The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Restaurants Where Service Is King

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Photo by Hotel de la Ville Monza
"How may we do our best to ensure your dining experience is the polar opposite of Fawlty Towers today?"
It's hard to find good help, or so the saying goes. Indeed, many of the chefs and restaurant owners I've spoken with over the years privately admit that finding good waitstaff in Houston can be a Sisyphean task: You manage to find a truly great server or two, they dazzle your diners and then -- because this is a very marketable skill we're talking about -- they're lured away to another restaurant, and your search begins anew.

But at the restaurants we're spotlighting today, the service remains consistently spectacular from visit to visit -- whether the same employees are retained or not. These restaurants run the gamut from fine dining to mom-and-pop joints and all manner of cuisines.

They have one thing in common, however: Service that makes every meal memorable. The kind of service that encourages you to return again and again just to see a favorite waiter or catch up with restaurant owners who treat you like family. The subject of this week's cafe review, L'Olivier, is an excellent example of old-school service in an updated climate -- and so are the 10 restaurants below.

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Photo by Troy Fields
Service par excellence is the standard at Brennan's.
Honorable mention: Brennan's, The Oceanaire and Vic & Anthony's

The Oceanaire doesn't get much play as a foodie favorite, and that's a shame. The Galleria-housed seafood palace offers the same attentive, traditional service as Creole grande dame Brennan's or downtown steakhouse Vic & Anthony's -- all of which are usually my first picks when my parents or other beloved elders want a dignfied, pleasant, upscale dinner. Service par excellence is the standard at these spots, and they can always be relied upon to make you feel welcomed and pampered for an evening.

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Photo by Troy Fields
Counter service at LA Crawfish doesn't mean you won't receive personal attention.
10. LA Crawfish

A common complaint at many of the Viet-Cajun crawfish places is that service is either rude or non-existent. Just the other day, Mai Pham's profile of Crawfish & Noodles owner Trong Nguyen inspired one commenter to remark: "Decent crawfish, but terrible, inexcusable, and inexplicably bad service. Seriously the worst I've had in my entire life, anywhere in the goddamned United States of America." Pham countered with a link to a previous post, in which she'd explained why she doesn't expect good service in Asian restaurants. LA Crawfish is an exception, however, to this anecdotal rule. The young kids who run it are unfailingly friendly to each and every patron, as well as helpful to crawfish neophytes. But most importantly, they get the food out lightning fast, which ensures that even if there's a long line (which there usually is), you'll get your food post-haste after ordering.

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Photo by Troy Fields
The Sitters keep it in the family at King's Biergarten.
9. King's Biergarten

I've rarely seen young servers as engaged and happy as they seem to be at King's Biergarten in Pearland. And they aren't just sporting lederhosen and dirndls for show: Every one of them can explain the German menu top to bottom, although owner Johann Sitter is always on-hand should you require a description of his homeland's food directly from the man whose family recipes are used to make the restaurant's goulash, zwiebelrostbraten and more. The effect of so many nattily-attired, cheerful servers delivering enormous, heavy trays of beer and brats can make evenings here seem more like a vacation to Munich.

8. Barnaby's

Although any one of the four Barnaby's locations will offer you terrific service, the original location -- tucked away in a residential area in Montrose off Fairview -- still sets the bar. Despite long waits on weekends and occasionally cramped quarters inside (especially when you're dining at Baby Barnaby's next door), the waitstaff are never anything short of charming and gracious. Between complimenting your hairstyle, telling your grandmother how glorious she looks today, recommending their favorite dishes and always getting your order exactly right, the staff always offer excellent service. Employees appear to love the place just as much; anecdotes have flown for years of high-end maître d's attempting to lure Barnaby's crew members to "greener pastures" and failing every time.

Location Info

L'Olivier

240 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Brennan's of Houston

3300 Smith, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Oceanaire Seafood Room

5061 Westheimer, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse

1510 Texas St., Houston, TX

Category: Music

LA Crawfish

1005 Blalock, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

King's Biergarten

1329 E. Broadway, Pearland, TX

Category: Restaurant

Barnaby's

414 W. Gray, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Taqueria La Macro

1822 N. Main St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Charivari Restaurant

2521 Bagby St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Cafe TH

2108 Pease St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Mandola's Deli

4105 Leeland, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Triniti

2815 S. Shepherd Drive, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Laurenzo's

4412 Washington, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Uchi

904 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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16 comments
Mai Pham
Mai Pham topcommenter

Great list, but it should be longer. My vote for #1is Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse -- the people there really, really care. One of my servers noticed that my martini had been sitting for a while, came by with a shaker to make it fresh again! Bonus points! Killen's Steakhouse is also remarkable -- great service always. And Perry's Steakhouse in Memorial has been great! All steakhouses, I know, but those guys really do it right.

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

La Macro is fantastic. My Mrs. craves the trompo and we schlep in from Pearland for it and the warm/welcoming service. 

Jason Frederick
Jason Frederick

Yea Mandola's! Agree 100% with them being on the list!

bowenshepard
bowenshepard

I disagree wholeheartedly with Uchi even being on this list, much less #1.  The food is amazing, and the staff is certainly knowledgeable....but I've received better customer service at Chik-fil-a compared to the way my friends and I were treated here.

J.A.Justice
J.A.Justice

Guru Burger has really good service, especially from a such a young staff.  It's like LA crawfish...bunch of young kids you don't expect too much from and they always impress.

 Not only that,  I had a kid that had to be barely 21 who could speak to every single beer on tap that night.  He was more knowledgeable than half the beer bar staff in Houston.

MikeyMike
MikeyMike

Damians.  I've never had service like I've had at Damians.  

Deja Cain
Deja Cain

I totally drink the Uchi kool-aid. And sake.

Kylejack
Kylejack topcommenter

Nice list! A lesser publication wouldn't be able to avoid the trap of listing 10 fine dining restaurants.

Jalapeno
Jalapeno

Best service I've had was at Pappas Steakhouse.

jimbo1126
jimbo1126

LOL if I'm not mistaken the pictured Uchi server is now at Goro & Gun. Speaking of which, the service I received this week at Goro & Gun, especially from Mikey, was extraordinary. Completely knowledgeable, completely welcoming, just an oasis of calm.

rassul
rassul

@J.A.Justice great call, & that comes straight for the top too- Randy, Vincent & the team are top flight human beings who are incredible leaders.  I get to see a ton of different management styles & staffs in my role and they are the type of guys who every time I interact with them I learn something about leadership.

Another gem is Benjy's.  Always blows me away with ingredient knowledge & attentiveness without being intrusive.  Of course, in this city, this has got to be one of the most hotly contested top ten's!  I'd love to be a fly on the wall for the conversations behind the article!  Great list!

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