Editor’s Picks

8 Great Expense Account Restaurants

Where price is no object.

By Phaedra Cook and Katharine Shilcutt August 3, 2014 Published in the August 2014 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Be sure to order ahead for Tony's classic souffle.

60 Degrees Mastercrafted

If you have a client who adores wine, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better resource than 60 Degrees Mastercrafted, where sommelier Vanessa Treviño-Boyd selects wines from around the world that pair wonderfully with chef Fritz Gitschner’s decidedly non-fussy creations, served in an airy dining room whose atmosphere is utterly devoid of pretention. Offerings include hearty meats, such as the seared Akaushi beef tips; full-flavored, luscious sides like the creamy macaroni and cheese; and standout salads such as the Stetson, which includes arugula, cranberries, roasted tomatoes, and a generous portion of silky salmon. Pricing won’t break the fine-dining budget unless you want it to.


Both Américas locations have won awards for their seductive interior design—the reds and burgundies and eye-popping, unusual contours make a wonderful setting for the cuisine, not that it needs any help. While the churrasco steak is the obvious suggestion, the fact is that it would be a shame to pass it up. The luxurious beef tenderloin is wonderfully enhanced with garlicky chimichurri and a generous side of grilled broccolini and carrots. Beverage director James Watkins (see “What to Drink,” right) presides over the cocktails and ample South American wine selections. 

The Capital Grille

Whether you’re dining at the Galleria location or the newer CityCentre one, The Capital Grille is sure to impress with dining rooms that are somewhere between elegant British hunting lodge and Ivy League library. You can’t go wrong with the Capital Grille’s famous porcini mushroom–encrusted Delmonico steak or dry-aged sirloin with Kona coffee rub and shallot butter. Regardless of what you order as a main, don’t skip the lobster macaroni and cheese as an indulgent side dish.

Da Marco

Houston’s denizens often pride themselves on going everywhere in jeans. Don’t do that here—and don’t wear sneakers, either. Da Marco holds the line on old-school class and service. The waiters even use silver cloches to keep your food warm if you happen to step away from the table. Begin with an aperitif like cinzano and soda to set the tone for a classic Italian meal. For a full-fledged experience, select one dish from each section of the menu: antipasti, primi, and secondi. The shaved celery salad, the sweet corn-filled ravioli, and the maple leaf duck with grapes and saba is a fine progression. 

The Pass is where chefs Terrence Gallivan and Seth Siegel-Gardner show off their most innovative fare.

Palm Restaurant

A five-month-long renovation in early 2013 enlarged the Palm’s dining room but left its classic supper-club feel and signature caricatures of famous Houstonians intact. (What’s classier than dining under a cartoon version of Lynn Wyatt?) Also intact: old-school standards like the Monday Night Salad—the ultimate chopped salad—and the Veal Martini in a piquant wine sauce. But we prefer the aged USDA Prime steaks and the giant Nova Scotia lobsters. Before your meal, stop into the bar for a classic cocktail—the Upper East Sidecar with Rémy Martin V.S.O.P. Cognac is a favorite. 

The Pass

The Pass is the fancy half of restaurant duo The Pass & Provisions, and if you’re going, plan ahead, as the place stays in demand. It’s where chefs Terrence Gallivan and Seth Siegel-Gardner show off their most innovative fare, a combination of molecular gastronomy and the world’s classic cuisines. The “full tilt boogie” is the nine-course tasting menu, but a five-course option is available for lighter appetites. Don’t be surprised to receive a dish that’s as delicate as the finest Japanese creation you’ve ever had, say, or an elegant version of Southern comfort cuisine. If you want to show visitors how avant-garde Houston fare can be, this is the place. 

Restaurant Cinq

This older-than-old-school dining room is located on the first floor of Montrose boutique hotel La Colombe d’Or. Here, cutting-edge takes on classic European cuisine, like Smoked Octopus with Saffron Custard, Maple Sugar, and Toast n’ Coffee Accents, reside alongside classics like Escargots à la Bourguignonne. The quiet, white-tablecloth environment is a perfect setting for those times when you actually want to have a conversation. Appropriately, there are plenty of French wines by the bottle—many in the $50 to $75 range. 


Houston legend Tony’s, known for its class and service, is where you head when you want to impress. The finest caviar service is available, at considerable expense, as is a wine list to suit every taste. The ultimate expression of what Tony’s has to offer is the evening tasting menu. But whatever you order, make sure to put in early for one of the literally over-the-top soufflés for dessert, as they take some time to prepare. Insider tip: order a side of broccoli “Mr. Castillo–style.” It’s lightly steamed and then grilled. You’ll love it.

The dining room at Tony's is the heart of Houston's society scene.

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