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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Modern, American
Upmarket restaurant

Tue–Wed 11:00am–midnight
Thu 11:00am–1:00am
Fri 11:00am–2:00am
Sat 5:00pm–2:00am
Sun 11:00am–10:00pm

Features Date-friendly, good wines, outdoor dining, Wi-Fi
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


510 Shepherd Dr.
Houston, TX
(713) 863-7777
Branch Water Tavern
A late-night whiskey refuge with some decent small bites

Branch Water Tavern’s hedonistic selection of American whiskeys nods to the rusticity of a simpler era, while the geekiness it employs is thoroughly modern. The space previously belonged to a divey billiards club, and there’s an unfussy romance to the restoration, with the vintage appeal of graphic wallpaper, lots of warm wood, and etched, properly sized glassware. The concept of serving artisanal and ancestral foods in a saloon-like setting has been wildly successful in bellwether dining scenes like Brooklyn and Portland, but is relatively new to Houston, and nearly unmatched.

While the resulting hype meant pre-opening rhapsodies about the beak-to-tail dishes employing locally raised duck, and chicken-fried oysters with Buffalo-style hot sauce, our experiences have been wildly inconsistent, peppered with overcooked meats, underseasoned and tough burgers, and stale-tasting duck fat popcorn. The small plates tend to be better, including well-made rillettes and pâtés, crispy fried olives, and plump, luscious mussels in Riesling with a garlicky bite and a whisper of harissa. The dessert program is even stronger.

The best way to approach Branch Water is as a great bar with better-than-usual bar food. Those merits are enough: these balanced Bourbon cocktails will introduce some to drinking Bourbon neat (then Irish whisky, Scotch, and so on), and the selection will excite those who already do.

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