If you're in a dining rut, shake things up with some of city's coolest restaurant and bar secrets. You'll have some serious local cred with these in-the-know tips, ranging from off-menu dishes to amazing deals.
Wine tastings at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse
At the ongoing wine tasting series, this award-winning steakhouse consistently delivers a top-quality experience. In an intimate setting, neophytes can mingle with wine connoisseurs over the venue’s best lots and light bites are served. Next up: Loire Valley wines, June 10, Briargrove location ($75 per guest) with about 15 selections.
5839 Westheimer Rd.; 713-780-7352
TV dinners on Monday nights at Hay Merchant
Watch old-school TV shows while feasting on a housemade TV dinner and craft beer at this Montrose beer shrine. For $15 a pop, you'll get elevated versions of your childhood favorites like 44 Farms Salisbury steak with mashed potatoes, gravy and carrots.
1100 Westheimer Rd.; 713-528-9805
Japanese small plates and sushi for a steal at Kuu
Sure, there are sushi happy hours all over town. But snagging top-quality, artistic Japanese creations for a fraction of the regular price is a rarity. Hit the bar or cushy shaded patio for Social Hour (weekdays, 4:30–6:30 PM) at this Memorial gem and scarf down the likes of pepper bacon bites, beef tartare on toasted brioche, and crunchy shrimp tempura with avocado (prices range $4–$7).
947 Gessner Rd.; 713-461-1688
The mind-blowing tasting menu at Peska Seafood Culture
It can get confusing choosing from exotic seafood flown in from all over the world at this Uptown seafood emporium, not to mention very expensive. Reserve ahead for the Thursday night “Omarkase” tasting dinners (a play on the Japanese omakase and chef Omar Pereney’s name) and you’ll experience eight eye-popping courses paired with wine ($100 per guest).
1700 Post Oak Blvd.; 713-961-9229
Pop-up happy hours at The Dunlavy
Pining for that chandelier-lit dining room and gorgeous view of Lost Lake but can’t make it there by closing time at 2 PM? If you follow The Dunlavy on social media (@dunlavyhouston #TheDunlavyHappiestHours and the website), you’ll be primed for the happy hour pop-ups when the Downtown destination stays open until 7 PM. Go for cocktails, wines at below retail price, bar bites and perhaps even steal a sunset.
3422 Allen Parkway; 713-360-6477
The secret menu at Torchy’s Tacos
Few Houstonians know about this Austin transplant’s “secret menu,” which includes a whopping seven tacos that aren’t mentioned at the in-store selection. We recommend the Ace of Spades: a flour tortilla filled with a jalapeño sausage link, grilled brisket, fried egg, green chile queso, cotija cheese, sour cream and spicy diablo sauce.
2411 S. Shepherd Dr.; 713-595-8226
All-day breakfast at Revival Market
Breakfast fanatics needn’t fear the deadline when breakfast transitions into lunch. The Heights’ favorite farm-to-table grocery cafe quietly serves a selection of breakfast dishes throughout the day. Relish a buttermilk biscuit sandwich, corned beef hash, or breakfast tostada well past noon any day of the week.
550 Heights Blvd.; 713-880-8463
Off-menu dishes at Brennan’s of Houston
Known for its legendary bananas foster, turtle soup and other Cajun classics, this elegant taste of New Orleans also serves off-menu items that only insiders know to request. On Monday night only, ask for the red beans and rice with brandy milk punch for a taste of the Big Easy.
3300 Smith St.; 713-522-9711
The Omni Hotel's hidden nightclub
After closing recently for a $2 million renovation, The Black Swan has reopened in the basement of the Omni Houston Hotel. If you’re thinking “yawn, hotel bar,” think again. Things are calm during the week, but on the weekends, it gets wild with Houston’s hottest DJs spinning, dancing, couples flirting in curtained-off nooks and bottle service until the wee hours.
4 Riverway; 713-871-8181
Play Day at Eight Row Flint
This lively Heights watering hole is not just for bourbon and tacos. Tuesday is "Play Day" on the patio with live music and cookouts. Last month highlighted Juicy Lucys, and this spring brings BBQ ribs. Follow its Facebook page for details and other nightly specials.
1039 Yale St.; 832-767-4002
Wine Down Wednesday at Tout Suite
Coffee drinks, delicate pastries and macarons may be this Downtown cafe’s claim to fame, but we’ve found good reason to return for happy hour every Wednesday. Share a bottle of vino for a mere $20, or have a glass to yourself for $5. Cheers to that!
2001 Commerce St.; 713-227-8688