Austin Seems as if everyone is checking out this little—and we do mean little—wine bar and restaurant at the base of a downtown condo. Plan your visit to avoid busy times or you might end up cooling your heels. The look is sleek and pretty (Michael Hsu, of Olivia fame, is the architectural designer), and the menu goes way beyond cheese and pâté plates. As we eavesdropped on smartly dressed twentysomethings catching up on the day’s gossip, we noshed on meatballs in a delicious broth tinged with white wine, lemon, and bay leaves. We quite approved of the braised veal atop creamy polenta with fennel-apple salad (a tad bitter), and a smooth white Bordeaux left us glowing. The staff gets an A for wine knowledge and friendliness. Beer & wine. 360 Nueces (512-320-0297). Open 7 days 11:30—midnight. $$—$$$ WWW+

Lake House

Houston The menu for this casual indoor-outdoor spot overlooking downtown’s Discovery Green park comes courtesy of Robert Del Grande (of Cafe Annie). Consider it an uptown take on downscale fare, like a Kobe beef hot dog with cabbage-relish chow chow and mouth-watering french fries. Burgers are offered too, and milk shakes are undergoing R&D (i.e., the kitchen was tweaking the recipe when we visited). More-sophisticated dining is available a short walk away at the Grove, also in Discovery Green (another Del Grande venture, with Ryan Pera wearing the executive chef’s toque). Just one small caveat: Drivers should be prepared to pay a hefty parking fee at the surrounding lots. Beer & wine. 1611 Mc-Kinney, near Crawford (713-337-7320). Open Mon & Tue 11—3, Wed 11—6, Thur—Sun 11—8. $—$$ W+