15 of the Best Bets for the 2016 Houston Restaurant Weeks

With more than 200 restaurants participating in Houston Restaurant Weeks this year, choosing where to go can be really tough. We’ve checked out the options and created this guide to help make that decision a little easier.

One of the most interesting aspects of Houston Restaurant Weeks is that the options are broken down by mealtime and price, so our picks are divided the same way. Best bets are listed for each category: $20 lunch, $20 brunch, and dinners at the $25, $35 and $45 price levels. Additionally, there are two picks each for both luxurious splurges by way of menu upgrades and add-ons, as well as menus that abide by the Go Healthy Houston guidelines.

In addition to picking restaurants, we also picked a sample meal based on some of the most tempting individual dishes. 

Check out all the participating restaurants at the Houston Restaurant Weeks website. No matter where diners go, every single Houston Restaurant Weeks meal generates a minimum $3 donation to the Houston Food Bank. Last year's efforts raised more than $1.9 million. This year's dining extravaganza runs from August 1 to September 5, so there's plenty of time to eat many great meals and do a whole lot of good for less fortunate people in Houston. 

$20 Lunch

Artisans, 3201 Louisiana. Of all the business lunch options near downtown, Artisans is one of the best and its $20 Houston Restaurant Weeks lunch menu leaves no excuse not to give the elegant meals a try. Get off to a meaty start with the gâteau de gigot d'agneau braisé, or braised leg of lamb glazed in a sauce with roasted tomatoes. Alongside are ideal accompaniments of mashed potatoes and English peas with mint. Finish with le dôme au chocolat à l'orange sanguine, one of Artisans' typically elegant desserts, with blood orange-tinged dark chocolate mousse, raspberry sorbet and a finishing touch of Kahlúa liqueur sauce. 

Shade, 250 West 19th. This Heights eatery has a new, lovely look thanks to a recent remodel and a new chef, Kenten Marin, in the kitchen. With three courses, the $20 Houston Restaurant Weeks lunch is a great deal. Start with roasted cauliflower accented with lemon brown butter and sea salt mixed with a touch of sage before diving into a hearty six-ounce portion of agave-glazed pork belly with grilled pineapple and scallion slaw. As for the wrap-up, a slice of rich coconut cream pie sounds like Southern seduction on a plate.

$20 Brunch

Brennan’s of Houston
, 3300 Smith. We recently put together a list of the best brunches in Houston, and diners will be able to try our top pick for only $20. Brunch is available at Brennan’s of Houston on both Saturdays and Sundays (although the roving jazz band, as shown in the video above, plays only on Sundays). Start with a cup of either the famous snapping turtle soup with a splash of sherry or the duck and collard green gumbo with toasted garlic “jazzmen rice” before moving on to meaty Southern beef grillades with grits made creamier than usual with goat cheese. Check out all the restaurant's Houston Restaurant Weeks meal offerings online

51Fifteen, 5115 Westheimer

At the end of last April, 51Fifteen in the Galleria revealed the results of its big remodeling and expansion effort, and its Houston Restaurant Weeks brunch offerings seem like an ideal opportunity to take a gander at the new space. The elegant options include grilled shiitake mushroom and roasted tomato salad with frisée, mache greens and goat cheese, dressed in smoked onion vinaigrette. The frittata with grilled chicken and roasted tomatoes sounds like a great follow-up act.

$25 Dinner

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, 114 Vintage Park or 531 South Mason, Katy

For only $25, visitors to the Vintage Park and Katy Alamo Drafthouse locations get not only a three-course meal during a movie but a free ticket to come back and see another movie in the future. The menu is like upscale pub fare. Start with truffled, herb-spiced parmesan buttered popcorn (popcorn is a requirement for movies, right?), then really get to work on satisfying hunger with the “Another Cow Burger.” It sports a hefty, seven-ounce Angus beef patty and, as if that isn’t enough, is also topped with warm pastrami, cheddar and sauerkraut. It even comes with french fries. A boozy shake is a soothing ending, and the spiking options include Maker’s Mark bourbon and 512 Pecan Porter beer.

El Tiempo Annex, 322 Westheimer. All Houston El Tiempo locations are offering three-course dinners for only $25, but the big “annex” at Westheimer and Taft has the most ambitious menu. Entrée choices include half a pound of fajitas al carbon, and among the unusual meat options are sweetbreads and ahi tuna. Of course, beef, chicken and pork fajitas are available as well. A tempting appetizer choice is the chicharrón topped with chipotle aioli, and it would be a shame to pass up the “chocobanana,” a deep-fried, banana-stuffed turnover, for dessert. Updated, 7/27/2016, 1:27 p.m.: After some checking, a representative for El Tiempo found out that the Navigation location also offers the sweetbread and ahi tuna fajitas.

$35 Dinner

Andes Café, 2311 Canal. Chef David Guerrero’s casual, east-of-downtown diner is ready to take visitors on a trip all around South America with its Houston Restaurant Weeks offerings. Start in Ecuador with the conchas asadas, or hard-to-find grilled Ecuadorian black clams brightened with pickled onions, tomatoes, lime juice and sea salt. Next, dive into Colombia with the bandeja paisa, decadent grilled steak sausage, rice, beans, chicharrón, avocado, corn bread and sweet plantain. It’s luxuriously topped with an egg, too. End the mini-vacation with suspiro limeño (“Sigh of Lima”) from Peru, a milky, comforting custard topped with port wine and whipped cream.

Updated, 7/29/2016: Sadly, Bramble unexpectedly closed on July 29, just before Houston Restaurant Weeks started. 

Bramble, 2231 South Voss. How can any self-respecting meat eater turn down a menu that starts with an appetizer called “Our Country Ham”? It’s accompanied by watermelon jelly, pickled mustard seeds and grilled sourdough. Proceed from there to a reasonable, four-ounce portion of cornmeal-crusted redfish with a salad of charcoal-blistered corn, charred onions and preserved tomatoes alongside. Bramble is one of the few restaurants serving big slices of cake from Jodycakes, and while the flavor combinations are subject to change, there are no bad choices. Other menu options are available online

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Phaedra Cook
Contact: Phaedra Cook