Concierge Tim Hess offers his top recommendations for enjoying a merry winter in Houston.- By Gaye Weintraub
Houston’s top restaurants offer authentic cuisine and exclusive menu items that make every meal a culinary adventure.
UCHI uses local seasonal ingredients and seafood imported daily from Japan to deliver innovative dishes that impress the most seasoned Japanese cuisine and sushi lover. “The menu is extraordinary with amazing combinations of flavors and textures.” Hess says. Executive Chef Tyson Cole received the 2011 James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef Southwest award, so this restaurant is a must-try. (713-522-4808; uchirestaurants.com/houston)
Upscale, modern and authentic, the regional Mexican cuisine at HUGO’S fuses traditional flavors with refreshing style. “They have a beautiful Sunday brunch with live music, making it a top choice,” Hess says. Executive Chef Hugo Ortega, who also owns Backstreet Café, received the distinction of Chef of the Year at the Houston Culinary Awards. (713-524-7744; hugosrestaurant.net)
Mexican seafood restaurant LA FISHERIA brings the vibrant, modern Mexican cuisine creations of Mexico’s celebrity chef Aquiles Chavez to new heights. The brightly colored orange-and-blue restaurant features a great menu with fresh seafood from the Gulf of Mexico. “La Fisheria is one of my new favorite adventures, with new flavors and seafood combinations I’ve never had before,” Hess says. The restaurant is closed Sundays and Mondays. (713-802-1712; lafisheria.mx)
TRINITI RESTAURANT AND BAR features “Third Coast French” cuisine in an open and airy chic environment designed by Houston MC2 Architects. The seasonal core menu and weekly supplemental menu crafted by Executive Chef Ryan Hildebrand has quickly become another new favorite for Hess, especially its dessert menu. “The dessert menu is so new and so creative,” he says. (713-527-9090; trinitirestaurant.com)
As 2012 comes to a close, celebrate the holidays with some of the best seasonal events in Houston.
“THE ICE AT DISCOVERY GREEN is a great way to start the holiday season,” Hess says. Through Jan. 27, Houston’s open-air ice skating rink delights all generations. At a chilly 22 degrees, the 7,200-square-foot rink transforms the model boat basin on Kinder Lake into a winter wonderland. Healthy snacks and hot beverages may be purchased as well. (713-434-7465; theiceatdiscoverygreen.com)
For something a little warmer, Hess says the Christmas shows are a must. “ ‘A CHRISTMAS CAROL’ at the Alley Theatre is a tradition of mine,” he says. Michael Wilson’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic tale captures the true meaning of Christmas. The play runs Nov. 20 to Dec. 29. (713-220-5700; alleytheatre.org)
A Houston holiday tradition, the Houston Symphony’s “VERY MERRY POPS” at Jones Hall remains one of Hess’ favorite holiday events. “It’s a classic,” Hess says. From Dec. 14 to 16, Ashley Brown from the national tour and Broadway productions of “Mary Poppins” accompanies symphonic renditions of festive seasonal tunes and Christmas classics. (713-224-7575; houstonsymphony.org)
Stray Cats fans won’t want to miss BRIAN SETZER’S CHRISTMAS ROCKS! EXTRAVAGANZA on Dec. 15 at the Arena Theater. Known for his rockabilly, swing revival style, this three-time Grammy Award winner and former leader of the Stray Cats plays songs from his three best-selling holiday albums as well as fan favorites from his former band. (713-772-5900; arenahouston.com)
Quaint areas just a short drive outside of the city offer relaxing retreats from the busy holidays.
Located just north of Houston, OLD TOWN SPRING abounds with antiques, art galleries, clothing and jewelry, collectibles, crafts, home decor and gift and specialty shops. Through Dec. 23, celebrate the holidays with family and friends at the historic railroad town’s 30th annual “Home for the Holidays” Christmas celebration with strolling musicians, barbershop quartets, photos with Santa and horse and carriage rides. “ ‘Home for the Holidays’ has unique handcrafted shopping in a very Christmas setting,” Hess says. (281-353-9310; oldtownspring.com)
The KEMAH BOARDWALK has it all—waterfront dining, shopping, amusement rides and midway games. Located in Galveston Bay just 20 minutes south of downtown Houston, the small community attracts tourists and locals alike. The annual Christmas Boat Lane Parade on Dec. 8 presents more than 100 boats from Clear Lake, South Shore Harbour and Nassau Bay Lagoon decorated with lights, decorations and music. “The boat parade is a great way to finish a day at Space Center Houston and the Kemah Boardwalk,” Hess says. More than 100,000 people attend this Christmas parade on the Gulf. (877-285-3624; kemahboardwalk.com)
THE STRAND HISTORIC DISTRICT in Galveston provides a winter alternative to summer days at the beach. A charming collection of specialty shops, restaurants, art galleries and museums situated in Victorian-era buildings intrigues guests of all ages. On Dec. 1 and 2, the 39th annual Dickens on The Strand transforms the area into 19th-century London. Food and entertainment flourish with parades, costumed vendors, carolers and street musicians, creating a whimsical holiday feel. “Dickens on The Strand is my absolute favorite time to be in Galveston,” Hess says. “It is truly the epitome of Christmas.” (409-765-7834; galvestonhistory.org)