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Feb 12, 2014 08:40 PM

Houston Recs

I'll be in Houston again in a few days. Any new recommendations on any top restaurants with great food and really good high end wine list (especially with great French choices in the $150 - $300 range)? We'd prefer something on the casual side. The closer to downtown the better.

BYOW is also a possibility if the food is good enough since we'll be driving and can bring wine from home. In town for three days, to multiple recommendations appreciated.

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  1. There are a few French places that I really like:
    -Cafe Rabelais (not very pricey, but really good. They don't tale reservations so you may have a bit of a wait at the bar)
    -Le Mistral (it's pretty out of the way, but I think it's the best French food in Houston)
    -Mockingbird Bistro (American French, but very good and great wine selection)

    Also, if you're here on a Saturday you should check out French Country Wines. It's a cute wine shop and they do complimentary tastings there from 12p-5p. The owners travel all over France and pick wines they love to bring home and sell.

    Let us know where you ate and how it was!

    1. Restaurants: Cafe Rabelais and Brasserie 19. Wine Bar: 13 Celsius.

      7 Replies
      1. re: bhoward

        Ended up at Underbelly, which allows you to bring two bottles. Brought a Domaine Dujac 1999 Bonne Mares GC; and a Domaine Fevre 2011 Cablis Les Clos GC.

        I've eaten at Brasserie 19 twice, and was underwhelmed by both the food and the wine list. Food was OK, but uninspired on my two visits -- both about two years ago. Wine list was fairly priced, but not much depth on the top end.

        Enjoyed Underbelly. Food was very good, but not great. We had one bottle, a Sauvignon Blanc that I didn't get to know much about as it was order by another diner, for drinking while we waited for a seat. The list was well enough selected, and had some interesting wines, and was fairly low on it's mark up. But again, very, very shallow in bottles above $100. I guess there's just not much market for those types of bottles once you get outside of NYC, Boston, Chicago, LA, and San Francisco. Of course, part of that problem is that most places won't hold wines back for a few years to let better wines age (shallow pockets on the restaurants' part or diners, or both, I suspect.) But it sure is a pleasure to travel and have a really good selection of better wines to choose from, instead of having lesser wines that I typically drink at home. But you'd think that Dallas or Houston would be able to support a few restaurants outside of steak houses that could support a deep list of better wines. But apparently not.

        I posted on this very same topic in the Dalls forum and no one responded at all. So that may well be an indication that there just isn't much interest in top end wine lists here in Texas.

        1. re: Mike C. Miller

          Always enjoy your posts Mike, keep them coming. I follow you on Chowhound and like to troll. The bottom line is I would love to drink fine wine, but simply cannot afford it. The best wine I ever had was a '69 Latour, drank 1980 or so, which after a little research read it wasn't a great year, being dry in France but it sure tasted velvety going down and I could still taste it the next day.

          1. re: James Cristinian

            Thanks. And to be clear, some mistake my fondness for higher dollar bottles as a hostility toward lower priced bottles on wine lists. A great list should have both. In some respects, we're in a golden age of wine compared to when I started drinking in the late 1970's. There are so many really good, and interesting, wines under $100 these days. And that's what I drink with many meals, and most of the meals that I have wine with.

            But every now and then, I really enjoy having a truly great wine, especially when I go to a place where the cooking si supposed to be top notch and where I don't get to dine as regularly. I really seems to me that both Dallas and Houston have gone way down hill in this niche in the past few years.

            By the way, while I was in town, I discovered Houston Wine Merchant, on Shepard. What a pleasant store. Great help from the staff and a good selection of wine. I stopped there to pick up an insurance bottle for the white wine a brought from home (a Fontaine-Gagnard 2005 Batard Montrachet that was indeed prematurely oxidized). Houston is lucky to have such a store. I didn't have enough time to fully explore it, but it the parts that I saw were very well selected and organized.


            1. re: Mike C. Miller

              Good to know about Houston Wine Merchant. I still load my car down every time I am at Austin Wine Merchant.

              1. re: Mike C. Miller

                Have you tried Richard's on Shepherd? Just curious, I have not even though it's been there for ever. Specs is where I go for my Chateau Thames Embankment.


                1. re: Lambowner

                  I have not, at least not in recent memory. But glancing at their web site, it looks like a visit is in order.

                  1. re: Mike C. Miller

                    I believe Richard's was acquired by Spec's a while ago. It is a larger store than Houston Wine Merchant and has a broader selection, but not as well curated.