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Holiday Survival Guide: Best New Bars of 2013

December 15th, 2013 No Comments

Mary Rambin Drinking a Beer

When I go home over the holidays, I like to try the new hot spots all of my friends have been raving about. Thrillist just posted this list that includes bars from all over the country.  They rarely lead me astray, so if you see your city, give their rec a shot!

Click here to read the full article with descriptions of each place.

Atlanta

Austin

  • CRAFT PRIDE
    What you’re getting: A Jester King seasonal
  • WHISLER’S
    What you’re getting: The Dealer’s Choice

Cambridge, MA

  • BEAT HÔTEL
    What you’re getting: A VFW Old Fashioned

Charleston, NC

THE RAREBIT
What you’re getting: Moscow Mule with homemade Sweatman’s ginger beer

Chicago

  • BILLY SUNDAY
    What you’re getting: Fernet & Cola
  • THREE DOTS AND A DASH
    What you’re getting: Poipu Beach Boogie Board; a Treasure Chest (if you’re a baller and/or shot-caller)
  • PUNCH HOUSE
    What you’re getting: Dusek Punch

Dallas

Houston

Las Vegas

  • VELVETEEN RABBIT
    What you’re getting: The Crucifix in a Deathhand; the Burning Bush

Los Angeles

  • NO VACANCY
    What you’re getting: A delicious gin cocktail
  • HONEYCUT
    What you’re getting: Any drink on their extensive list; the Toucan Sam if they’ve got it

Louisville

  • EL CAMINO
    What you’re getting: Whatever sweet tiki drink Susie Hoyt wants to make you

Miami

  • DROGERIE
    What you’re getting: The Pain Killer

Milwaukee

Minneapolis

Nashville

  • PINEWOOD SOCIAL
    What you’re getting: The Honesty of Constant Human Error

New Orleans

New York

  • TØRST
    What you’re getting: A beer you’ve never heard of before that’s probably been barrel-aged
  • DEAD RABBIT
    What you’re getting: Morning Reviver
  • AMERICAN WHISKEY
    What you’re getting: Remember the Maine

Oakland

Portland

San Diego

San Francisco

  • TRICK DOG
    What you’re getting: Eye of the Tiger
  • MIKKELLER BAR
    What you’re getting: A crazy sour beer you’ve never heard of

Seattle

Washington DC

  • 2 BIRDS 1 STONE
    What you’re getting: The Daily Punch
  • BLUEJACKET
    What you’re getting: James & the Giant; the Stroppy pale ale

 

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“Where should we go for dinner tonight?”

September 13th, 2013 No Comments

Thrillist iPhone App

 

When the questions arises, I can NEVER think of the places on my wish list or Eater’s hit list.  No more guessing or driving around in circles with the new Thrillist iPhone app.  

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New Houston restaurants take a healthy approach to comfort food

February 7th, 2013 2 Comments

Houstonians are infamous for loving their food drown in butter, salt, and sauce. Don’t deny it, you know it’s true. That’s why the gastropub has been such a big hit. So when chefs go the opposite direction, I instantly have respect for them.

Lucille’s (Museum District)

Chris Williams, owner and chef of Lucille’s and graduate of Le Cordon Blue in Austin, prepares southern food with elegance.
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Every dish is one you would recognize – biscuits, fried green tomatoes, ribs, fried chicken, shrimp ‘n grits – but he prepares them with a lighter hand than most.
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I expect this tendency comes from eating all over the world in his travels. Unfortunately the venue itself is a little bright and loud for my liking, but no one else at my table seemed to mind. The mixologist at the bar and the sommelier on staff take as much pride in their contributions as well.

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I had the pleasure of meeting all of them the night we visited on the expansive back patio overlooking the sizable herb garden, a perfect place for a private party.

Corner Table (Upper Kirby)

I don’t know that many Houstonians follow a Paleo diet, but they’ll be raving about that portion of Bruce Molzan’s menu at the new restaurant Corner Table, located in the old Brownstone building behind West Ave. The menu design is quite tacky, but that is not indicative of the food on it.

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Bruce, famous and infamous in town for Ruggles and Ruggles Green, has always been respected for his talent. Now he is helming the kitchen himself to prepare some of the the healthiest and tastiest food in town.

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I went with a group and tried a sampling of what felt like almost everything. Aside from the Paleo concept, each dish has yet another surprise to offer.

