12 Budget-Friendly Ideas for Dining-Out Romance in Houston

Categories: Top 10

Photo by Molly Dunn
Dinner and a movie at Alamo Drafthouse can be a welcome respite, and it's a lot cheaper than a fancy meal out.

We recently posted a list of 20 Romantic Restaurants, and while the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, a few readers pointed out that most of these places are on the expensive side.

It's a fair point that needed to be addressed, so here are a dozen budget-friendly ideas for dates that include some kind of dining out. One big cost-cutting tip: Nothing will add to the tab faster or more significantly than alcohol. Consider this: Two glasses of wine is pretty much the dollar equivalent of buying a third entrée. It's cheaper (and safer) to have a nightcap at home after dinner.

Each of these ideas costs around $60 or less -- no creative skimping required.

12. Dinner and a Movie at Alamo Drafthouse Theatre

Both the Alamo Drafthouse locations at 114 Vintage Park in far northwest Houston and in Katy on 531 South Mason can be terrific for date night, depending on what kind of evening you're looking to have. A full menu of appetizers, entrées and desserts makes them one-stop shops. Order popcorn and feed each other. Cut down costs by ignoring the wine, beer and cocktail menu, or just hold it down to one drink each to keep things modest. A two-hour break from the rest of the world is a treasure, especially if you're both stressed out more than usual. The only downside is that you don't actually get to look at and talk to each other, but holding hands and having something to talk about afterwards has value, too. Movie tickets are $9.50, or take advantage of the current late-night special where showings after 10 p.m. are only $5. There's a late-night menu with deals on food, too.

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The 20 Most Romantic Restaurants In Houston

Categories: Top 10

Photo by Mai Pham
Sexy platings, like this "Quattro" dessert, makes this Four Seasons Houston restaurant a trustworthy go-to for romantic dinners.

When wooing a new love, basking in the warmth of a longterm relationship or even just having quiet time with a friend, everyone needs places to go that promise to be intimate and classic. Excellent service and minimal dining distractions are a must.

Many restaurants on this list are longtime Houston classics that have their routines down. There is no waffling or experimentation--these are already committed and know how to provide an excellent experience. A few relative newcomers on the scene have happily given Houston some more modern choices on where to spark some flames. All 20 give couples a good chance for side of romance with their meal.

20. Quattro, 1300 Lamar
It's not hard to have a romantic dinner in a room adorned in lush red upholstery and punctuated in glassy gold and blue. Dine on traditional Italian fare like Vitello e Tonno Tonnato (cold sliced veal with mayonnaise sauce) or modern creations like whiskey-braised short ribs, while looking out at the streets of downtown Houston. By the way, it's located in Four Seasons Hotel Houston, the granddaddy of high-class, full service hotels (hint, hint).

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15 Houston Restaurant Trends to Abandon in 2015

Photo by Chuck Cook Photography
Yesterday's darling is today's tired old trend.

It's a new year and an opportunity for a fresh new start. We asked professionals from Houston's restaurant industry -- chefs, bartenders and fellow food writers -- to share which trends they think need to be left behind in 2014. Some answers were about food and service trends. Others delved deeper into our restaurant culture. In more than one instance, one person's beef was the exactly opposite of another's complaint.

Let's start with one of my own:

15. Enough With the Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Beet Salads
I love roasted Brussels sprouts and beet salads, but I would not be sorry not to see another one for at least a year. They need to be left in the same memory book as "The Great Bonito Flaking of 2013."

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Houston's 10 Best New Bars

Categories: Bar Beat, Top 10

Photo by Chuck Cook Photography
Moving Sidewalk arose from the ashes of Goro & Gun to become one of Houston's top bars in 2014.

Great new restaurant openings weren't the only story of 2014. There were also new, notable bars that opened that are fun additions to Houston's beverage scene. Despite their youth, some have already landed on the top lists compiled by national publications. First, we'll look at two places to keep an eye on in 2015, and then check out the top picks of bars that opened in 2014.

Check These Out in 2015

Ladybird's, 5519 Allen
December 2014

Photo by Chuck Cook Photography
It's a bit early for Ladybird's to be at its best, but we like what we see so far and are looking forward to the upcoming food program by chef Lyle Bento.

How can you not love a place that features a painting of Han Solo in Carbonite on the back door? You can get a cocktail or beer, shoot a game of pool and play Ms. Pac Man, but Ladybird's needs a little more time to get its food program settled. It's located where The Usual used to be. There's no kitchen in the building, so they've asked former Underbelly sous chef Lyle Bento to develop their menu, which will be cooked in an on-site food truck. In the meantime, other food trucks are periodically providing service. Speaking of service, the staff is very kind and happy to make recommendations and while the back bar isn't stocked with anything super-fancy, the brands of whiskey, tequila and rum Ladybird's has chosen are solid. We were happy to see both yellow and green Chartreuse on the shelf.

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Top 10 New Houston Restaurants 2014 Videos

Categories: Top 10

Photo by Mai Pham
The smoked brisket at Pax Americana, our pick for the No. 1 New Restaurant in Houston. Watch the videos to see more from our Top 10 picks!

Did you love our picks for the The 25 Best New Restaurants in Houston in 2014? Well, it would seem that video bloggers around town love them too. Using a phone app called Tastemade, which launched in the Houston market earlier this fall, video bloggers (called "Tastemakers") have been posting rave reviews about many of the restaurants on our list.

