With its low-key vibe and familiar Tex-Mex food and libations, it’s hard not to feel at home at La Grange…despite a few features that might otherwise warrant more than a bit of snark especially from this admitted curmudgeon of a critic. For example, the interior design (repurposed retro kitsch meets Wes Anderson) seems a bit forced and at times proclaims “New Montrose” just a bit too loudly. However, before you thumb your nose at La Grange, know that this patio bar boasts a sincerely fun atmosphere (foosball tables, large-screen televisions), well-mixed drinks featuring creatively infused liquors, and an accessible menu with a few surprises.
Start with one of their signature cocktails like the “La Palma” (pumpkin-infused rum, coconut cream, pineapple and lime juice), which tastes like autumn in the Caribbean or the sweet but hard-hitting “El Apache” with reposado tequila, aperol, sweet vermouth, and peach bitters. Pair your poison with one of their reasonably priced and amply portioned appetizers, standouts of which include the barbecue oysters (ask for the parmesan-garlic topping) and the irreverently rich “Holy Queso,” cement-thick white cheese with green chilies and pico de gallo.
Now that you’re really having fun (seriously!), stay for dinner. WTF! is what you’ll exclaim when the WFF (Whole Fried Fish) arrives at your table. It’s easily La Grange’s star entree, and though perhaps as popular as the enchiladas, wins my top prize for its delicate preparation and stunning presentation. The succulent, flaky piscine flesh is sufficiently seasoned to be delectable in its own right; however, the addition of your choice of sauces only heightens the flavor complexity. My favorite is the mojo de ajo a piquant mixture of roast garlic, lime, and olive oil.
La Grange also serves a very respectable brunch, as the weather warms, the rooftop tables will be some of the best al fresco seats in Houston. Plain pancakes are made unique via the inclusion of your choice of flavored agave syrups (vanilla bean or orange liqueur) and the breakfast enchiladas (stuffed with two huevos plus bacon and sausage, chicken, shrimp, or grilled vegetables) take the edge off a tequila hangover. Finally, many places offer you the option of drinking your dessert in the form of a sweet martini, however, at La Grange, it’s the converse in the case of their tart margarita cheesecake made with marinated limes and a cookie crumb crust.
As the sun sets, the communal tables swell with patrons illuminated under the soft glow of the overhead strings of lights. Suddenly, everything seems cozy and even romantic…or maybe that’s just that second margarita talking.