1252 Tapas Bar 9595 Six Pines Drive, Suite 670 Market Street The Woodlands, TX 77380 281-419-1260
Would we go back?
$9.50 – Jamón ibérico
$7.25 – patatas bravas
$7.50 – boquerones
$5.75 – pincho de anchoa con guindilla y patata
I remember when Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion opened in 1990. I also recall lamenting the dearth of nearby restaurants for a quick pre-concert bite. Those days, we usually ended up at one of the chain restaurants that line the feeder road of I-45. That all changed when the land around the Pavilion started being developed. The Woodlands Mall opened in 1994. Later, the area was augmented by, the Waterway, The Woodlands Town Center and Market Street. Multiple friends recommended 1252 Tapas Bar and Jasper’s to us; both are in the Market Street area. We’d dined at Jasper’s before and thought it was fantastic. We aren’t in The Woodlands often though, so we decided that we needed to try something different, and 1252 Tapas Bar sounded like it fit the bill. The inside seems rather small, but there is a generous patio. It will be an ideal spot when Houston’s temperatures aren’t so brutal. It was mid-August when we visited, so we sat at the modern-looking bar.
A Moment with Bread and Wine
Our bartender was a gentleman who provided helpful but unobtrusive service. We started with the red sangria, and it was a fine one, with enough body from the Cabernet and Burgundy blend to support the fruity apple, orange and strawberry flavors. Their regular wine list appropriately features selections from Spain, as well as Argentina, Chile and Portugal. A bread basket with dipping oil arrived, and included a black olive bread. My standard complaint about black olive bread is that I usually can’t taste the olive in it. I had no complaint with this one. It was one of my favorite parts of the meal.
1252 doesn’t have a huge selection of tapas, but it does have well-considered choices. We selected boquerones (white, marinated anchovies)—a cold dish—along with one of my favorite hot tapas, patatas bravas (potatoes in a spicy sauce, usually tomato-based). Our helpful bartender said that if we like boquerones, we should try their pincho de anchoa con guindilla y patata (which literally means “spike of anchovy with guindilla pepper and potato”).
My First Taste of Iberico
Our final selection was a platter of Jamón ibérico (Spanish cured ham), one of the specials. (According to a manager I spoke with today, 1252 Tapas Bar does intend to offer this for some time to come.) I’d never had Iberico ham before, as the per-pound price at Central Market’s deli counter usually turns my concerns towards financing my kids’ college educations. The price for the platter of it at 1252 seemed reasonable, though, and the thin slices were soft, tender, and at a slightly cool temperature that optimized the flavors. It tasted similar to prosciutto and yet a little deeper and spicier. The sauces served on the side were completely extraneous and masked, rather than enhanced, the flavor. We skipped them after the first taste.
A Tale of Two Anchovies
The boquerones were the other big hit. They were fresh, firm and had bright lemon and parsley notes. Less successful was the recommended skewer of the anchovy, guindilla and potato. Alas, I was not coached to eat the skewer’s entire contents in one bite as Alison Cook was on her visit. (Regrettably, I just read her review as I was writing this one. Serves me right for waiting so long.) So, I ate the potato chunk first, and it was boring. Then, I tried to chew through the bottom half of the long pepper. Once I got to the oil-cured anchovy with the top part of the guindilla, I discovered the payoff, but it seemed like a lot of work to get there.
The final dish, the patatas bravas, was much more like a similar Spanish dish, patatas aioli. My favorite version of patatas bravas used to be at Mi Luna, with a spicy tomato sauce that would leave me begging for more. Unfortunately, Mi Luna changed ownership several years back, and the quality suffered greatly on my final two visits. I haven’t returned since and won’t unless I hear something has changed. The patatas bravas at 1252 Tapas Bar was more of a tossed mixture of potatoes and aioli. I liked the old Mi Luna version better—it was spicier and not creamy—but that’s unavailable and 1252’s take on the dish is pleasing, if not exactly what I expected. I don’t think I’d order it again though, as there are other things they do much better.
Great for a Date
It wasn’t crowded when we went there at 6 pm on a Sunday, although I am sure that Friday and Saturday nights are much busier. With a clean, modern atmosphere, big patio, attractive bar selection and great service, 1252 Tapas Bar is a perfect date night place that will excite gastronomes as well. I wouldn’t hesitate to bring older kids there, either. (Per a manager I spoke with, younger kids are welcome, too.)
I still had some room and was ready for a second beverage, so we wandered across the way to our old favorite, Jasper’s. How did the “gourmet, backyard cuisine” place fare at happy hour? Stay tuned for another post in the near future.