Here, we've rounded up the Top 10 restaurants -- in video -- so you can get closer look at each of our Top 10 picks. And, if you like what you see, don't be shy. Download the Tastemade app and shoot your own restaurant video review!

10. KUU
Kuu Restaurant

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10 Houston Restaurants That We Miss the Most at the End of 2014

Categories: Top 10

Photo by Angelica Leicht
Honorable Mention: The Boneyard Drinkery may have been a bar, but it made an important stand for dog-friendly establishments.

Let's have a moment of silence for some of the restaurants that Houston lost this year. Some were good. Some were great. Some were decidedly not great, but still hold a special place in our hearts for reasons other than the food.

The good news is that several of the restaurants on this list have a surviving sibling. Others have a good chance of returning someday in a different spot.

First off, a few honorable mentions:

  • Boneyard Drinkery was not a restaurant. It was a bar, but patrons could often get food from a food truck parked on-site. The combination bar-dog park helped blaze a trail for other pet-friendly dining establishments. Eventually, the City of Houston passed an ordinance allowing restaurants to offer dog-friendly patios if they wanted to do so. It was places like Boneyard Drinkery that influenced that decision. It will be missed.
  • The award for "Chef With The Worst Luck Keeping Restaurants Open" goes to Chris Kinjo, who opened MF Sushi in December 2012. The place didn't even make it a year before a fire shut it down at the end of September 2013. Kinjo, along with brother Alex, rebuilt. MF Sushi finally reopened this past spring and critics and sushi fans alike rejoiced, only to be crushed again when it once again closed in October for "reorganization."

    It's open again, but without chef Kinjo. He's opening his own location in the Museum District, hopefully by May of next year. That sounds like the best idea for everyone involved, especially for fans of his pristine Japanese food.

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The 10 Best Coffee Shops in Houston

Categories: Caffeine, Top 10

Photo by Molly Dunn
Where in Houston can you get a frothy cappuccino like this one?
For most of us, our day hasn't started until we take our first sip of coffee in the morning. America seriously runs on this stuff. No wonder people call it "liquid gold."

Gone are the days where Starbucks is the end-all-be-all place to grab a cup of Joe, especially in Houston. This city is beyond blessed with its selection of local coffee shops. And even though they are all serving the same thing -- coffee -- no two coffeehouses are the same. Some are better for sitting and chatting with friends while sipping on a specially-made flavored latte; others are more conducive to a quick on-the-go coffee run; some roast their own beans; others enhance their coffees with a selection of house-made pastries.

Because there are so many coffee shops in Houston, we wanted to be of assistance to you, dear readers, and help you narrow your choices down when you're in need of some caffeine. Here are the ten best places for coffee in the Bayou City.

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10 Places for Boozy Milkshakes in Houston

Photo by Molly Dunn
Bowlero Bowling Alley in The Woodlands has awesome boozy shakes, like this Salt & Caramel, Push It Real Good shake with Stoli Karamel vodka.
Milkshakes are good, but boozy shakes are so much better. The traditional blend of milk, ice cream and syrups makes for an enjoyably sweet refreshment, but the extra splash of tequila, rum or beer just takes it to a new level.

When you're in the mood for an alcoholic drink, but are simultaneously craving something sweet, we suggest you hit up one of these ten Houston restaurants for an adult milkshake. Of course, if you've got youngsters in your family, most of these places can whip together a non-alcoholic version. So you both can get what you want.

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The 10 Best Places for Desserts in Houston

Dolce Delights 011.jpg
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
You better believe these cakes from Dolce Delights made our list.
Sometimes you just want something sweet and when you get that sugar craving, you have to satisfy it right then and there. Baking cookies or brownies takes too long and that small piece of chocolate you have in your pantry just won't do it for you. But, there are multiple places around town serving up killer desserts. You just have to walk inside, choose your poison, sit down and enjoy it. How easy is that?

We are aware that a multitude of restaurants offer quality desserts, like the chocolate coconut shell, el coco, at Caracol, the banana's foster at
Brennan's of Houston and the tres leches at the Cordua restaurants. However, we want to share with you the ten best places that specialize in just desserts. These are the places you want to visit and know you're going to indulge in something sweet. These are the places where sugar is the common denominator. And these are the places you can count on to always satisfy your sweet tooth.

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Houston's Best Cafeterias: Hearken Back to the Good Old Days

Photo courtesy Luby's
This is a little fancier than I remember it being...
I haven't always been a food snob.

When I was little and my mom would teach night classes at the local university, my dad and I were left to our own devices for dinner. Because the man can do little more in a kitchen than boil water for pasta or make a cup of coffee, we often found ourselves at Luby's Cafeteria. I'd get macaroni and cheese and jello. He'd get the fried fish filet with tartar sauce. We'd always sit in the same seat, and the same servers would always greet us as we walked in and out of the bustling cafeteria.

Before I left home for college when I was 18, my dad and I shared one last meal at Luby's. It wasn't as good as I remembered, but there's a nostalgia attached to it--for me, at least--that makes the food that much better. Back in December, Katharine Shilcutt of Houstonia made a similar assertion about Luby's and the fact that most Houstonians remember dining at the chain at some point in their lives. And most Houstonians really liked it.

While I'm now much more inclined to seek out a hearty bowl of traditional pasta or pho when I want comfort food these days, there is something about the old fashioned cafeteria that I enjoy, that I miss, that I think others should give another chance.

Here's to the Houston cafeteria, in all its glory.

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