1252 Tapas Bar in Vintage Park Opens to Bad Weather With Good Food

Categories: Restaurant News

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Chuck Cook Photography
1252 Tapas Bar in Vintage Park
I visited the new location of 1252 Tapas Bar in Vintage Park on its first two opening nights. (The original is located in The Woodlands.) Vintage Park is near 249 and Louetta and is structured a great deal like Uptown Park off of Post Oak.

The opening has been quiet, but the fare speaks loudly. 1252 is serving some of the most sophisticated food in Northwest Houston.

Several weeks ago, my husband and I were on a Saturday morning bike ride. The weather was warm and dry. We stopped for a bite at Vintage Park, and noticed 1252 looked ready to open.

Regrettably, it took the fire marshal about a month to complete inspection, which caused weeks of delay. So instead of opening to greet couples strolling arm in arm in temperate weather, 1252's opening night was cold and rainy, which made Vintage Park a ghost town.
1252 was worth the wait, so put on your coat and go. It provides a new, badly-needed weekday business lunch option to the area, too.

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Chuck Cook Photography
An interesting take on Queso de Cabra
On Monday night, I sat at the bar and talked with the bartender. His name is James. He was brought up near the Montrose area and moved to New York, where he worked at four different places, including a mixology-driven bar. Regrettably, the place didn't make it. We had a spirited conversation about rye and Sazeracs (which we are both fond of) and what a shame it is that 1252 does not actually stock rye (at least not yet). James recommended a lovely glass of Van Duzer Pinot Noir. It was a great wine, but served woefully above temperature. I have a special beef with places that serve red wines at room temp, which is often 10 degrees above optimal, depending on the varietal.

My first dish was a lovely pimento soup (sopa de pimiento) garnished with sliced green olives. It had enough heat to warm a soul on a cold night, but not enough for anyone to complain it was spicy.

A roasted asparagus dish called esparragos trigueros a la plancha was almost a meal unto itself, with lemon aioli and a halved hard-boiled egg. I found it enjoyable, but ended up having half of it boxed lest I run out of room for the churros that James insisted I try. He was right; while maybe not a Spanish dish, they were outstanding. The churros were crispy outside and airy inside, with plenty of tightly adhered cinnamon and sugar. They were served with a perfectly respectable creamy vanilla ice cream that had an adult-like level of sweetness.

On my second visit with my husband, we ordered queso de cabra con nuez from the starters menu. I've had queso de cabra before as a hot, broiled, bubbling hunk of goat cheese in spicy tomato sauce, but this was an entirely different take. This rendition was a delicious large round of soft rind goat cheese served on top of a fresh tomato slice and topped with dried figs and walnuts. It was entirely modern and made the most of each ingredient.

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Chuck Cook Photography
Eat these empanadas while still crispy and hot with generous doses of chimichurri

We followed that up with an order of empanadas de res, recommended by both James and our server on Tuesday night. The empanadas are great when fresh and hot, but as they cool, they get chewy, so eat them right away. Don't hold back on the creamy chimichurri dip, which I could have eaten by itself because it was just that good. Next came two links of black sausage (morcilla con puré de manzana) with mustard, mild applesauce (that was more like a sauce, not like the chunky stuff that comes out of a jar) artistically cut through with a swath of a more traditional, thinner chimichurri. The sausage was broiled until the skin was crisped, and it was delightful.

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Chuck Cook Photography
Creamy, satisfying vanilla custard brûlée (crema catalana)

At the end of this visit, we had a dessert equally good as the churros; a thick, creamy, vanilla custard brûlée (crema catalana). Tapping a crispy sugar crust and hearing it sharply break under the edge of your spoon never gets old for me, as long as what's underneath is worthwhile.

You really can't get in and out of 1252 cheaply because it's the kind of place where you'll want to order several things. My first visit, which included a glass of wine, a cocktail, soup, a vegetable dish, and a dessert, was about $50. Skip the alcoholic beverages, and the tab will be manageable for a normal weekday lunch. The subsequent visit with my partner ran about the same per person. It is a prime spot for a nice date or a relaxing happy hour, and some of the wines really are great values. (I noticed a bottle of 2008 Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon selling for a modest $70; about half of what Mia Bella next door sells it for.)

I hope that 1252 Tapas has great success and finds an appreciative audience. It's a shame to see it so empty on its first two nights when it has so many great things to share.



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24 comments
Guest
Guest

Wonderfully surprised! I went to 1252 Tapas at Vintage Park this past Saturday and have to say I had an incredible experience. The food and service where very good. I ordered the Chef's flounder special and was impressed with the different flavors and textures in this dish. My wife had the tortilla espanola and chistorra and loved every bite. The manager (Heath, I think) came and talked to us making us feel very welcome. The drinks were very good as well. Overall, the service staff were professional and courteous and fit the image of this upscale dining area.

