People like me, who frequently spend their evenings haunting vast, baroque dining establishments, puzzling over crowded, multipage menus and gorging (or trying not to gorge) on remorselessly similar variations of foie gras or molten-chocolate cake, often dream of escaping to a certain kind of restaurant. This imaginary restaurant is a neighborly place, tucked on an out-of-the-way street, where waiters aren’t excessively fawning and the prices aren’t excessively high. The room is big enough not to be poky, but not so big that you have to shout to be heard. There are no trendy circular lampshades hanging from the ceiling, no freakishly large flower arrangements sprouting to the sky. The food is various but not busy, and prepared in a way that highlights the ingredients instead of the vaunted skills of an egotistical chef. It’s a restaurant, in other words, where one would be happy to dine on a night out with a date, spouse or close friends who know and appreciate well-prepared food made with quality ingredients.
Lucio’s, which opened not too long ago near the nondescript corner of Taft and Dallas Streets in Montrose, is this kind of place. The modest little restaurant occupies a couple of rooms, with a recently-constructed outdoor deck for eating and sipping wines. The beautiful and creative works of local artists are on display throughout the establishment and are for sale. Lucio’s strikes a perfect balance between being both comforting yet upscale.
If all this sounds a little precious, well, that’s because it is. Lucio’s is already a favorite haunt of delicate, food-obsessed souls who murmur over the quality of the goat cheese and spinach leaves in the goat cheese salad or the interplay of seasonings coating the sesame crusted Ahi tuna seared to perfection and served with a savory side of wasabi mashed potatoes and fresh spears of tender asparagus.
Lucio’s isn’t especially glamorous or inventive. Which is precisely the beauty of it. Unlike at some of the city’s other high-minded, ingredient-conscious foodie palaces, however, the menu here is presented casually, within the context of a familiar culinary tradition, and it’s relatively cheap. It’s the kind of straightforward, unfussy food that would send you into paroxysms of tourist glee if you came across it at a trattoria in the hills around Treviso, for instance. Service is generally prompt, attentive and friendly without being intrusive. On past visits both of our wait staff, Richard and Steven, were personable and competent, providing exceptional service and advice.
Of the starters I liked the blackened ox heart with spaetzle and aji the best, and would have ordered another plate or two if my cholesterol-fixated wife hadn’t threatened to grapple me to the floor. I also enjoyed the beef carpaccio laced with truffle oil complimented by a chiffonade of greens. Before the heftier courses arrive, it’s also possible to indulge in Lucio’s crab cakes drizzled with chipotle cream accompanied by a chive-mango salad, and a variety of other starter dishes designed, in high fashion, to be admired as much for their beauty as for their taste.
Unlike with the majority of brawny, overstuffed American fare restaurants these days, the menu at Lucio’s concentrates on seasonal and fresh local ingredients. My dry-aged ribeye complimented by a roasted garlic tomatillo chimichurri and accompanying stacked potatoes was cooked just as ordered (rare) to melt-in-your mouth perfection. My wife’s sesame crusted Ahi tuna lightly coated with a sweet and sour glaze was paired with savory wasabi mashed potatoes which I greedily “shared” with her.
The menu changes often at Lucio’s, but many of the high-quality ingredients (extra-virgin olive oils, balsamic vinegars, fresh herbs and seasonal vegetables, etc.) are constant.
We loved the desserts, which are unfussy and agreeably sophisticated. There was a creamy, perfectly wobbly goat cheese panna cotta infused with honey complimented by a brush of huckleberry sauce. Perhaps best of all was the strawberry tart
featuring Chambord and a delicate macerate of strawberry lemon cream that we opted to enjoy with a carafe of Lucio’s richly flavorful French press coffee (Lucio’s also offers a variety of specialty teas.) Taste these desserts delicately, like we weary gourmets are taught to do, or do the natural thing and devour them whole.
No review of Lucio's would be complete without mentioning that because patrons can bring their own wines for an extremely reasonable $5 per bottle corkage fee, our dinners are always at least $50-$100 less (if not more) than a typical night out with two to four adults.
Lucio’s continues to be one of our favorite dining spots in Houston. I've recommended Lucio's to friend's looking to try something new, or those seeking an intimate venue to host a birthday dinner or special date. I always look forward to returning to sample Executive Chef Rick Guerrero and Sous-Chef Brett Maesch’s latest seasonal menu.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.