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For example, the Paleo turkey bolognese combines a savory hearty sauce with sweet and light spaghetti squash noodles. That was hands down our favorite.

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Salads were unlike anything you would make at home. The almond-meal crusted fried chicken was heavenly. He even made a simple roasted chicken and veggie plate interesting. I could eat there three times a week because the menu offers so many healthy options!

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My pictures just don’t do the food justice. The venue itself is loud but decorated nicely.
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Molzan and his partners will be opening up The Oak Bar, a coffee bar, and some sort of lounge (in place of Red Door) to complete the complex. Coffee will be from one of my favorite local roasters, Boomtown Coffee.

Both Lucille’s and Corner Table are exceptional, although I prefer Corner Table as the menu is more extensive and the ambiance is more to my liking.

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Triniti wins a divine spot in the Houston food scene

March 5th, 2012 No Comments

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When I walked into Triniti hidden off South Shepherd tonight, I was so excited to see this dining room. Beautiful isn’t it?!

Instantly, from the looks of the room and the menu, I realized it is a once-a-month dinner, not a weekly stop.

All of my friends have been talking about Triniti’s popularity,  so I knew sneaking in early on a Sunday night would be the best way to get in without a reservation. Because the AC was on full blast, we opted to leave the beautiful dining room to sit on their little outdoor patio.

The menu was right up my alley: refined and fresh “California French” as they call it.

20120304-191906.jpgRoot veggies w/black quinoa + cucumber sauce

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On the other hand, for the the average Houstonian (aka my mother across the table), the dishes were unapproachable.  Per usual in this situation, she requested the burger which they usually only offer at lunch. The root veggie app was all I was hungry for, but after getting the fresh tuna tartar as an amuse bouche, I wish I had room for the stripped bass.

My favorite part was asking the waitress who had to ask other staff for their twitter handle.  Her response: we don’t have one!  If you’re in the food industry and don’t have and frequently use a twitter handle, that’s stupid, and I tweeted as much.  That tweet was quickly passed around and garnered a response from @TrinitiHouston and Exec Chef @ryanhildee with their presence.

The threesome that created Triniti wins because the decor and food are truly unique for Houston.  The closest restaurants I can think of to it are  The Grove downtown, Randy Evan’s Haven, or even the new and popular farm-to-table Sorrell.  Although I didn’t get to see if for myself, the atmosphere for dinner should be trendy and alive going off of the buzz around town. However, I wonder how long the lust will last (a la Ava).  Houstonians like the same old things.  Historically, that cuisine would be described as “traditional,” not “modern.”  So go now while it’s hot!

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My new go-to for mani pedis in Houston is next door to the new Snap Kitchen.

January 20th, 2012 3 Comments

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$10 mani. $38 mani and pedi. And it lasts!!

You have probably passed Nails Pro on Memorial Drive (just west of Westcott) a million times and never thought to stop in. One day I did, and was so pleasantly surprised with the quiet salon and quality service.

Meet Nancy:

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Her manicures last a week on my claws. I’ve been to her 4 times now to make sure her skills were consistent. She has yet to disappoint me!

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They’ve got big comfy chairs for pedicures. And they’re rarely busy so just drop in.

Nails Pro
5710 Memorial Drive 77007
713-880-2799

Open EVERDAY!
M-F 9-7
Sat 8:30-6
Sun 11-6

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My kind of party

October 22nd, 2011 No Comments

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In my opinion, Texas at its best: dancin’, drinkin’, boot scootin’, and laughin’ the night away…Here’s proof it still exists in the city limits.

Night y’all.

(At Blanco’s on West Alabama)

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The “Best” Restaurants in Houston

August 11th, 2011 2 Comments

If you’re local or just soooo curious about what you’re missing out on.  The places mentioned here are the classic Houston spots, which is exactly where you should be going if you’re visiting.

Listed are the official winners and my favorites.

