Things To Do

Houston Theater Week: Pre-Show Eats

Brennan's mesquite-grilled filet will impress your dinner companion.
Brennan's mesquite-grilled filet will impress your dinner companion. Photo by Deborah Smail

Houston Theater Week is already in full swing and the upcoming season should be a busy one. What used to be a one-day-only event has now, post-pandemic, become a week-long opportunity to get tickets for the season at participating venues at Buy One, Get One Free rates. The deals run from August 22 to August 29 and drama queens and musical kings can help support the arts that have suffered quite a toll due to the COVID-19 shutdowns. For more information, check out

It's a great opportunity to support our Houston Ballet, Houston Grand Opera and the wonderful theaters in our city, both professional and community theater venues. It's a perfect excuse to doll oneself up and make an evening of it. And, with the savings on tickets, couples, families and pals can treat themselves to a dinner beforehand at the nearby restaurants, many of them downtown or near the Theater District.
The Alley Theatre's Born With Teeth received several awards for the Houston Press' Houston Theater Awards 2022.
Photo by Lynn Lane
Years ago, finding a restaurant open in downtown Houston before a play or opera was near impossible. There was always Birra Poretti's located next to the Alley Theatre and well, it's still there if needs must. However, the dining scene has boomed downtown and there are restaurants for every budget and bank.

We have a list of some dining establishments that are ready and waiting for theater-goers to drop in for drinks or dinner before getting some culture for the night. Some of our suggestions are outside the Theatre District and closer to other performance venues. We highly recommend reservations and alerting your hosts and servers ahead of time about your performance plans.
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Ride in style to the show with Brennan's B-Line bus.
Photo by Brennan's of Houston

Brennan's of Houston
3300 Smith

For some seriously classy pre-show dining, Brennan's cannot be beat. The flickering gas lights, the old New Orleans ambiance and the delicious food make this a splurge, but a worthwhile one. It's also a good time to try out its Houston Restaurant Weeks menu which is available for dinner Tuesday through Sunday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. through September 5. It includes wonderful options like Snapping Turtle Soup, Shrimp Remoulade, Roasted Bandera Quail, Creole Bread Pudding, and the Brennan's Bananas Foster. There's even vegetarian items such as the Eggplant Pecan.

And with the launch of Houston Theater Week, Brennan's B-Line Shuttle has returned. Guests who dine in at the restaurant can enjoy its pick up and return service from a select group of downtown venues. It runs Friday through Sunday. Dining reservations must be made in advance and guests heading out for a show should call 713-522-9711 to make reservations for the B-Line service. The cost for the shuttle is $5 per person which will be added to the dining bill.
A seafood tower is a messy but decadent pre-show treat.
Photo by Marc Piscotty
Guard and Grace
500 Dallas

This steakhouse from Troy Guard was first founded in Denver. This is a splurge experience for opera lovers, ballet aficionados and fans of the latest, hottest musical. Guests can begin their meal with Oak-Fired Octopus or Hand-Cut Beef Tartare, indulge in the raw bar offerings and feast on prime and pricey steaks. Reservations are a must and there is $15 valet service available in front of the restaurant.

Hearsay Gastro Lounge Market Square
218 Travis

The vibe here is a little more hipster and, as its website says, "chic antique". Chandeliers, exposed brick and its 1920s vibe give this spot, in one of Houston's few 19th century buildings, a glamorous ambiance without being stuffy. This is a perfect pre-show dinner place for fans of craft cocktails and its menu offers something for everyone. Small groups of friends will enjoy the energy. It also offers brunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for those taking in a matinee.

Hearsay is participating in Houston Restaurant Weeks and their prix-fixe lunch, brunch and dinner menus for the monthlong event are really good deals if they coincide with your theatre plans.

Helen Greek Food and Wine
2429 Rice Boulevard

This Greek restaurant is convenient to both Main Street Theater, 2540 Times Boulevard and Dirt Dogs Theatre Co., 3400 Main. Both are offering select BOGO tickets for the 2022-2023 season if bought by August 29. Certain restrictions may apply.

Helen Greek has a curated list of Greek wines and a menu that is small, but varied. Guests can begin with the Trio of Dips, Grilled Octopus or baked Feta and Tipiti and enjoy entrees such as the Traditional Pork Gryro Platter, Rack of Lamb, Feta-Brined Chicken and the Frixos Catch Plaki Style, a whole roasted fish that has been deboned and stuffed.
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Stop by Hilton Americas for a pre-show or after show drink.
Photo by Shannon O'Hara
Hilton Americas-Houston
1600 Lamar

Whether you're making a weekend of it or just looking for a place to grab a quick bite and craft cocktail, Houston's largest hotel has two bars for pre-show drinks. Its Lobby Bar has a full dinner menu while R24, its new bar on the top floor of the hotel, has a craft cocktail menu and spectacular views of downtown. In fact, we're thinking it's a good place for after-show drinks and whatever show follows that.

