In the Neighborhood
Discover local treasures just outside of The St. Regis Houston.
By Gaye Weintraub
From across the street to the next city, The St. Regis Houston’s concierge Timothy Hess is an area expert. “I know everybody; everybody knows me,” Hess says. For 13 years Hess has helped hotel guests discover everything from opulent culinary experiences to iconic fashion boutiques. For the most irresistible yet surprising insight into the city, Hess offers an eclectic assortment of the best spots to dine, drink and shop—all just a hop, skip and jump away.
The immediate neighborhood provides an abundant choice of upscale restaurants, watering holes and boutiques, with the level of quality and bespoke service a St. Regis Houston guest expects.
The River Oaks neighborhood, established in the 1920s by William and Michael Hogg, sons of former Texas Governor Jim Hogg, is about three miles away from the hotel. It distinguishes itself as one of the wealthiest ZIP codes in the United States and has made significant contributions to Houston’s history and development. Real estate ranges from $1 million to more than $20 million and is home to many politicians, celebrities, socialites and philanthropists. In addition to Houston’s first shopping plaza, River Oaks Shopping Center, the area includes Highland Village and Upper Kirby, all of which present Houston’s finest in merchandise. (Areas are located within the 610 Loop and halfway between Downtown and Uptown.)
Nestled alongside Memorial Park and flanked by the world-famous Galleria, the Uptown District includes the city’s most impressive architecture and premier shopping district and eateries. Initially Italian farmland, the area underwent construction in the late 1960s and became host to office buildings, residential estates and The Galleria. As the fourth largest mall in the nation, The Galleria attracts nearly 25 million people annually and features more than 375 fine stores and restaurants. Fashion icons such as Chanel, Cartier, Gucci, Henri Bendel, Louis Vuitton, Montblanc, Prada and Versace present their finest lines. Department stores include flagships Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue as well as two separate, full-line Macy’s. Additionally, a 20,0000-square-foot ice skating facility resides on the first floor. Polar Ice was the first skating rink ever built inside a mall and appeals to all visitors, especially those looking for something to do other than shopping and dining. (The Galleria, 5085 Westheimer Rd. #4850; 713-966-3530; simon.com)
Visitors seeking the Old West heritage of Texas will appreciate Pinto Ranch. Located on Post Oak Boulevard less than a mile from the hotel, Pinto Ranch carries a wide assortment of men’s and women’s Southwestern apparel, jewelry, hats, boots and buckles. Hess praises the store for its courtship of St. Regis guests and remarks that Pinto Ranch is “the place” for boots. The store stands out with the largest collection of handmade boots at more than 2,500 pairs in stock. Considered a luxury item, the tried and true comfort and craftsmanship of handmade boots lasts forever. Fine-tailored clothing items such as sports coats, Western dress slacks and accessories, including exotic skin belts, wallets and pens, make perfect gifts and keepsakes. “Pinto Ranch really stands out because everything in the store is authentic and made in Texas or the USA,” says Bea Garcia, director of marketing and e-commerce. “We only work with 10 silversmiths, and our buckle sets made with turquoise or fine gems such as rubies and sapphires become heirloom items passed down to children and grandchildren.” The selection of luxury Western gear at Pinto Creek surpasses all other Western specialty stores in Houston. (1717 Post Oak Blvd.; 713-333-7900; pintoranch.com)
In November 2011, Restoration Hardware opened its newest concept store, Gallery at Highland Village. Sprawled across 25,000 square feet, the first flagship gallery store in the country includes a rooftop garden, conservatory and fresh floral boutique. More than a hardware store, this Houston must-shop destination maintains a wealthy collection of home furnishings, garden decor, lighting and textiles. The company’s adjacent Baby & Child Gallery embodies a distinctive taste and style previously unseen in children’s furniture. The entire installment pulses design inspiration with many of the stunning creations pulled directly from the pages of its annual catalog. The 7,000-square-foot rooftop garden features Bellocq Tea Atelier, where shoppers can relax with a cup of loose-leaf tea while perusing design magazines, newspapers and books from global destinations. (4030 Westheimer Rd.; 713-328-3100; restorationhardware.com)
Located less than half a mile from The St. Regis Houston, Crapitto’s Cucina Italiana enthralls guests with traditional Italian charm and cuisine. Brothers Frank and Louis Crapitto own the restaurant, which is tucked away in an authentic Italian farmhouse circa 1915, surrounded by an oasis of 100-year-old oak trees. The chefs utilize the freshest ingredients possible to recreate Crapitto’s age-old family recipes, including local produce; homegrown tomatoes from Frank’s Huntsville, Texas, farm; and fresh fish delivered daily. In
addition to a cozy atmosphere, Crapitto’s possesses one of the most stunning patios in Houston.
