Spanish • The pale ivory tones and crisp white tablecloths in BCN’s elegant dining room seem to make the Montrose hotspot glow from within at night. Chef Luis Roger’s modern Spanish cuisine—grilled tuna with green onions and eucalyptus vinaigrette or anchovies imported from the Cantabrico Sea—is similarly elegant. This is fine dining, Spanish-style, as if the 16-ounce bone-in ribeye topped with foie gras wasn’t a dead giveaway. Dress to impress here, or you’ll risk being outshined by the nattily attired waitstaff.
Steakhouse • Too few places in Houston afford a picturesque view, hence the appeal of the lush bayou backdrop at Brenner’s, which is nearly next door to Bayou Bend and shares the same verdant, rolling, flora-covered terrain. In keeping with the rustic appeal, the menu features abundant game, from wild boar chops to a 16-ounce buffalo ribeye. For something less filling, grab a glass of wine and some black truffle fries at the restaurant’s Blue Bar, which affords an al fresco view.
French • A visit to this Rice Village favorite of over a decade is like a quick vacation to a French café—without the hassle of buying a ticket or boarding a plane. Come here with someone you want to get cozy with; sharing both the small tables in the itty-bitty dining room and the decadent dishes, especially the sweetbreads and moules Rabelais, is a must. You needn’t compromise on wine, however, as the list is both extensive and moderately priced.
Wine Bar • There’s much more to Katy’s first and only winery than just wine. Here, the menu is geared toward perfect pairings—from flatbreads to filet mignon—that match up with the selection of wines both in-house and imported from around the world. Don’t skip dessert, as you’d miss the flights of Araya chocolates meant to match up with either white or red wine. If you like a bottle, take one home for later; Cellar Door sells them to-go at a 15 percent discount.
French • Driving out to this family-run French restaurant can seem a bit like driving to a country inn, a feeling enhanced by the Humble favorite’s charmingly old-school nature. Chef Stacy Crowe-Simonson’s menu is devotedly continental, with well-executed classics such as French onion soup, house-made foie gras, and a chateaubriand for two with a rich sauce béarnaise. Ask for a wine recommendation from co-owner Scott Simonson; his list is deep, as is his knowledge.
Italian • Chef/owner Marco Wiles’s restaurant has been regarded as one of Houston’s best nearly since the day it opened in 2002, thanks to his insistence on importing the finest ingredients—from aged Italian cheeses to winter truffles from Alba—and making all of the pasta from scratch. The result is possibly the best Italian meal you’ll have in Houston. Da Marco takes its fine-dining dress code seriously, so play the part and suit up.
American/New American, Continental • If you’ve ever looked around a noisy dining room and wondered where all the grown-ups are eating dinner, the answer is at Mockingbird Bistro. Despite its eclectic, deeply quirky decor, the food and service here is all continental elegance, from chef John Sheely’s version of choucrote Alsace with pork belly to an oh-so-European cheese plate for dessert. An excellent cocktail selection rounds out a wonderful evening.
Italian • As befits a restaurant named after Italy’s fashion capital, Radio Milano is seriously chic, from its first-floor cocktail haunt to its second-floor dining room aerie overlooking the cabana-lined pool at the adjoining Hotel Sorella. Chef Jose Hernandez’s food is equally alluring: try the garnet-hued beet salad, juicy veal cheeks over creamy polenta, or house-made tagliatelle with uni cream and sweet chunks of fresh lobster.
American/New American, Steakhouse • A short drive into Shady Acres can feel like a million miles away when you arrive at Rainbow Lodge. Inside the 100-year-old log cabin, you’ll find three fireplaces, a beautiful view onto owner Donnette Hansen’s gardens, and exceptional modern Texan fare. Ease into your meal with the smoked duck gumbo or dive right into something even more unique, such as Texas antelope tenderloin. Rainbow Lodge is also one of the few restaurants in town cooking truly old-school classics like lobster thermidor.
Seafood, Steakhouse • You may not realize that an upscale restaurant looms above Moody Gardens, but once you’ve visited you’ll want to return to take in that beautiful harbor view from the ninth floor. We love the jumbo Gulf shrimp cocktail, Shearn’s signature lobster bisque with a dash of sherry, and its seared Gulf snapper “Cedric” with sautéed lump crab. Despite its surf and turf menu and steakhouse prices, Shearn’s dress code is decidedly casual.