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Eat, Play, Love

Houston's 10 most romantic restaurants.

4. Vic & Anthony's

Let me be specific: The dining rooms at Vic & Anthony's are more apropos — in my opinion — for dinner with clients or a big, blowout 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.

3. Uchi

To me, there's something immensely sexy about going on an adventure together. Uchi offers culinary adventures in abundance, as well as a just-dim-enough dining room that sets the right tone for a night of romance. It's no coincidence that half the people I've spotted each time I've been to Uchi have been on dates. The service helps a lot here, too; the terrific waitstaff is highly attuned to each table's needs and is skilled at either helping you have a fun dining adventure or leaving you alone to take the plunge together.

2. Philippe

The best part about Philippe's atmosphere is how effortlessly cool it is. And effortlessly cool always equals sexy. Although it's tempting to go overboard in the ritzy Galleria corridor along Post Oak, Philippe never does — in its food, its service or its ambience. The French fare could be fussy, but chef Philippe Schmit's Texan touches — as in the duck confit tamales or venison tenderloin with chili — keep them elegant yet grounded.

1. Rainbow Lodge

There's a reason Houstonians continue to host their weddings and celebrate their anniversaries at this beloved institution — and it's not just the verdant views onto the gently rolling bayou or the romantic, lodgelike feel imparted by the wood-beamed, fireplace-warmed structure. The food is amazing, too, as is the warm, high-end service. Rainbow Lodge offers a meal well worth paying for in every single aspect. Nibble on rabbit boudin bites or smoked lamb belly between glasses of wine with your beloved, or treat your man to such exotic game as grilled elk chops, chile-rubbed antelope backstrap or buffalo short ribs. Either way, everyone comes away happy.
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LOCAL SPOTLIGHT

OFF THE MENU
Investigating the "secret menu" at Los Tios.

JOANNA O'LEARY

A funny thing happened when I was preparing to visit Los Tios to conduct research on its skinny margarita.

Since I have nothing to do all day but peruse menus online, I spent [too] much of one morning scanning the food options at Los Tios in hope of preventing order paralysis (an affliction I frequently suffer from at restaurants). I had heard much about their "world-famous" combination plates and was deep in thought as to the merits of the No. 7 (beef taco, puffy queso, chalupa) versus the No. 5 (two beef tacos and a puffy queso).

"I know what will resolve this issue," I thought to myself. "Some good porn."

Food porn, that is, and specifically in the form of photos on Los Tios's Facebook page. In the process, however, of perusing for shots of the No. 5 and No. 7 platters, I ran into something far more enticing: a combination plate comprising a cheese enchilada, a taco al carbon, chicken quesadillas and pico de gallo.

Labeled "Off The Menu Special Combination Plate No. 14," this item, as it turns out, is the Tex-Mex equivalent of Harry Potter's Platform 9 3/4. It's ready and available, but only those in the know can access it. Here's why and how.

The combination plates on the current official Los Tios menu ostensibly go up to No. 8, though years ago there were as many as 14. The regulars rebelled against the truncated menu and continued to order these off-the-menu combination plates, and Los Tios — in humble deference to its patrons — continued to serve them. But only if you asked.

Today, the most popular "secret," request-only combination plates are the No. 14 and the No. 12 (nachos, puffy queso, cheese enchilada and Mexican rice). Clandestine cooking must taste better, because I enjoyed the No. 14 so much that I plan to order the No. 12 next time.

One last note: My efforts at uncovering the components of the No. 13 plate have thus far been unsuccessful. Longtime fans so far are keeping mum, but never fear; I'll find my Deep Throat.
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RESTAURANT NEWS

BATTLE OF THE RESTAURANTS
Four new slogan ideas for the revamped Hooters.

JOSHUA JUSTICE

The Hooters at U.S. 59 and Kirby has just rearmed itself in the battle of the breastaurants.

Presumably in response to the recent opening and immense popularity of Twin Peaks — located just across the freeway — as well as other competitors entering the market like Bone Daddy's and Bikinis Sports Bar & Grill, Hooters has extensively remodeled the entire location.

The Houston location is the first store in the entire chain to receive such a reworking and serves as a model for other such projects across the country. Among the added amenities, according to the press release we received at the Houston Press, were increased seat and booth sizes and extra padding in the seats. Which gave us an idea for a few new slogans for Hooters while they're at this whole rebranding business.

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