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Jun 26, 2011 05:56 AM

Red Lion check-in

It's so easy (almost inevitable) to find faults with the plethora of places that clearly don't know what 's involved in running a restaurant or hospitality business to overlook giving kudos to the handful that do.

The Red Lion is a case in point for the latter. On a hot summer Saturday at 11:45 (15 minutes after opening time) most of their booths are full of "Anglo-Texan" parties (mostly 4 or more) having a "pub lunch."

A quick mental totalizer of the eventual table top tab shows this is the sort of before-noon business (on a Saturday yet!) most eateries can only dream about.

I have to say that if it wasn't for the sad fact I live almost 75 miles from this place I would frequent it in a similar manner. For what they have done is to understand and replicate what a "pub lunch" is.
A pub lunch is not at all the same as lunch at a chain or other restaurant. It's satisfying, but informal; the service is prompt, but unstuffy; the surroundings are attractive and comfortable but unintimidating . . . and . . . beer (in 20oz glasses) flows freely and clearly.

I found myself saying to a guy at the bar that of all the "Brit pubs" in Houston this one is really the only one that really delivers the genuine Anglo pub experience. A lot is to do with the wonderfully appointed "knick knacks" with which the premises are decorated, from traditional horse brasses to alumni brass plaques to naughty seaside postcards to divert your attention (hopefully not your aim) in the urinals. So many of the others (I have a soft spot for the Black Lab but mainly owing to their cute waitress uniforms) confuse hanging a portrait of Winston Churchill or some dusty Dickens books on a shelf with creating a pub atmosphere. (The worst example of this has to be the Baker Street Pub in Katy where there are actual skeletons sitting at the bar of patrons waiting to be served a drink. Well, slight exaggeration, but only slight.)

I noted some superlative fish (halibut?) and chips being tucked into by two others at the bar (by their accents from Ireland or Northern Ireland). Irish know their fish and noises of approval were being uttered.

But there is a downside here: the PRICES! I have to say every time I come here the owner (mega kudos to him for all of the above) has a different ever-higher-end voiture-de-luxe (this time a pretty slick black Range Rover) and I think part of the reason for the $18 appetizer phenomenon here is related to this predilection for luxury vehicles :-)

But clearly this is in the ritziest part of town and for many such trivialities are not so important. I think I mentioned in a previous write-up their "entry level" bottle of wine is $40 which also is a bit unnecessarily gouge-ey.

It also remains more than a little clicque-ey but I must say this is an enterprise that thrives because it delivers up to expectations of what a British Pub experience (albeit transplanted to Houston) should deliver. In puts out and puts up its best shot for you. So many places appear to think that opening the front door then delivering a miserable 1.5 hours of execrable food and dismal service is an acceptable display of "hospitality."

It's worth just occasionally stepping back and giving credit where there actually is some credit due.

Thanks for reading.


Red Lion
2316 South Shepherd Drive
Houston, TX 77019-7014
(713) 782-3030Open Mon-Thu,Sun 11:30am-1am; Fri-Sat 11:30am-2am

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  1. stopped by only twice,, the Red Lion Pub is only 10 minutes from my home. My stops followed the Diners, Drive-ins and Dives visit.. Tried the "featured" quesadillas and the chx tikka masala bowl. Thought the food was avg at best and the prices high.. I actually thought the small french restaurant that occupied this space was far and away better. I've heard car break-ins have been a recent issue for patrons to contend with. I think if you are able to seperate "pub food" from a serious restaurant fare, you'll find the Red Lion satisfying (except for the $) As they say,, it is what it is..

    Red Lion Pub
    2316 S Shepherd Dr, Houston, TX 77019

    1. I lunched on the patio at Red Lion on the day of the Royal Wedding. We arrived late and were able to get a table, but the entire restaurant had only two waitresses (inside and out) despite the fact they had opened at something like 6 a.m. serving breakfast to those watching the wedding. The same two waitresses were frazzled and exhausted by 1:00 p.m. Oddly, the one who finally took our order some 45 minutes after our arrival (luckily someone else had brought us drinks and appetizers) was amazingly pleasant and cheerfully told us one staff person hadn't shown up, but I can imagine during the wedding and lunch, they would have needed more than three. When we arrived, there was still a table of 6 rather potted women in hats winding up their wedding watch. We discussed at the time that this was a greedy and opportunistic choice by the owner, whoever that is. And supremely unfair to the staff. But our food was good, the beer cold and we had a good time. I had the tikka masala which was good but not great. I will likely be back some time. I actually prefer Black Lab for the food, but my friends like the beer list at Red Lion.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Lambowner

        I have to admit my first visit here was similar. On Christmas Day (about 5-6 years ago). Similarly everything was "tits-up" (to use the english venacular). No service, no food coming out (I suspect some vast snafu on the turkey-cooking front). About three hours later . . . the owner comes around "People have to realize I am not a restaurant I am a pub." (I liked the use of "I" even in my hunger fatigue!)

