Top 10 Restaurants in Midtown

Categories: Top 10

Photo by Gary R. Wise
Tuna "bacon" at Reef.
3. Reef

Chef Bryan Caswell has been reeling in diners with his imaginative take on Gulf seafood for the past five years. And while nothing on Reef's current menu is that groundbreaking -- save the Filipino-inspired kinilaw created by a sous chef -- Caswell and Reef (along with fishmonger P.J. Stoops) should be credited with popularizing "trash fish" such as almaco jack, sea bream, scorpion fish and rainbow runner, making "Gulf by-catch" one of the most enduring buzz-phrases of the past few years. Were it not for Reef, you might never have heard of Gulf by-catch, let alone been able to enjoy it at places like Oxheart or purchase it yourself at Revival Market. The interior is cool but not lavish, the waitstaff wears blue jeans, and the bar menu includes sliders -- all of which gives this fine dining establishment a very relaxed vibe. And while it's certainly not cheap, it's a better deal than most seafood palaces in town.

Thumbnail image for brennans-of-houston-4.5182067.131.jpg
Photo by Troy Fields
Eating dinner at Brennan's is a rite of passage for many Houstonians.
2. Brennan's
(Note: The original version of this list accidentally left Brennan's off. This oversight has been corrected.)

After burning to the ground during Hurricane Ike, the grande dame of Cajun cuisine is looking even better than ever, and is still a reliable place for business lunches, intimate showers, date nights and expense-account meals. Brennan's is a Houston institution for a reason, after all. Southern and Creole food reigns supreme here, with rich and buttery dishes that aren't on your Weight Watchers plan but are easily worth the extra calories. The Courtyard Bar -- a new addition -- is the perfect place for a lunchtime 25-cent martini, while the elegant John Staub room is cozy and quieter than the rest of the busy restaurant. The main dining room, however, is still the place to see and be seen, and current fall specials like braised oxtails and dumplings with crispy mustard greens keep the kitchen relevant.

Photo by Carla Soriano
1. Sparrow Bar + Kitchen

Monica Pope is back and better than ever at Sparrow Bar + Kitchen, which exchanged the industrial (and somewhat hard-edged) aesthetic of t'afia for a more lush, casual and inviting dining room that practically begs you to overstay your welcome. Plush red loveseats serve as two-person chairs for some of the tables and not-too-dim lighting enhances the romantic vibe of the cozy dining room. But while the restaurant has had a facelift, the menu is still pure Monica: Pope reinvents classic dishes in exciting ways that don't push things too far, like creamy grits topped with frizzled slices of dusky antelope and a tangy gremolata or shiitake mushroom-filled dumplings in a surprisingly sweet blue cheese sauce. t'afia's roots are still quite evident in Pope's locally-sourced ingredients and modern Texana dishes, but Sparrow is a transformation in more ways than just its interior design. Dining there, one gets the sense that Pope has been released from the birdcage of t'afia and is delighting in the new freedoms that Sparrow affords her.

Check out our other Top 10 neighborhood lists:

Top 10 in Montrose
Top 10 in the Heights
Top 10 in Rice Village
Top 10 on Washington Avenue
Top 10 in the East End
Top 10 in the Galleria
Top 10 in Memorial
Top 10 in Upper Kirby
Top 10 in Greenway Plaza
Top 10 in The Woodlands
Top 10 in Spring Branch
Top 10 in Little India
Top 10 in Far Northwest Houston
Top 10 in Chinatown

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Location Info

Spec's Deli

2410 Smith, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Natachee's Supper 'n Punch

3622 Main St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Kim Tai

2602 Fannin St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Les Givral's Sandwich & Cafe

2704 Milam St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


207 W. Gray, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Tacos A Go-Go

3704 Main St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

the breakfast klub

3711 Travis St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


2450 Louisiana, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Charivari Restaurant

2521 Bagby St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


2600 Travis St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Brennan's of Houston

3300 Smith, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Sparrow Bar + Cookshop

3701 Travis St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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paval topcommenter

Since I work in the bigger midtown area, I appreciate the list, it gives me some additional ideas. Also that Majorca is not really in the boundaries was obvious to me, but that whole stretch of Gray almost till taft still sees itself as part of Midtown. Junction bar for example.

Reef is indeed one of the big ones in Midtown and so is Sparrow.

