I love the outdoors.
OK, for everyone who knows me, if you can please stop laughing for a moment, I’ll explain.
I love the beauty of nature, the city skyline, the bustling streets.
I love them best of all from the air-conditioned comfort of the indoors. Either gazing at them on a big flat-screen TV or through a large plate glass window.
I prefer a chilly restaurant for eating over a blanket laid in the park.
I’m clearly not an outdoorsy person. Not a picnic-type gal nor a sports woman. And when I wrote this, it was 108 degrees outside so think what you want, but I am not venturing outdoors.
Which is why I prefer a chilly restaurant for eating over a blanket laid in the park. But I don’t generally choose a restaurant based on its view, so when I was recently asked which eateries had the best views, I had to stop and ponder that question.
My first thought was of the tranquil countryside and roaming peacocks at Vargo’s. Of course I haven’t been there in decades, and apparently I’m not the only one, which explains why it closed recently.
So what restaurants that are still around have the best views?
Here’s my short list:
1) The Grove
The View: It doesn’t get much better than dining while gazing out on the lovely Discovery Green park. I remember when this downtown spot was just a paved parking lot, but now it really is a paradise. Huge trees, lakes, outdoor sculptures. The occasional Dock Dog diving event. All of which can be seen from inside the beautiful Schiller/Del Grande concept. Or, on a cool evening, from the rooftop bar.
The Food: The catch of the day roasted in parchment paper is a good bet paired with the chilled asparagus salad. Cocktails are colorful and tasty, but I miss the deviled yard eggs on the menu.
The View: For first-time Houston visitors you can’t beat dinner at the city’s only revolving restaurant perched high atop the Hyatt Regency. On a clear night, you can see the entire downtown cityscape. Fabulous.
The Food: A simple but classic and well-prepared menu that should start, during the summer, with the chilled watermelon soup and progress to the signature paella that includes Maine lobster. Yes, it’s a bit pricey, but you’re trying to dazzle out-of-town guests, aren’t you?
The View: The patio here overlooks West Gray Street with its bustling retail centers, but from the second floor you can see the entire River Oaks/Upper Kirby area with all the mansions, tree-lined streets and spiraling high rises.
The Food: David Cordúa, baby-faced son of legendary restaurateur Michael Cordúa oversees the menu here and frankly, I can never get past the appetizers and cocktails at this elegant spot. Angel wings are the most delicate version of buffalo wings sans the messy fingers (the bones are Frenched). They’re cooked in brown butter and served with habanero/papaya sauce and blue cheese for dipping. Oh, and the ceviches and smoked lamb lollichops (it’s a meat lollipop!) are to die for.
The View: Nestled in the Gardens of Bammel Lane, a privately owned historical mecca of 19th century Houston homes, this restaurant and wine/jazz bar backs up to a gorgeous garden. In the back room, floor-to-ceiling windows overlook a gurgling fountain, bandstand, rose garden and a transported antique English greenhouse.
The Food: Chef/owner Phillip Phillip Mitchell whips up Cajun inspired casual fare including red beans and rice with andouille sausage and seafood gumbo. The Sunday brunch is packed, if you don’t have a reservation you might not get in. But if you do, head to the omelet station for hot eggs with all your favorite fixings and then to the steam tables for prime rib and fried chicken and waffles.
5) Baba Yega
The View: This eclectic, quintessential Montrose mainstay has a myriad of rooms but if you choose the ones looking over the gardens or patios you’re in for a treat. Century-old trees and meandering flower gardens make you feel like you’re in the lap of outdoor luxury, while still basking in the air conditioning.
The Food: Pretty standard fare, but the menu runs the gamut from Tex-Mex treats to Italian and burgers. There are lots of vegetarian dishes to choose from, but I think the best bang for your buck is the $17 charbroiled rib-eye steak served with a baked potato and veggies.
I’m sure I’ve left out lots of restaurants with great views so feel free to weigh in with your favorites.