This year marks the 10th anniversary of Houston Restaurant Weeks, the annual ritual in which Houston restaurants give diners a lot of bang for their buck—and donate even bigger bucks to charity. All week long, we're rounding up the best restaurants from the nearly 200 participants in which to catch brunch, enjoy a romantic dinner, treat the parents, and more.
In 2012, HRW was able to donate $1.2 million to the Houston Food Bank thanks to the participation of 169 restaurants—and that amount is only expected to rise this year. To date, HRW has raised nearly $3 million to feed hungry families across Houston. For its 10th anniversary, HRW has an array of menu options for every price range: a $20 lunch/brunch, of which $3 is donated to the Houston Food Bank; a $35 brunch/dinner, of which $5 is donated; and a $45 dinner, of which $7 is donated.
Today, we're focusing on the HRW restaurants with menus that will allow you to tour France, India, Thailand, Chile, Japan, Mexico, Belgium, and more—all without leaving Houston. These are also some of the more geographically diverse restaurants, with locations in Sugar Land, Clear Lake, the Energy Corridor, and Westchase, so get out there and eat.
Around the World
3201 Louisiana, 713-529-9111
Chef Jacques Fox doesn't just have a ridiculously awesome French name—he also serves up some ridiculously awesome French cuisine at his palacial Midtown restaurant. The two-course $20 lunch menu is the way to go if you're looking for a quick business lunch, but the $45 dinner with four-courses of French fare is our choice for going all-out at night. Choose from dishes such as trout meunière aux amandes, escargot á la bourguignonne, and mousse au chocolat parfumée au Curaçao.
1718 Houston, 713-222-6996
This charming cafe from Belgian owner Catherine Duwez is as close as you'll get to Bruges in the Bayou City. Cafe Brussels has the largest selection of Belgian beers on draft in town, which you can use to wash down your moules-frites at lunch or blanquette de veau at dinner.
Whether you eat at the Westchase, River Oaks or Sugar Land location of Michael Cordúa's mini-South American empire, you'll be able to choose from roasted fresh Gulf red snapper with jumbo lump crab, the famous Churrasco steak, or a parillada topped with smoked lamb chops, bacon-wrapped filet, and grilled Argentine sausage. You can even add a glass of Chilean wine for $9.
1600 Westheimer, 713-524-7744
Always the overachiever, Hugo's has created one of the most amazing Houston Restaurant Weeks menus we've seen. Along with a huge selection of gluten-free and vegetarian items, Hugo's also has a slew of different interior Mexican cuisine menus for dinner—all of which are planned to pair with either red wine (which includes wood-grilled rack of lamb in a mole coloradito), white wine (where you'll find fried catfish topped with chicharrones), or agave (which comes with a duo of achiote-rubbed pork ribs and a cemita, a classic Mexican sandwich with braised pork). There's even a full, four-course vegetarian dinner for $35 (which you can also pair up with wine for an additional $28).
516 Westheimer, 713-524-2170
Chef/owner Anita Jaisinghani—she of the Meatless Mondays at Indika and its sister restaurant, Pondicheri—is one of the few participating chefs to offer a vegan menu for HRW. At her upscale Indian restaurant, Indika, you can choose from brunch, lunch, or dinner. But it's the three-course, $35 dinner that piques our interest, with choices of eggplant paneer chaat, green masala chicken, and Jaisinghani's famous saffron-pistachio ice cream.
4100 Westheimer, 713-960-8472
Houston is lucky to have two impressively upscale Indian restaurants run by powerful female chefs, with Kiran Verma's restaurant Kiran's as the kissing cousin to Indika. Kiran's is offering only one HRW menu—a three-course, $45 dinner menu—but it comes with your choice of favorites such as tandoori Texas red fish with with mango chutney, apricot biryani, and garlic naan; a soup flight that features tomato saffron soup, mulligatawny stew, and corn chowder with onion bhaji; and a so-called "Vegetarian Feast" with paneer makhni, bagare bengan, daal makhni, and more.
3600 Kirby, 713-526-8858
Chef Hori-san's cuisine continues to be the best Japanese food you'll encounter in Houston, from his pork fat-laden ramen to his glorious omakase spreads at the sushi bar. And with the four-course, $45 menu Kata Robata is offering at dinner, you'll be able to sample a little bit of everything that Hori-san does best: Hawaiian amberjack sashimi with foie gras (which I named as my second-favorite dish in Houston last year), pan-seared U-10 scallops with shrimp miso macaroni and cheese, and a big plate of sushi and handrolls are among the options.
1400 Eldridge, 832-379-8322
The Denis brothers started out in a tiny strip-center restaurant here in the Energy Corridor a decade ago, and eventually expanded their fine dining French cafe into a beautiful, standalone restaurant that does justice to their cuisine. And although there are plenty of French spots to choose from during HRW, none of the menus are quite the same—take Le Mistral's three-course $35 dinner menu that includes options such as chicken breast brochette and Provençal-style stewed beef with saffron rice.
Merlion Thai Restaurant
1301 4th Street, Seabrook, 281-385-9975
Why drive to Clear Lake for Thai food? Because Merlion buys the freshest Gulf seafood right off the boat for its fish and shellfish-heavy menu, filled with from-scratch curries and other Thai treats. There's plenty to choose from on its $35, three-course HRW menu, too, including a crab and apple Thai salad, panko-crusted red snapper, kang ped scallops, and fresh crab spring rolls.
11920 Westheimer, 281-531-5569
This popular Westchase-area tapas joint is equally known for its paella and its pretty patio. You can enjoy both thanks to Rioja's extremely generous HRW menu. A four-course, $35 dinner includes paella as one choice, but also gazpacho, stuffed piquillo peppers, and pears poached in Rioja wine. At brunch, the HRW menu allows you to choose any four items from the extended tapas menu, so go nuts.