Everyone enjoys impressing out-of-town guests with a visit to one of Houston’s wonderful homegrown restaurants.
The menus at these establishments usually boast of locally sourced this-or-that, and the chef/owner is typically following a lifelong dream after “working for the man” in a three-starred establishment elsewhere.
Houston has a plethora of these impressive eateries—places that have earned their “local classics” status through the test of time. A new addition to that list is Nobie’s, a five-year-old Montrose establishment that was recently named Restaurant of the Year by CultureMap Houston.
Located in an unassuming 1930s bungalow on Colquitt Street, Nobie’s offers seating for just 40 patrons. The charming windows, warm wood floors, and subtle architectural touches are original to the home and create a casually elegant impression. The U-shaped bar and banquettes complete the soft vibe.
Nobie’s is named after chef Martin Stayer’s grandmother, who is a lifelong Houstonian. “We wanted our place to be just like Nobie’s,” owner and manager Sara Stayer says. “She’s the warmest, kindest person, and an amazing host. No one is ever a stranger to Nobie.”
Sara met Martin while they were working together at a restaurant in Chicago. They soon discovered many mutual interests, including their dream to open a small, exceptional restaurant in a community that would appreciate it.
Martin trained at the Western Culinary Institute and had spent several years in the kitchens of Michelin-starred restaurants in Chicago. When he returned to his hometown of Houston in 2016, he and Sara decided it was time to pursue their dream.
Today, Sara acts as Nobie’s general manager and sommelier. She has assembled a brilliant wine list combining depth with unique varieties at affordable price points. The wines also complement Nobie’s unusual menu offerings.
And the menu is indeed uncommon; Nobie’s bills it as “New American” dining. What is that, you wonder?
“That’s the cool part,” Sara explains. “Like Americans themselves, New American dining could be anything. It can be from anywhere. We have so many wonderful influences and options to work with, particularly here in Houston.”
Martin’s menu is dedicated to the freshest, locally sourced produce, seafood, and meats available, so his 20 or 25 menu items—including the vegetarian and vegan options—are constantly changing.
A few standouts include the Octopus Garden, which the menu warns might “octopi your thoughts.” The chef marinates the octopus before it’s grilled, and serves it with Nonno’s Italian chili, crisp marinated olives, brown butter almonds, and a buttery leek soubise.
Another crowd-pleaser is a Nobie’s staple: Nonno’s Bolognese, made with “an absurd amount of love,” the menu boasts. Fresh ribbons of handmade pasta are served with Chef Stayer’s hearty, memorable, and meaty Bolognese sauce.
A favorite from day one has been the Beer Battered Sweet Tots, sweet-potato bites served over whipped goat cheese with harissa spice.
According to Sara, the average per-person tab, including a couple of drinks, runs about $45. She adds that light dining is always an option, but Nobie’s can also accommodate more elaborate tastes.
Nobie’s wine list, bar service, and multiple dining options, available from 5 to 11 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, allows the eatery to meet a variety of needs. Special occasions and late-night imbibing are also welcomed.
Another pleasing element at Nobie’s is the music drifting through the affable space. Martin has spent a lifetime collecting vinyl recordings, and he installed a special sound system that does justice to his audio treasures. No CDs or streaming here—the old-school LPs (anything from Edith Piaf to ZZ Top, Lady Gaga, and Queen) are played in their entirety.
A recent online review cleverly sums up the Nobie’s experience: “The vibe was chill, the music was remarkable, the staff was on point, and the food was phenomenal! The experience was so pleasing that I want to give it One Star—to keep it all to myself!”
So now you know. (Shhhh, don’t tell anyone.)
For more info, visit nobieshtx.com.
This article appears in the September 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.