The Heights is often associated with being dry, although plenty of area restaurants from casual (Onion Creek) to high-end (Zelko Bistro) have fabulous beer and wine selections. Adding to the mix is the lovely cocktail menu at Shade (250 W. 19th, 713-863-7500).
General manager Rachel Loil tells me the cocktail menu is a new creation born of a desire to offer something a little different at the neighborhood bistro.
Neither classic cocktails nor overly-busy creations, the six cocktails on the short and sweet menu reflect the restaurant's simple and modern aesthetic. The cocktails range from $8 for a standard Dark & Stormy to $10 for three of the slightly more elaborate cocktails.
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"Most people wouldn't think to stop in here for a cocktail," laughed Judy Hendrichsen one evening last week as she sipped a Lemon Sazerac made with rye whiskey and lemon bitters. "But that's what makes it so great."
Almost as soon as she'd said that, a tiny old woman peered into the windows of the restaurant as she shuffled down 19th, looking fresh off an antiquing expedition. With its low-key presence from the sidewalk and its umbrella-shaded side alley filled with tables, Shade can be a bit obfuscating from the street if you've never been inside before. However, it's intimately inviting and almost impossible to leave once you're tucked away at a table in the dining room.
I ordered a Lonestar Dove based solely upon my admiration of Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove, barely even paying a glance to the ingredients. I was pleasantly surprised to get a blushing pink cocktail in a Collins glass. It smelled of grapefruit, and contained a tingling mixture of Siembra Azul tequila, Campari, lime juice, lemon bitters, ginger beer and -- of course -- grapefruit juice.
I couldn't taste the tequila for the sharp bite of the strongly herbal Campari, lemon bitters and effervescent ginger beer. In combination with the citrus juices it was an entirely refreshing, almost sunny cocktail, an odd choice for a fall evening but one that I can't wait to go back for.