DUE TO THE surge of the Omicron variant, the Houston restaurant and bar industry is in a state of flux, with some restaurants reducing hours and others temporarily closing. If you’re avoiding crowded dining rooms, but love the convenience of dining out, these new spots have prime patios with lots of elbow room — most with heaters — and smart to-go menus. So pick a patio, pull up a chair, or pack your car with a movable feast. Pro tip: Always call the restaurant before you hit the road to confirm hours.
GRATIFY The flower-flocked patio outfitted with bistro tables and vintage Italian wicker chairs offers plenty of breathing room at this Rice Village hotspot from the team behind Brasserie 19. Gratify dishes out a sophisticated vibe and menu of classics including a wedge salad, a raw bar with charcuterie station, chicken Provencal and homemade pastas. Weekend brunch is new — think crème brulée French toast. Grab this to-go: Lamb meatballs with tzatziki and herb salad — a fave!
J-BAR-M BARBECUE Houston boasts hundreds of barbecue joints, but this handsome newcomer has them all beat when it comes to design. Roll up your sleeves and dig into a mess of pork spareribs while watching the sun set on the expansive deck overlooking Downtown. Dessert is a surprising delight, with real-deal banana pudding and chocolate ganache pie fine enough for an authentic French bistro. Grab this to-go: prime brisket by the half pound; cauliflower au gratin; homemade jalapeno sausage.
TRATTORIA SOFIA Channeling a trattoria you might find tucked away on a hillside in Tuscany is Berg Hospitality’s latest project in the Heights. Garlic and grilling aromas waft from the kitchen out to the beautiful partially covered patio. Crostini di Gamberi Arrabbiata (crispy shrimp with spicy tomatoes sauce and labneh cheese) is a must. Pair it with a cocktail designed by masterful mixologist Alba Huerta of lauded Julep. Grab this to-go: Prosciutto pizza — a thin crust topped with melting fontina and taleggio cheeses, finished with black pepper and lemon zest.
CHIVOS Settle in on the modern patio with a nigh perfect house margarita and peruse the menu of Mexican fare with fusion twists. Don’t miss the warm handmade flour tortillas with — surprise — truffle butter and salmon roe. With grilled cherry tomatoes, peppers, searing-hot green sauce, and blue corn tortillas, the smoky flavored pollo al carbon entrée is ample for two. Grab this to-go: Tres leches cake with passionfruit meringue.
DA GAMA At this breezy, contemporary M-K-T development canteen overlooking Lawrence Park, Rick and Shiva Di Virgilio, the couple behind Oporto, weave Portuguese and Indian influences into their menu of small plates.The patio is a fine perch for happy hour and bites like Crab Pani Puri: semolina puffs with lump crab, avocado puree and chutneys. Grab this to-go: Tandoori Roots — tandoori oven-baked beets, potatoes and carrots garnished with cashew romesco and chili oil.
URBE H-Town Restaurant Group does it again with another Mexican food hit, this one in Uptown Park. The all-day café touts a terrific daily breakfast menu: Try chef Hugo Ortega’s huevos rancheros or breakfast tacos. Come back and linger over lunch on the sunny patio. Carnitas huarache and chicken enchiladas salsa verde are a few standouts on the vast menu. Grab this to-go: House-made pastries in every color of the rainbow.
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