Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Neighborhood Watering Hole

You know what's missing here in Rowlett? A nice neighborhood pub with good food. We envision the sort of place that's close to home, modern but cozy inside, offering great classic drinks but also a few unique house specialties, with an assortment of small plates and dishes great for sharing. This would be our date night dream.

In the absence of our utopian hang out, we venture over to Houlihan's at Firewheel in Garland for a grown-up evening out a couple of times a month. We don't go until after happy hour is over and we sit in a booth rather than in the bar area. This location tends to be very busy so it's not uncommon to wait for a table for 10-15 minutes.

The decor is modern but warm and welcoming. The booths are cozy and offer a feeling of privacy. We happen to be extremely leisurely diners and the waitstaff are always respectful of our annoying habits. First things first - we never open a menu until we have a cocktail in hand. One of the reasons we enjoy Houlihan's is that their bartenders consistently serve up great martinis at good prices. Their cosmopolitans have the perfect balance of flavors, without being too sweet, and you always know it will taste that way each and every time.

The first section of their menu is devoted to appetizers and small plates. Very, very rarely do we ever venture beyond this realm. One of our favorite ways to dine on date night is to order an assortment of a few different small plates to share. You can never go wrong with Houlihan's flatbread. Mushroom and arugula flatbread to be exact. The soft, slightly smokey crust is just melt in your mouth delicious and the white truffle vinaigrette makes the dish complete. If you are a hummus fan, their white bean and artichoke hummus will knock your socks off. It's served with a grilled pita bread that has the same wonderful smokiness as the flatbread. The bruchetta is another tried and true favorite that adds some crunch to the mix. The cheese and tomato spread is assembed beautifully and is accompanied by chopped kalamata olives and an assortment of baby greens with a wonderful balsamic twang.

Aside from "stuff on bread," the calamari is a great choice. Theirs is unique in it's asian presentation and sesame-ginger dipping sauce. The stuffed mushrooms are nice but be aware that this is not a soft baked mushroom. Anticipate a lot of freshness. The chicken nachos are an option if you have a big appetite because it's a very generous portion. The chipotle chicken adds a little something special and the chips aren't drowning in toppings which is great.

We are not generally dessert eaters so that portion of the menu is foreign to us as well. Who needs dessert when you can have a tasty martini instead?

Even though it's not exactly the neighborhood place we've created in our dreams, Houlihan's meets our date night requirements just fine. It's one of the few places relatively close to home that inexpensively offers an assortment of small plates, good quality drinks and consistency in a cozy modern environment.

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