Oh, to be in the right place at the right time, all of the time! With H-Town's restaurant and bar scene ever expanding in tandem with the growing population, keeping up with the swells and their hangouts can be challenging.
Most nights, you'll find a hip crowd at Uchi, a sleek contingent filling RDG + Bar Annie and notables claiming seats at Corner Table. Count those among the happening hangouts and put the following 10 at the top of your list. Beautiful people, make room!
The big schmooze
Lunch or dinner any day of the week, Brasserie 19 pulsates with the energy of glamorous women, handsome men, power brokers and wannabes. It is THE place to see and be seen. In fact, that social magnetism is more the motivation for regulars than the popular menu. If you're planning a Thursday night outing to B-19, as insiders call it, fasten your seatbelt and dress to kill, for the popular West Gray eatery is packed to the rafters as it becomes a gilded watering hole for the city's young and restless. Managing partner Shawn Virene knows them all and works the magic of making sure that every big gun has A-list seating, no easy task.
Breakfast of champions
Practically from the day it opened, The Breakfast Klub with its legendary waffles and wings (fried chicken) has drawn a notable following from judges to lawyers to the occasional CEO. Politicos are regulars as well. This is the one place in town where even the most high-minded customers don't flinch at standing in line for a table. It's strictly breakfast and lunch hours for the popular catfish and grits menu that is regularly served up along with heavy-duty hobnobbing.
Ritas and regals
Cooler than cool, Armandos grooves on in-crowd sophistication. Seldom is there a dinner hour that doesn't find oodles of bold-faced types bellying up to the bar for margaritas made with fresh lime juice or settling in tableside for the queso flameado. On Thursday nights, the refined Mexican bistro adds disco vibes with a DJ whose music never fails to send the dancing queens to their feet. And if your Sunday supper isn't at Armandos, you're missing out.
Sophisticated ladies & gents
While Tony's restaurant rules as the premier destination for fine dining, the bar at Tony's is hopping Wednesday through Saturday when Louie Carrington is at the keyboard. Book your table in advance for dinner near the fireplace or, for that matter, at any of the cozy tables. The colorful bar, as popular a dining spot for the old guard as for fresh faces, often resembles a private club as table-hopping is a matter of course. Dinner service is as attentive as in the main dining room.
Power lunching & more
La Griglia continues its long-term reign as the lunching spot of choice for politicos, biz leaders and big dogs in commercial real estate. Add the colorful mix of socialites and this is the place to perch at least once a week. Added bonus, the back room is regularly booked for political fundraisers, contributing even more to the colorful array frequenting Tilman Fertitta's hot spot. La Griglia is also the select watering whole for Houston's version of the Algonquin Roundtable in New York. On Wednesday nights, the brigade of politicians, journalists and hangers-on pouring in delivers higher entertainment than a Knights of Momus parade.
Last May, Bon Appetite magazine declared Central Market among the best regional supermarket chains in the country. Houstonians with a taste for the good things in life also know that the lines at the meat and seafood counters and the crush in the cheese department are ideal for sophisticated schmoozing. Grab a free cup of coffee, sample any number of foodie offerings and say hello to the likes of heart surgeon Dr. Billy Cohen, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston marketing and communications director Mary Haus and any number of personal chefs from the mansions of nearby River Oaks.
Single? Around 6:30 in the evening, there seems to be an interesting collection of attractive men traveling solo while looking for dinner makings and who knows what else.
Man-about-town George Lancaster, honcho with Hines, rates Boheme Cafe & Wine Bar as one of the lesser known hot spots for making the scene. Along with adult libations, the killer pizzas provide sustenance for the eclectic crowd filling this comfy Montrose haunt. Settling in on the leather chesterfield sofas amid the red interiors is a tip top assembly— multi-cultural, artsy and peppered with the occasional yuppie and fashionista.
Weekend breakfast/lunch at Tiny Boxwood's on West Alabama is the place for Inside the Loop mid-morning people watching. Social swells from nearby River Oaks, fashion mavens from Tanglewood and up-and-coming young professionals flock to this understated, chic cafe on the edge of the verdant lawn of Thompson + Hanson landscape architects. Arrive early or be prepared to wait in line, which is not so bad as the phalanx of patricians is worth the cost of the cappuccino. Prime seating is on the patio where the vibe is Napa Valley cool. (Don't miss the killer homemade chocolate chip cookies.)
Happy hour huddling
Jackson's Watering Hole with its appealing outdoor deck, easy atmosphere and buckets of ice cold billies is the choice for the sharp, youngish professional crowd. Ties come off and war stories come out, according to John Andell of Hanson Partners. Bar tenders are cool and it's easy on the wallet. During any given happy hour, chances are good of running into one or more of these: Pierce Bush, Brandon Cochran, James Sivco, Jason Tramonte, Jared Lang, Jason Fuller, Dan Gilbane and so many more.
Petrello, Kinder, McNair, Lanier, Sarofim, Cockrell — the heavy-hitters flock to Da Marco with gustatory enthusiasm. Louisa Sarofim has her corner table for lunch while Sheridan and John Eddie Williams entertain friends at the corner table for six. Laura and Dr. Mike Sweeney, Vesta and Dr. Pedro Frommer, the list of notables who frequent this high-style Italian eatery goes on and on. Don't try it on weekends without reservations or you might find yourself spending quite a bit of time at the bar. Lunch or dinner, the seatings are always rich with high-powered customers.