Down House was named our 2013 Best Neighborhood Spot in the Heights for Best of Houston. There's no denying that this establishment from Joey Treadway and Chris Cusack has become popular among many Houstonians, especially Heights residents, despite its rocky start.
In 2011, Katharine Shilcutt reviewed Down House, and wasn't quite sure what the restaurant was going for when it opened; it offered coffee, cocktails and meals throughout the day, and seemed to have too much going on at the same time, causing it to have sloppy and inconsistent service.
But now, Down House has come into its own. It still offers an incredible cocktail and coffee program, and dishes up tasty food. If you have yet to visit Down House, please reconsider. And check out these ten reasons to stop by for a cup of coffee, a cocktail during happy hour or for a casual weeknight dinner.
The Heights neighborhood has a few spots to grab a cup of coffee in the morning or mid-day, drinks at night and a few restaurants to enjoy a casual lunch or dinner throughout the week. But, Down House offers all three. Sit at the bar in the back of the restaurant to watch the bartenders whip together inventive cocktails using a wide range of ingredients, like the Pagliacci, a citrus-spice drink blending allspice with honey, lemon, peach liqueur, Karbach Rodeo Clown Double IPA and Broker's gin. But if cocktails and craft beer aren't your thing, maybe a perfectly executed cortado or vanilla latte is.
During my first visit, I was blown away with how comforting and welcoming the restaurant is. But then, my fiancé and I received our dinner plates on mis-matched plates that look EXACTLY like the ones my mom used to serve dinner with when I was a kid -- I just knew I would love this place. It's great to see a restaurant not care about having the standard white plates and identical glassware; if the décor and atmosphere of Down House don't make you feel at home, the dishes will.
Small Plates & Large Plates
You can have three experiences at Down House for dinner. Try a few smaller plates with your dining companions, stick to one larger plate for yourself, or mix and match small plates with larger offerings. The liveliness of Down House creates a welcoming atmosphere for family and friends to share a variety of dishes ranging in type of cuisine, or to enjoy their own meal. The dinner menu is cleverly divided by base ingredients: garden and dairy, land and air, and sea. Pick and choose from either side of the menu (small or large plates) and vary between proteins (or lack there of).
No Meat, No Problem
Because Down House uses local products, vegetarian options are not disregarded and pushed to the side. Each vegetable is treated like it is a protein. In fact, one dish features chicken-fried (despite the name, there's no meat involved) portobello mushrooms served with mashed potatoes, like the popular fried chicken and mashed potatoes meal. But perhaps, the current winter vegetables dish featuring seared cauliflower and broccoli, glazed carrots and wilted tatsoi (Spinach mustard) atop a purée of red lentils is one of the best examples of a vegetarian dish where the meat is certainly not missed. Each vegetable is coated in a mouth-watering spice and the perfect balance of citrus, tempting you to lick the plate clean.
Courteous and Welcoming Staff
It's fitting that the waitstaff makes you feel right at home. Down House's waiters, waitresses, bartenders and host/hostesses make you feel as though you walked into their home and their only job is to cater to you. Each employee puts you at ease, letting you know that your dining experience is going to be awesome -- from helpful recommendations and assistance in deciding between two dishes, to giving you dessert descriptions that will convince you a sweet treat is a necessity.
I love that I can come to Down House and get something completely different each time. For breakfast, I can keep it simple with a scone and coffee, or be adventurous on a Saturday morning with the crawfish croissant. For dinner, I can start with a plate of the Houston Dairymaids' cheese and toasted bread from Slow Dough, then cross countries to a smoked pork quesadilla with green mole sauce and Oaxacan cheese, or the shrimp and grits with a pho broth, Sriracha and bacon -- even the dishes fuse multiple cuisines together.
When a restaurant uses local products and ingredients, it makes me love Houston and Texas so much more. Knowing that just about every ingredient on my plate came from a local vendor or farm, increases the overall enjoyment of my dining experience. Everything is from a Texas farmer -- from the eggs to the cheese, from the fish to the chicken, and from the fruits to the vegetables. You gotta love Texas spirit.
If you can get a spot on that expansive couch in the front for breakfast or to enjoy happy hour drinks with friends after work, you are made in the shade (and you probably won't leave that seat for a while). But, that's not the only comfortable spot in Down House. Tuck away in the side room with a group of friends for an intimate dinner, sit casually in a two-top while on a date, or share many laughs with dining companions outside on the patio. Wherever you are, and whatever you're eating or drinking, you're going to feel at ease.
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Casual Get-Together With Friends, First Date or Millionth Date
Sit down at a table in Down House and look around you. You'll find friends embracing in hugs after not seeing one another in a while, younger couples sharing a first or second date, generations of families gathering for a nightly family dinner, and older couples sharing a bottle of wine and eating the same dish as though it's a ritual. The comfortable and inviting environment Down House provides makes it the perfect meeting place for just about anybody. Not to mention its all-in-one inclusive package of drinks, dinner and dessert makes it a perfect place for a first date.
If there's one dish on the breakfast or brunch menus you should order, it's the breakfast tacos. Two giant-size breakfast tacos with your choice of black beans or homefries (choose the homefries) on the side for $10? Yes, please! Like the dinner menu, you have three taco choices varying in protein: one featuring black beans, queso fresco, avocado and pico de gallo; another with applewood-smoked bacon, egg and Cabot Cheddar cheese; and the third option with curried shrimp, egg, chutney and red onions. Of course, you can always add more avocado, bacon, egg or a duck egg. We recommend you substitute those flour tortillas for a organic corn tortillas from Amaize Artisanal Flatbread in Bellaire.