Best Caffeine Fix

Winner: Agora

Finalists: Agora, Antidote, Catalina, Inversion, Paulie’s

MARY’S FAVORITE: CATALINA COFFEE

Best Breakfast

Winner: Buffalo Grille

Finalists: Barnaby’s, Buffalo Grille, Empire Cafe, 59 Diner, the breakfast klub

MARY’S FAVORITE: BARNABY’S

Best Hamburgers (No Frills)

Winner and Mary’s Favorite: Becks Prime

Finalists: Becks Prime, Christian’s Tailgate, Lankford Grocery, Pappas Burgers, Prince’s Hamburgers

Best Hamburgers (Creative)

Winner: The Burger Guys

Finalists: Bernie’s Burger Bus, Branch Water Tavern, Hubcap Grill, Max’s Wine Dive, The Burger Guys

Best American

Winner: Barnaby’s Cafe

Finalists: Barnaby’s Cafe, Benjy’s, Ruggles Green, Max’s Wine Dive, Beaver’s

MARY’S FAVORITE: RUGGLES GREEN

Best BBQ

Winner AND Mary’s Favorite: Goode Co. Barbecue

Finalists: Demeris, Goode Co. Barbecue, Luling City BBQ, Otto’s, Pizzitola’s

Best Crawfish

Winner: Ragin Cajun

Finalists: Bayou City Seafood, Danton’s Seafood, Mardis Gras Grill, Pappadeaux, Ragin Cajun

Best Chinese

Winner: Fung’s Kitchen

Finalists: Cafe Chino, Dragon Bowl, Fung’s Kitchen, Gigi’s Asian Bistro, Kam’s Fine Chinese, Shanghai River

Best French

Winner AND Mary’s Favorite: Cafe Rabelais

Finalists: Bistro Le Cep, Brasserie Max & Julie, Cafe Rabelais, Le Mistral, Philippe

(For a more affordable option, Mary seriously loves La Madeline)

Best Gulf Coast Cuisine (Casual)

Winner AND Mary’s Favorite: Brennan’s

Finalists: Brennan’s, Danton’s Gulf Coast Kitchen, Ouisie’s Table, Ragin’ Cajun, Tony Mandola’s

Best Indian

Winner: Indika

Finalists: Bombay Brasserie, Indika, Khyber North Indian Grill, Kiran’s, Red Lion Pub

Best Italian (Casual)

Winner AND Mary’s Favorite: Carrabba’s

Finalists: Carrabba’s, Collina’s, D’Amico’s, Damian’s, Giacomo’s Cibo e Vino, Prego

(Although Pasqual was not mentioned and Damian’s is not casual in my opinion.)

Best Italian (Upscale)

Winner: La Griglia

Finalists: Da Marco Cucino e Vino, Grotto, La Griglia, Nino’s, Vincent’s

MARY’S FAVORITE: DA MARCO

(La Griglia should be under casual and I would choose Carrabba’s over LG.)

Best Latin

Winner: Churrascos

Finalists: Amazon Grill, Americas, Churrascos, El Meson, Julia’s Bistro, Mi Luna, Tintos

MARY’S FAVORITE: AMERICAS

Best Mediterranean

Winner: Niko Niko’s Greek

Finalists: Aladdin Mediterranean Cuisine, Dimassi’s Mediterranean Buffet, Fadi’s Mediterranean Grill, Niko Niko’s Greek, Yia Yia Mary’s

MARY HATES NIKO NIKO

Best Mexican

Winner: Ninfa’s on Navigation

Finalists: Chuy’s, Cyclone Anaya’s, El Tiempo, Hugo’s, Ninfa’s on Navigation

MARY’S $$ FAVORITE: ESCALANTES IN HIGHLAND VILLAGE (then El Tiempo or Cantina)

MARY’S CHEAP FAVORITE: CHUY’S ON WESTHEIMER

Best Pizza (Traditional)

Finalists: Antonio’s Flying Pizza, Candelari’s, Collina’s, Fuzzy’s Pizza, Star Pizza

Winner: Star Pizza

MARY’S FAVORITE: PALAZZO’S

Best Pizza (Nontraditional)

Winner: Pink’s Pizza

Finalists: Bombay Pizza, Cafe Pita, ERA, Pink’s Pizza

MARY’S FAVORITE: TINY BOXWOOD’S

Best Seafood(Casual)

Winner: Goode Co. Seafood

Finalists: Eddie V’s, Goode Co. Seafood, Masraff’s, Pesce, Reef

MARY’S FAVORITE: EDDIE V’S (OR PESCE)

(However, Goode Co. is the only casual one on the list. The other ones are upscale and $$)

Best Steakhouse

Winner AND Mary’s Favorite: Pappas Bros Steakhouse

Finalists: Fleming’s Steakhouse, Pappas Bros Steakhouse, Perry’s Steakhouse Taste of Texas, Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse

WAIT!  IT’S A TIE: I REALLY LOVE VIC AND ANTHONY’S TOO! (They’re on opposite sides of town.  Let geography decide.)

