The primary appeal of Houston Restaurant Weeks, other than the good karma of helping raise money for the Houston Food Bank (of course), is the chance to save a little money on a good meal at a nice restaurant. Ah, but what should one do with the money saved by not ordering from the regular menu? Why not spend the savings on wine or a cocktail? At CultureMap, we say, "Bottoms Up!"
Remember, diners flock to HRW restaurants. Reservations are highly recommended. As is a little extra patience with staff members that are dealing with larger than usual crowds. If it takes a couple extra minutes for a water refill or to get the check, just have another glass of wine and try to relax.
Even during Houston Restaurant Weeks, Hugo's demonstrates why CultureMap recently named it one of Houston's 10 best restaurants. The restaurant offers three different HRW menus that can be paired with red wine, white wine or agave spirits as selected by beverage director Sean Beck. The white and agave pairings are only $26 on top of the $35 cost of the menu, and red wine is $25. If one doesn't have a wine preference, the red wine menu's chorizo-stuffed pepper, rack of lamb and chocolate mouse-filled crepes looks like the most intriguing option. In keeping with the something for everybody approach, there's even a vegetarian menu that has its own wine pairings available for $28.
Cordua Group beverage director James Watkins has created individual pairings for every course on the restaurant's lunch and dinner menus. None of the individual glasses are more than $10, so it should be pretty easy to keep the tab in the $25 range. The restaurant's signature mojito is only $6. Looking at the food choices, there are a few highly delicious-sounding seafood options. Try the lobster duo to start and then order the roasted, corn crusted snapper as a main. For dessert, tres leches is pretty much mandatory.
Owner Shepard Ross is a certified oenophile who has individual pairing options for every savory course on Glass Wall's $45 menu. Almost all of the glasses are under $10, which is welcome at the menu's higher price point. The food options mostly skew pretty classic. For example, a crab cake is one of the appetizer options, and the entrees include the always popular corn flake crusted chicken fried steak. Judging by this enthusiastic review, the dishes are all well-executed.
Tucked away in a neighborhood that's too far east to be River Oaks but not quite Montrose, Mockingbird Bistro's elevated cuisine and courteous service have turned it into a well-loved institution. HRW is a great time for a first-timer to visit, because $45 doesn't go quite as far at dinner the rest of the year. Sommelier Samantha Porter has prepared wine pairings that are only $25 more, and each dish, including dessert, comes with a wine. The food menu looks really interesting; trying to decide on a starter between the roasted cauliflower soufflé and modern French onion soup would be difficult. Even the standard roast chicken and filet mignon are upgraded with saffron tomato couscous and wild mushrooms and sweet corn ragout, respectively.
Admittedly, this Galleria-area French restaurant doesn't offer designated, fixed price pairings for HRW. However, beverage director Vanessa Trevino Boyd maintains an extensive menu of wines by the glass and intriguing cocktails. Surely there's something available to complement any dish. As for the food, chef Philippe Schmit's menu offers a lot of value for only $35. In particular, the stuffed mussels and lemon crepe Suzette look to be intriguing sounding twists on familiar dishes.