Beyond New York City and Chicago, there’s no place in the U.S. better known for its epic steakhouses than the state of Texas.
Historically, that’s owed to the fact that Texas was once the epicenter of American ranching and cattle. The natural grasses and expanses of the Texas plains in the west of the state were ideal for cattle farming, a tradition born with the Spanish colonizers. By the end of the 19th century, the ranching industry had become one of the state’s main sources of prosperity.
But it wasn’t until the early energy booms of the 1970s and the rise of the Texas “oilman” that the steakhouse became a genuine Texan tradition for the wealthy.
There’s a decent steakhouse or two in the state’s capital, Austin. But today, it’s the state’s richest cities, Houston and Dallas, where you can find the cutting edge (excuse the pun!) of steakhouse culture.
By the end of the 2000s, Texan steakhouses, like their counterparts in other parts of the country, were transformed by the arrival of the 21st-century sommelier. It was then that wine programs in steakhouses began to evolve beyond the Bordeaux- and Napa-centric model.
In my experience, there are few beef-houses that rival the dining experience at Andiron in Houston, where I dined last night with our importer’s agent for southeast and northern parts of the state.
The options for east or west coast oysters? Check! Sides that riff on modern interpretations of the classics (like the superb, lardoon-heavty wedge salad we had)? Check! Sky’s-the-limit options for heirloom beef? Check!
But the thing that took it over the top, making it my “best steakhouse in Texas,” was the incomparable wine program, led by one of the most talented sommeliers I’ve met here, Renato Bringas.
The breadth, the depth, and its passion-fueled devotion to excellence really made it stand out. There were also numerous wine-geek gems scattered throughout the list, at prices that even a middle-class punter like me could afford.
But the thing that really took it over the top was the quality and level of service. And not just for our table. All the tables around us received the same attention-to-detail and commitment-to-hospitality service that we did.
I also really liked how the sommeliers tasted the wines for us. The first bottle, a blue chip white from Santa Cruz with significant age on it, was corked. But we weren’t tasked with ascertaining the fitness of the wine. The sommelier did for us and then swiftly retrieved another bottle (we got the last one!). Now, that’s a touch of old world service that you rarely find these days.
Those fine touches are what made Andiron an exceptional experience in a city where there seems to be a high-end, black-card steakhouse at every turn.
I couldn’t be more proud to know that both the Amistà Nizza and the Amistà Nizza Riserva are part of Renato’s program.
Thank you, kind sir, for an evening to remember and a meal for the ages!