It occurred to me -- perhaps too late -- that the owners of Line & Lariat, which is the subject of this week's cafe review, may not appreciate my saying that there's a confusing lack of diners at the downtown restaurant. After all, one of my friends recently noted: Houston diners are afraid to eat at empty restaurants.
I've watched this phenomenon with interest and even participated in it myself over the years, much to my own chagrin. There's a kernel of truth to the idea that you don't want to eat at a place others seem to actively avoid -- after all, it could be for a very good reason, like a chef who routinely attacks diners with meat tenderizers or food that turns you purple for 48 hours.
But just as likely is the idea that you -- and everyone else -- are missing out on an undiscovered or unappreciated gem. I felt that way entering The Chili Shak on two separate occasions, the spartan interior bereft of patrons despite Bernard Montgomery's amazing chili. And I feel that way when I'm dining at Line & Lariat. People are simply missing out.
Is that presumptuous to say? Maybe. But I firmly believe that chef David Luna is cooking the best food that no one is eating.
It could be for one of several reasons. Chief among them is the taint of failure left by two high-profile restaurants, which departed the dining room at the Hotel Icon in quick succession. Although it can't be argued that either restaurant was a failure in terms of the creative, well-crafted food it served -- both Bank and its successor, Voice, possessed top-notch kitchens and talent -- it could be argued that both set the stage for the kind of expectations which Line & Lariat is actively looking to defy. And I believe that the third time could be the charm for this space now that Line & Lariat is changing things up.
Both Bank and Voice were expensive. And both served food that would probably be described as "esoteric" by your average traveler (you know -- those people who actually stay in the hotel above the dining room) and your average downtown office worker.
Not at Line & Lariat, though. The food is highly accessible -- modern Texan fare that runs the gamut from flat-iron steaks and big, beefy burgers to more Creole dishes like gumbo, shrimp and grits and a charcuterie plate that includes smoked housemade boudin -- and it's not terribly expensive.
But this is only a brief introduction to the food at Line & Lariat. Read this week's cafe review to get up to speed on some of the best and brightest Texas food that downtown -- or any other part of Houston -- has to offer, or simply do yourself a favor and go. Just remember to bring a friend. Or three.