For a city known for its delicious ethnic fare, it should come as no surprise that Houston delivers top-notch American cuisine, too. Sure, there are plenty of greasy spoons in the nation’s fourth-largest city, turning out mouthwatering burgers, hot dogs, and fries, but what about buttoned-up American outposts? Read on for our top date worthy H-Town restaurants that deliver stateside classics and New American cuisine in style.
Tucked away on Shepherd Drive is the converted residence that is home to Backstreet Café. Since 1983, James Beard-nominated Chef Hugo Ortega’s New American venture has delighted fans with refined comfort food like shrimp and grits and a savory meat loaf tower. For prime people-watching, patrons in-the-know request one of the umbrella-covered tables on the front terrace.
Snag a pre-theater meal (or post-show dessert) at The Lancaster Hotel’s Bistro Lancaster. Inside the intimate space, white tablecloths and soft lighting set the scene for contemporary American bistro favorites like crab cakes and pan-seared fresh catch. Save room for the signature warm croissant bread putting with brandied dried cherries, fig confit, and caramel sauce.
In late December 2012, a piece of the Big Apple popped up in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood with the opening of Brooklyn Athletic Club. The preppy venture, mixes American fare, libations, and classic lawn games. Sit outside or, if you’re lucky, snag a seat in ‘The Clubhouse,’ where chef-driven cuisine shines in dishes like the mac ‘n’ cheese with braised short ribs and sweet potato gnocchi.
Within Chef Robert del Grande’s multi-level Cafe Annie, diners find a mix of newly-developed dishes, revamped culinary creations, as well as favorites like the tortilla soup and wood-roasted rabbit enchiladas.
At Frank’s Americana Revival, the Shine family is delivering a refined but comfortable atmosphere, mid-century décor and a service style reminiscent of the great neighborhood dining institutions of the United States. Located in River Oaks, Frank’s culinary team spotlights locally-sourced seafood, top-notch steaks and chops, and fresh Texas produce to create American cuisine rooted in classic, Southern style. Go for Frank’s much-loved chicken fried steak, maple-brined pork chop or Gulf black drum.
Nature-inspired decor and an ever-changing menu of simple flavors dominate the Heights’ Glass Wall bistro. Decorated in neutral shades, a centerpiece glass wall separates the open kitchen from the main dining room. The uncomplicated bistro-style menu is constantly changing and reflects in-season items and fresh flavors. Wine by the glass is suggested for the majority of menu items reflecting the emphasis on relevant wine pairings.
Located across the street from the George R. Brown Convention Center, the two-story, ultra-urban The Grove is one of two restaurants inside Downtown’s Discovery Green park. There, patrons find a sleek and modern space, along with a menu designed by chef/owner Robert Del Grande, featuring a variety of steaks, seafood, and rotisserie specialties. The bar menu offers more casual fare, such as the signature cheeseburger made famous at RDG + Bar Annie.
Situated in downtown’s historic W.L. Foley Building, Hearsay Gastro Lounge brings a fresh focus to a site that once served as a Confederate armory during the Civil War. The renovated spot features a massive ceiling—three-stories-high—original brick walls and crystal chandeliers. There, regulars return for upscale pub grub like the beer-battered asparagus, lamb chop pops, and espresso-blackened catch.
It’s been more than a decade since father-son team Tony and Russell Masraff teamed up to launch the family’s contemporary-American concept, Masraff's. Set in the heart of the Galleria area, the light-filled and modern space features floor-to-ceiling windows, etched-metal artwork, a 10-foot-high elevated fireplace and shimmering light fixtures. The popular wild-mushroom ravioli and garlic-seared calamari both impress on the variety-filled menu, as do the daily-changing risottos and the caramelized diver scallops.
Max's Wine Dive is an “upscale dive bar” offering a standout wine list, late-night comfort food, and a Texas-proud jukebox. Concrete floors, exposed brick walls, and luxe black leather booths don't scream “dive joint,” but neither does the expertly selected wine list or menu dominated by organic and locally grown goods. Crowds of trendy diners vie for tables at dinner time, sampling menu standouts like the Texas-style chili, kobe beef burger, and king-size “haute dog.”
Nestled in Houston’s River Oaks neighborhood, Chef John Sheely’s Mockingbird Bistro transports guests to a cozy countryside inn, in the heart of the city. The romantic respite is comfortably upscale with wrought-iron chandeliers, exposed brick accents, bistro-tables and floor-to-ceiling windows. On the restaurant’s seasonally-changing menu, Chef Sheely impresses with Texas-influenced-French fare highlighted in current seafood dishes, as well as the flavorful Kobe burger, onion soup, and steak fries.
Native Houstonian Elouise Adams Jones—better known to locals as Ouisie—opened her upscale Southern restaurant, Ouisie’s Table, in 1973 as a way to share family-style dishes from her childhood. Set inside a renovated country house, Ouisie’s features multi-room dining spaces that are cozy and intimate, boasting fireplaces, high-ceilings, garden views and a blackboard advertising the day’s specials. On the menu, Ouisie’s assortment of regionally-inspired dishes reflects her love for the Gulf Coast and elegant Louisiana cuisine. The southern shrimp and grits remain a local favorite, as does the chicken fried steak.
Set along the banks of the White Oak Bayou, inside a more than 100-year-old log cabin, the Rainbow Lodge remains one of the city’s most-loved and historic dining destinations. Inside the converted Heights’ home, stone fireplaces, stag heads, and antler-clad chandeliers adorn the multi-room restaurant, lending to the lodge’s cozy appeal. Outside, tables line a dramatic deck, which overlooks the restaurant’s tropical grounds and makes a serene escape. On the culinary front, wild game and seafood reign supreme, highlighted by standouts like the slow-smoked duck and andouille sausage gumbo and pan-seared red snapper.
Owned by Haven alum, Kevin Naderi, Montrose’s farm-to-table Roost restaurant tempts date night duos and business clients with shareable small plates offered in a home-style setting. Tempting smells drift from the open kitchen, highlighting dishes on Naderi’s internationally influenced (and always changing) menu. Expect a mix of fish and meat dishes (the diver scallops and flat iron steak are both standouts), but don’t miss the roasted cauliflower and signature donut hole dessert.
Set along the Heights’ 19th Street, Shade remains a local favorite, turning out eclectic, New American fare in a contemporary, olive-and-earthen-hued space. The venture, created by Chef Claire Smith and Russell Murrell in 2003, was a fast favorite in the area, thanks in part to the well-executed cuisine and smart wine list. Stop in for hearty servings of fried shrimp and bacon grits, Gruyère macaroni and cheese and the grilled, double-cut pork chop.
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