THE DAYS OF ENJOYING A FABULOUS takeout meal at home in a fine pair of sweatpants are seemingly behind us (fingers crossed). After a year of mandatory dine-ins at home, Houstonians are ready to dig out the high heels, fluff up the pocket squares, and reemerge onto the dining scene—dressed to kill. With the city’s culinary landscape even more colorful now than before, there are plenty of places to see … and, of course, be seen.
New original concepts from talented restaurateurs, top notch hotels, and steakhouses with sexy cocktail bars make alluring options for a night out. Furthermore, they serve as perfect places to show off the bounty from a year of online shopping. Run, don’t walk, in your best new ‘fit, to these Houston hot spots.
Since this steakhouse opened in the former Pax Americana space in Montrose this spring, the pretty people have been flocking in, dressed to the nines. Gatsby’s veers from the style of gargantuan steakhouses, opting for a more boutique-y vibe with moody black and gold interiors, cozy banquettes, and deep crimson ceilings bedecked with chandeliers. Upon arriving, guests will find themselves in the bar, a narrow juncture that boasts 10 highly sought-after seats and connects the main dining room with an enclosed terrace. There isn’t a bad seat in the house for people watching, and steakhouse favorites like the Snake River Farms “Tomahawk” ribeye and wagyu filet entice. Make a night of it, and begin or end your visit with a cocktail at the swanky Daisy Buchanan lounge next door. The floral Tongue in Cheek gin cocktail is a fabulous sight to see. 4319 Montrose Blvd. 713-393-7282
March, the hotly anticipated fine dining destination from Goodnight Hospitality, is arguably one of the hottest tickets, quite literally, in town. The 28-seat restaurant offers ticketed reservations—60 days out at a time—for six- and nine-course tasting experiences, allowing guests to partake in a culinary journey unlike any other in Houston. The menu, made up of thoughtfully plated works of art and aromatic cocktails, draws inspiration from food, history and cultures of the various regions of the Mediterranean. It is further complimented by the restaurant’s impressive wine program, boasting a hefty 11,000 bottle cellar. 1624 Westheimer Rd. 832-380-2481
T marks the spot: This posh restaurant, hidden in plain sight on Post Oak Boulevard with only a simple letter “T” on its awning to distinguish it, offers one of the most sophisticated dining rooms in Uptown. Along with a ritzy menu of modern American traditions like king crab terrine and lobster Thermidor, the restaurant delights with live music from local pianists performing on a mahogany baby grand piano. Dust off the ol’ dinner jacket and settle in for an entertaining evening. 1800 Post Oak Blvd. 713-804-1212
Indulge in your fancy pants for the French-inspired fare at Bludorn, the brainchild of husband-and-wife duo Aaron Bludorn and Victoria Pappas Bludorn (yes, of the famed Pappas family). The two met while working at Daniel Boulud’s namesake NYC restaurant, then brought their star power down South to open a restaurant of their own. The result? A Houston hot spot with quality food and a lively ambience. The space, which boasts a sleek and private bar area separate from the main dining room and a spacious multi-level patio, allows guests to gather over long, boozy dinners. Dishes like the head-turning lobster pot pie and dry-aged NY strip are worthy, but be sure and save room for the totally shareable baked Alaska. 807 Taft St. 713-999-0146
With its grandiose buildout within the Galleria, including a dining room coined the “Palace of Mirrors” that's adorned with more than 200,000 pieces of hand-cut mirror, Musaafer is one of Houston’s most opulent restaurants, worthy of a dressy night out. The breathtaking space offers plenty of pockets, both inside and on the covered, outdoor terrace, for an Insta-worthy capture, while whimsical cocktails like the ultimate gin and tonic serve as the perfect accessory for your “outfit of the day." Dishes like the coriander prawn and lamb chop biryani appear just as marvelous, layered with intense color and hearty ingredients. Be warned, here, your camera-clicking finger may tire. 5115 Westheimer Rd. Unit 3500. 713-242-8087
Degust is a tiny restaurant that impresses in a big way, making it one of Houston’s most exclusive reservations. With just 20 seats positioned around a circular counter, the vibe is personal and intimate. The restaurant gives diners the option to reserve one of three seatings, 5:30, 8:15 and 11 p.m., during which an eight-course tasting menu is offered. The part-Spanish, part-Mexican cuisine bares a Japanese influence resulting in courses like Gulf fish with shishito and citrus and cauliflower with dashi. Celebrating a special occasion or care to indulge for no reason at all? Supplements to the tasting menu include foie gras, black truffles and Ossetra caviar, so go on and treat yo’ self. 7202 Long Point Rd. 281-707-4623
With its chic museum setting and Michelin star chef Alain Verzeroli, Le Jardinier serves as a foodie destination with style and substance. Following locations in New York and Miami, the French restaurant is a welcome addition to the Museum District, neatly situated on the west side of the new Kinder Building at the MFAH. Its floor-to-ceiling windows give guests a clear view into the Cullen Sculpture Garden, and a spacious wraparound bar serves as a hub within the dining room. Try the gin and tonic, striking to look at with a deep lavender hue, and splurge on the 5-course tasting menu, an exquisite and artistic presentation of the restaurant’s seasonal offerings. 5500 Main St., Ste. 122
With the reopening of the new and improved La Colombe d’Or hotel comes a sparkly new place for the fabulous people to gather over food and drinks. Houstonians are swarming in to check out Tonight & Tomorrow, the in-house restaurant, and its neighboring cocktail lounge, Bar No. 3. Nestled in cozy, dimly lit rooms within the renovated mansion, the bar is moody as can be and offers visitors a comfortable escape from the eclectic Montrose neighborhood to enjoy a glass of champagne or craft cocktail. The restaurant meanwhile, because it serves as the in-house option for hotel guests, is open morning, noon, and night, during which a menu of “modern Houston” cuisine is the focus featuring things like Gulf crudo and pork coppa with grits. Consider popping in with the night owls for a taste of the good (Montrose) life. 3410 Montrose Blvd.
Go for the steaks … stay for fashionable people watching. This upscale River Oaks District haunt is a consistently great choice for a polished evening out, and furthermore its modern steakhouse menu and hefty wine list more than satisfies. Guests can dine in the sprawling bar section where the energy is high, or rather, reserve a secluded glass booth with views into the busy kitchen, and then indulge wholly on a sky high seafood tower (built to your preference with fresh offerings from the raw bar) and a steak with traditional—and many non-traditional—sides. 4444 Westheimer Rd. 713-322-7448
Let your eyes feast first at Clark Cooper Concepts’s showy new West U dining destination, Gratify Neighborhood Bistro. Offering a whimsical take on Baroque architecture, the stylish restaurant stuns upon first glance with eye-catching patterned wallpaper, dramatic globe-lighting, brightly-colored furnishings, and even a disco ball. Neighboring its sister concept Coppa Osteria, the newbie has quickly become a hot spot within the Rice Village Arcade. Groups gather over custom built charcuterie boards with a variety of cheeses displayed prominently showcased at the bar, encased in glass domes. Raw bar gems like freshly shucked oysters, crudo and caviar serve as an ideal precursor to decadent entrees like the tagliarini pasta with truffles shaved tableside. Run, don’t walk, to Gratify … but be sure to have a reservation. 5212 Morningside Dr. 713-524-7865