A total of 250 restaurants. Five weeks. Tons of dining deals. Yes, it's time once again for Houston Restaurant Weeks, returning to town from August 1 through September 4, in an effort to raise a whole lot of money for the Houston Food Bank. Last year Houston Restaurant Weeks was able to raise more than $2 million, which is pretty astounding. Needless to say, it's a great cause.
If you're the type of person looking to try that splurge restaurant that's been just out of reach all year, now is the time. In fact, the deals abound so much, it can be downright difficult to decide where you want to go. The Houston Press has perused the menus of $20 lunches, $22 brunches, and $35 and $45 dinners, all of which are two or three courses (some with amuse-bouches as well), to find the best bets.
Here are the HRW seats to reserve now.
Xochi, 1777 Walker
Without a doubt, Xochi is one of the best restaurants to hit up during Houston Restaurant Weeks. It's one of the top restaurants to open in Houston this year, and chef Hugo Ortega finally took home the 2017 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest as well. On top of that, the HRW menus perfectly capture everything this new Mexican hot spot does so well. A mole-focused menu boasts both Gulf shrimp with green mole and duck confit enchiladas with mole negro. The vegetarian/vegan menu is a beauty with a squash blossom mole and compressed melon salad. Plus, Mexican wine- and mezcal-focused menus both rock the restaurant's signature queso de cincho with (or without) grasshoppers. That being said, you'll definitely want to do the suggested wine and cocktail pairings for an additional charge of $27 or $28.
B&B Butchers, 1814 Washington
Numerous options abound to build your own dinner at this stylish destination for steak, with indulgent items that include brisket ravioli, meatballs, a chicken fried pork chop, New York cheesecake, and, oh yeah, red meat. You can go totally conventional, starting the meal off with a Caesar or wedge and moving into a ten-ounce Roquefort-crusted filet in au poivre sauce and then some chocolate cake. Or go for broke with supplements including an 18-ounce Prime bone-in NY Strip (with a $25 upcharge) that you can lather in truffle butter for $4 extra or order up "carpetbagger" style with a fried oyster and blue cheese crumbles on top for $12 more.
Liberty Kitchen, Various Locations
The HRW menus at Liberty Kitchen locations are actually inspired by culinary director Lance Fegen's love of surfing and travel, so you'll find lots of Latin influences at play. A Cartagena "surfer’s style" stew, cazuela de mariscos, available at the Memorial location, features fresh seafood, coconut milk, sweet herbs, plantain, corn and achiote, and is served with rice, avocado, limes and tomato. At the Galleria outpost, you'll find a hearty Chilean casserole or cazuela de vacuna — braised short rib, pumpkin, corn, root vegetables and peas. And at both the Heights and Garden Oaks locations, there's also fresh redfish on the half shell. Though there are certainly meatier options to choose from as well.
Coltivare, 3320 White Oak
At this oft-packed Heights eatery, where chef Ryan Pera and team draw inspiration from Italy and pluck produce directly from their own garden, the dueling dinner menus don't disappoint. In fact, it'll be just as hard for you to figure out what your three-course meal is going to be like. Will you go all vegetarian snack-attack with roasted hazelnuts and thyme, an heirloom squash pizza, and a wood roasted pear crostada, or will you indulge in chicken wings, a wood-fired pizza topped with shredded pork and smoked cheese, and a chocolate panna cotta? Either way, you're going to want to cash in. Lots of choices here, and it pretty much all rules.
Harold's in the Heights, 350 West 19th
When you see Big Nasty Biscuit and Lost Bread (that's old-school French toast) on the brunch menu, you know you're in for a treat. Chef Antoine Ware, a New Orleans native, definitely brings the Big Easy flavors to this menu with Creole starters, including chicken and sausage gumbo and beignets. While The Big Nasty Biscuit, fried chicken on a cheddar biscuit topped with sausage gravy, sounds almost too good to pass up, you can go just a tad lighter with the Big Damn Breakfast — two eggs cooked your way, roasted potatoes, bacon and a biscuit with jam. Big damn, indeed.
La Table, 6 BLVD Place, 1800 Post Oak
This is actually a really great brunch spot for vegetarians and vegans seeking a little HRW love. The ritzy French destination in the Galleria area is a great spot to head to when you're dressed up and ready to indulge in a lovely weekend brunch. Go light with a gazpacho, egg white frittata and raspberry choux, or live it up with caramelized cheese soufflé, French toast and vanilla crème brûlée. Just make sure to save a little room and hit up the bakery counter on your way out.
Brennan's of Houston, 3300 Smith
Seeing as it's near impossible to find a lunch of sandwich, iced tea and tip for less than $15 in town, the thought of getting Brennan's world-famous turtle soup and the luxe Steak Diane (beef tenderloin with smashed Yukon Golds in a Bordeaux and mushroom sauce) for $20 in the lap of luxury, is one of the best dining steals ever. The hospitality alone is worth it, and with executive chef Joe Cervantez — most recently of Killen's Steakhouse— stepping in to run the kitchen, now is as good a time as ever to give this landmark a try. Plus, you can nab a praline on the way out.
Peska, 1700 Post Oak Boulevard, #1-190
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Chef Chris Loftis, a Killen's and H Town Restaurant Group alum, recently took over the kitchen at this newly rebranded seafood and steak destination, and after returning from an inspirational trip to Mexico City, he told the Press that he's gearing up to infuse the menus with much more Mexican flavors. That can be witnessed directly with the HRW offerings, and lunch is a great time to experience those changes. From ancho-dusted redfish to chile relleno de carne (poblano stuffed with short rib) and pulpo cielo, grilled octopus served over a masa cake with spicy tomato sauce, avocado purée and queso fresco, it's evident he wasn't kidding. The fact that you can indulge in those choices for just $20 with a dessert included (hello, churros) is unbeatable.
Osso & Kristalla, 1515 Texas
Maybe you're noticing a theme here, but the lunch menus are all about Houston's latest chef shuffles. Chef Danny Trace (who helmed Brennan's of Houston for eight years) recently moved to downtown's high-end Italian eatery Potente and its adjacent trattoria, Osso & Kristalla, from Astros owner Jim Crane, and now you can check out what he's up to. Whether that's dinner at Potente or lunch at Osso & Kristalla is up to you. If you opt for the more casual lunch, think buttermilk fried calamari or a Kristalla Salad (one of the Press's favorite salads in Houston right now) for starters and wood-fired dishes, including barbecue pulled pork pizzetta or salmon for the main course. Plus, an amuse-bouche is offered too: artichoke hummus with grilled bread.
You can find all the menus on the Houston Restaurant Weeks official website.