Elegant and graceful, the restaurant strives to oblige the needs of every guest. “We will accommodate our diners any way we can,” Louis Crapitto says. “We want to make guests feel as though they are coming to our house for dinner, and we are happy to prepare something special for them.” Crapitto’s serves lunch and dinner weekdays and dinner Saturdays. The restaurant is closed Sundays. (2400 Mid Ln.; 713-961-1161; crapittos.com)
For diners with a spicier palate, the recent addition of Vida Tex Mex in the River Oaks neighborhood presents Mexican fare with a Texas flair. Owned by the Melcher family and only a quarter-mile walking distance from the hotel, this hidden jewel serves lunch and dinner and caters to the individual. The menu features classic and signature dishes as well as lighter items, and General Manager Marc Sierra suggests embarking on a culinary voyage that includes the red snapper ceviche made with sushi-grade snapper, red onion, cilantro and mango; stuffed chicken breast filled with sweet plantain, Chihuahua cheese and poblano peppers served on a black bean sauce; and a margarita blended with premium-quality liquors. The restaurant hosts happy hours on weekdays and is closed Mondays. (4224 San Felipe St.; 713-961-9200; vidatexmex.com)
Worth the Drive
Just 60 miles from the hotel, Galveston offers 46 square miles of land surrounded by more than 160 square miles of water. The island boasts the largest collection of 19th-century buildings in the United States and attracts more than 5 million visitors annually. The St. Regis Houston’s Concierge Timothy Hess’ favorite dining experiences include the following:
Breakfast at Mosquito Cafe. Voted best overall restaurant in Galveston, Mosquito Cafe prides itself on unique recipes sure to please any palate and desire. Wood beam ceilings, chalkboard menus and large wood-framed windows give the cafe a cozy, country feel. Open daily, except Monday. (628 14th St.; 409-763-1010; mosquitocafe.com)
Lunch or dinner at Rudy & Paco. A culinary voyage of grilled seafood and steak with gusto for South and Central American panache. Owner Paco Vargas enchants diners with generous servings, meticulous attention to detail and a precise level of service, which makes the restaurant the perfect choice for an elegant and memorable culinary experience. Closed Sunday. (2028 Post Office St.; 409-762-3696; rudyandpaco.com)
End the evening with a nightcap at 21 Wine & Martini Bar. Owned by Paco Vargas of Rudy & Paco, 21 features a full-service bar and more than 100 wines, 50 martinis and an impressive selection of specialty beers and cigars. (2102 Post Office St.; 409-762-2101; galveston.com/21)
It comes as no surprise that The St. Regis Houston’s own The Remington Restaurant and The Remington Bar prevail as The St. Regis Houston’s concierge Timothy Hess’ prime considerations for neighborhood dining and celebrating. Award-winning Executive Chef John Signorelli leads the culinary team of The Remington Restaurant in its flawless renditions of fine New American cuisine. The Remington Bar offers an upscale lounge atmosphere with liquid libations poured by Harry Spitzer, head bartender. While the bar predominantly hosts guests during the workweek, the venue transforms into a mecca of splendid merriment for locals and visitors on the weekends.
Hess suggests The Railyard for after-dinner entertainment. An impressive watering hole known as the “River Oaks dive bar,” The Railyard has amused guests for more than 40 years. Originally opened in 1969 as the Al Lee Lounge, the bar underwent a name change by the previous owner to the Roll-N Saloon in 1972, where it remained a fixture of the River Oaks neighborhood until closing its doors for good in January 2010. Under the direction of Trey Melcher from Vida Tex Mex, the bar underwent a cosmetic upgrade and opened as The Railyard in June 2010. Immediately the bar received accolades for its quality, creativity and patron value. A finalist in the “Small Wonder Bar of the Year” category of the 2012 Nightclub and Bar Awards, The Railyard received national recognition as a top bar with a seating capacity of 40 or less. Bartender Tony Morales attributes the nightspot’s popularity to its homey feel and unique windowless layout. “It’s a very easygoing bar with instant appeal,” Morales says. “Everyone knows everybody else.” The bar hosts afternoon happy hour daily and all day Sunday. (4206 San Felipe; 713-621-4000; railyardhouston.com)
For an outdoor pursuit, The Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park, known to locals as “the Waterwall,” features a 64-foot sculptural fountain with 78,500 gallons of water cascading in sheets down black granite walls. Located a mile and a half from the hotel and surrounded by 118 Texas live oak trees, the Waterwall sits at the south end of Williams Tower with a large green space that’s perfect for family picnics, kite flying and people watching. Oddly serene in a notoriously busy area, the wall serves as a popular backdrop for pictures. The wall’s mist provides the perfect cooling effect from Houston’s hot and humid summer, which often continues well into fall. Visit the area at night when dramatic lighting creates a magical and romantic ambience all its own. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (2800 Post Oak Blvd.)
You don’t have to travel high and far to reap the benefits of all that Houston has to offer. From great local eateries to premier boutiques and iconic landmarks, the neighborhoods surrounding The St. Regis Houston offer a memorable experience for everyone.