The soothing sounds of the saxophone and the call of the trumpet fill the air inside the Red Cat Jazz Café. Several nights a week, artists such as Brian Best and Dean James play on the café's stage, which also hosts boisterous events including the Sunday Jazz Brunch. Open-mic nights let lesser-known acts make a splash, and happy hours and special events encourage artistic expression through words, mixed drinks, and opportunities to complain about coworkers in song.
As an international jazz club, Cafe 4212 Jazz Bar & Grill treats guests to a rotating lineup of blues singers as well as a seasonal menu of eclectic and classic dishes. Cafe 4212’s chefs use fresh and locally grown ingredients when available to crafts hors d'oeuvres such as fruit kebabs and Jamaican-style meat patties as well as entrees of praline-pecan ham and Cajun shrimp. Diners can also sip international wines, imported and microbrewed beers, specialty cocktails, and martinis.
Jazz performances on weekend nights and during Sunday brunch send patrons heading for Cafe 4212’s dance floor. Walls ornamented with red and gold hues pop against the restaurant’s ivory-clothed tables and tan leather couches, and a large outdoor patio supplies a romantic setting for couples to take in some fresh air or scream at passing airplanes.
After 20 years in Houston's culinary scene, Monica Pope was in need of a change. In 2012, she reinvented her signature restaurant t'afia to create Sparrow Bar + Cookshop. The name makes a statement not only because it highlights the lineup of spirited beverages (think quirky, organic-gin cocktails and a wine list that includes Texas sakes), but also because it revives the medieval concept of a cookshop: a communal food stop where travelers and the locals who lacked their own kitchens once gathered. For Monica, the term conjured a rustic, uncaged mentality that she reflects each day in her restaurant’s industrial-yet-cozy environs and on the daily changing, localvore menus that have been profiled by publications such as Eater.
When she's not leading in-house cooking classes, Monica is busy innovating in the kitchen. Her seasonal dishes include apps such as watermelon-radish salad and chili-peanut and black bean soup (which the menu invites you to share…or not) and entrees such as a lamb cutlet with saffron-sherry aioli or a date-covered Gulf red snapper that celebrate American, Mediterranean, and Asian flavors. The menu’s one constant, a portobello or longhorn burger, welcomes customization with ingredients such as beet chutney and crushed avocado or the chef's signature written in red-curry catsup.
Servers dressed in blue-suede boots and handmade-leather welding aprons ferry these dishes through an environment that Alison Cook characterized as exuding a "raw industrial warmth" in her Houston Chronicle review. Pope's attention to "keen visual detail” has produced an exposed-brick space in which metal ceiling girders and oxidized pizza-pan lanterns hang over custom laminated-wood chairs at black metal tables. Antique columns hold up a communal table made from a thick slab of salvaged wood around which private dining parties gather.
Give your evening meal the ineffable quality of a trusted TV news anchor with today's Groupon to Gravitas. For $15, you'll get $30 worth of American bistro cuisine. The artfully designed eatery has garnered plenty of media buzz with mentions in Texas Monthly and Houston Modern Luxury, and boasts a renowned founder and chef (Scott Tycer, of Benjy's, Spago Palo Alto, and Aries Restaurant fame). And best of all, there's no limit to the number of Groupons you can buy (although only one is allowed per table, and the owners discourage using your Groupons to purchase the entire restaurant).
La Fendee invites diners to feast on a menu of flavorful Mediterranean fare, including shawarma, kebabs, and falafels. Teach fingers the art of the hummus shovel with pita bread baked fresh in a clay oven ($5.99), or pinion sautéed portobello mushrooms ($5.99) between the fine tines of your fork. A pita stuffed with ground beef, herbs, and spices and roasted over an open fire ($13.99) makes a savory meat pie envied by apple streusels everywhere. Fire-grilled beef kebabs ($13.99) and plates of golden falafels ($11.99) round out the entree offerings. For dessert, the baklava's mille feuille of flaky phyllo dough enrobes a smooth pistachio or walnut filling ($2.29). Diners can cap off the banquet while puffing clouds of mint, apple, and citrus-flavored hookah in the dining room or on the outdoor patio. A BYOB establishment, La Fendee lets guests bring their own wine or beer for a $5.95 corkage fee.
Creative team TJ and Merlina Porter, both Clear Lake natives, joined forces with JeMarr Rivers to open a bar and lounge that offered an upscale, sophisticated nightlife scene. As of December 2011, JeMarr has trekked on as the sole owner while still maintaining the luxe atmosphere that draws crowds for nightly dancing and partying. An expansive interior paves the way for individuals or large parties, with a full reservation and VIP area for nights on the town or special occasions. The full bar slings beer, liquor, frequent specials, and 13 flavors of daiquiris, many of which are made with Everclear so that they can be used as a torch in the event of a power outage. During the week, live entertainment including jazz bands, standup comedy, and poetry readings fill the soundscape, and DJs spin tunes almost every night. Cultivating a truly carefree yet mature atmosphere, Daiqui-Ritas often hands out complimentary door prizes, which patrons can enjoy as they watch any of the lounge's five big screen TVs.