In a city with the attention span of a hungry toddler and the appetite to match, there’s no resting on your laurels. Houston’s best fine-dining institutions trade on their reputations, yes, but also prize ingenuity and hospitality.
Year opened: 1979
Café Annie never truly disappeared. When Robert Del Grande moved and renamed his restaurant RDG + Bar Annie in 2009, the Houston cognoscenti simply followed the legendary chef, packing the dining room day and night.
Del Grande’s resurrection of the old name earlier this year only underscored what we all already knew: He never stopped turning out impeccable wood-grilled skirt steaks, never stopped encouraging Houston’s elite to eat Southwestern oddities like corn smut or appreciate the layered depth of a swarthy pasilla chile sauce, never stopped being the consummate host—and, most importantly, never stopped evolving.
Year opened: 1967
Flame-licked Bananas Foster and a weekly Creole jazz brunch ground this New Orleans–inspired mainstay, but chef Danny Trace keeps things interesting by tossing seaweed flakes atop pecan-grilled oysters, say, or glazing roasted duck with local honey and serving it alongside crab fried rice.
Year opened: 1993
Michael Cordúa’s churrasco-style steak with peppery chimichurri sauce and corn-smoked crab fingers have long been Houston classics. Nevertheless, each visit to his pair of groundbreaking, whimsically decorated restaurants feels like the first time.
Year opened: 2000
Smart diners take advantage of the three-course lunch at Houston’s best Italian restaurant. But evenings spent lingering over plates of sweet corn ravioli with lobster or wild boar pappardelle are sweet, indeed. Note: Dress to impress, even during the day (that means a coat and tie, gents).