It seems like 2017 is the year of downtown Houston openings as witnessed by the sheer numbers of restaurants, bars, and eateries that popped up in the area (we can thank the Superbowl for that). We certainly don't get to venture downtown as often as we would like, but now we have more than a few reasons to journey in that direction. From a brasserie serving up tasty crepes, a modern trattoria featuring wood-grilled pizzas, a food hall, to one of our favorite spots for sandwiches in the city - downtown is quickly becoming the place to be!
Brasserie du Parc
Located on the ground floor of the One Park Place building, Brasserie du Parc is the second restaurant from husband and wife team Chef Philippe Verpiand (one of five Master Chefs of France in Texas) and Monica Bui who are the same faces behind another local French favorite, Étoile Cuisine et Bar. Although the dinner menu at Brasserie du Parc is focused on traditional brasserie dishes, with a heavy nod to seafood, you’ll find much more to love if you visit during lunch where the savory crepes steal the show. And we can’t talk about Brasserie du Parc without mentioning their cocktail program. Quite honestly, anything Beverage Director Kimberly Paul touches is golden so you’ll just have to take our word for it.
With that said, here are a few recommendations to ensure you are fully acclimated to what will become your new
love dining destination. Stop by for lunch for the Poitrine de Porc (a delicate crepe filled with pork belly, caramelized onions, white mushrooms, fried egg, and Gruyere). Come back for a three-course dinner of Soupe à L’Oignon, Sole Meunière, and Pot Au Chocolate for dessert. Then end any day of the week at their happy hour sipping on the surprise Apothecary Cup (bartender’s choice).
What’s not to love about Osso Kristalla? They are open everyday serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner plus brunch the entire weekend. Their bread and pastries are made in-house. Their inviting bar hosts a stellar happy hour, and the Frozen Limoncello is just heavenly. This place is super cute and just begs for some one on one time and let’s not even talk about the food.
When Executive Chef Danny Trace left Brennan’s for Osso Kristalla, we had zero reservations that the food at the still-kinda-new modern trattoria would be anything short of fantastic. The wood-fired pizzas (seven options but we loved the Italiano) are a no-brainer and the lightly battered Buttermilk Fried Calamari strikes the perfect cord. The menu is very approachable with familiar dishes like their Tomato Caprese, Chicken Piccata, Four-Cheese Tortelloni and Shrimp Linguini. Ossa Kristalla is one of those any day, any time places that will quickly become your go-to for just about any reason at all.
Local Foods Downtown
When we heard there was going to be a Local Foods Downtown (this is their 3rd location) we cheered because we love the place and felt this was much needed for downtown Houston. Then the news got sweeter once we realized it would include a full bar (this is where we inject and start the happy dance). If you aren’t familiar with Local Foods, let us drop two words on you…SANDWICH HOLYLAND! Yes, this is the place where local ingredients and gourmet sandwiches reign supreme. Click here to read all about Local Foods in Rice Village (the original location) and here for our first look at the 2nd location in Upper Kirby.
The highlight of this spot, besides the obvious location and the uber swanky décor, is most definitely the addition of the full-service bar! During our weekend visit, we took full advantage of their Happy Hour with all weekend special pricing which includes $6 specialty cocktails and $6 Texas well drinks. And before you ask, below are a few of our favorite sandwiches…
- Truffled Egg Salad – Mixed Greens, Tomato, Parmesan, Aioli, Pretzel Bun
- “Crunchy” Chicken – Nut Crumble, Provolone, Buttermilk Ranch, Pickles, Tomato, Romaine, Crushed Chips, Pretzel Bun
- Gulf Seafood – Shrimp, Crab, Green Goddess, Pickled Red Onion, Tomato, Ciabatta
Conservatory Underground Beer Garden & Food Hall
Introducing Houston’s very first food hall; have you visited yet?!?! The Conservatory features several locally owned restaurants with cuisines ranging from pizza to crepes. There is also a 60-tap beer garden that showcases local, national, and international beer (oh, and they have whiskey too) plus a wine bar with wines by the glass or bottle. If that’s not enough, there are fun activities and events most days of the week. For example, you can hit up happy hour every day from 3-7 pm or check out the live DJ on Friday and Saturday starting at 10 pm.
A few stands out for us when we visited where El Burro & The Bull, MoKu Bar, and Mars Bakery.
El Burro & The Bull is a small batch handcrafted BBQ spot with a long history of serving up delicious cue in this city. Since we wanted some breakfast and non-breakfast bits we decided to go a little crazy and get lots of stuff from the menu! Our favorites were the Boudin which was bursting with flavor and the breakfast tacos. We couldn’t get too stuffed because we had a table full of food that we needed (yes we needed) to taste and enjoy.
MoKu Bar is poke all day, every day! You can select from their signature bowls, create your own bowl, or get a daily special. We opted for The Street Fighter (Truffled Yellowtail, Masago, Edamame, Cucumbers, Pickled Radish, Sweet Ponzu, Japanese 7 Spice, Nori Strips). This one has lots of flavors going on, and we were a little worried we may not like it. However, all the flavors play nicely together and complement the yellowtail in such a gentle way.
Mars Bakery is the Conservatory’s resident bakery. To say we were impressed, and even motivated so much by the food that we tasted, is an understatement. The motivation led us to order a few additional items from the menu when we were already “three bites of kolache” passed full! We noshed on sweet and savory kolaches, hotdogs, and donuts. The kolaches are a must try because of the dough; they taste like no other kolaches in the city. And if you are a donut lover do yourself a solid and order the Johnny 5 Donuts made fresh when you order them.