Charitable Chow

Houston Restaurant Weeks: Dashing Date Nights

A handy field guide to making the most of Houston Restaurant Weeks, from August 1 through September 2.

By Katharine Shilcutt July 23, 2013

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.

One of the four courses for $35 from last year's HRW menu at Soma Sushi—which is offering the same great deal again this year.

Dashing Date Nights

Arturo Boada Cuisine
6510 Del Monte, 713-782-3011

When you're dining inside chef/owner Arturo Boada's intimate bistro in the Memorial Villages area, it doesn't even feel like you're in Houston. The casual European vibe extends to the food and wine list, although—true to Boada's form—you'll find a few Asian influences in the menu too. The $35 dinner comes with three courses, with the Pasta Latina as a standout.

Au Petit Paris
2048 Colquitt, 713-524-7070

The generous spirit of this River Oaks gem—which has frequently been called one of the most romantic restaurants in Houston—extends to its three-course, $35 dinner menu as well, where you'll find a wide assortment of French appetizers and entrées from which to choose. Escargots baked in puff pastry, lobster bisque with chicken-and-rosemary ravioli, chicken fricassee flambéed á la fine Champagne, napoleon of fresh cod, and even the famous île flottante (floating island) are just a few of the specials on order.

908 Congress, 713-224-9500

This spicy newcomer is perfectly situated on downtown's Market Square for an evening of strolling through the park and hitting a few of downtown's best bars after dinner (we recommend La Carafe for wine and OKRA Charity Saloon or Bad News Bar for cocktails). Batanga boasts a $35 three-course menu that includes some of its best dishes, such as roast suckling pig and grilled hanger steak with chimichurri rojo. Make sure to ask for a seat on the sprawling patio for maximum effect.

Brasserie Max & Julie
4315 Montrose, 713-524-0070

Situated inside one of the loveliest old homes in Montrose, the two-story Brasserie Max & Julie features no shortage of nooks to tuck yourself into for a long, lazy romantic evening that lets you get lost in the Gallic gorgeousness all around you. As with Batanga, Brasserie Max & Julie is offering some of its best dishes on the $35 three-course menu, including house-made pâté to start and steak au poivre for the main meal.

Brooklyn Athletic Club
601 Richmond, 713-527-4440

If a little sportsmanship and competition is what gets your fires stoked, then Brooklyn Athletic Club should be your destination of choice. Before or after (or during—who are we to judge?) dinner, you can engage in rounds of bocce ball, petanque, and other country club games. You'll need to move around a bit to work off chef Jeff Axline's hearty cuisine.

Hearsay Gastro Lounge
218 Travis, 713-225-8079

Another prime spot on Market Square Park, Hearsay Gastro Lounge offers the kind of old-school ambience that you only find in century-old downtown buildings with three-story ceilings and exposed brick walls dating back to the Allen Brothers. The three-course, $35 dinner menu runs the gamut from lamb to steak, quail to shrimp, but the real reason to visit is the all-star cocktail program that would make even cardboard taste good.

240 Westheimer, 713-360-6313

Unfussy, unstuffy Gallic cuisine is the speciality du maison at L'Olivier, where former Tony's executive chef Olivier Ciesielski turns out French favorites every night in the elegant dining room or the cool, chic, marble-laden bar. L'Olivier offers the option of a very reasonable $20 wine pairing with your $35 dinner, which includes choices such as homemade pâté with a 2010 Coquerel Verdelho from Calistoga and a duck leg confit with a 2011 Albert Bichot Pinot Noir from Burgundy

Line & Lariat
220 Main, 832-667-4470

The third and final of our Market Square choices also features a bar so nice, you may just want to stick around after dinner and enjoy the soaring ceilings, Grecian columns, and classic aesthetic of one of the most beautiful dining rooms in Houston. Line & Lariat has an extraordinary menu to match, including some personal favorites: Saint Arnold root beer–braised short rib and a duo of stuffed chiles that features summer squash and squash blossoms with Oaxaca cheese, mushrooms, candied pecans, and a roasted tomato sauce.

The Rainbow Lodge
2011 Ella, 713-861-8666

My own personal pick for the most romantic spot in town, The Rainbow Lodge is set in an old log cabin–like hunting lodge on the bayou, with views onto the gently sloping hills and the Lodge's own gardens. It's also one of the few restaurants to offer gluten-free menu items, if your beloved has a sensitive belly. Under the non-gluten-free banner, the rabbit ragout with parmesan polenta and the South Texas duo of wild boar and grilled beef ring my bells.

Soma Sushi
4820 Washington Avenue, 713-861-2726

As with prior Houston Restaurarant Weeks, the Soma Sushi menu is one of the most generous: You get four courses for $35—and Soma doesn't skimp on the portions. It's also the only place you'll get to try chef Gabe Medina's signature tonkotsu ramen, as he's only preparing it during HRW. That ramen is just one of the entrée selections, which also lets you choose from barbecue pork belly, a sashimi combo, and much more. Yep—we saved the best for last.

See yesterday's round-up for the best brunch deals during HRW, and check back tomorrow when we look at the best spots to treat your parents to a meal.

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