The first order of business at the plush new RDG+ Bar Annie: Check out the crowd. The scene is pure entertainment on Thursday nights when svelte, tanned ingénues arrive on the arms of well-dressed businessmen. Midweek, the energy is so thick that chef-owner Robert Del Grande can cut it with his knife. Thankfully, the tone is much more subdued on other nights when the people-watching isn't as pronounced, so the spotlight shines on the deftly tweaked dishes that made Del Grande famous at RDG’s former incarnation, Café Annie.
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, RDG is the extreme makeover of Café Annie. It turned out beautifully with three split personalities. You’re introduced to the first persona when you walk through the doors and enter BLVD, the ground-level 30-seat petite-sized lounge where guests can mingle over precious hors d’oeuvres and wine. Next, walk up a sleek staircase to Bar Annie, which boasts the best patio for tête-à-tête in the city. Reminiscent of a Miami club, this expansive living area provides a sweeping view of Post Oak Boulevard. It’s on a first-come, first-served basis, so arrive early to snag a table.
Back inside, rows of jacquard-covered banquettes face each other in the cozy dining area of Bar Annie, where guests can dine satisfyingly on a meaty burger sandwiched between plush potato buns that Del Grande spent years perfecting. Years, you wonder? Del Grande is that way. This perfectionist will work a recipe until he gets it right. In this same vein, he has successfully reprised many of his famous dishes, including the rabbit enchiladas and coffee-crusted steak for RDG’s main dining room, the Grill Room. After three decades, Del Grande continues to define his bastion of Southwestern cuisine with incomparable clarity and elegance.
Don't have a reservation? Check out the community table. It's long been a Napa Valley staple, but Del Grande imported it to Houston. You can share one large table with strangers -- likely foodies who care much more about culinary delights than the scene -- and have great conversations while you meet new friends.