How To Stay Social And Connected To Houston Restaurants During The Pandemic
The Houston culinary landscape has altered drastically since the arrival of COVID-19. While many Houstonians are struggling to navigate through these unprecedented times, those on both sides of the restaurant community have been left with a huge void. For many of us “foodies”, going out to eat and visiting our favorite or new dining spots in the city was the way we socialized and felt connected. It was the high point of the week. With this void, many of us have felt a loss on how to still feel connected to not just the restaurant community but also the thrill of a night out. To bridge the gap through these times, we put together a list of ways to keep that connection alive, despite the challenges of social distancing.
Curbside and Takeout
Many of Houston’s local restaurants are still doing curbside and delivery. Ordering curbside directly from your favorite spot helps support the business financially and lets you enjoy your favorite dishes without the risk of a traditional dining room.
Many locales, such as Backstreet Cafe, Bistro Provence, Harold’s Restaurant and Rainbow Lodge, have incorporated new ways to engage with customers. These restaurants are introducing online group wine dinners, virtual wine tastings, interactive Q&A’s, cocktail kits to go and special at-home chef’s tasting menus. All of these are great ways to still have the feeling of a night out from the comfort of your own home. Here’s a round-up of where you can can currently bring a little bit of your dining-out experience home with you. We will update the list as more opportunities become available.
Backstreet Cafe, 1103 South Shepherd: In addition to drink packs from beverage director Sean Beck (like the one featured in the above photo), Backstreet is hosting limited-quantity virtual wine dinners every Saturday night via Zoom. Orders can be picked up on the day of the event or delivered within a 3-mile radius. Dinners are very popular, so plan ahead to secure your spot since they are apt to selling out. Follow Backstreet on social media and sign up for its newsletter to stay apprised of current offerings and schedules. The Wine Dinner Kit for Two includes wine and food for $135 plus tax.
Bistro Provence, 13616 Memorial: On Thursday, July 23, Bistro Provence is introducing its “Great Deals” Wine Dinner featuring French Country Wines. The four-course meal includes a paired wine selection with each course. Each dinner costs $50 per person. For an additional $30, you can add a bottle of Domaine Matignon Saumur Brut “NV”. Call (713) 827-8008 to secure your spot and schedule a pickup time.
Brennan’s of Houston, 3300 Smith: Now through July 23, Brennan’s is offering a Five-Course Chef’s Tasting Menu At Home that is also available for dine-in. The menu features dishes such as Crudo Hamachi made with Texas peaches, sweet onion, celery and truffle aji amarillo vinaigrette and BBQ Lamb with Bordelaise sauce and a smoked tomato tart. You can also sip alongside the meal with curated Wine Packs To-Go. Choose from the Burgundy Summer Survival Pack, Sonoma is for Lovers, and Just Add Sunshine.
Harold’s Restaurant, Bar & Terrace, 350 West 19th: Along with pickup, curbside and free delivery within a five-mile radius, Harold’s is offering a Virtual Wine & Cocktail Dinner on July 23. Order and take home, or dine in at the restaurant. The dinner includes a France-meets-Texas, three-course menu which with wines from Liberation de Paris Wines and Château Bonneté, as well as a cocktail pairing with New Grove Silver Rum. Jean-Francois Bonneté, winemaker/owner of Liberation de Paris and Chateau Bonneté wines, is the host for the evening. The dishes include Blue Crab Cornbread with grilled shrimp and tasso cream sauce; Beef Tenderloin with mashed potatoes, haricot vert and beef demi-sauce; and Chocolate Lava Cake. The event is from 7 to 9 p.m. for dine-in and to-go. Tickets are $60 per person and may be purchased online or by calling (713) 360-6204. To-go orders will include the virtual Zoom link for joining the party.
Mutiny Wine Room, 1124 Usener: Mutiny Wine Room is currently closed for indoor dining, but you can still join the staff during Virtual Wine Tastings every Wednesday in July. Simply follow Mutiny on social media and join its email list to be notified of the weekly wine and food pairings. Then, join the event via Zoom at 6 p.m. on Wednesday. Sample tastings include rosè selections alongside chef Eduardo’s Coastline Board, made with house-smoked Scottish salmon, shrimp escabeche, olive oil-poached Spanish boquerones and smoked trout dip with caviar. Housemade bread, pickled carrots and onions, olives and roasted asparagus are served alongside. Wine-only packages are $95; wine-and-board packages are $120. Visit Mutiny’s events page for more information.
Rainbow Lodge, 2011 Ella: For a very limited time, Rainbow Lodge is offering weekly home wine tasting kits for two. Purchase the kits online Friday mornings at 10 a.m., which are available until sold out. (Note: these sell out extremely quickly, sometimes in only an hour.) Each contains four, 375mL bottles of wine carefully chosen by beverage director Marc Borel. The wines are accompanied by tasting notes and bites prepared by executive chef Mark Schmidt, such as Hot Smoked Salmon Cake with Grilled Corn Relish and Wild Game Kabobs with Rosemary Roasted New Potatoes. The July 22 dinner is sold out but the next one goes on sale on July 24.
Roma, 2347 University: Roma is hosting weekly virtual wine dinners on Friday’s via Zoom. The menu and wine selections change each time and are posted on its Facebook page. One recent dinner featured Lambrusco producer Alicia Lini. Call Roma at (713) 664-7581 to reserve your spot.
Rosie Cannonball and MARCH, 1620 Westheimer: Enjoy cocktails to-go or through al fresco dining at Rosie Cannonball. Sipping at home? Sister restaurant MARCH has rolled out a “Phone-a-Somm” service that offers wine guidance for pairings, cooking and other questions. The best part? The experts will advise you regardless of where you purchased the wine — even on bottles you already have in your collection. You can purchase bottles from MARCH online, too. The “Phone-a-Somm” program is available Wednesdays through Saturdays from noon to 6 p.m. by calling (832)-380-2481. Email the restaurant at [email protected]
The Cottonmouth Club, 108 Main: Owner Michael Neff is hosting a nightly “Virtual Bar” that is both a podcast and live-streamed via Instagram and Facebook. There is a new focus each night, and guests can help the bar staff via the @TheCottonmouthClub-Staff “tip jar” on Venmo. Themes have included hosting a group of legendary bartenders for laidback social conversations to more serious content, such as hearty political discussions about what is going on in the local and national bar community. Cocktail lovers and those missing their favorite bars can drink along at home while also engaging online with the staff, hosts and other viewers.
Coordinating Virtual Nights Out with Friends via Zoom/House Party
Even if the above options don’t appeal to you, there are still ways to connect. Create your own “night out in” with friends via conference platforms like Zoom and House Party. Regardless of how you do it, there are many ways for us to enjoy the experience of dining out and continuing to support our local community, even if we have to get more creative.