Prom Night: Adventures in Dining (Or Not)

Categories: Leftovers

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One of the questions I've been fielding a lot lately is, "Where should my [son, daughter, sister, brother, etc.] go for dinner before prom?" And the answer I've been giving is always the same: Haven.

Haven has a beautiful dining room and patio; a great central location to where most proms seem to be happening these days; dim lighting if you're an 18-year-old who's into romance and not just going with the neighbor kid from down the street; an accessible menu that's full of items that would appeal to a teenage palate (shrimp corn dogs? wild boar chili? delicious roasted chicken?) and won't cost as much as a mortgage payment; and your kid/sister/brother/whoever is going to be eating at one of the city's best restaurants and eating genuinely fabulous food. What's not to love?

Inevitably, the people who ask me for this recommendation end up sending their spawn to The Cheesecake Factory while I seethe with annoyance. "That's a little too 'adult' for high schoolers," they'll say. Or sometimes, even more abruptly, "I just don't think they'd get it."

Way to sell your kids short. Damn.

But I refuse to sit here and suggest that you send your kids to PF Chang's or Benihana or Buca di Beppo. Those aren't the kind of restaurant recommendations I'm ever going to make.

For a dinner that's [been built up to be] one of the most special and important meals in their young little lives, wouldn't you want to send your kid somewhere truly special and memorable, not manufactured and corporate and serving the same trite meals night after night? Trust me; in no time at all, your kid is going to be all grown up and spending miserable business lunches at places like Grand Lux or eating at PF Chang's on a Friday night because that's where his boring girlfriend wants to go. You'll hate her. Her name will be Susan.

Your kids have all the time in the world to eat at boring restaurants. Send them somewhere that will blow their little minds -- in a fun and memorable way -- and leave that Benihana crap for an awkward first date at some point in their futures. It's going to happen.

As for me and my prom, we ate at Shanghai Red's. Now long-closed, it was already past its prime at that point, but that didn't mean we didn't bask in the view of a Texas sunset over the Turning Basin and the beer cheese soup that was, at the time, the pinnacle of fine dining to a group of 17-year-olds. It was memorable because it was different, because it was something outside of our normal routine.

So don't ask me for any more recommendations on where to send your children for prom this year. It's still right up there in the very first paragraph. Of course, if your youngsters still choose Buca di Beppo, they're on their own. Just aim for the Pope Room, kids.



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36 comments
Hungry in Houston
Hungry in Houston

i hate everyone here that got an actual dinner for prom. my date took me to Jack in the Box for 99c tacos and curly fries >=[

Betty Tieu
Betty Tieu

I went to 2 proms in H.S. for 2 different schools (C/O 2001). Brownstone and Masraff. For Masraff- there was 20 of us and we rented out a private room. I miss the old location <sigh>.</sigh>

bruce
bruce

"...send their spawn to The Cheesecake Factory while I seethe with annoyanace" You kill me!

alexpablo77
alexpablo77

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'stina
'stina

Went to Vargos. It was perfect.

y knot
y knot

After Dinner with his prom date, my son took her to Hank's Ice Cream on S Main for dessert. They then went to Prom. Their picture is on the wall at Hank's.

Mike_mcr
Mike_mcr

High School kids must have a lot of money these days.

Kevin Shalin
Kevin Shalin

We went to Pino's. Not a good choice, but we had no clue back then.

J.
J.

1984 - We went to La Colombe d'Or.

Albert Nurick
Albert Nurick

Haven would be a great choice. Out in the Woodlands, I'd suggest Jasper's or Hubble & Hudson. Downtown, it would be hard to miss at Samba Grille; in the Montrose area, I'd suggest either Marks or Caffe Bello (if you're on a budget).

Back in the prehistoric era when I went to prom, I took my date to Maxim's, when they were downtown. Camille, the owner, was a friend of my dad's, and Dad called ahead. Camille made sure that we got the VIP treatment, and at the end of the meal "Shall we put it on your account, sir?" My date was suitably impressed. Parents, this is a great time to call in a favor; your kid will remember it forever.

Laurie
Laurie

OMG Katherine. I actaully had a meh business luch at Grand Lux today. How apt. I too recommend Haven. Never had a bad meal there. I would pretty much recommend anywhere that doesnt have nationwide chain accessibility. Its kinda off the radar, but Cafe Benedict on the west side would be a good choice outside the Inner Sanctum. Oops I mean Inner Loop.

Megan
Megan

I never went to prom in high school, but did attend Homecoming my sophomore year. My then-boyfriend and I went to one of the nicest restaurants in town (this is small-town Illinois, so adjust your expectations accordingly). He had an ostrich burger; I had a salad. We broke up a month later. I hate that restaurant to this day, mainly because the food is terrible. They're surviving on their reputation.

The guy got a girl pregnant at college (so the rumor goes), and I don't know what happened to him after that.

Nicolasix
Nicolasix

Agree with your endorsement of Haven, and more generally independents across the board, as far as boosting the memorability of prom.However, honestly, I'm not sure the food at Carmelo's or Michelangelo's is actually better than Buca di Beppo or Cheesecake Factory.

