Some people hate eating alone, and to that I say: You can always eat at the bar. Bars offer a place of sanctuary for the lone diner. You can huddle up by yourself and eat a meal in peace without anyone staring, or you can chat up the friendly bartender and make a new friend. If you haven't ventured out on your own in Houston, this guide will show you the way.
Taking over the old Andre's spot, Chef Philippe Verpiand shows off his mastery of French classics with dishes like house-made pate, escargots, duck confit, cassoulet, and steak frites. Perfect for an intimate tete a tete or for entertaining friends. Don't forget dessert: Verpiand's apple tart is currently my favorite in town.
The decor at this neighborhood bistro is crazy-gothic, but that's part of the charm & food is solid. My fave is their Kobe Burger. The long bar (renovated a few years ago to accommodate more people) is perfect for single diners; happy hour specials and drinks are also solid.
If you are looking for tex-mex and want tex-mex prices, don't go to Hugo's. However, if you are looking for excellent service, flavorful regional Mexican dishes, and a superb dining experience, visit Hugo Ortega's eponymous restaurant. Seasonal dishes that include squash blossoms are a must, the lobster taquito addictive, the whole snapper a la veracruzana stunning, the costillas (ribs) just delicious. Fantastic beverage program overseen by Sommelier Sean Beck. Mojitos and sangria are $5 during happy hour with food specials like ceviche. Sunday brunch is hands-down the best in town.
Max's Wine Dive is definitely that: a dive, but it's cool, it's hip, the Fri/Sat/Sun brunch is rockin, and the gourmet comfort food is so decadent it will make you moan--in a good way. Chef Michael Pellegrino's seasonal menus are super creative and fun as well. Come with a friend or a group of friends and go to town on gourmet comfort food like their famous fried chicken, truffle fried egg sandwich, gourmet burger, and "max n cheese." Or, come by yourself, sit at the bar, order a glass of wine and feast by yourself. You can't go wrong either way.
Named Best Sushi Restaurant 2012 by Houston Press, the modern Japanese, high-quality sushi by exec chef Manabu Horiuchi makes this one of the best restaurants in the city. Splurge on a 8 or 10 course omakase, or chef's tasting, and count the number of "Wow's" that fall from your lips. Seasonal cold soba noodles and ramen experiments when it gets colder are always a must try. Chefs also happen to love this place when they're off duty -- you'll find them at the bar or taking food to-go.
Inside the irreverently named gastropub, diners can indulge in a myriad of gourmet comfort food selections--think foie gras sliders, decadent mac n cheese, chicken fried steak, and their legendary biscuits with bacon jam--all the while sipping on one of 30+ craft beers on tap and 10+ bottled selections or sipping on a glass of wine.
Eddie V's rocks it out every night. Their jumbo lump cupcake is probably the best I've ever tried. There steamed Seabass rivals that of the best Chinese restaurant in town. And their steak? Try the Tomahawk. The bar is always packed, but there's ample seating for diners who wish to go it solo.
Chef Philippe Schmit's eponymous restaurant offers his "French Cowboy" take what French cuisine should be in Houston. Drunken foie gras is a must. Braised beef cheeks are solid. If you get a chance to taste his his coq au vin or a souffle, just do it and thank me later. Impeccable wine list by Sommelier Vanessa Trevino-Boyd. Desserts by Pastry Chef Jami King, like the tarte tatin, are always delicious.
Indulge in the ultimate people-watching at Frenchie-upscale River Oaks brasserie. Fantastic oyster selection and standard brasserie fare like steak frites. Shockingly affordable wine list. Go off-menu and try one Executive Chef Amanda McGraw's daily specials or her delectable appetizer of parmesan custard with a 63 degree sous vide egg. Apple tart is scrumptious and if it's your birthday, let them know ahead of time for a cool tabel-side surprise cotton candy.
Coppa is upscale Italian without being too snobby. Good Washington scene, solid food by Chef Brandi Key. Carbonara pasta is the signature dish, a must-order if you've never tried it. The Coppa ham and quail egg pizza has got to be my favorite -- super tasty. Lots of gluten friendly pasta options and house-made pastas, like the potato ravioli or the bigoli, offer some delicious choices.
The space is upscale yet comfy, with a bar & booths that welcome. Food is upscale southern comfort with a focus on seafood. The grilled oysters with bacon jam and a fried oyster on top are killer. In fact, anything with bacon jam is excellent. Try their grilled salmon roasted on a plank or come in on Wednesday nights for Chef's killer fried chicken, then finish your meal with a milkshake with a piece of pie blended in it!
Is there a hotter restaurant in Houston? Quite possibly not. Creative, avant-garde, elevated Japanese cuisine is a joy to discover and savor, with Chef de Cuisine Kaz Edwards turning out some of the most intellectually compelling dishes you'll ever taste. Standouts on the regular menu include the machi cure, Hama chili, bacon tataki, daily oysters, cantaloupe okashi dessert and the carefully constructed specials from the kitchen that change every two weeks.
