Brisa Cocina Mexicana

Houston White tablecloths and solicitous service are your first clues. And one look at the menu confirms it: Brisa is a step above the usual Mexican spot—and there’s no Tex-Mex. Sure, an enchilada or two makes an appearance, but how about queso cilantro, a block of Chihuahua cheese crusted with crushed chicharrones and fried, then topped with a roasted poblano-tomatillo sauce, cilantro, and sesame seeds? Or an inventive Queso Fajita, a wrapper of cheese stuffed with fajita meat, then topped with poblano-tomatillo sauce and a garnish of avocado pico de gallo? Even the sides are handled with loving care: The rice, beans, and guacamole are first-rate, as are the chips and the house-made salsas. And did we mention the margaritas? The owner is Diana Ramos, who used to own Habanero Blue, downtown. Welcome back. Bar. 5161 San Felipe (713-993-9899). Open Mon—Fri 11—10, Sat 1—10. Brunch Sun 10—3. $$—$$$ W+

Max’s Wine Dive

Austin No more “divey” than the Houston original, this hot spot has taken Austin by storm. Obviously not trying to fit into a summer maillot, Max’s augments its well-selected wine list with classed-up comfort food like fried chicken and Max & Cheese: cavatappi pasta tossed in truffle cream with fresh mozzarella and a blend of white cheddar, cotija, and Grana Padano. Oh. My. God. Nacho Mama’s Oysters are fried, served atop aioli-dabbed fried wontons, while the burger oozes with melted triple-cream cheese. For dessert you’ve got, appropriately enough, the “Big Ass” brownie or the “BMF” white chocolate bread pudding (with more than a dollop of salted caramel gelato). Bathing suit be damned! The exposed brick walls in the remodeled space pay homage to historic Austin (and no doubt contribute to the noise factor, which reaches TNT levels). Beer & wine. 207 San Jacinto Blvd (512-904-0111). Dinner Mon—Wed 4—midnight, Thur—Sat 4—2 a.m. Brunch Sun 11—3. $$ W+