Orecchiette in pesto at Nobie's.

I recently visited Martin and Sara Stayer's neighborhood new American hangout Nobie's for an early patio dinner, a rare date night with my wife. The goal: a cocktail, a couple of shareable plates including an entree, and dessert. Probably—no, definitely the olive oil cake. The sun shone on Colquitt Street but the cover kept us shaded, while also providing some privacy. We knew pretty quickly on that Nobie's was the right choice for this date night, or really any date night.

Though my wife is pregnant, I wanted her to experience the work of ace bartender Sarah Troxell. After a loose mocktail request (not too sweet, a little bubbly), a snappy and delicious passionfruit sparkler arrived. I had a robust mezcal cocktail, then for dinner, a glass of tingly, dry muscadet. Nobie's drink menu changes daily, so it's not hard to imagine that my combination of drinks that evening was completely unique and singular. That's a very pleasing feeling.

The dinner menu also changes daily, though some dishes hang out longer than others. We went with two semi-regulars, the dilly bread and Texas tartare. The former, a soft pillow inside a scalding skillet, was sweet with just the right herbal hit. I wished for a little more kick out of the tartare, but dang if those ingredients (smoked jalapeno, capers, deviled egg) didn't sing together.  

The outstanding olive oil cake at Nobie's.

For an entree we ordered a plate of supple little orecchiette with peas, dressed in pesto, a funky blue cheese, and duck with both the fatty meat and the crispy skin. You couldn't have dreamed up a better springtime dish.

Light and airy, but heightened by those crispy little sugar granules, brightened by lemon zest, and lifted to the clouds by that vanilla whipped topping, the olive oil cake was the perfect finish. As my wife and I took turns with our forks, we knew few date nights here in Houston could top what we experienced at Nobie's. And we weren't even done with the date. That's the mark of a great restaurant.

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Nobie's

$$$ American/New American 2048 Colquitt St.

Chef Martin Stayer's grandmother was the inspiration for this comfortable restaurant inside a Montrose home, but the food is anything but old fashioned. Try ...