The kids are back to school, or maybe you're back in school yourself. While September gives us a peck on the cheek, promising us fall temperatures, our wallets have taken a hit from back to school supplies, refreshed wardrobes, summer vacation splurges and ridiculously priced textbooks.
We're here to help. Houstonians cannot live on cafeteria Sloppy Joes and Lunchables every day. Houston Restaurant Weeks is over, so those deals are gone, but we have found some new happy hour deals and special treats that are friendly on the pocketbook and also give a glimpse into what's available for dining and drinking this fall. Parties on the patio are back as well. Or as we like to call them: partios.
Hugo Ortega is a James Beard Award-winning chef with four restaurants in Houston, but his first restaurant still offers some terrific deals when it comes to delicious food and drink. Backstreet has a happy hour menu that covers all the bases when it comes to adult beverages. For wine drinkers, there is a red and a white option for $6 a glass and $24 a bottle. The refreshing sangria is $5 per glass, $22 per bottle. And bottles of rose are all 50 percent off during happy hour, which runs Monday through Friday, 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. There are also plenty of craft cocktails as well. If you've experienced serious sticker shock lately at some of Houston's bars, you'll be pleasantly surprised at Backstreet's happy hour bargains. The Garden Mule, made with vodka, ginger beer, lime and mint with a refreshing garnish of cucumber sorbet is a steal at $6. The Classic Mojito and the Original Hugorita are also a good value at $6. For something more exotic, try the Spice Market ($6) made with Evan Williams Apple Bourbon, Pama liqueur, pomegranate, vermouth and spiced syrup. It's autumn in a glass.
Beer drinkers have some inexpensive choices like select Texas beers for $3.50. For a sample of Backstreet's cuisine, there's a happy hour menu which includes scallop crudo ($9), petit lobster sandwich ($7), eggplant pappardelle ($8) and a grilled salmon taco ($5). There is also a special on the Hugo Burger which includes a side of french fries and a half bottle of the 2016 Terrazas Malbec for $32.
BCK is launching its Maker's Mark patio with $5 Maker's Mark cocktails and $2 Buffalo Bayou beers September 11, beginning at 6 p.m.. Patio party people will get a first look at the new 500 square foot outdoor space overlooking Studewood. There's lounge seating, pub cocktail tables and swings. Whether or not you want to swing is up to you. Along with the drink specials, there will be patio games and giveaways. It's also pooch-friendly.
1151-06 Uptown Park
2501 Research Forest
There are a lot of happy hour specials this month, but if you want the flavor and not the booze, CRAVE is offering its cocktail cupcake flight with four delicious flavors, available through September 30.
There's the limoncello, pina colada, peach bellini and CRAVE's classic margarita. For a mini sweet treat box of four, with one mini cupcake of each flavor, it's $12. For a dozen minis, it's $24. You're better off ordering a dozen. For a larger crowd, the regular-sized cupcakes are $44 a dozen, with three of each flavor. You can bring happy hour to the office.
DUO Winery & Cider Co.
2150 Dickinson Avenue
This winery and cidery in Dickinson is owned by Craig and Raquel Jarmasco and is an extension of the family vineyard and winery in Michigan, so many of the wines are produced with Michigan grapes. On the cider side, there are flavors like the original semi-dry, cherry dry and dry-hopped cider. For fall, the company has launched three new flavors, perfect for fruit-forward enthusiasts. The new flavors, blood orange, raspberry and pear, are all served in 16 ounce pints.
The winery will have live music September 13, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. from Coleton Black, nephew of country music star, Clint Black. The best part about it? There is no cover charge, which leaves you more dough to spend on lobster, because DUO will also have Cousins Maine Lobster on site. The food truck is best known from its successful collaboration with Barbara Corcoran, after an appearance on ABC's television show, Shark Tank.
D'Vine Wine Bar
25202 Northwest Freeway
This sleek and sophisticated wine bar is located right off 290 in the Cypress area and has been around for years. It offers an elegant ambiance for sipping a well-kept wine or two. More serious wine drinkers even keep storage lockers at the restaurant. However, for we common winos, a lovely experience with a significant other or an intimate group of friends can be had for reasonable prices. D'Vine's social hour runs Monday through Friday, from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and features some reds and whites for $7 per glass or $25 per bottle and the small selection is well-curated for a happy hour menu.
There are also $7 bar bites to pair with your wine of choice such as tenderloin crostini, tuna poke, arancini and cilantro butter mussels. D'Vine also offers plenty of cheese and charcuterie choices as well.
Check out its Facebook page for daily specials like Wine Down Wednesday which offers a wine tasting with light tapas for $15 (reservations required). There are also late night happy hours on Friday and Saturday from 10 p.m. to 12 p.m.
Kenny and Ziggy's
2327 Post Oak
The delicatessen and restaurant known for its mile-high sandwiches and decadent desserts is now offering a weekday happy hour at its Post Oak location. The specials are available Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and include bottled beers at half price and 50 percent off all wines by the glass.
