By Jim Ayres
I love restaurants in old houses. They seem so uniquely Houston to me—specifically Montrose and The Heights. There’s something comforting about dining in a place that’s lived a full life, with all the creaks, crevices, stories and lack of parking that comes with it.
So, it came as no surprise when Nobie’s leapt to the top of my Houston favorites list. This purveyor of innovative, seasonal, locally sourced dishes exudes charm: the soundtrack (The Jacksons segueing to ’70s R&B on our visit) comes courtesy of an old-school Marantz stereo and the vinyl to match. But where are the speakers? They’re placed around the restaurant, cleverly disguised as artwork.
Décor is pared down from the lacy French motif of Au Petit Paris, the previous occupant. At Nobie’s you’ll find au courant woody textures and exposed brick, though the noise level isn’t high. Pleasant conversation is possible!
It’s all a bit trendy, of course, even down to the name. It seems like something new opens every month named after a chef’s or owner’s relative. Eloise Nichols, Lucille’s, Grace’s, the upcoming Emmaline, the departed Bernadine’s… Nobie’s joins this group as its namesake is executive chef Martin Stayer’s grandmother.
But this is hardly your grandmother’s cooking. Crab Aguachile is a terrific, of-the-moment starter. Tostones (fried plantains) are coated with chickpea flour and corn meal, then served with a medallion of crab, avocado, cilantro and lime. It’s an inspired mix of Puerto Rican and Indian flavors.
We asked our cute and witty server with a smile, Dylan, for advice on main courses. He waxed poetic about the amazing rib eye Chef had going in the kitchen. He had me sold, too, until I saw the $99 price tag (it serves three to four). As there were only two of us, I “ settled” for the 44 Farms Flatiron Steak. What a great choice it turned out to be!
Cooked to a nice medium rare, the nearly inch-thick steak came covered with chimichurri, the green Argentinean sauce. Parsley is traditionally the main ingredient, and you know how I dread parsley. Fortunately, cilantro sat in for the offending herb, and the steak was tender and delicious. I was in awe of the huge fried hen of the woods mushroom served alongside.
As often as I order wedge salads (the one here is deconstructed, so I passed), my friend orders scallops. The Day Boat Scallops at Nobie’s are sweetly caramelized. A base of grapefruit, arugula and lemon emulsion offers a bright contrast to the sweet and juicy fish.
Of course, I had to have a craft cocktail. My libation that evening, called My Spoon is Too Big, combined rye whiskey, banana liqueur, almond syrup, lemon and bitters sounds medicinal, and it is—it made me feel great!
Nobie’s is truly a neighborhood restaurant. At the corner of Shepherd and Colquitt, I could walk there from my house, but if you drive, know that there are just a few spots at the restaurant, and a couple next door at the nail salon after it closes. You can also park on the street, so there’s no excuse not to try this new Houston gem.
2048 Colquitt Street
Houston, Texas 77098