Cocktail Chatter
Ah, summertime! The season for sleeveless dresses and seersucker suits, icy fruited drinks served in tall, sweating glasses and perhaps a light bite or two to tempt the heat-jaded appetite. Slip into something cool and refreshing at these Houston restaurants and bars:

Not content to rest on their tamale and fish taco laurels, those clever folks at Berryhill Baja Grill [1717 Post Oak Blvd, (713)871-8226] have created another surefire crowd pleaser, this time at the upscale taqueria's bar: fresh margaritas on tap. A purist's blend of Sauza Hornitos top-shelf tequila and fresh-squeezed lemon and lime juice is chilled in a tap barrel right next to the draft beers.

"It tastes so much better than those nasty prefab mixes," exclaims a recent convert to the keg concept, "and they can pour them even faster."

The icy-cold-but-not-frozen concoction runs $5.50 a glass, and you can order it only at Berryhill's Post Oak location. (The other Berryhill's location [2639 Revere, (713)526-8080] does not have a liquor license and thus sells only beer and wine.)

Hold My Magnolia While I Take Another Sip
Oh, my dear, just imagine a grown-up lemonade stand stocked with Sabine's new summertime cooler: freshly squeezed and sweetened lemonade tinted rosy orange-red with house-processed mayhaw syrup and sprigged with fresh green mint leaves.

The mayhaw, owner Bill Johnson tells us, is a small, tart berry like a tiny crabapple that grows hardy and wild in the swamps of Louisiana, among other places. "But they ought to call them 'April haws,' " he observes, "because the harvest is all done by May." Mayhaws regularly star in Sabine cuisine, appearing in everything from sorbets to sauces.

Through the end of June, lunchers can try Sabine's lemonade in the church-lady version -- sans alcohol -- for free, with Johnson's compliments; later it'll go for around $2. Or for a genteel punch, top it up with your favorite vodka ($5.50). That'll twirl your porch fan for sure. [Sabine, 1915 Westheimer, (713)529-7190].

Trolling for Lawyers
Looking for an attorney? Instead of the Yellow Pages, try the recently opened Massa's Seafood Grill [1331 Lamar, (713)655-9100], across from the Four Seasons Hotel. Thursday nights from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. have been dubbed "Legal Night" -- as opposed to "Illegal Night"? -- and discount cold drinks and a complimentary seafood buffet are offered as weekly bait for attorneys and others in the law profession. Best leave the lawyer jokes for another night, though.

Days of Wine and Tostas
Study Spanish cuisine this summer at Mi Luna [2441 University, (713)520-5025]. Wednesdays are "Wine and Tostas" night, featuring thick slices of crusty bread topped with an assortment of yummies such as portobello mushrooms, crabmeat or Spanish cheeses -- and ten different varieties of Spanish wines, none more than $16 a bottle.

"Our selection of Spanish wines is unmatched in this city," brags Mi Luna's manager Wilfred Quiles. "But stay tuned for our new restaurant downtown -- we're going to do the same thing for Italian wines in a trattoria format." That second restaurant, Mia Bella, is scheduled to open in early June at the corner of Preston and Main, and will feature a select list of "Italian wines you can't get anywhere else," Quiles promises proudly.

Until the Wee Hours
Griff's venerable Montrose sports 'n' suds bar [3416 Roseland, (713)528-9912] now owned by Robert Martinez has expanded its full menu for late-night service all summer long, dishing out burgers and fries with the brewskies right up to the 2 a.m. closing time. "A lot of our regulars are restaurant workers who need a place to go after their own establishments close," notes Martinez. "So it makes sense for us to offer late-night food."

Any army travels on its stomach, even Griff's army of sports fanatics, so Martinez has also introduced a "Millennium Steak Night" on Tuesdays from 6 to 10 p.m. Featuring yer basic blue-collar steak 'n' baked potato plus a pint of domestic brew for just under ten bucks ($9.99, to be exact), it keeps the midweek warriors on the march.


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