Maybe it's because I have two small children, but I often think that I eat in two different Houstons. The first is the Houston that a food editor and writer would know well, populated with the buzziest restaurants and sprinklings of both well-established favorites and under-the-radar critical darlings. These are dinnertime haunts, often meant for adults alone, and I tend not to bring my daughters.
My wife is more in tune with the second Houston—for example, she'll often take the girls to Luby's for kids-eat-free Wednesday night (I have yet to take part in this tradition). But I do dabble: For example, on Sunday mornings after church we tend to eat at the same chain restaurant for breakfast tacos. And usually on one weekend night we visit a kid-friendly restaurant for a pretty basic dinner. We have a rotation of them, from casual icehouses with decent grub to jam-packed Tex-Mex to catch-all diners equipped with dozens of high chairs and booster seats.
This brings me to a recent visit to Mia's Table in Upper Kirby, the original location of this concept from Johnny Carrabba. We went on a Friday night, which meant circling for parking before ending up in the nearby garage. It also meant standing in line to get into the restaurant, where you order at a counter before sitting with a table tracker. It also meant feeling a sense of anxious dread upon walking into the dining room teeming with parents, kids, grandparents, couples, and high schoolers. We had to pounce to get an open table, then we had to wait for it to be cleaned. We had bags and car seats. Everyone had bags and car seats.
But then a server comes to your table with all the food, and it's very familiar to anyone who cooks at home. There's chicken fried steak and tortilla soup, fried fish and burgers, big salads, and meatloaf. It's more-than-acceptable dinner comfort food that you don't have to make, which means it's perfect for families on weekend nights. (Everything on my visit was a little too salty, just to note.) So, going on Friday night means being in the epicenter of family time in Houston, and with kids running around, babies crying, and parents trying to tune it all out for a second over a beer or wine, it's pretty freaking great (at least to this dad).
Honestly, if you're thinking about having kids, go to Mia's Table on a Friday night. You'll know after one meal exactly if you want 'em, and if so, how many of 'em you want.
Plus, Mia's Table has free soft-serve vanilla ice cream that you vend yourself. If you only dine in the other Houston, this is what you're missing.