On Charivari i have a comment i had posted a long time ago in a Chronicle article. What makes a restaurant German?

a) The fact that they serve German food?

b) that the owners are German?

c)Or that a restaurant calls itself German?

d)Or the general perception of the people?

If a) what is really german food. Hamburgers supposedly came from a dish prepared by immigrants from Hamburg, Germany. So are hamburgers German food? The same is to say about CFS which is a bastardized version of Wiener Schnitzel, which itself is not a German but an Austrian dish

b) The owner of Le Peep is I believe german, as the owners of Charivari, and so is Michaels Burger Place in Galveston and I am sure a lot more places. Are those German restaurants?

c) Olive Garden calls itself the Italian Restaurants. If you would ask an Italian he would never let them qualify as the first. For some people they do not even qualify as the second.

d) probably the most important of characterizations. To continue beating on OG: When I came to the US OG was seen by my hosts as an Italian Restaurant. I believe in the last seven years the perception of what Italian restaurant is may have improved a tad. But the same is valid for Le Madeleine which due to its name is seen as french by many, but having lived many years in France I do not find anything French in it.


To me a restaurant should mostly be qualified according to a combination of 35% of c) and 30% of d) and a) and 5% b).

Nationality should not matter almost at all, since I would never deny even a Chinese to be able to cook German food if he assimilated the cooking culture, techniques, ingredients knowledge and a lot of practice.

Perception is important but sometimes the mass errs. Specially if the mass is confronted to a new concept. I remember when "Feast" opened to hear and read it defined as "British", "pork", etc. Nowadays the definition of "from nose to tail" has gained hold and is generally accepted and used.

The kind of food served is important, but how many Americans can define exactly what New-American means? And what happens with all the fusion confusion trends. I recently saw a Venezuelan who cooks Italian and since he lives in Houston calls his restaurant Gulf Coast-Italian-Continental.

The way how a restaurant sees itself seems hence to be the most defining factor. That's why Arturo defines his restaurant this way, and I believe most people should be able to get an idea of what he serves in a Gulf Coast-Italian-Continental as difficult as that name may come off one's tongue.




Tacos a go go?  Really?  Sigh.


You've been such a stickler on the other lists about restaurants being in the boundaries. Majorca doesn't quite fit the definition of Midtown you've given. It's a block and a half west of Bagby.

texmex01 topcommenter

"Expect to wait about 90 minutes on a good day" 


Breakfast Klub loses me here, its Chicken and Waffles with a mural of Obama people, not a museum opening......

MadMac topcommenter

I've had two misadventures with Reef. First visit--when I still drove limos--while dropping a party there, we had beer bottles thrown at us from the roof bar. After 45 minutes, my party called for a pick up. Even though they had reservations, they waited and waited but no table. Years later, after reading how great this place is, I took my Mrs. for our monthly night out. We had reservations, we were early, and NO ONE WAS THERE. Still these CHILDREN left us standing at the door like MoMos while they caught up on gossip. We went to Brennan's where the PROFESSIONAL host remembered my name and graciously seated us without reservations.


Natachees is so uneven. They do some stuff ok, but I had to give up after about half a dozen bad meals there (I was in denial). I've had the meatloaf pictured and it was inedibly salty, and their CFS is chewy and stringy. No thanks. Good call on Sparrow Bar though. Those shiitake dumplings are astonishingly delicious.


I'd pick Cali over Les Givral's myself, but otherwise, good list.

kshilcutt editor

 @BP88 True, true, but I think it's safe to place that whole little area there within the Midtown boundaries. I should have perhaps pushed the boundaries west a bit more, but even the Midtown District admits that those boundaries (which are theirs) are a bit rough.

kshilcutt moderator editor

 @texmex01 It's not something I'm going to do every weekend, but every once in a while it's fun to grab a couple of friends and some coffee, then wait it out together while you all catch up. The wings are grits are worth the wait -- just not all the time.

kshilcutt moderator editor

 @jeffbalke I go back and forth between Cali and LG. And then there's poor Thien An. I hope they reopen again soon.


 @kshilcutt  @texmex01 The wait isn't nearly that bad if you can make it on a weekday. In fact, I've walked right up around 9 am or so. The wait is usually less than 15 minutes at lunchtime. I've never even tried to go on a Saturday


 @kshilcutt  @jeffbalke WHAT?!?! Thien An is closed? That is the best Vietnamese food in the area hands down, without driving out to Bellaire.

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