On the Waterfront

Where Do Astronauts (with Good Taste) Drink? Chelsea Wine Bar

This quaint local bar has more than Gulf views to recommend it.

By Emily Juhasz February 3, 2017

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Imagine drinking wine and eating tapas right here.

Nothing quite compares to that perfect moment when you sit down at the end of a long day with your favorite glass of wine. Unless you are enjoying that glass of wine on a patio right by the water, of course. Imagine a place that offered an extensive wine and craft beer list, European-style tapas, scenic water views — and, of course, the priceless Texas sunset. Well, your dreams have now become a reality.

Located on Nasa Road between the NASA Space Center and the Kemah Boardwalk, Chelsea Wine Bar is a quaint local bar that NASA astronauts and live-aboard sailors alike go to to enjoy an equally quaint night out. Chelsea, as locals refer to it, offers an extensive wine menu that takes customers' palates around the globe, a craft beer menu that changes on a regular basis, and a selection of sweet and savory treats to enjoy.

Open since 2007, owner John Devereux stated that Chelsea was complicated to build. “It was a very slow process collecting materials from demolished buildings," he told Houstonia. In fact, it took roughly three years.

However, some things are worth waiting for, and Chelsea Wine Bar was definitely one of those things. Sitting between Boondoggles Pub and Valdo’s Seafood House, Chelsea is in a rustic building with a white-washed fence and stairs leading up to the front door. The downstairs patio is full of tables made for sitting and enjoying a glass of white or red sangria. The dark wooden beams suspended over the porch are covered with strings of lights that illuminate the building at night, offering a romantic atmosphere for date night. The front door, which is covered in NASA stickers, swings open to reveal a spot unlike any bar you have ever been too before. To know it, you must it experience it.

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The space is whatever you want it to be.

The lights are dim, and when you enter, an aroma of cheese hits your nose from the freshly baked flatbreads and panini melting. Immediately to your right are stairs to the upstairs patio and a private function area, which doubles as a seating area for guests when not in use for private groups. As you head toward the bar on your left, you enter a new room where the ceilings are raised high. Colorful paintings adorn the walls as well as floor to ceiling shelves housing endless bottles of wine. Chelsea Wine Bar offers customers with a cozy and inviting space that, according to general manager Jenni Cazares Majsterski, “becomes whatever kind of place you want it to be.”

If you are a local, you are bound to hear your name said from one direction or another. Oftentimes, it is coming from the friendly faces behind the bar. But don’t be discouraged, even if you aren’t a townie, Chelsea's staff will make you feel like one in no time. Be sure to head straight for the bar as there is no table service. Browse the menu while you are waiting—your choices will include more than 100 bottles of wine, 40-plus bottles of beer and an additional 24 beers that rotate on tap. The staff often takes field trips together to local breweries and vineyards in search of new and tasty products to serve to guests.

Majsterski suggests pairing a flight of beers with a Brew Board, which is a selection of aged cheeses, elk summer sausage, Italian hard sausage, a pretzel stick and honey mustard dipping sauce. If your taste buds are in the mood for something different, perhaps try my personal favorite, which is any red wine the staff recommends. Pair the wine with the baked brie—a thick slice of fromage warmed in the oven until gooey, drizzled with honey, and topped with slivered almonds, and served with English water crackers and apple slices.  Be sure to save room for dessert. The menu offers a selection of gourmet cakes, cookies, and tableside s’mores.

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The dense menu requires some serious deliberation.

Some tips for newcomers, keep an eye out for Chelsea's weeknight specials. My favorite is Ladies' Night, which offers $1 sangria and $2 Champagne on Thursday nights from 4-6 p.m., then from 6 to 9 p.m., both drinks become half-price. My husband’s favorite is the Tuesday night special, which offers customers half-price bottles of wine from a pre-selected menu. Also be sure to try the Sunday night dinner special, which is a Chateaubriand.

If you live inside the Loop and feel left out, don’t worry. Chelsea Wine Bar has its sights set to expand to new locations in the future. For now, those of us who live near Clear Lake can boast about the local bar just over the road. Often, those who live outside 610 may feel that there are few places to enjoy drinks apart from local sports bars. Chelsea Wine Bar defies those stereotypes, offering guests an opportunity to sit back, relax and enjoy the night. 

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