Steak, Wine and Pie at Dharma Cafe

Much remains the same. The City Lights Bookstore poster of Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac that hung on the wall at the old Dharma Cafe hangs in a place of honor at the new place. Portraits of Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs are prominent as well. And chef John Gurney, who moved to Houston from Northern California shortly before the first restaurant opened, still has a long ponytail just as he did six years ago — although it's a little grayer now.

But the restaurant's vibe is different. The original Dharma Cafe had only seven tables and no bar. Chef Gurney hoped to sell books on the side, and he had a collection of Ginsberg poetry on display. It was the sort of impractical business that you might find in North Beach, San Francisco, down the street from Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store. But it made sense in that odd little neighborhood near Last Concert Cafe that was frequented mainly by artists with studio space nearby.

The new Dharma Cafe is located in the Kessler Building, an historic brick edifice on Houston Avenue at Crockett, conveniently close to downtown and the Heights. The dining room is at least three times as big as the old place, and there's an impressive bar. The floors are treated concrete and the wooden tables and chairs are mismatched and funky. At one end of the bar, there is a nook where you can relax in a sofa and easy chairs.

Save room for the key lime pie.
Troy Fields
Save room for the key lime pie.

Location Info


Dharma Cafe

1718 Houston Ave.
Houston, TX 77002

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Downtown/ Midtown


Lunch hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays. Dinner hours: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Sunday brunch hours: 10 a.m. to2 p.m.

Deluxe pizza: $8

Salmon carpaccio: $10

Scallops: $22

Shrimp pasta: $18

Steak: $37

1718 Houston Ave., 713-222-6996.

It feels like the quirky Dharma Cafe got an extreme makeover and turned into Onion Creek. It's all very charming. And the food and wine is much better than it used to be. But I liked the old place. We've got plenty of faux Austin around here — I'll miss the faux San Francisco.

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