Penny Quarter's fried chicken sandwich and peppered fries

Image: Jenn Duncan

The Latin proverb maintains "in vino veritas," but I found so much more on my recent visits to a pair of new wine-centric spots, Penny Quarter and Mutiny Wine Room. (Read my review of Mutiny here.)

Yes, the wine selections on offer at these places are remarkable. Since the 2019 opening of Penny Quarter in Montrose and the January launch of Mutiny Wine Room in the Heights, they’ve only improved on the (already respectable) Houston vino scene. Both are versatile newcomers offering Houstonians a chance to uncork and unwind, and both happen to have menus just as impressive as their wine lists.

Of course, any all-day café that’s co-operated by James Beard Award winner Justin Yu ought to have killer grub. That’s Penny Quarter, doing wine, coffee, and food in a relaxing hub that once housed storied nightclub Etro. But there are no traces of late-night dance parties in this cozy, down-to-earth space brightened by a picture window behind part of its L-shaped bar. Now deep leather sofas and stylish wood chairs with soft cushions beckon laptop warriors, and a loft-style space above the bar offers more private nooks for noshing.

Here Yu is joined by Anvil Bar & Refuge owner Bobby Heugel and Steve Flippo, the same team behind Better Luck Tomorrow and Squable. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Penny Quarter meets the high bar set by those beloved Montrose and Heights spots.

The hip setup at Penny Quarter

 

Image: Jenn Duncan

One night I started with an appetizer of salty parmesan shards marinated in olive oil laced with oregano and pasilla chiles, which lent a complex peppery warmth to the cheese. Then came a plate of al dente spaghetti with fresh, thin-sliced cucumbers bathed in a garlic-and-green-peppercorn olive oil sauce that offered a hypnotic, lingering heat. My favorite dish of all, though, was from the snack menu: sweet pea and chorizo fritters first battered in Lone Star then fried and served with a lemon squeeze and generous dollop of tangy tzatziki sauce. 

Another night, I found myself craving the zesty zhug (a Yemeni spice-filled hot sauce) of Yu’s fried chicken sandwich. Every bite offered a contrast between the soft bread, the crispy chicken, and the rich verve of the hot sauce. My server suggested pairing it with a glass of Domaine Pichot Vouvray Brut, a sparkling Chenin blanc from the Loire Valley, and the carbonation cut right through the gluttony.

I liked the charred flavor on the nickel burger, where two loosely packed patties smashed nearly wafer-thin meet a host of greens in a collapsible brioche bun, but it could’ve used even more meat. My favorite wine pairing with that: an earthy Tempranillo from the Spanish Artadi estate.

There are some excellent meatless entrées, too, like the vegan tofu verde—soft cubes blanketed in acidic tomatillo sauce alongside crispy red cabbage and quinoa—and the cabbage-and-apple salad, a refreshingly light dish with white miso dressing and fresh basil.

And then there’s the coffee. Consider the Bicerin, a satiny Italian mocha made with espresso, drinking chocolate, and milk—try it with a cloud-like chocolate croissant from Magnol French Baking for the ultimate sweet fix. If you prefer savory, the satisfying egg sandwich with spicy chile oil, tomato, and arugula will never let you down.

Penny Quarter is my favorite all-day spot in Houston, the kind of place where you just want to post up, whether for afternoon coffee, happy hour, or date night—or conceivably all of the above.

From left to right, sparkling wine and a snack of sweet pea and chorizo fritters at Penny Quarter

Image: Jenn Duncan

What to order

  • Sweet pea and chorizo fritters
  • Spaghetti
  • Fried chicken sandwich

Price

  • Breakfast: $3–9
  • Coffee and tea: $3–10
  • All-day snacks $5–30
  • Entrées: $12–15
  • Sides $6
  • Desserts: $8

Penny Quarter. 1424 Westheimer Rd., Montrose. 281-888-6121

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