Houston's 10 Most Romantic Restaurants: Start Planning Your Valentine's Day Dinner Now
7. Mark's American Cuisine
Photo by Jeff Balke The atmosphere at Mark's isn't nearly as reverent as its structure would suggest.
If dining under the Gothic arches of an old converted church that's rich with history (it used to be the Dream Merchant; remember that hot mess?) doesn't sound romantic to you, well, don't eat here, I guess. More room for the rest of us. The choir area has been converted into a second-story dining loft, which is my favorite spot for taking in the well-oiled machine that is Mark's floor and watching meticulously plated dishes parade out of the kitchen that's tucked behind the former altar. Mark's gets a small black mark (no pun intended), however, for an incident that occurred during my last birthday dinner there, in which the waiter rudely snatched and snapped my menu closed in my face after I told him I was too full for dessert. "Well, you're just missing out," he told me snidely before turning on his heel. I probably was, but...tone it down a bit, guys.
6. Bistro Provence
Bistro Provence doesn't take reservations, so arrive early if you don't want to wait.
Can't afford a vacation to Provence? Jean-Philippe and Genevieve Guy's precious Memorial bistro is the next best thing. And I am not just saying this because I once picked up a smoking hot waiter here in my early 20s. There is something intensely European about this jewel of a spot: perhaps its small kitchen with a roaring, wood-fired oven or its rustic seating with cozy tables or the sensation of being pleasantly removed from the hectic, traffic-filled urban streets for an evening. Or perhaps it's all of these, with an added dose of plush foies de canard or delicate poussin rôti to really drive the point home.
5. Bistro Alex
Photo courtesy of Bistro Alex
Some people may put Brennan's on this list, but I tend to think of the grande dame as more of a special occasion spot to celebrate birthdays, intimate bridal showers, promotions or the like. It's gorgeous and refined, but has never smacked of romance to me. Instead, I prefer Brennan's little sister -- Bistro Alex -- on the second floor of the Hotel Sorella in CityCentre. It's intimate and sexy, while still offering the same dazzling Creole cuisine for which Brennan's is known. As an added bonus, you can shimmy over to Monnalisa afterwards for a drink or two by the open fire pit inside the stunning bar, or lounge pool-side and take in the view.
4. Vic & Anthony's
Ushering your date into V&A's grand foyer doesn't hurt your chances one bit.
Let me be specific: The dining rooms at Vic & Anthony's are more apropos -- in my opinion -- for dinner with clients or a big, blow-out birthday celebration. Where the romance is at in this temple of steak is its dimly-lit bar, which is full of dark corners for (in the immortal words of that skank from Love Actually) "doing dark deeds." A pianist coaxes out old standards from the baby grand in one of those corners, and it's closest to him that I like to sit. You can order the full menu in the bar, but I prefer to keep it simple by sharing a dozen oysters, a split of champagne and a rosy porterhouse for two.
1985 Welch, Houston, TX