Editor's Picks

11 Date Night Ideas Across Town

Avoid the crowds in the city and try a romantic spot off the beaten path.

By Katharine Shilcutt February 9, 2016 Published in the February 2016 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Grazia Italian Kitchen in Pearland has a sassy hint of speakeasy.

Boca2 Gastro Bar

Pronounced “Bocados,” this charming tapas joint is ideal for dos to dine—and not only because of the easy-on-the-wallet pricing of its shared plates. Finely tuned Spanish classics like flaky, short rib–stuffed empanadas and hearty albóndigas are best paired with the extensive Old World wine selection or perhaps a pitcher of guava sangria.

Cavatore's Italian Restaurant

Cavatore’s specialized in rustic Hill Country chic before it was cool, transforming a 100-year-old barn moved from Bastrop into a showcase for the restaurant’s namesake northern Italian food. Live music and the type of service you’d expect at a Michelin-starred restaurant only add to the appeal of house classics like beef tournedos in a brandy demiglace.

Grazia Italian Kitchen

Texans heartthrob and Pearland resident J.J. Watt is known to drop into this stylish suburban bistro, which specializes in wood-fired pizza from the fiery central oven and smart cocktails made with house-infused spirits from behind the marble-topped bar. The heady tartufo pizza with house-made mozzarella, roasted garlic and truffle oil is our favorite; just be sure to share (or be ready with a tin of Altoids).

Just Dinner

This darling Montrose spot is the next best thing to hiring a personal chef to come to your home for the night. The intimate 1928 bungalow is BYOB, so take advantage and bust out that bottle you’ve been saving. Chef Lila Riva’s menu changes with the seasons but always includes freshly made pastas and interesting vegetarian options such as collard rolls stuffed with black rice, quinoa and hazelnuts.

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No fireplace of your own? Cozy up to Masraff's.


The best part of booking dinner reservations at this Uptown favorite is the knowledge that a meal at the father-and-son-run restaurant will knock your date’s socks off, guaranteed. How? Gracious service and an elegant dining room are only part of the equation; appetizers such as rock shrimp ravioli and entrées including Peking duck with seared foie gras are as captivating as the high-end Ossetra caviar service (although the latter is definitely more of a splurge).


This longtime Cypress fine-dining favorite is patently romantic in an old-school, European way, starting with its décor (deep red walls, crisp white linens) and warm ambience. But owner Gerry Sarmiento really drives the point home with classic preparations like a rack of lamb with mint-pistachio pesto and Bananas Foster, flambéed tableside.

Mosset Grille

While a generous happy hour brings in the after-work crowd at this Sugar Land spot, the nightly dinner service is where this smart wine bar really shines. Chef Mario Vidal offers his own twists on tapas (try the crab beignets with spicy piquillo sauce) and elegantly plated entrées like lobster ravioli in a cognac nage that pair perfectly with the short but thoughtful wine list.

The Olive Oil

There’s no shortage of upscale restaurants in The Woodlands these days, many of them chains, but sometimes a night out demands something a little more personal—say, up-close-and-personal. This spot’s popular Greek nights bring in belly dancers and live bands to bring out the party in its patrons, most of whom book their dinner reservations at least a week in advance. Dishes made according to old family recipes populate the menu, from moussaka to kokkinisto.

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Raffa's Waterfront Grill offers a scenic view of Lake Houston.

Raffa's Waterfront Grill

As the name would indicate, this restaurant boasts a beautiful view of Lake Houston from its stately dining room, which is all high ceilings, amber-hued chandeliers and floor-to-ceiling windows. Chef David Welch’s plates—featuring lusty servings of braised short ribs and chicken-fried steak with Tasso ham gravy—are just as pretty. Half-off bottles of wine on Wednesday nights offer an extra incentive to miss the weekend crowds.

Sapore Ristorante

Having opened in 2013, this is a young restaurant with an old soul—and Katy’s answer to high-end dining without the high-mileage drive into the Loop. House specialties like osso bucco and sea bass in a Madeira wine reduction are best enjoyed in the cozy dining room, but the restaurant also offers a three-course to-go meal on weeknights, a clever and convenient way to enjoy a romantic evening in the comfort of your own home.


The fact that this charming little sliver of old Montrose continues to thrive amid the new townhomes that have transformed the area is all the more reason to duck inside. These days the place carries the air of a locals-only hidden gem, with a shaded, brick-paved patio centered around a bubbling fountain and a delightfully snug dining room warmed by a wood-fired oven. It’s this oven that roasts the restaurant’s signature crispy-skinned chicken, offered in halves or quarters alongside creamy mounds of garlic mashed potatoes.


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