The Spread: Penthouse Club on Winrock

It’s probably a misdemeanor to say this, but I’m pretty sure the ribs at the Penthouse Club were the best I’ve had in Houston.

Perhaps it was a fluke; my dining companions found the meat somewhat dry – could I have gotten the only two perfect specimens in the batch? Could be. But I prefer to think they don’t know what they’re talking about – after all, do they have big-time jobs reviewing buffets?

Located at 2618 Winrock, just off Westheimer, in the tangle of stoplights and strip malls west of the Galleria, the Penthouse Club can be difficult to get to, but there is ample parking. And the ambiance is both upscale and relaxed – we dined under warmly lit glass chandeliers, and, if conversation turned dull, there were a series of flat-screen TV’s hanging above the bar, set to different stations so as to appeal to as much of the clientele as possible.

Half of my pleasurable experience, though, was due to our waitress, who was kind enough to salt the tip of my Corona bottle. She also told us the good news about Penthouse’s happy hour -- $1.50 wells and domestics. That certainly made us happy!

Thursday was BBQ buffet day, so the offerings included brisket in addition to the ribs. I was enjoying my ribs too much to test the brisket, which was definitely my companions’ favorite. Creamy garlic mashed potatoes were also on hand; half of it was covered in gorgeous melted cheese, for those, like myself, who are in a rush for arteriosclerosis. I also sampled a few spoonfuls of some sort of macaroni-and-cheese concoction made with fusilli instead of mac. It was good, but underwhelming.

We were all bemused by what appeared to be a hybrid of a tater-tot and a jalapeño popper. Two of my companions weren’t big fans, maybe because we couldn’t completely discern its origin, but I thought it was delicious.

Curiously, I completely missed the salad-and-fruit bar; I was stuffed by the time my friends brought it to my attention. I had just a nibble of the potato salad, which was fresh and creamy. My friend said her regular salad was fresh and tasty as well.

I think our biggest complaint was not with the vittles, but with the music. They played what sounded like two long Nine Inch Nails songs back-to-back, which didn’t exactly set a comforting mood for a nice friendly meal. It was slow, dark, and droning. Who wants to listen to that while trying to enjoy a salad? Maybe it was just me, though – the rest of the partrons didn’t seem to mind, or even notice. But fortunately for me, things picked up with a nice upbeat jam by the Cult, followed by AC/DC. (A note on the patrons: They were mostly single men, or men in small groups. The Penthouse Club has a very odd dining code that prohibits women from entering unless accompanied by a man. I don't know why this is; the Golden Corrall has managed to reign for decades as the world's best buffet without such a silly rule.)

While I can’t speak for the rest of the week’s buffet line-up, Thursdays are definitely a good day at Penthouse. With plenty of parking and seating, it’s perfect for the whole family. Just make sure you get those ribs before anyone else! -- Craig Malisow

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