Perhaps the two things Houstonians love to do most are dine out and give back. Sure, it's an arguable premise. But consider this: locals eat out more than residents of any other city in the country--4.1 times a week compared to the national average of 3.1 times--according to Zagat. What's more, an assessment of Houston and its charities by the group Charity Navigator shows that H-Town is the second most philanthropic city in the country.
So we eat and we give--and, when the opportunity presents itself, we like to do both at the same time. Luckily, we've got more than a few options for doing just that. And a couple places to cocktail for charity as well.
August 1 kicks off Houston Restaurant Weeks. The annual event (which now runs 33 days) offers diners specially priced prix-fixe menus at many of the city's best restaurants. For $20 at lunch, $35 or $45 at dinner, you can eat at hotspots like Rainbow Lodge, Triniti and Brennan's. What's more, a portion of the proceeds from each meal goes directly to the Houston Food Bank. A complete listing of participating restaurants and their respective Houston Restaurant Weeks' menus is posted at HoustonRestaurantWeeks.com. Reservations are required for most restaurants.
The monthly Where the Chefs Eat Houston Culinary Tours offer a broad perspective on the local dining scene, allowing participants to experience some of the off-the-beaten-path spots local culinarians love. The tours are one of the best (and sometimes hardest to get) tickets in town-with some selling out in less than two minutes. The reason? Whether it's an exploration of the varying ethnic cuisines available on Long Point Road, the best spots in Chinatown or a study of world barbecue, each of the 16-person, chef-led tours are quite personal, affording a lot of face time with acclaimed chefs such as Monica Pope and Hugo Ortega. A portion of the proceeds from the $180 ticket go to Foodways Texas, the statewide nonprofit dedicated to preserving Lone Star food culture. Looking for a more direct way to give back? Houston Culinary Tours is organizing a volunteer day with the program's chefs at the Houston Food Bank on September 22.
Every Thursday the Montrose-set Boheme Café & Wine Bar teams up with the folks at Fresh Arts for Cultured Cocktails. Not only is this a great happy hour spot in general (we love the patio and the side room with eclectic, vintage furnishings) but on Thursdays you get a chance to get up close and personal with the artists and arts organizations that make Houston a cultural capital. Between the hours of 5 and 7 pm, a portion of the bar proceeds go to a designated arts nonprofit--from performance groups to visual arts studios.
Since its opening late last year, the Original OKRA Charity Saloon has made news both locally and nationally. A novel concept to be sure, patrons at this bar imbibe for a cause. For each drink purchased, a ticket is issued to vote for one of four charities of the month. At the end of the month, the charity with the most votes wins 100% of the bar's proceeds that month (minus operating costs). Houston charities love the idea, which is giving them exposure to new audiences. And they love organizing happy hours in the historic Downtown building that houses OKRA, just off Market Square. So far, the bar has given out more than $75,000 in just seven months.
Once a month, Chef Anita Jaisinghani's Pondicheri does breakfast for a cause at her West Ave restaurant Pondicheri. The Indian eatery offers an assortment of delightful breakfast items, from the masala eggs plate to the vanilla bean crepe. Jaisinghani designates one Saturday early in the month for a Community Breakfast, with 50% of the proceeds going to a specific charity. Beneficiary organizations have ranged from the Houston Area Women's Center to Casa de Esperanza. Follow Pondicheri on Facebook for details.