2018 Houston Restaurant Weeks Participants Amping Up Menus With Drink Pairings -Updated
August is here, and that means it’s time for Houston Restaurant Weeks (HRW). This annual month-long event runs from August 1 through September 3 and provides excellent chances for Houstonians to not only dine out for a good cause but also find some new favorite restaurants. Brunch and lunch cost $20 and dinner costs either $35 or $45 depending on the establishment. Restaurants donate $3 from each brunch and lunch and $5 or $7 for each dinner, depending on dinner price, to the Houston Food Bank.
Over the last three years, HRW has donated over $6.3 million dollars to the Houston Food Bank, which has provided almost 19 million meals to the hungry. As HRW is a volunteer-organized event led by radio and Fox 26 Morning News TV host Cleverley Stone, 100 percent of all funds raised are donated.
Houston diners benefit, too. With over 260 restaurants participating in HRW this year, there are plenty of fantastic food choices. Mindful that people don’t just eat at a meal time, several restaurants have also put thought into what to drink alongside. Here’s a list of restaurants also pairing excellent cocktails or wines pairings with HRW courses.
Beaver’s on Westheimer, 6025 Westheimer: In an innovative twist on an HRW brunch menu, Beaver’s on Westheimer is offering a frozen cocktail of the day as a choice for the first course. Choose from the frozen hibiscus margarita made with Altos tequila and Mandarine Napoléon orange liqueur; the Bacardi rum and Velvet Falernum (a citrusy, spiced syrup used for Caribbean-style cocktails) Rum Passion; or the tropical sunrise frosé made with rosé vodka, Mathilde Peche, rosé wine and tropical citrus. A frozen cocktail might be handy for keeping cool if the second course is chef Arash Kharat’s hot chicken & waffle.
Federal American Grill, 510 Shepherd: Whiskey lovers will want to head to Federal American Grill for its HRW menus. The restaurant specializes in whiskey and whiskey cocktails— which can run $20 or over, depending on the spirit used. For Houston Restaurant Weeks, though, it’s also offering some modestly-priced cocktail specials for $10. The first one out of the gate is the Pineapple Express with citron tequila, pineapple liqueur, lime, turbinado syrup and Prosecco. There will be more specials posted on its Facebook page, so check there for the latest information. That said, the whiskey flights are special and just can’t be overlooked.
H-Town Restaurant Group: The power team of executive chef Hugo Ortega and restaurateur Tracy Vaught have three restaurants participating in HRW. Unlike other HRW menus where diners have their choice of appetizers, entree and dessert, Ortega and beverage director Sean Beck developed several savvy, pre-set menus with optional wine or cocktail pairings. The $45 dinner menus at all three restaurants include four courses.
- Caracol, 2200 Post Oak: Ortega’s restaurant specializing in coastal Mexican fare is serving a seafood menu called Between the Waves with paired with white wines from around the world for an additional $27. The Wines of Mexico menu pairs three Mexican wines with the first three courses and a barrel-aged Mexican brandy cocktail with dessert. Tequila lovers rejoice, because the El Tesoro Tequila menu pairs a silver, reposado, and anejo tequila cocktail with the meal.
- Hugo’s, 1600 Westheimer: Hugo’s is offering a Menu de Mariscos with three white wines for an additional $27. The Menu de Carne is paired with three red wines for an additional $24, while the Spirits of Mexico menu pairs four mezcal, tequila and sotol cocktails for $24. The costilla de res, or slow-cooked short rib should be divine with the Texas Walkabout cocktail with sotol, praline liqueur, and agave nectar.
- Xochi, 1777 Walker: As is very fitting for a restaurant serving Oaxacan cuisine, one of Xochi’s HRW menus focuses on mole. We didn’t think so. The Menu de Mole is paired with three white wines from California, Germany, and Italy for $27. The Menu de Vino Mexicano is paired with three special Mexican white wines for an additional $28, and the Menu de Mezcal pairs three mezcal cocktails with dishes like the tuna crudo or main course crispy pork belly chicharron.
Karbach, 2032 Karbach: Even though Karbach is now owned by corporate giant AB-Inbev and isn’t a craft brewery anymore, it still produces quality beer. That said, as of press time, the menu still wasn’t available on the HRW website, and our request for information on the beer pairings went unanswered. So, there probably are pairings but we’re still waiting to find out what they are. Updated, 8/7/2018, 12:05 p.m.: Karbach sent us a copy of its HRW menu. Each course has a five-ounce complimentary beer pairing pre-selected. We like the Korean Fried Chicken with Hopadillo IPA, the Grilled Pork Chop with accompanying Hellfighter Imperial Porter, and the Peach Cobbler with special release Brandy, You’re a Fine Girl Dopplebock.
Peli Peli, multiple locations: Peli Peli is consistently one of the highest HRW fundraisers, with the second-largest donation in 2016 and placing fifth in 2015. It’s obvious that Houstonians love executive chef Paul Friedman’s South African-influenced fare. This year, Peli Peli is offering a three-course wine pairing of its own private label South African wine for $25. (Some of the company’s private-label wines were showcased at a Houston Food Finder reader event at the more casual Peli Peli Kitchen earlier this year and we definitely had some favorites.)
Perry’s Steakhouse and Grille, multiple locations: All six locations are participating in HRW and are serving the same menu. If Perry’s famous seven-finger pork chop is just one finger too small, order the new Hog-Hattan, which debuted just in time for HRW. This Redemption Rye Manhattan comes with a skewer of three pork chop bites and Luxardo cherries. It pairs perfectly with the pork chop, though we’d gladly enjoy it with the eight-ounce, bacon-wrapped filet as well. Diners who don’t like rye whiskey can “make any Manhattan a Hog” for an extra $2.
Rainbow Lodge, 2011 Ella: Rainbow Lodge has been serving it’s “sophisticated, not stuffy” fare for more than 40 years. The Smoked Duck Gumbo is more than enough to draw us back time and again, and fortunately it’s an option for the first course. Beverage director Marc Borel has created three wine pairings for the dinner menu. Each option is at a different price point, but all are more than generous. For an additional $19, diners receive a Brut rosé, a Bordeaux, and a Spanish dessert wine—an elegant upgrade if there ever was one. There are also pairings for $29 and $40, with the latter option including Philipponnat Royale Reserve Brut Champagne, a choice between a Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley and Far Niente Dolce, a late harvest wine also from Napa Valley. Late harvest wines are sweeter dessert wines as the grapes have naturally dehydrated while on the vine.
Weights + Measures, 2808 Caroline: This $45 dinner menu comes with four courses instead of the standard three, which is already a nice bonus. Three special cocktails will be served for $10 each during HRW. The Ford’s gin based Lady Marmalade’s Ode to Tom Collins, Espolon tequila and Italicus orange liqueur Top Shelf, and an Aperol Spritz will pair nicely with the ribeye meatballs and wood grilled beef tenderloin filet on the menu.
For those who can’t dine out this year, there are other ways to support the Houston Food Bank. Click here to find out how you can help make a difference.
Josh Armendariz is Houston Food Finder’s lead freelance beer and cocktail writer. He can often be found on a stool at your favorite bar, sipping a hoppy craft beer and talking about the Astros with anyone who’ll lend an ear. Follow him on Instagram at @drinkwithjosh.