Special Events

10 Best Houston Restaurants for a Graduation Dinner

The season of endings, new beginnings and ugly polyester robes is almost upon us: In just a few weeks, family and friends will begin flocking in to witness graduation ceremonies across Houston.

As the resident family food blogger and an imminent graduate, I’ve been racking my brain to come up with suggestions that will both satiate and entertain my relatives during mealtime. My research among other food-obsessed friends as well as my constant restaurant stalking culled my original mountain of ideas down to these ten: establishments that showcase some of the best creativity and execution that Houston has to offer with a group-friendly atmosphere and decent parking. Oh, and they have to take reservations.

With those stipulations in mind, here are ten of the best restaurants in Houston at which to celebrate a graduation:

North Italia: From the ethereally light zucca chips (thin zucchini ribbons fried until golden) to the truffle garlic bread to the daily made-in-house pastas and small-but-delicious pizza and protein list, North Italia’s menu is solidly crowd-pleasing with little not to like (except maybe the trek out to the Galleria during rush hour — but the nearby garage or valet makes things a little less painful). The light-filled restaurant is great for groups, the prices are very reasonable, and catching one of the happy hours (3-6 p.m. on weekdays or all day Sunday) can make for an even more economical celebratory meal.

Artisans: Yes, celebrating your graduation with a large party might require taking out a second mortgage, but this cozy, rustic-chic French restaurant in Midtown is bound to execute everything perfectly, from its rich, silky soups of the day to the foie gras to the pistachio-crusted sea bass. Complete with a French-focused wine list and a long dessert list to follow — crème brûlée, tart tatin and millefuille, to name a few — Artisans consistently turns out exemplary French cuisine in a gorgeous setting. Artisans also has several private dining rooms that can accommodate groups of 12-14 diners.

Américas: Equipped with a number of private and semi-private rooms of varying sizes as well as one of the funkiest interior designs in Houston, Américas is one of the nicest-on-the-eyes locations to celebrate a graduation. The Latin American establishment’s “The Churrasco” was voted one of the top 20 steaks in America by Esquire magazine, and its tres leches has consistently been touted as one of the best in Houston— but don’t miss out on the expertly executed seafood, ceviches or other delicious desserts.

Corner Table: For those with family members adhering to special diets (particularly paleo or gluten-free, though Corner Table is also good at accommodating vegetarians), Corner Table is an essential restaurant to have in your back pocket. In addition to its main dining room and cabana-style patio, there's a private dining room for larger parties. From the raw vegan pad thai to a paleo paella, Corner Table is your best bet to find something for any restricted dieter in your life.

Caracol: Utterly fresh ceviche, oysters and other small bites inspired by the Mexican coast are even better enjoyed in Caracol’s stunning light-filled restaurant and with the knowledge that the food you’re eating has been hand-selected by a team committed to responsible sourcing. Inventive and flavorful, Caracol’s dishes range from expertly cooked seafood to one of the most extensive and exciting vegetarian menus I’ve seen at a restaurant lately. You must end your meal with El Coco, a chocolate shell of a coconut filled with coconut buttercream, ganache and streusel. You get to crack it open with a mallet. *mike drop*

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Erika Kwee is a freelance food writer, photographer and contributor to the Houston Press who particularly enjoys exploring the many unique sweet spots around Houston. She is constantly on the hunt for exceptional pad thai, vegetarian dumplings and pancakes.