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At a time when many in Houston flee to beach retreats on either coast, those of us left in our landlocked city only have to step into the sparkling new Loch Bar to feel transported to a storied East Coast oyster bar on Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard. Situated in River Oaks District, Loch Bar’s concept — seafood tavern meets stylish speakeasy —was created by young wunderkind Baltimore brothers Alex and Eric Smith, founders of the 7-year-old Atlas Restaurant Group, which has more than 10 restaurant concepts in 14 locations from Baltimore to Florida and Houston, including Loch’s next-door neighbor Ouzo Bay.
Houston’s Loch Bar was designed by Patrick Sutton, who also designed the original Baltimore location. Saunter through the entrance, where the walls are covered in whitewashed shiplap, and into the 5,000-square-foot space. Take a seat in one of the cozy burgundy-hued tufted-leather banquettes pulled up to white marble tables, where gleaming brass lends the room a timeless feel.
The bar boasts more than 400 bottles of whiskey — Scotch, bourbon, rye… You name the brand, they probably have it. Houston beverage director Jonathan Jones has reimagined the signature cocktail made with bourbon, lemon juice, and honey, as well as Loch’s cult favorite: the Orange Crush, an icy, refreshing tincture of New Amsterdam orange vodka, triple sec, squeezed orange, and Sprite.
Showstoppers on the expansive menu are the shellfish towers with fresh oysters, jumbo shrimp, Alaskan king crab, mussels, and clams on a bed of ice (petit tower $95, grand $195, or royal $295) and the caviar¬ selections — Baika, Osetra, and Beluga — served with traditional accouterments, each priced per ounce ($58 to $185). Sharable charcuterie and cheese boards (petit $16, grand $26) inspire mid-afternoon meet-ups with a glass of wine.
Memorable starters are yellowfin tuna poke tossed with avocado and radish, immersed tableside in soy ginger dressing ($23), and gravlax carpaccio: smoked salmon, dollops of crème fraiche and pickled onion with an oregano-laced bread-crumb coating ($12). As for the entrees, carnivores will gravitate to the steak frites au poivre ($42), bison filet mignon ($48), burger ($16), and pork chop ($36) — but this is a seafood-centered eatery.
It would be a shame to miss the fish n’ chips ($28), beer-battered in local Saint Arnold Brewing Company IPA with English pea purée on the side, homemade tartar sauce, and boardwalk fries ($28), or the two giant Maryland crab cakes, which don’t skimp on the lump crabmeat and are so popular I’m told they’re sent to customers all over the States ($48).
Best of all, if you’re searching for a late-night spot, Loch Bar stays open till 2 am, while the kitchen closes at 1 am.
Loch Bar, 4444 Westheimer Road in River Oaks District, 832.430.6601.
By Laurann Claridge | July 26, 2019 Photo by Kristen Gilliam