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?"
It's a good idea to arrive early at Movie Tavern, and not only if you hate missing the opening credits. Early birds can peruse the extensive menu of chef-crafted American cuisine, from kobe beef sliders to pizza and sandwiches. But even after the show begins, the snacks keep coming. Unobtrusive servers slip in during the show to deliver orders, and can be called on for more drinks or dessert with the push of a button. Guests can even sip margaritas or signature cocktails at the full bar before heading in to the theater. The family-friendly establishment also serves finger food for kiddies.
As for the entertainment, audiences get to enjoy all-digital presentations of first-run films any day of the week, plus Retro Cinema every Wednesday morning at 11:30 a.m. as well as Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m. Audiences also benefit from Movie Tavern's membership program. Anyone can sign up for free online to receive one free bag of popcorn, plus a free ticket every year on their birthday, special offers, movie news, and invites to screenings and other special events.
Surrounded by Winetopia's brick-laden walls, visitors sample a succinct selection of tapas, absorb the notes of live music and karaoke, and explore the flavors of rare wines gathered from around the world. In the dining room, the arched tops of built-in wine cabinets fit snugly into exposed-brick walls, and the chatter of guests clustered around intimate tables syncs with the clinks of wineglasses alighting on a granite-top bar. A menu of small plates romances appetites with everything from light snacks, such as marcona almonds and indian popcorn, to more substantial morsels, including veggie samosas. Plates strewn with various cheeses find companionship in chatty napkins and the sweet notes of fresh fruit or the deep flavor of assorted cold cuts. The rotating selection of more than 200 small-production wines overrides the need for a formal list, so instead sommeliers pilot patrons through vinos imported from New Zealand, South Africa, Oregon, and Argentina. The less traveled can charter entire flights of wine or sign up for a tasting class, or eschew grapey spirits altogether for one of the bar’s 59 domestic or imported beers.
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.
At The Mezzanine Lounge, a sports-oriented upstairs and a lower-level lounge stack atop each other inside the double-decker bar that Citysearch named Best Sports Bar in 2008 and 2009. The kitchen, like the bar, stays open until 2 a.m. daily, grilling chicken tenders and fresh half-pound patties for burgers such as the Twisted Texas burger, slathered in spicy barbecue sauce and topped with jalapeños. DIRECTV and other cable packages wire round the clock sports coverage to the bars’ more than 30 TVs sprinkled artfully throughout the venue, supplying clear sightlines from anywhere, including the restrooms. Between strolls to the covered patio, patrons can aim cues atop red felt pool tables and drop quarters into an internet-capable jukebox, which stocks more than 150 CDs and can download further titles or add fictitious Grammy wins to Percy Sledge’s Wikipedia page.