I never went to Privé, the two-story lounge situated between Aladdin and Uchi at the corner of Westheimer and Montrose. My friends have fond memories of the place, which closed five years ago, but I only recall driving past its empty shell day after day wondering when something else would finally move in—especially considering how busy Lower Westheimer has gotten in the last couple of years.
Rosemont Social Club
Rosemont Social Club has now filled the long-vacant space, and it's a welcome addition to the Montrose strip for several reasons: the comfortable bar affords a terrific space for pre- or post-Uchi dining (especially if there's a long wait at the popular Japanese restaurant), the food and cocktails at Rosemont are more elevated than they need to be, and the rooftop patio offers an ideal setting for enjoying this recent round of cool, inviting weather that begs to be indulged in, preferably while ensconced in one of Rosemont's cozy open-air cabanas.
The first time I visited Rosemont was for a media function, in which both my delicious cocktails and bar snacks were on the house. I enjoyed the laid-back aerie with its cool breezes and slightly Moroccan flair so much that I did something I don't often do after media dinners; I returned a few nights later. There was an entirely different bar staff on my return visit, so I settled in to test their mettle without a PR rep present and to watch a Houston sunset decorate the skies in shades of golden pink and violet blue.
I couldn't help but order the same dishes I'd had on my first visit—a chicken and curtido-topped flatbread and a bowl of macaroni and cheese studded with andouille sausaage. Both were too good not to share with my boyfriend, whom I'd dragged along to a spot far outside of his typical dive bar/craft beer wheelhouse. There is little by way of beer on Rosemont's menu (it offers the standard line-up of Bud, Miller, Shiner, and a few local favorites), and only a few wine options.
But this is a cocktail bar, and the cocktails here shine. The bar smartly has one frozen option on tap—good for quick turnarounds and great for humid weather—a frozen Mai Tai that's topped with a floater of spiced rum. It rivaled any of the frozen cocktails I've enjoyed at Grand Prize Bar over the years, thick and substantial but not too sweet.
The Pressgang Swizzle, gin mixed with grapefriut juice, lime, ginger, and bitters, was equally well-balanced, as was a slightly spicy Kentucky Mule, its rye whiskey and lime juice given a nice kick with ginger beer. Being a cocktail bar, Rosemont will of course make you any cocktail you can think of—on the menu or not—although one inebriated woman next to us that night did not succeed at getting the bartender to make her a "Vegas bomb," thankfully. The Rosemont isn't that kind of bar.
What it is, however, is the kind of bar where you go to relax with friends after work or hunker down for a low-key weekend evening. There's a bar on the first floor with a sort of speakeasy feel—you have to enter through an unmarked door that faces Uchi's valet stand. The bar on the second story opens onto the rooftop patio, making it the sort of inside-out, almost beachy bar that discourages frantic crowds and encourages lingering on its comfortable padded barstools. The food, too, is meant for casual consumption. With the exception of the sausage-topped mac 'n' cheese, it's finger food and easily shared.
Rosemont's owners also run TQLA, the tequila bar-cum-Southwestern restaurant on Washington Avenue that's also known for excellent drinks and above-average food. One of the former waiters at TQLA asked the owners over and over again to work the line in the kitchen. They finally let him one day only to discover a hidden talent. He's now been transported to Rosemont, where he designed a menu small enough to be served from its tiny kitchen yet interesting enough to set itself apart from other bar food programs.
It's unusual enough to find thoughtful, creative bar snacks—and unusual still to find something worth going back for on its own. That item, for me, is the chicken flatbread. Sure, flatbread is something you'll find on nearly every new menu these days. But it's the toppings here that stand out: beer can chicken that's shredded onto the flatbread, then topped with homemade curtido, the cabbage and carrots cured in a mixture of apple cider vinegar and other spices. I'd been waiting for the day that curtido—a Salvadoran condiment similar to Korean kimchi, albeit less spicy—crossed into the mainstream; that day has come, and it tastes delicious.
I love the usefulness of the entire block that's been created here at the corner of Westheimer and Montrose: casual sliders and fries at Little Bigs; cafeteria dining at Aladdin; high-concept Japanese-American modern cuisine at Uchi; lattes and lagers at Southside Espresso; and now cocktails and one of the city's prettiest patios at Rosemont. It's a sort of density we're unaccustomed to as Houstonians, but one I hope sets a trend as the city matures.
Since those two nights at Rosemont, I've been sending friends there left and right. Some for the patio and its cherry-red cabanas with fluffy seats, some for the fun drinks, but all have reported back with glowing reviews of both. "I'm at Rosemont right now," a friend texted me on Saturday night. "And it's magical."