Top 10 Restaurants in Midtown
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.
Photo by Troy Fields Eating dinner at Brennan's is a rite of passage for many Houstonians.
(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.
1. Sparrow Bar + Kitchen
Photo by Carla Soriano
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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