Brunch. Happy Hour. A good bar. They’re the culinary equivalents of your favorite movie star—you can’t get enough, couldn’t ever run out of good things to say about them, and of course, they beg to be photographed.
Thanks to its brilliantly diverse (and ever-expanding) restaurant scene, Houston is a culinary A-lister. Like the Hollywood equivalent, Houston is bursting with talent, though it maintains the humility and organic local love you’d be more likely to find in the indie scene. From brunches that define Instagram heaven to playful offerings from nationally-recognized cocktail experts, we’ve rounded up a handful of springtime brunch, bar, and happy hour offerings you’ll want to revisit again and again.
1. Picture Perfect Brunch at Emmaline
Come as you are to the most darling neighborhood restaurant in Houston. Set within a two-story vintage building, Emmaline boasts four unique, picturesque spaces that range from a garden-inspired sunroom to a wood-paneled central bar area with adjacent Hollywood-style booth seating. Within each stylish setting, guests nosh on delicious European-inspired American fare and choose from seasonal handcrafted cocktails, a dozen craft brews, and an array of wines drawn from a growing inventory of 200 European and American labels. Brunch is a must-try in this casually chic space. Choose from such delights as the Mascarpone Pancake Stack, a tower of temptation featuring berry and quince compote, candied pignoli, smoked syrup, and whipped butter, or the savory Wood-Fired Cioppino Bianco with prawns, mussels, clams, vermouth, tomato, fennel, and pearls. Brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
3210 W Dallas Street | (713) 523-3210 | dineemmaline.com
2. Vino and Vittles at Theodore Rex
James Beard Award winner Justin Yu serves a rotating menu of globally-inspired, locally-sourced fare alongside an extensive international wine list in his intimate downtown bistro. Located in the historic Warehouse District, Theodore Rex reflects a cozy, rustic aesthetic with high ceilings, cushioned banquettes, and walls of exposed brick. Small plates are plentiful and popular, especially the raved-about Tomato Toast and the Italian Bread Dumplings. An excellent wine list, heavy on the bubbles, promises the perfect pairing for each dish. T. Rex is open Thursday through Monday from 5 to 10 p.m., and a happy hour special of half-off glasses of wine is offered from 5 to 6 p.m. Touted as one of the best spots in the city to sip and sup, we recommend making reservations in advance to claim your share of the restaurant’s coveted 28 seats.
1302 Nance Street | (832) 830-8592 | trexhouston.com
3. EaDo Evening at Nancy’s Hustle
For an exciting evening out, choose Nancy’s Hustle. Smack dab in the middle of EaDo, Houston’s hippest up-and-coming neighborhood, this cozy, modern bistro is an unbeatable spot for dinner and drinks. The unique menu offers imaginative medium and large dishes, plus desserts. Notable fan favorites include Nancy Cakes, served with whipped butter and smoked trout roe; Turkish Dumplings with spicy tomato vinaigrette, labneh, and lamb jus; and Hanger Steak, served alongside herb-crusted potato pave and black truffle jus. The drinks offerings are equally unique and include house-crafted cocktails, sherrys, ciders, and all-natural wines. Happy hour is offered from 5 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and includes select discounted cocktails and beer, plus 20% off bottles of wine. Nancy’s Hustle is open Tuesday through Sunday from 5 p.m. till midnight.
704 Polk Street | (346) 571-7931 | nancyshustle.com
4. Brunch and Bar Bites at Better Luck Tomorrow
This playful concept from Houston Cocktail King Bobby Heugel (Anvil Bar & Refuge) and James Beard winner Justin Yu is a can’t-miss destination. Recently opened in the hip Houston Heights, Better Luck Tomorrow serves a seasonal menu of upscale bar bites, unique brunch offerings, plus craft cocktails, wine, and beer on tap in their simple, modern space. Settle down at a table in their interior room, cozy up to the colorfully-backlit bar, or opt for a spot on their casual patio. Brunch is a laid-back affair and boasts comfort food mains, such as Yeast Donuts with a warm sugar glaze, Custard French Toast with angostura crème fraiche and orange jelly, and Fried Chicken with Mashed Potatoes. Brunch drinks boast a range of updated classics, like a Tomatillo Bloody Mary and a Julep’d Toddy. Brunch is served Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Better Luck Tomorrow is open seven days a week and closes at 2 a.m.
544 Yale Street | (713) 802-0845 | betterlucktomorrowhou.com
5. End-of-Day Drinks at Bardot
This luxurious lounge is perfectly-poised above the atrium within downtown’s sleek and stunning Hotel Alessandra. Indulge in a handcrafted cocktail in the Old World-inspired space while admiring the city lights through floor-to-ceiling windows. Named for the sultry French star, the décor is perfectly posh, with plush couches and a copper-trimmed wood paneled bar. Don’t miss the Alessandra, a standout signature cocktail made with Grey Goose L’Orange, cointreau, cranberry, and lime, and finished with an elegant orange twist. Bardot is open from Sunday to Thursday from 3 p.m. to midnight and Friday and Saturday from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Enjoy happy hour offerings, such as gently-priced house wines, well drinks, and small light bites, Monday through Friday from 3 to 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 3 to 6 p.m.
1070 Dallas Street | (713) 242-8555 | hotelalessandra-houston.com
Featured image by Julie Soefer.