As this year’s Houston Restaurant Weeks kicks into gear, the first thought in my mind was planning as many group lunches as I can, a la Sex and the City—chic afternoon set-ups with Cosmos and gourmet meet-ups has long been a mental image worth pursuing, at least for me.
With lunch menus set at $20 ($3 of which goes to the Houston Food Bank, the charity benefitted by the annual Restaurant Weeks, with which it can provide nine meals to hungry Houstonians), the time to reconnect with friends or impress family members with your stellar taste in eateries is now. Lunch options are almost as plentiful as the dinner options, and can provide a bit more affordability for those of us who prefer to celebrate Restaurant Weeks on a budget.
This Latin American fusion favorite is offering a two-course lunch at both locations in River Oaks and The Woodlands. Sure, you can start with one of the salads offered, but Américas' Cubana black bean soup caught my fancy. Following with the pollo encamisado—chicken encased in crispy plantains—or one of three (!) beef filet options will probably leave you filled up for the day. But hey, who needs dinner when your lunch is this tasty?
Seasonal menus at the Bistro Menil have yet to disappoint me, and their HRW lunch menu is as persuasive as its standard lunch menu. Unlike other menus, this afternoon feast features a dessert course (my favorite of all courses), and I am more than pleased to see some beloved favorites available. Starting with the EVOO-poached tuna niçoise salad is a solid choice, while finishing with either the lemon curd tart or the blackberry buttermilk cake will satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth.
Bistro Menil, 1513 W. Alabama St., 713-904-3537, bistromenil.com
Even if $20 gourmet lunches weren't already such a nice discount, Canopy’s three-course noontime meals certainly up the ante. With an extra course, this might be a good stop for a late Friday meal with some work friends when you take off early to get that weekend started, because you might not be hungry for dinner anytime soon. The first course provides the option of mac 'n' cheese, so Canopy immediately starts off on a strong note. The chile relleno sounds like the perfect second course to my hungry stomach, a roasted poblano stuffed with mushrooms and cheese and topped with tomatillo salsa. Finish with a classic chocolate brownie, and you’re starting HRW right.
Canopy, 3939 Montrose Blvd., 713-528-6848, shadeandcanopy.com/Canopy
Peska Seafood Culture
This lunch menu transcends the expected. Its three-act structure feels much more like a full-course dinner, beginning with cold apps, leading into warm apps and finishing with the entree. This menu offers the full “seafood culture” that Peska promises, no desserts necessary. Begin with the oyster trio, which will always be the chef’s choice for the fresh supply of bivalves that day. Next, I would say the tostada caramelo is the place to be (because who doesn’t love some yellowfin tuna in their life?), but if you’re trying to save room for the main course of your indulgent lunch, then consider the classic pea soup. For your finale, you’ll have to check what the catch of the day is, but if it doesn’t strike your fancy, then the papparadelle al mare, with squid and littleneck clams, should be enough to get your tummy rumbling.
Peska, 1700 Post Oak Blvd., Ste. 1-190, 713-961-9229, peska.us
Be sure not to fill up too much with your fancy lunches, though! Restaurant Weeks isn’t complete with good dinners, and you won’t want to miss what Houston has to offer for your evening delights.