There's also a new happy hour light bites menu which includes Zaft Tots made with potato, pastrami and cheese, plus hummus with flatbread or the Hot Spinach Schmear with with bagel chips. We think the fried kreplach looks particularly yummy. The happy hour menu items are $8.95.
Maria Rita's Tex Mex
8445 Gulf Freeway
This South Houston restaurant has a kick-ass happy hour, Monday through Friday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Why is it kick-ass? Because you get five hours to enjoy the specials. We aren't saying you should drink for five hours straight, but the generous time allotment allows for a better chance of actually making happy hour after work.
The drink specials are some of the best in town, too. The Maria Rita is $5 while the house rita is $3. No shame in drinking the house rita. I got kids to put through college. Momma can't be drinking top shelf margaritas on a regular basis. For beer drinkers, there are bottled brews for $2.50 and 10 ounce drafts for $2. The queso clasico is also half-price. If that's not kick-ass, we don't know what is.
Oporto Fooding House and Wine
Houston Restaurant Weeks may be over, but this modern Portuguese restaurant offers a three-course lunch that is within the same price range and has a rotating variety of dishes. The Portuguese Power Lunch ($25) offers choices like gazpacho de melao or the petiscos plate (Serrano ham, Manchego cheese, olives) for the first course. For the second course, there may be options like piri piri fried chicken, mushroom tartine or the Iberian burger. For dessert, try the Pastel de Nata (lemon custard tart) or the Bolo de Bolacha (Portuguese tiramisu). For $5, guests can add a glass of house wine or sangria to the power lunch. The lunch special is available Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Oporto also has a weekday happy hour from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and a Saturday social hour from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with drink and bar bites specials.
The Original Ninfa's Uptown Park
1700 Post Oak
Though the Uptown Ninfa's just recently lost its executive chef, Jason Gould, as reported last week here in the Houston Press, it is pressing onward and now has a new happy hour to please Galleria-area workers and shoppers. Guests can choose from refreshing margaritas and specialty cocktails for $7. Beverage consultant, Linda Salinas has created several new cocktails such as the spicy pineapple margarita, the Aztec Negroni (Gracias a Dios Oaxacan gin, Campari and sweet vermouth) and the Carajillo (Licor 43 and espresso). There are select $7 wines and sangria plus $4 Mexican craft beers.
On the snacks side, Alex Padilla, Executive Chef at Legacy Restaurants, has created dishes such as Pulpo a la Lena (wood-grilled octopus, Spanish chorizo and salsa verde), the Spicy Crab and Shrimp Tostada, and Ninfa's "World Famous" Fajita Burger sliders with manchego, harissa-chipotle mayo and grilled onions. All of the happy hour plates are $8.
The specials are available in the bar and patio area from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
2011 Ella Boulevard
If your vacation budget this summer was in staycation mode, Rainbow Lodge has a weekday happy hour that allows for a glamorously rustic lodge experience without jetting off to wilderness locales. Take a seat in the bar and choose from select happy hour wines that vary according to availability, but are usually in the $7-$10 range, with most around $8. There are house martinis like gimlet, vesper, martinez and cosmopolitan for $5. For beer drinkers, there is a limited, but inexpensive selection, including domestic bottles like No Label's El Hefe, Shiner Bock or Bud Light and Miller Lite for $3. There are a couple of draft selections for $3 as well.
The happy hour also features a small bar snacks menu with the restaurants's signature smoked duck gumbo for $4 a cup. Other items include a pulled pork slider ($3), two fried Texas quail bites on cheddar grits ($6) and two pesto grilled shrimp ($5).
550 Heights Boulevard
Now that the butchery/restaurant has its beer and wine license, diners can enjoy hanging out for its new happy hour, which gets an early start at 1 p.m. and runs until 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. The house wines, red, white or rose, are $6 per glass and $24 per carafe.
5895 San Felipe
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The Roastery has launched a new happy hour, Monday through Friday, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The drink specials include $4 Texas draft beers, $5 Select house wines, $5 Margaritas, mules and well cocktails. For nosh, there are $10 pizzas plus $2 off small plates including duck wings, pork belly doughnut sliders and the cheese and meat board.
Saint Arnold Brewing Co.
Houston's oldest microbrewery released a new beer and cider last week. The Guten Tag is a Bavarian-style lager which was originally released in 2017 as part of the brewery's Icon series. It proved a favorite of customers and staff alike, so it has been brought back and is available in six packs and on tap around town. The beer is 5.8 percent ABV and 21 IBU, or International Bitterness Units.
The brewery also released Honey Agave Cider made with Burleson's Honey, out of Waxahachie, Texas. The bright apple flavor comes through with notes of citrus, melon and flowers. The addition of honey and agave helps to balance the tartness of the apple. The cider is 5.9 percent ABV and gluten-free.