With new Vietnamese street food concepts, neighborhood restaurants celebrating modern American cuisine, and meaty steakhouses and smokehouses always opening and popping up in Houston, it's pretty cool and certainly bold to see a throwback to 1960s fine dining find its way into the H-Town restaurant culture.
Turner's is the social club-style restaurant from Berg Hospitality Group (B&B Butchers, B.B. Lemon, The Annie Cafe & Bar) that opened in March—before closing and then reopening due to the Covid-19 pandemic—beneath The Annie in Uptown. Robert Del Grande oversees a menu of luxuriously rich American and Continental classics (branded as "heritage-type" dishes) in a handsome dark room full of framed paintings and photographs, a baby grand piano (typically with a player at the stool), and a gorgeous black marble bar with antique glass.
It's the kind of restaurant you can't find elsewhere in Houston. There's lobster thermidor and a wedge salad prepared table-side, nightly entertainment, and corner booths so snug that you could probably take a catnap after your big meal.
However, this is an expensive restaurant. Entrées fall in between $32 and $75. Owner Benjamin Berg loves giving folks the option of paying hundreds (or thousands) of dollars for wine and champagne, and the list here is packed with those offerings (glasses for less than $20 do exist). A party of two can easily pay $250 or more for a meal without batting an eye.
That kind of check might turn off diners looking to keep the wallet full, especially during the middle of a pandemic that has seriously damaged the global economy. But considering no two Houston diners are alike, and many folks are willing to pay big for a big meal, Turner's is a welcome addition to Houston. Also, considering just how good some of Del Grande's dishes are, Turner's is one of the best things about Houston dining in 2020.
For proof, just order that table-side wedge. A server rolls in a cart with the hefty hunk of lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, some blue cheese, and a long slab of slow-smoked bacon. The server slices the bacon and assembles the salad, finishing with a generous pour of blue cheese dressing to top it off. It's gorgeous, delicious, and, for $18, is an honest steal.
In addition, there's a decadent artichoke soup, which has been given a table-side addition of butter-poached oysters; a starter called Land & Sea, in which East Coast oysters topped with alternating creamy Daurenki caviar and carpaccio and bone marrow that's torched table-side; and buttermilk-fried quail with heavy scratch-biscuits topped with duck sausage gravy ... also poured table-side.
With all those table-side preparations in mind, the service at Turner's, led by general manager Jose Montufar, is fastidious. There are plenty of table check-ins and cues to give feedback on items. Water is refilled constantly. The service actually nears the point of being too much, but when compared to the customary single check-in you might get in the middle of your entrée at other restaurants, it's a nice change of pace.
Entrées at Turners include classic fare, like a meatloaf (topped with a sunny-side egg and oxtail gravy) that Del Grande painstakingly created, combining meats and going through numerous trials. Additionally, a perfectly cooked filet of Scottish salmon is served in a pot roast with market vegetables—in my case carrots, celery, and potatoes—and a ginger and herb mustard dressing. I've never had salmon with celery and carrots, but the mild fish fit perfectly, and the dressing brought the dish together.
You can also get a big $28 burger with raclette cheese; a freaking $28 Reuben with house-cured corned beef; or a $22 service of hot dogs served with a table-side selection of onions, sauerkraut, pickled relish, and Texas chili, as if you're holding court at your very own New York hot dog cart. But if it's my money, I'm getting the wagyu, sourced from Snake River Farms. An $82 plate of wagyu filet mignon comes with baked potato cake, beurre rouge, and smoked cheddar dressing, and the $42 wagyu skirt steak comes with a fontina and huitlacoche enchilada.
Del Grande says the skirt steak dish is reminiscent of a cantina meal, albeit the most expensive one you could have. The money is worth it: I've never had a skirt steak so good.
At Turner's you're paying for a romantic, cool, and comfy ambience; a clean throwback aesthetic; and fine dining by way of one of Houston's most legendary chefs. I recommend it at least once, and if you have the cash to burn ... go a few more times.