Part of the prom fun is trying to shock, and push tastes to the limit, so Feast might be fun, though it can be dreary. How about Jeannine's?Or a big friendly Greek place is always fun, especially if you can manage to get served.

Sunny Bogden
Sunny Bogden

I went to Vargo's. I think that was my first experience with "fine dining".

kylejack
kylejack

Through some tear in the space-time continuum, I went to 4 proms in 3 years. The only dinner I remember is Michelangelo's, which was nice.

Houstonmegs
Houstonmegs

I went to Carmelo's for prom and still have fond memories of it today... good times...good times...

unclelijah
unclelijah

I went to high school in New Orleans. I took my prom date the Caribbean Room at the Pontchartrain Hotel, one of the best restaurants in the city. She didn't like it because she got a piece of crab shell in her Crabmeat Au Grautin, but my meal was fab and I was paying for it so screw her. She also vetoed us going to see Springsteen's "Born to Run" tour before the prom (very do-able). She's been married 4 times, I'm gay and thank Christ I got a good meal out of the whole deal! Fer Chrissakes don't send your kids to The Cheesecake Factory!

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I think you mean "High school kids' parents must have a lot of money these days." I don't know many kids who dine out for prom entirely on their own dime...

Mary
Mary

I miss Pino's! I went to Sonny Look's the first out of three proms. We ate a the oyster bar at Danton's last Friday, and I was glad to see a group of promers come in. I thought it was a little early for the season to begin, though.

Albert Nurick
Albert Nurick

A great choice today since Jeromy Robison is at the helm in the kitchen. I have no doubt he could please picky high schoolers.

kylejack
kylejack

Samba and Caffe Bello both have great food and atmosphere and seem like great ideas for prom, but it should be noted that they are both Albert's web design clients, since he rarely discloses a conflict of interest.

Megan
Megan

Oh, wait. You wanted Houston suggestions? Hmmm. If you could get there early, maybe Zelko Bistro. Samba Grill would be nice. Brennan's or Mark's for the fancy factor, or Da Marco for the "kinda pushing the envelope" factor. I could see a big group of my friends ending up at Niko Niko's or One's a Meal afterwards, or even House of Pies. If it was still there, Amici in Sugar Land would've been a nice place, too. CityCentre would also be a good place to find a prom night restaurant for the Memorial/Spring Branch/Katy crowd.

Candaceratana
Candaceratana

...and a post-nibble nibble deep in the verdant Vargo's garden always crosses my mind, though my prom was decades ago.

Jab_seb
Jab_seb

michelangelos (1996) here too

trisch
trisch

Me too. We went with two other couples. Within minutes of sitting down, one of the other girls had managed to drop a piece of buttered bread down her cleavage, so the three of us girls repaired to the ladies' room to help her get unleavened (back in the day of big dresses!). I still have to laugh about it when I find myself at Brennan's and need to visit the facilities.

Hugh Ramsey
Hugh Ramsey

Yup, me too. In a winnebago instead of a limo.

Lucrece Borrego
Lucrece Borrego

Really? and then we wonder what's wrong with the world! Prom is a luxury - it shouldn't be parent financed. If my kid ever asks me for money to pay for his prom date I'll drop him off in front of a hardware store and say "here you go, sweetie. Lots of people are looking for work here. I'm sure someone will pay you to do something so you can pay for your prom date."

But otherwise, props, KShilcutt for trying to expand the palates of these poor chain inundated teens. I grew up in a SUPER small town and we drove a whole hour away in a school bus so that we could have a nice dinner for prom. Naturally, I organized it. There was no way I was having a crappy prom dinner. It was bad enough that my date was late to it because he was flying in from the Intel Science Comp Finals #nerdschool

Ghanagoldbug
Ghanagoldbug

yeah, most prom nights are subsidized or fully underwritten; my parents finally invoiced me at 46 for my childhood, and it's not pretty, but well worth it

Leggitmauri
Leggitmauri

I think the high-schoolers might be alienated by the older crowd at Caffe Bello; it really just doesn't feel right, like it's an organic part of the neighborhood. My budget choice would be Nelore, Dolce Vita or Brasserie Max & Julie in the same area.

Albert Nurick
Albert Nurick

I disclose a complete list of my hospitality clients on my blog. The fact that they're clients doesn't influence my recommendations here or anywhere else.

Nicholas L. Hall
Nicholas L. Hall

The waiters should've leaped into action with their table crumbers!

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

We rented an airport shuttle instead of a limo. We liked the fact that it had "dancing room."

kylejack
kylejack

The point of disclosing a conflict of interest is to avoid even the appearance of an impropriety, regardless of whether or not it swayed your judgment. The 5-star reviews you post on Yelp about your clients' restaurants violate Yelp's Review Guidelines, as you are in their employ. "For example, businesses and their employees shouldn't write reviews about themselves or their competitors." The fact that you don't disclose your relationship in your review might lead one to wonder whether this is one of the valuable services you offer your clients.

What's the worst Yelp review you ever gave one of your clients? Certainly nothing as low as the 2 stars you gave Dolce Vita?

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