        And I thought at that stage the very opposite: that I would never return. (Never did get christmas lunch although by choice, it was just about to show up when we left.)

        But so often it is the "steady trade" that indicates if things are going well or no and I have to say I have always noted a steady trade here (by all means avoid holidays and royal weddings). It is actually a de facto ex pat outpost as I have never been here (am British myself although in the US well over half of my life) with less than 3-4 tables of Anglos "on the pop."

        Not without flaws, but doing something right, particularly when compared and contrasted with other peer enterprises. And if you stick with just beer the price is not terrible terrible.

        1. re: bishopsbitter

          Seven bucks per pint plus tip isn't terrible ?

          You've been away from Blighty for too long ;o)

      2. Since I went to the Red Lion I've been craving something they don't do there: traditional British Ploughman's Lunch. (Bread cheese pickled onions and Branston Pickle with a few token pieces of green & red vegetable matter. I don't recall having a decent one in Houston or indeed any of the British pubs that offer one.

        Can anyone enlighten. There are a few rules. 1) More cheese than bread 2) cheese not ersatz but real good quality British (possibly French too) and by all means artisan American product 3) butter with the bread 4) MUST have pickled onions (without which a ploughman's is . . . well I don't know, bu tit's not a ploughman's ) 4) should not be an excuse to empty out hefts of grapes en masse to cover plate real estate. Oh and 5) ideally bread is NOT reheated [some hope, but it's not the real way].

        I have a genuine craving for one. Ideally it looks something like:

        And such is my craving I may waive some/all of the "rules." :-
        ). . . except pickled onions.
        Thanks for any tips.


        7 Replies
        1. re: bishopsbitter

          I have not had a Ploughman's in Houston, so sadly can't be of much help. But, my quick Google search did turn up one mention of a Ploughman's in Houston that explicitly notes pickled onions, at the Black Lab. Also got hits for Ploughman's on the menus at the Queen Vic, Mucky Duck, and Te House of Tea (though no mention of pickled onions at any of those places). But I have never been to these three at all, so really cannot vouch for them -- I have been to the Black Lab but not had the Ploughman's. I like, but don't love, the Black Lab.

          Te House of Tea
          2402 Woodhead St, Houston, TX 77019

          1. re: mjust

            Thank you and ditto on the Black Lab. But have never yet been to the Queen Vic so this sounds like a chance to see if their Guinness is any good and to dabble with their bread & cheese & pickle. Perhaps this very lunchtime! Thank you.

            1. re: mjust

              Oh dear, no sorry but this is too "nouvelle" Ploughman's for me to make the 67 mile trip into town. Ploughman's should be a savory (not sweet) experience. Let me go review the Mucky Duck version. Looks like they are closed for the holiday but they sound a bit more on the right track. I guess will just ahve to buy some cheese and make my own. :-)

              [From Queen Vic menu]

              Ploughman's Lunch Platter

              Sliced Linguica sausage, Assorted Artisanal cheeses, sliceciabatta, vegetable crisps, fruit, bisquit, preserves, and Linzer


              1. re: bishopsbitter

                Well, that is very strange and I agree with you completely. Linzer cookie is a bizarre addition in my opinion, but I have only had very traditional Ploughman's. At least the Mucky Duck menu mentions Branston Pickle, so hopefully there is hope?

                1. re: bishopsbitter

                  I agree, and it also shouldn't contain crisps and all those poncy cheeses. Stilton is the proper cheese for a real Ploughman's lunch.

                  1. re: mcluhan

                    10-4! ixne on the onceypeh eecheschey.

                2. re: mjust

                  Te house of Tea brings me to (another inviolable) Ploughman's rule # 6

                  6) Has to be accompanied by pints of beer!

                  But that place sounds otherwise an interesting concept.

              2. I think I wrote this elsewhere in this forum, but I've found the pot of gold at Red Lion, and it is the burger. Please try if you like 10 napkin burgers.

                1. The Guardian has a recent article about what makes the perfect British pub. I think it's quite interesting: