar in Houston, and for good reason. The bartenders here are among the best in town, and they're able to figure out exactly what customers who may not be well-versed in wine are seeking. As the name suggests, the offerings are stored at the ideal drinking temperature, and wine-based cocktails add some whimsy to the average glass of vino. On Sundays, all open bottles are discounted to make room for new stock, so you know you won't be drinking something that's beginning to oxidize. The small bites offered up to complement the wine aren't too shabby, either, and the rustic look of the revamped 1920s building in Midtown almost makes you feel like you're drinking in an old-school European dive.
The new kid on the block is quickly becoming an old favorite. It's the only example of a hip, New York-style wine bar in Houston, but it's devoid of pretension, as evidenced by the lack of complicated menu items and a wine list that's headed, "I just want a damn wine list." The list is divided by flavor profile rather than by type or country of origin, which makes it easy to find something "medium, spicy, earthy and potentially funny" if that's what you're looking for. The simple but high-quality food is part of what sets Camerata apart from other wine bars in town, many of which seek to pack too many concepts into one space. The elegant but streamlined decor in shades of gray makes the colors of the wine and food truly pop.
On the Menu
Succulent Samplers and Savory Pies
Gabby's proves Houston has good barbecue.
Thirty-five years ago, I was a twinkle in my mother's eye, and Gabby's BBQ had just begun serving up classic fare to hungry Houstonians. Three-and-a-half decades later, they are thriving and challenging daily that careless assertion I've heard more than once: "Houston has no good barbecue."
Gabby's is one of a handful of BBQ joints in H-town that easily disprove this claim, and while I will make no judgment as to whether they are this town's best purveyor of smoked and grilled meats, I will ardently insist that there are more than a few excellent items on their menu.
Start, for example, as I did, with the pulled-pork nachos. Unlike other, lazier establishments, Gabby's layers (key word) the toppings of cheese and meat among the exterior circle of corn tortilla chips, rather than simply dumping them on top. Cold toppings (sour cream, pico de gallo, guacamole) are cleverly arranged in the interior center well. This technique produces a superior nacho-eating experience, for not only is every chip almost equally coated, but the partial separation of topping families prevents, say, the cheese from becoming prematurely cold or the sour cream from warming (ugh). And in case you're doubtful (as I was) of the quality of any sort of meat incorporated into nachos, Gabby's will pleasantly surprise you with its pulled pork, which holds its own in terms of seasoning and tenderness.
The terrific pulled pork on the nachos increased my excitement about the Texas sampler, a collection of three meats of my choosing (I went with brisket, ribs and sausage) plus two side dishes or a baked potato. The brisket left something to be desired in terms of active flavors, and I found myself leaning too heavily on the sauce for seasoning. (FYI, I am a "sauce" person when it comes to barbecue, but I believe it should only enhance the meat, not make up for its shortcomings.) Far better were the supple ribs and sausage, which projected a unique sweetness I haven't tasted in other links. No doubt some form of sugar is involved, but there's another savory element working alongside to produce a more subtle umami flavor. By the way, the sides at Gabby's (I tried the coleslaw and green beans) are fine and dandy, but I suggest declining your two choices in favor of the oversize buttered potato with cheese, chives and sour cream.
I couldn't fit much more in my stomach, but one of my dining companions insisted I try a bite of the "Texas BBQ pie," the restaurant's version of the classic Frito pie, created by one of the owners' daughters, Laurie, who has fond memories of a similar version she enjoyed during college. In addition to corn chips and shredded cheddar cheese, the Texas BBQ pie combines beans, barbecue sauce, onions and sliced jalapeños. After a few strong swirls of a spoon, the "pie" transforms into a buttery, crunchy, oozy confection that screams Lone Star State with every spoonful.