Life has changed for this food writer. As a brand-new mom, poppin’ bottles has taken on a slightly different meaning. But while I find myself seeking out diaper changing tables for the first time ever, I’m still on the hunt for all the awesome happy hours, exciting menus and H-town icons, both new and old. Only now, I’m bringing my baby, Quinn, along with me. This “Whining and Dining” series looks at dining out with a baby in the city (more specifically, In the Loop, because Quinn doesn’t like to travel too far from home just yet).
Fans of Coltivare’s cacio e pepe may have heard that the pasta has been available on Wednesday nights at sister concept, Night Heron; and I’m happy to confirm that the special has now made its way onto Night Heron’s menu full-time (along with a full menu of globally-inspired food, as the spot has since transitioned from a bar/restaurant hybrid into a full-blown neighborhood bistro).
Prior to that announcement, my little family and our friends, who also have a baby, were gearing up for a much-needed Wine Wednesday on Night Heron’s patio. Our mission: to have some pasta (and some wine) before our kids’ bedtime.
We arrived around 6 p.m. and grabbed a spot with ample stroller space on the outdoor shaded patio. There were a few other friendly patrons on the patio that night, each with pasta at the table — turns out the special’s popularity was one of the reasons owners Ryan Pera, Morgan Weber and Vincent Huynh decided to transition the concept.
Before digging into the ‘sgetti, we started with a few items that also remain on the new menu: the turmeric chicken frites and crispy fried potatoes (ours were curry spiced, but today you’ll find the taters studded with nutty Pecorino and fresh herbs). Both items were thoroughly enjoyed by we four adults and the nearly one-year old child, while Quinn thoroughly enjoyed her own special appetizer, a “baba.”
With the kiddos occupied, we took advantage of happy hour (all day Tuesday and 5-7 p.m. Wednesday-Friday), making our way through Salty Dog and Margarita cocktails and wines like the Corte alla Flora Sangiovese. Today, you’ll find an expanding wine menu with an Old World backbone, focusing on (but not limited to) Italian wines, in addition to craft beers and cocktails. Other changes include making the interior more comfortable for diners, removing couches and replacing them with more dining tables (and the restaurant confirmed high chairs are soon to come).
Out on the patio, the sun was slowly fading and we were settling into the main event: four bowls of spaghetti cacio e pepe (at the time, each came with a glass of wine so we each ordered our own, but going forward I’d share the bowl along with a few other small plates and entrees). Hit heavy with black pepper and parmesan, the creamy, dreamy pasta was right on par with Coltivare’s.
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Quinn and I plan to return to check out the concept's new bistro feel, dig into some more pasta and try a few new plates — the chicken saltimbocca, roasted cauliflower and steamed mussels are calling to us.
TL;DR: Expect full-flavored dishes at this newly-transitioned bistro concept, which rocks a family-friendly patio, more interior seating and cozy, neighborhood vibe. While there is no kids’ menu, even the little ones can get down with chicken frites, crispy potatoes and ‘sghetti.
Kid-Friendly Dining Essentials
Parking: Small lot, street parking
Seating: Booster seats available, with high chairs to come
Bathrooms: No changing tables
Kids menu: No, though there are items kids can enjoy, from crispy potatoes and chicken frites to foccacia, buttery pasta and cucumber salad
Night Heron, 1601 West Main, 713-527-8010