After dinner we had planned to stay for one more drink, and that is when the surprise really kicked in! Around 10 pm when the dinner crowd had pretty finished a DJ kicked off and started the late night scene! This was not just any DJ either. They had an incredibly beautiful (and classy) female DJ that played some great music. I actually felt like I was in town with the exception of there were no long lines, no parking issues, no long drive, etc. The crowd was great -- not a lot of kids -- and seemed to really dig the DJ's music. I definitely, think I will be going back to 1252 Tapas for both dinner and the later night scene.

I would strongly recommend.

Dragana
Dragana

I'm going to be dreaming of Queso de Cabra tonight- the photo is amazing!  Nice to see talk about a restaurant in the far northwest.  I've enjoyed several meals in this area including at Peli Peli, Drew's Pastry Place, Bootsie's, Pho Bon Seng and more.  I know there are really great eateries other than fast food places out here and I hope to be able to discover them through you. 

Steve Mertz
Steve Mertz

Seems like most reviews, blogs, etc are about restaurants inside the loop.  Very nice to see some new stuff coming from outside The Loop and outside of The Beltway up North where some of us like to frequent.

Going to have to check this place out, sounds delicious!

Zecarlos76
Zecarlos76

Churros is an true, Madrileno, Spanish dish.

ShitThrowingMonkey
ShitThrowingMonkey

...And $70 for the Stags Leap is about twice as much as Central Market was selling it for earlier this year, if it's same vintage.

Joep
Joep

Vintage Park is a wasteland for restaurants. 

ChauncydeF
ChauncydeF

I like Rioja and Convivio for Tapas. Tried 1252 in the Woodlands and the experience was disastrous.

Matthew
Matthew

interesting to see this place receive a favorable review after getting blasted for their woodlands location. i'd enjoyed the woodlands location when we'd visited.

Mag
Mag

I think Peli Peli is excellent.  Today is Mango Tree Thai Bistro.  Next on my list is CoCos Crepes and now 1252

phaedracook
phaedracook

You may indeed be correct. Some of my research referred to them as "Mexican donuts" or even "Mexican crullers," and I think that's the assumption many of us Texans make, but that may be flat out wrong. Other articles agree that they are indeed Spanish. There is even a theory that they were invented by the Portuguese. I should research this further. Now that I think about it... the history of churros might make a great future article!

phaedracook
phaedracook

I used to think the exact same thing. The other restaurants in the center certainly have a lot of room to improve. I have some very specific (and not always kind) opinions on each place... but I'll reserve those for future articles. :)

phaedracook
phaedracook

I had an experience at Rioja that was bad enough to ensure I never returned, but the food was always good.

phaedracook
phaedracook

A few thoughts on this....

1) I'm just a blogger, not the official Houston Press restaurant critic. (That's Katharine.) My tastes/perspectives/experiences are different. Katharine might go and hate it. We'll see. :) 

2) I visited two nights in a row, and on both the food was very good. I've been to the Woodlands location too, and while I had an enjoyable experience there, it was not as good as the experiences at Vintage Park.

3) The restaurant just opened, and the staff absolutely knows this is make-it-or-break-it time. They are all working very hard to make sure people are well taken care of, and that's an extremely important contribution to the overall experience.

Will it be the same three months from now? I sure hope so. I also hope they put their good red wines in a 65 degree cooler.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Quality varies by location at a few Houston mini-chains that I can think of: Antone's, El Rey, Shipley's, Chatters, etc. I guess I need to give this 1252 Tapas a try. :)

phaedracook
phaedracook

I love Mango Tree! I order Green Curry at a level 5 spicy. They look at me funny when I do that. :) Their pad thai is excellent, and I had a basil dish that I quite liked there as well.

The morning that I mentioned in this article when my husband and I were biking? That was to Coco's. We had a lovely breakfast on the patio that morning.

I have a love-hate relationship with Peli Peli. More on that someday.

Zecarlos76
Zecarlos76

Cool, one of the typical things of Madrid, not anywhere else really but you will find them is get up Satruday morning and have hot chocolate (not the one we know, thick, rich almost like syrup consitency in small cups) and dipping of churros. In Mexico it's the same yet the hot chocolate it is more like we know it. :)

Matthew
Matthew

when you do, hit up "treat" cupcakes across the street. in my opinion, they are the best in what i will generously call "town". i suggest chocolate lovers to begin with.

GandolfeFletcher
GandolfeFletcher

Could you try Convivio first? It's closer to your place and mine than this silly putty place.

Mag
Mag

I was impressed with Mango Tree, everything i ordered was very good : )

phaedracook
phaedracook

What a lovely comment! Now I want some! I must know more about this think, rich hot chocolate. Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

phaedracook
phaedracook

No, it wasn't a bill issue. I wish it was, because that could have been fixed. It had more to do with the obnoxious, disruptive behavior of a staff member while we were trying to have a nice family meal with our kids.

phaedracook
phaedracook

I'm interested in what a silly putty place is. :)

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