Open from 7am-2pm, this cafe-bar-restaurant has a little bit of everything. Great comfortable Georgetown-esque vibe, delicious cappuccinos -- it's a place you can come to for great breakfast in the morning (corned beef hash or soft tacos), solid lunch in the afternoon (hamburger, sandwich, or salad), afternoon coffee, dinner (steak, seafood), and late night drinks. You could stay there all day if you wanted; it's that kind of place. Free wifi, refillable press coffee, and a good bar where you can dine solo, work on your laptop, or sip on a crafted cocktail.
MKT bar is a hidden gem. Hidden, because it's part of the much larger Phoenicia Specialty foods downtown. A gem, because the sight that greets you is always unexpected. Tuesday nights, you're greeted with sultry sound of tango, as newbies and more seasoned dancers hit the floor showing off their moves. Saturdays are vinyl nights, with local guest DJ's spinning everything from 80's to Michael Jackson. At night, the lights are dim. It's part bar, part cafe. The concrete floors give it this warehouse-y vibe, and the scene is eclectic. The menu is solid, with pizzas and tapas-like appetizers, along with an extremely reasonably priced wine and beer list. It's a place where you can go and sit at the bar, order a glass of sparkling rose with their fantastic steak night special ($12 on tuesday and thursdays), and chat with whoever's manning the bar. You could just as easily go with a few friends for some drinks and nosh before heading out for the night.
It's a restaurant within a restaurant, each distinct, and yes, fantastic. The more casual side, Provisions, is a little rock 'n roll, with a lively main dining room playing music that sets an almost rambunctious mood. Pizzas are a must, like the guanciale with uni, or the burrata with tomato. Pastas are house-made and will blow your mind, like the wholly unforgettable cresta de gallo. House made breads, served with a selection of cheeses or charcuterie, are also musts, and the wine list/drink program is already shaping up to be one of the best in the city. In contrast, The Pass is decidedly ritzy and upscale. An exclusive place where you can get dressed up (or not), where the star is the food and the chefs who will come to your table to serve them. Plan to stay the whole night, go for the gold and get the eight course tasting menu with a wine or cocktail flight, and get ready for an experience to remember. Reservations a must.
The authentic, beautifully plated, modern Peruvian cuisine by Chef Roberto Castre deserves all the raves it gets. Colorful causitas, intricately prepared tiraditos, one of the best lomo saltado's you'll taste anywhere, and seasonal specials like the delicious duck confit with cilantro rice are just some of the dishes you should sample at this restaurant. Perfect for a date night, you will ooh and ahh over the beautiful dishes at this Latin American hotspot. For lone diners, the marble-topped bar overlooking the ceviche station is also a great spot to sip on a pisco sour and enjoy your meal while watching the action in front of you.
Super super thin pizzas that you can eat whole without feeling guilty. This direct franchise from Italy is a great midtown hotspot for happy noshing. During happy hour (4-6pm), taste free appetizers as you sip on your caipirinha and nosh on $6-$8 pizza specials. When the weather is good, grab a seat on the patio; and if it's not, situate yourself at the colorful, lively bar, the best place to munch on your Neopolitan style pie.
If you don't fall in love with the decor at this gorgeous French restaurant, you'll fall in love with the food. Chef Jacques Fox menu features decadent ingredients like foie gras with quail, pistachio-crusted sea bass, and steak au poivre, all created in to the utmost precision in the open kitchen. For a "chef's table"-type show, snag one of the 28 seats around the open kitchen, or for a more intimate affair, ask for a seat on the velvet banquette under the fleur-de-lys awning, where you can order a bottle of vin rouge from their carefully curated list, and enjoy a fine meal with that special someone.
Brand spanking new, the space is gorgeous & modern for fun time & drinks with friends. Pretzel wrapped pigs in a blanket were really spicy but delish.
Hidden on the back street parallel to Kirby, Hawthorn, formerly the private dinner club Dorsia aimed to served the Lambourghini set, is a throwback to exclusive clubs of yesteryear. On most nights a pianist sets the mood with a selection of light jazz tunes from Gershwin or Nat King cole. From the kitchen, hand made pastas, risotto, and a beautiful stuffed quail, created with a deft touch by chef Ricardo Palazzo Giorgio, are sure to please. Save room for dessert -- a rosemary panna cotta is creative and delicious, as is the beautiful apple tart.
Go with your friends, grab a seat on the patio, and then order some of Jeff Axline's decadently delicious food. The Reuben drips with juiciness and bursts with flavor. The burger is large enough to share, and can only be classified as gourmet. There are cocktails, outdoor games like bocce ball and croquet, a S'more's fire pit, and a fantastic patio. Fun, food and games--what's not to like?
Sit at the sushi bar and order the chefs tasting, then prepare to taste some beautifully constructed sushi, sashimi, and whatever else chef Kinjo decides to offer. Be adventurous and don't be afraid to tell him your preferences. You'll be rewarded with one of the best sushi experiences in Houston.