Restaurants / Openings

Historic Downtown Houston Hotel Makes Its Restaurant Relevant

New Chef Believes in Beautiful Seafood

BY Laurann Claridge // 08.21.17
photography Shannon O'Hara

The Sam Houston Hotel — or The Sam, as it‘s been affectionately known since the historic 100-room downtown hotel first opened in 1924 — had a 30-year hiatus as an operating hotel until its 2002 total renovation.

The current caretakers, the Houston hotel group American Liberty Hospitality, have now aligned their star property with The Curio Collection by Hilton, a select group of boutique hotels in the Hilton stable. The Sam is the first hotel in Houston to receive the designation, so in addition to spiffing up the rooms, a re-envisioning of the hotel’s restaurant and bar (formerly known as 17 and The Sam Bar) was in order.

They tapped local restaurant-concept creators Candice and Lonnie Schiller (Café Annie, Café Express, The Grove) as principals of their hotel/hospitality consulting firm H3D, together with architect Craig Schuster of Schuster, Inc. The team not only revamped the food and beverage venues, but took them down to the studs.

Hearkening back to the architectural details one might have found circa 1924, there are exposed-brick walls, columns clad in dark steel panels, chesterfield sofas, plantation shutters, and tiered chandeliers of oyster shells in what is now dubbed The Pearl Restaurant & Bar.

Opening chef Chris Loftis recently departed his post, but chef Ed Guizar executes his seafood and urban coastal cuisine remains, presented beautifully (and often on wide-rimmed plates that look like slate), with apps such as crab and corn chowder soup, with jumbo lump crab and charred corn kernels ($10), and Pulpo, composed of charred octopus, grilled fingerling potatoes, sweet blood orange, and fresh peas ($12).

Entrees at the Sam Houston Hotel’s restaurant include succulent grouper on a bed of curried corn and lentils ($29) and a mighty short-rib, cooked and glazed with Dr Pepper, served with spätzel ($24).

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