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Chicken Harvest Salad at Adair Kitchen, with bison subbed in for poultry.

Image: Marla Murphy

Gathering your friends for the midday meal? Here are our picks for a lovely luncheon, sans overindulgence—unless of course you just must order that dessert.

Adair Kitchen

There are tables outside, but the wooden pews inside create the feel of an indoor picnic with your squad. The wholesome cuisine attracts diners on their way to and from the gym, for whom a smoothie or juice is a must. For more substantial nourishment, try the crisp salmon over farro salad or a super-food bowl—with or without meat—full of seasonal veggies, brown rice and a sweet, gingery miso vinaigrette.

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Benjy's

The Washington location features a mod room fit for an Antonioni film, with lunchtime salads that are just as colorful. The chopped Asian chicken is a lightly spicy classic, while smoked fish, cherries and pumpkin seeds in dill-soy vinaigrette make for another exciting option.   

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The Texas Creole smoked shrimp and okra gumbo from Brennan's

Image: Brennan's

Brennan's of Houston

Even the ladies’ room is bound in floor-to-ceiling marble at Houston’s elegant 50-year-old outpost of the New Orleans legend. Don’t finish that bowl of liberally seasoned turtle soup, no matter how enticing, when there’s still catfish to be consumed. Sparks will (literally) fly when you order the signature Bananas Foster, all the better to soak up the booze in the 25-cent lunchtime martinis.

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Magret de Canard from Étoile Cuisine et Bar 

Image: Deb Smail

Étoile Cuisine et Bar

If there’s anything more civilized than a déjeuner Parisienne, we’ve yet to try it. And there are few approximations more accurate in Houston than at chef-owner Philippe Verpiand’s upscale bistro. Salads include the obligatory Niçoise, but it’s probably worth a caloric splurge to feast on one of the city’s best burgers, with Gruyère and tomato confit, or pasta with wild boar ragout. And profiteroles, bien sûr.

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The Kitchen at The Dunlavy sits above Lost Lake on one side, Buffalo Bayou on the other.

The Kitchen at the Dunlavy

Outdoorsy types and grandes dames alike are willing to wait in line—and share a communal table—for the privilege of dining beneath a dense collection of chandeliers, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows that reveal the beauty of Buffalo Bayou Park. A generous helping of rotisserie lamb makes the Greek salad uncommonly robust, but we’re in a committed relationship with the buttery turkey, apple and Brie sandwich. 

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Heritage breed chicken from La Table

La Table

At this year-old restaurant, a colorful roasted beet salad with blood orange vinaigrette and Blue Heron Farm goat-milk yogurt and cheese is an instant classic. The $29 business-lunch option encompasses two courses including the standout wild mushroom ravioli with Parmesan foam. Picking from the dessert cart isn’t included, but nonetheless necessary.

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The Manor House's steak tartare 

Image: Alice Levitt

The Manor House

While the dining rooms of this John Staub–designed home transport guests to the easy civility of 1955, chef Neal Cox’s cuisine updates Gulf Coast classics with modern tweaks. Cajun-pork pot roast is spiced with boudin gravy; chicken schnitzel with brown butter is goosed up with Poblano mac ‘n’ cheese. Finishing with a Valrhona chocolate dessert is a must.

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Soufflé au jambon et Gruyère, $19.

Image: Alice Levitt

Rise Nº2

An all-soufflé lunch might sound like an indulgence, but a sizable puff of lighter-than-air pastry won’t exceed 540 calories. Some dessert varieties, including raspberry and dark chocolate-mint, go as low as 122 calories. The handful of non-soufflé offerings include cheesy “marshmallow soup,” a collection of salads, and a classic Parisian ham-and-butter sandwich.

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Seafood and oysters are best enjoyed in the oyster bar at State of Grace.

State of Grace

The hair is often as high as the seafood towers at this see-and-be-seen lunch palace adorned with leather banquettes and chandeliers, but the cuisine attracts serious foodies, too. We suggest ordering shared plates, including the Szechuan eggplant with peanuts and mint, and the fried rice with smoked redfish that recalls Laotian nam khao.

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A rare quiet moment at the Tiny Boxwoods bar

Tiny Boxwoods

Expect a line when planning to lunch in the gardens here. The petite filet salad is the best bet, with tender beef served over lettuce, avocado mash, jicama and black beans, for an elegant take on Southwestern fare. And no matter what you order, don’t forget a chocolate chip cookie with the chips still melting.

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In this Article

Tiny Boxwoods

$$$ American/New American 3614 W. Alabama St.

With the same owners as the nursery next door, Tiny Boxwood’s benefits from the inclusion of gorgeous gardens, fruit trees, and flowering shrubs.  A brunch f...

Editor’s Pick

State of Grace

$$$ American/New American, Southern 3258 Westheimer Rd.

Diners may know James Beard Foundation award nominee Ford Fry as an Atlanta chef, but he grew up in River Oaks. His high school is across the street from Sta...

Rise nº2

$$ French 1700 Post Oak Blvd., Ste. 290

Soufflés are notoriously mercurial—even the best restaurants often falter in their preparation. But they're done right every time here, whether they're flavo...

Editor’s Pick

The Manor House

$$$ American/New American, Cajun, French, Southern 111 N. Post Oak Ln.

A former private club that was built in 1955 as a private residence, the Manor House has been home to guests ranging from the King of Spain to Jack Nicholson...

Editor’s Pick

La Table

$$$ Bakeries, Café, French 1800 Post Oak Blvd.

Generously spaced tables and swift, sophisticated service add to the appeal of this upstairs oasis, which offers both a charming view of Uptown from its sere...

Editor’s Pick

The Kitchen at the Dunlavy

$ American/New American 3422 Allen Pkwy.

Dine under 39 chandeliers of all shapes and sizes at this breakfast and lunch spot specializing in Southern Californian cuisine. At dinnertime, the gorgeous ...

Editor’s Pick

Étoile Cuisine et Bar

$$$ French 1101 Uptown Park

Chef Philippe Verpiand decided to relocate from San Diego to Houston—where wife and operations manager Monica Bui has family— to open Étoile, and up the city...

Editor’s Pick

Brennan’s of Houston

$$$$ Cajun, Creole, Seafood, Southern 3300 Smith St.

Housed in the old Junior League of Houston building on the edge of Midtown where it meets Montrose, this stalwart seafood palace was also the site of Aurora ...

Editor’s Pick

Benjy’s

$$ American/New American Multiple Locations

Both locations of benjy’s—the original in Rice Village and its second location on Washington Avenue—have a chic dining room with their own spins on funky, mo...

Editor’s Pick

Adair Kitchen

$$ American/New American 5161 San Felipe

Brother-and-sister owners Nick Adair and Katie Adair Barnhart are second-generation restaurateurs; father Gary Adair owns the Los Tios and Skeeters chains, w...