Best Susi

Winner and Mary’s Favorite: Kata Robata

Finalists: Azuma, Blue Fish House, Kata Robata, Oishii, RA Sushi, Sushi King

Best Thai

Winner: Thai Cottage

Finalists: Asia Market, Nidda Thai, Padthai Thai, Thai Cottage, Vieng Thai

Best Vietnamese

Winner: Mai’s Restaurant

Finalists: Huynh Restaurant, Kim Son Restaurant, Les Givral Cafe, Mai’s Restaurant, Van Loc Restaurant

Best Service

Winner and Mary’s Favorite: Brennan’s

Finalists: Brennan’s, Hugo’s, Mark’s American Cuisine, Mockingbird Bistro, Tony’s, Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse

Best Fine Dining

Winner and Mary’s Favorite: Brennan’s

Finalists: Brennan’s, Hugo’s, Mark’s American Cuisine, Mockingbird Bistro, Reef

Best Vibe

Winner and Mary’s Favorite: Backstreet Cafe

Finalists: Backstreet Cafe, Benjy’s, Brennan’s, Max’s Wine Dive, Ninfa’s on Navigation

Best Vibe Newcomer: Up

Best View

Winner: Rainbow Lodge

Finalists: Arista, Beck’s Prime (Memorial Park), Brenner’s Steakhouse on the Bayou, Rainbow Lodge, The Grove

MARY’S FAVORITE: BRENNER’S

Best Food On Wheels

Winner: Bernie’s Burger Bus

Finalists: Bernie’s Burger Bus, Eatsie Boys, Htown StrEATS, Fusion Taco, Melange Creperie

MARY’S FAVORITE: EATSY BOYS

Best Newcomer

Winner: El Real Tex-Mex

Finalists: Ava Kitchen & Wine Bar, Brasserie 19, El Real Tex-Mex, Philippe, Pondicheri

MARY’S FAVORITE: BRASSERIE 19

Best Patio

Winner and Mary’s Favorite: Backstreet Cafe

Finalists: Backstreet Cafe, Brenner’s on the Bayou, Cedar Creek, Onion Creek, Tiny Boxwood

Best SLGT (Support Local Grow Together)

Winner and Mary’s Favorite: Haven

Finalists: Haven, Laurenzo’s, Revival Market, Stella Sola, T’afia, Zelko Bistro

Best Farmers’ Market

Winner: Urban Harvest Farmers Market

Finalists: Canino’s Produce, Houston Farmers Market at Rice Village, Midtown Farmers Market/T’afia, Revival Market, Urban Harvest Farmers Market

Best Dessert

Winner: The Chocolate Bar

Finalists: Amy’s Ice Cream, Cheesecake Factory, Crave Cupcakes, Dessert Gallery, The Chocolate Bar

MARY’S FAVORITES:

  • Chocolate Cake: La Griglia (have them heat it until it melts)
  • Bananas Foster: Eddie V’s
  • Bread Pudding: Brennan’s
  • Pecan Pie: Goode Company
  • Cupcakes: Crave
  • Cookies: Tiny Boxwoods

 

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My first banh mi – EVER!

April 21st, 2011 2 Comments

OMGoodness, I have been missing out!

Friends have told me that Vietnamese food is super fresh and healthy, but I never dared try it on my own (mostly because I have no idea where the restaurants are in Houston).

I saw people devouring this bad boy outside of Agora and I was in line to order from the food truck next door immediately.  GOOD decision. I loved every bite of fresh lettuce, cucumber spears, jalapenos, cilantro, pickled carrots, and roasted chicken topped with Hoi Sin and mustard.  The sandwich is actually a huge hoagie which I downed in one breath.

So excited to try more Vietnamese! I know that makes me sound sheltered…but I grew up eating steak, potatoes, and brownies which is why food if such a fun adventure for me.

If you’re in Houston, I scored this banh mi, which they call “The Bomb,” at the Eatsie Boys food truck next to Augora coffee on Westheimer.  Get there early because they have been known to run out of chicken.

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