Since opening in 2003, The Tasting Room has morphed from a wine bar to a full-service restaurant with four locations—all while retaining its wine-bar charm and racking up numerous awards and accolades. Diners can select libations from a list that boasts more than 200 wines, pairing them with contemporary dishes whipped up by executive chef Jonathan LeBlanc. TTR offerings run the gamut from small plates of mini grilled sandwiches and classic bruschetta to entrees including creole-spiced quail and Jamaican jerk chicken breast, which diners can savor at windowside tables or on the plant-ensconced patio and garden area.
The eatery doesn't just sate hunger for eclectic classics and thirst for fermented grapes. It also hosts live music, meetings, and events such as 2011's Grapes vs. Grains, which pitted beer against wine in a liquid wrestling match. The owners have their hands in other culinary enterprises, too. There's the Houston Cellar Classic, for example, an annual celebration of food and wine. Also popular is MAX's Wine Dive, a destination for gourmet comfort food best defined by its slogan—"Fried chicken and champagne? ... Why the hell not?"
Previously known as The Firkin & Phoenix Pub, The Phoenix on Westheimer didn't necessarily rise from the ashes as much as it transformed into its current incarnation under the watchful eyes of the original owners and management. The cozy tavern maintains the same neighborhood-friendly spirit that made the original pub an inviting stop for regulars and passersby hoping to enjoy a quick meal and a pint. The menu, while updated, also preserves the feel of a traditional pub with favorites ranging from fish 'n' chips to bangers and mash.
Complete with weathered floorboards, dark wooden trim, and chairs and banquettes upholstered with lipstick-red fabric, the decor continues the across-the-pond ambience. 12 LCD televisions hang throughout the space, and five projectors are available for especially important games or marathons of Antiques Roadshow. That's only the regular entertainment, though—the proprietors love to throw special events, including regular trivia nights and viewings for popular TV shows such as The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. The Phoenix also earned a spot on CBS Houston's list of the Top 2014 St. Patrick’s Day Bars In Houston for the St. Patrick's Day party it hosts in its parking lot.
Chefs at Aztecas Margarita Bar & Grill prepare a full menu of authentic Mexican fare including guacamole made to order, dark mole poblano sauces, and fresh ceviche. The pollo Azteca—marinated and chargrilled chicken breast with Azteca sauce, grilled onions, and chili con queso—ignites palates with more flavor and fewer missing teeth than chewing firecrackers. Meanwhile, mariscos mex-tex enchiladas with sautéed shrimp and crab topped with house-made ancho poblano cream sauce follow up orders of Azteca nachos and twice-fried, cheese-filled jalapeños rellenos. The red, green, and yellow walls adorned with exposed bricks and flat-screen TVs surround diners during the day and dancers twirling to live music or DJs throughout the night. Behind the full bar, bartenders pour signature margaritas, frozen or on the rocks, infused with fruit flavors such as guava or mango. An outdoor patio holds additional seating for dining alfresco or picnicking without bears.
A lengthy lineup of traditional game-day fare and a sports atmosphere captivate fans at Fox and Hound - Bailey's, where the kitchen remains open as late as its neighboring fully stocked bar. Chefs cook until the wee hours of the morning and always until the bar closes, baking Bavarian pretzel starters, crafting towers of onion rings, and preparing hand-battered chicken tenders that are cooked until they are golden brown. They blend their own seasonings to sprinkle over grilled-to-order burgers, and draw from a diverse roster of cheeses and toppings to crown their wood-oven-inspired flatbreads.
While manning the bars, bartenders tap into a stash of libations, such as UV Whipped vodka and Patron Silver tequila, to mix their specialty cocktails. To further foster a sporting ambiance, high-definition TVs glow with sports games and custom music-video playlists, and guests partake in pastimes of ump bashing, billiards, or competitive people watching.
Thick branches of 140-year-old oak trees stretch above Live Oak Bar and Grill, shrouding its wooden outdoor patio in a gentle blanket of leafy shade. The patio stands behind the restaurant itself, a home built in 1876 that is still decorated with photos of its original occupants and recent shots of their poltergeists.
And while the building itself is steep in century old history, the grill's cooks prefer to use ingredients whose age doesn’t match Live Oak's historic surrounds. Instead, they source fresh, natural ingredients from local farms to create their homestyle versions of classic bar dishes, from half-pound burgers to fish tacos smothered with jalapeno ranch dressing. Feasts unfold amidst rounds of billiards, sports flashing on flat-screen TVs, and weekly karaoke, while outside, live musicians occasionally take to the stage to serenade diners.
At Skol Casbar & Grille, flames waft aromas of sizzling steaks, fish fillets, and sandwiches to tables where patrons pore over a full menu. Grilled catfish, salmon, and pork chops can be topped with a choice of grilled onions, tomatoes, or mushrooms, and sides such as blackened green beans and garlic potatoes let patrons surprise their mouths without hiding a firecracker in their napkin. Skol Steak Mondays sate twosomes by layering plates with a duo of steaks, garlic mashed potatoes, salads, and drinks.
Skol Casbar & Grille also equips catered events and in-house parties on the restaurant's patio. A selection of barbecue, Mexican, and Italian dishes fuel conversation and can easily be consumed while celebrating birthdays or hosting model U.N. meetings.