In this month's issue of GQ Magazine, chef and restauranteur David Chang offers a take on why he thinks the best seat in the house is at the bar. "When I'm eating at the bar of an amazing restaurant--like, say, Del Posto, Mario Batali's super-luxurious Italian mecca--I'm usually free from a commitment to a multi-course meal, and I never have to make a reservation," he says.
In Houston, there are plenty of excellent bar dining options, both for the solo diner and for anyone who just loves eating at the bar. Here are our top picks. Care to share yours?
5. Mockingbird Bistro. About five years ago, chef/owner John Sheely remodeled his bar area, expanding the seating area so that there are now a cool 18 seats. In addition to a great happy hour, the bar is also a huge lure for solo diners and couples looking for a low-key, casual meal of Sheely's signature Texas-meets-Provencal cuisine.
4. Brasserie 19. There's something about this restaurant that always attracts an attractive crowd. Could it be the bar? Stop in any weekend night and you'll see that it's always packed, not just with people nursing a drink, but with diners indulging in a full Frenchie meal. Foie gras torchon with hot baked baguette and a glass of wine is always good.
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3. Coppa Osteria. Taking a cue from its predecessor, Coppa Ristorante, this Rice Village hotspot has a gorgeous bar that makes it easy, not just to mix and mingle, but to dine. Craving a bowl of chef Brandi Key's famous spaghetti carbonara, or want to tuck into a bite of thin-crust pizza topped with coppa and quail egg? This is the place to get it.
2. Uchi. Not only are the sushi bar seats the best in the house, but Uchi reserves them for walk-ins, which means you don't need reservations to be dining in front of all of the sushi chefs, who hand you food across the bar as it's completed, ensuring that your dinner is not only beautifully fresh, but timed perfectly.
1. Artisans. Designed by Austin-based architect Michael Hsu, chef Jacques Fox's Artisans French restaurant is actually modeled after Joel Robuchon's famed L'Atelier, credited in Chang's article as the restaurant that kicked off the bar dining trend in fine dining circles. There are a cool 28 seats at the bar, all of them with unobstructed views of the action happening in the open, exhibition-style kitchen, where Fox and his culinary team put on a masterful show, complete with sizzling skillets and intricate plating.
Honorable mentions to Max's Wine Dive, Etoile Cuisine et Bar, Provisions, Piola, Kata Robata, and Brooklyn Athletic Club.