The just opened Pappas Bros. Steakhouse location downtown might finally be the signal that downtown – after very long last – might be turning the corner in terms of its dining scene. Sure, it will be another expense account steakhouse catering to business travelers, joining Vic & Anthony’s, Morton’s, III Forks and Shula’s, and it resides in the home of another steakhouse, the Strip House. But, Pappas Bros. Steakhouse is arguably the best of the local steakhouses. It is also a local favorite that generates a much warmer local reputation than similarly Houston-bred Vic & Anthony’s. Helped by the most lauded and expansive wine list in the state, it also radiates to many diners as being more of a sophisticated food destination than other steakhouses. Possibly most significantly concerning downtown, it is the jewel in the crown of the many Pappas restaurants, and its replication indicates that a savvy Houston-based restaurant operation sees the potential in downtown.
Excepting their convenience-oriented barbecue restaurants and an outpost of Pappasito’s in the Hilton Americas that primarily serves the hotel guests, the Pappas family, like Tony Vallone, avoided downtown during its earlier heady times in the last 1990s and before the last Super Bowl in Houston in 2005. The reasons things might be different this time is due to the all of the construction cranes around downtown and the heady development in the past decade of nearby Midtown. New hotels are going up adjacent to the George R. Brown Convention Center and more residential space is also being created. The 40-story high-rise tower rising across from a corner of Market Square Park in the northwest corner of downtown will be offering 463 luxury apartments were initially expected to cost between $1,800 to $5,800 per month. On the other side of the park, just a block away, another residential is tower rising. About a mile away along Main Street are even more high-rise residences.
Though business travelers and theater district goers might fill seats in a few of the restaurants, for sustained business, for downtown to be a dining destination, it needs a critical mass of residents who can support restaurants during the week. If they are well-off, the better for nicer restaurants of the non-steakhouse variety. The laudable Mexican seafood restaurant La Fisheria is just about to open a block north on Milam from the Market Square Tower, moving from the restaurant cluster on Shepherd south of I-10.
Also, helping the possible emergence of downtown’s restaurants are the numerous new apartments that have gone up near downtown, not just in Midtown. Within a couple of miles of the city center are thousands of relatively new apartments housing professionals. Though parking downtown is turn-off for many – the city’s parking restrictions in recent years have not helped – the popularity of Uber makes downtown much more accessible to those nearby. Uber or a taxi makes traveling downtown much easier, much safer, too.
With the construction, the Final Four next spring and then the Super Bowl, downtown dining should become more interesting. Maybe. The Houston economy is still heavily dependent upon oil prices, which could drop even more, and sustained lull in those industries might put a halt to any growth to downtown’s nightlife. But, at the very least, there is another address to enjoy the steaks and wines of Pappas Bros. Steakhouse.
Pappas Bros. Steakhouse
1200 McKinney (at San Jacinto), 77002, (713) 658-1995