With patio weather season in full swing, Houstonians are absolutely spoiled for places to enjoy the day outside. And sometimes all you know is that you're in the mood for a patio, but can't figure out where to go. So how do you choose?
Over the next five weeks, we'll be guiding you around Houston's best patios in several different categories:
- Unexpected treasures
- The best places to catch up with friends
- The best places to bring the kids
- The best places to pretend you're on vacation
And this week's category: The best places to drink a glass of wine. Sometimes all you want to do after work or on the weekend is relax in a quiet setting that's doesn't have the pulsing vibrations of a Sunday Funday crowd or dozens of kids underfoot. These are your patios.
With one of the best sommeliers in the city -- Sean Beck -- and one of the prettiest patios, Backstreet is a surefire bet for this category. If you dress up, you can pretend like you're a Lady Who Lunches, even if only for the afternoon. And to quote ourselves, the best thing about Backstreet Cafe is that "the food is better than it has to be."
Of all the Houston patios located near water, Brenner's on the Bayou has the nicest view by far. Being located just down the street from the Hogg Mansion has its benefits, one of which seems to be that the stretch of Buffalo Bayou that runs behind Brenner's is always clean, making for a magnificent view from the rolling, manicured lawns down into the water. It's best enjoyed during the weekly happy hours, when a broad selection of wines by the glass and small bites are offered at surprisingly low prices.
Daily Review Cafe Unlike Backstreet Cafe, the food here can be hit or miss. But you're going for wine and a patio, remember? Daily Review has both of those in spades. To quote the Daily Review's own website, the "wine list is extensive and constantly changing." And you're almost always guaranteed to find something on that list worthy of the beautifully quiet patio.
It's a wine bar by name, so you'd already expect the offerings to be top-notch. But what places Cru on this list is its patio, facing The Woodlands' Market Square, which is one of the absolute best places for people-watching in the entire city-unto-itself that the suburb has built near Cynthia Woods Mitchell and the developing Waterway.
Much like Cru in The Woodlands, the strength of the Vineyard's patio is its great people-watching along the Sugar Land Town Square. But more than just a nice patio, the Vineyard also has a state-of-the-art Enomatic wine system that allows it to offer up to 48 wines by the glass at any given time. And as at Block 7 Wine Co., you can purchase wines from its retail side to drink with no corkage fee, then take the rest home if you don't finish a bottle.
This is the newest on the list, but it made quite a heavy-hitting impression on our first visit. Tucked into the side yard of a nondescript house on Sunset, Simone is a neighborhood joint in every sense of the term. But feel free to invade it anyway (if you can find parking). A small but interesting wine list along with a pleasant patio that looks like someone took a slice of Tiny Boxwoods and relocated it to West U made Simone an instant winner for us.
Zimm's seems purpose-built for snacking on small dishes and quaffing interesting glasses of wine, which rotate nightly. The "good, better and best" options by-the-glass are listed on the chalkboard inside (admittedly, not my favorite system). In the winter, there's a toasty fireplace outside, and in the summer, you can play pétanque between glasses of white.
Is there a prettier sight in all of Houston than a bustling city park filled with farmers' market shoppers, little kids in swimsuits, happy dogs with Frisbees and beautiful old oak trees among the green grass? That's the view onto Discovery Green on Sundays from The Grove, although the view is equally fetching on every other day of the week -- especially from the second-story patio onto the downtown skyline at dusk. Add a respectable wine list with plenty of intriguing options by the glass, and you have a stunner.
Ignore the silly name, because Crapitto's is paradoxically one of the most lovely and romantic restaurants in town. To quote its website, the little Italian restaurant on Mid Lane is tucked into "a converted farmhouse under 100-year-old oak trees," the same broad-limbed oaks that make patio dining in Houston such a splendid affair. It also has an impressive number of wines by the glass as well as a pricey cellar selection that's ideal for a special occasion.
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One of the only good things about the criminally low occupancy rate at the Carillon Center in West Houston is that wine connoisseurs get a whole lot of space to spread out at Vintropolis. The massive patio is also dog-friendly, so feel free to bring along your vino-loving four-legged pals. Even better: There are at least a dozen wines on the wine bar's massive list that are only $5 by the glass.