There's also a Pappasito's Cantina at the Hilton Americas for some Tex-Mex. Just be forewarned that weekend nights are usually slammed.
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Try some pre-show ceviche at La Fisheria.
Photo by Troy Fields

La Fisheria
213 Milam

This Mexican restaurant in downtown Houston leans heavily toward coastal seafood and excels at ceviche, octopus dishes and anything with fresh fish. However, there are also steaks and a couple of chicken options. There's even a kids menu for those taking their rug rats out for some exposure to the performing arts.
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Oporto is close to Midtown and Montrose venues.
Photo by Troy Fields
Oporto Fooding House and Wine
125 W. Gray

This restaurant offers Portuguese dishes and petiscos (small plates) so guests attending a nearby Midtown performance at such theaters as The Ensemble Theatre, 3535 Main, can enjoy some light bites and drinks beforehand or a full-on meal. There are bar bites such as pao com tomate (grilled bread with tomato pulp) and stuffed prosciutto-wrapped dates. The salt cod croquettes are a popular item. Some petiscos being served include charred veggies, Cataplana Mussels and Portuguese Squid Fried Rice. For larger plates, guests will find Espetada de Carne (grilled beef tenderloin), Peixe Grelhado (grilled Gulf red snapper) and the Portuguese version of paella, Paelha Portuguesa, a saffron rice dish with seafood, steak and sausage.

The wine list leans toward Portugal, Spain, Italy and France and offers an extensive selection of Port and Madeira wines.

700 Milam

For some reason, classic Italian restaurants scream pre-theater dining. Having an antipasto dish, then a little pasta, maybe some fish, followed by an espresso seems like something New Yorkers would do before a big show. Well, we don't have Broadway but we have some amazing theater companies and some great Italian restos as well. Perbacco has owner/chef Vittorio Preteroti in the kitchen and the menu is traditional with all the Italian favorites.

Guests can start off with dishes like mussels marinara (a good name for an Italian strongman) or burrata and arugula. Folks who wince at the idea of nouvelle italienne will be happy to see lasagne, manicotti and eggplant parmigiana on the menu as well as veal marsala, shrimp in lemon and garlic butter sauce and Snapper Napoli, albeit a little more refined than your typical red sauce restaurant. It's the place my friend Big Hair Kim brings her father before every show because he's finicky and Perbacco pleases him.

The restaurant is open for dinner Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Reservations should be made by phone.

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This Wagyu Beef Tartare begs for a good wine.
Photo by Michael Anthony
Roots Wine Bar
3107 Leeland

This fairly new wine bar is a few minutes outside of the Theater District and its self-serve wine from fully automated wine dispensing machines makes it convenient for those wanting to stop in for pre-show drinks. For dinner, guests can dine Wednesday through Friday from 4 p.m. to midnight. For folks taking in a weekend matinee, there is brunch Saturday and Sunday beginning at 11 a.m.

The New American cuisine is seasonally driven and the menu is on the petite side Diners will find starters like Wagyu Beef Tartare or Melon and Chevre and entrees such as the Juicy Lucy Burger or its rotating market fish. On Wednesday, there is a Birds and Bubbles special that includes a half of a buttermilk fried chicken, biscuits and a bottle of bubbly for $30. At brunch, there are dishes such as Smoked Salmon Tartine, Heirloom Grits and Crab and Croque Madame.

Roots has an extensive variety of different wines, including several non-alcoholic versions.
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The arancini is a good appetizer before the show.
Photo by Michael Anthony

Rosalie Italian Soul
400 Dallas

Chris Cosentino's Italian restaurant is located in the C. Baldwin Hotel, perfect for those wanting to stay in town for the evening. However, the restaurant is open to both guests and the public. With a contemporary retro vibe, the food is still Old World Italian but with a modern interpretation and there are dishes to please the traditionalists and the adventurous. There are pasta dishes like Rigatoni with Texas Wild Boar Ragu or " Shells and Clams". For hearty appetites, the Bone-in Ribeye or Whole Chicken Parm will satisfy the hunger. Guests can keep it simple with the pizza selections or be daring and try the Great Grandma's Meatballs without spilling any sauce on your formal wear.
A post-performance drink at Warren's is a show of its own.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Warren's Inn
307 Travis

Warren's Inn is located on Houston's Market Square where late 19th century buildings give a little character to the skyscrapers and parking garages of downtown. This writer has enjoyed many an evening in Market Square and it's a favorite place to bring out-of-town guests to show them a different side of Houston that's not barbecue and $100 steaks.

Warren's is an interesting place for pre or post-show drinks. The wine is not going to blow your friends' minds, but it might blow their taste buds. Traditional cocktails are usually on the strong side and over the years the bartenders have ranged from tattooed Betty Boops to no-nonsense former barflies. It's a roll of the dice.

The decor is a cross between vintage martini bar and derelict dive. If you're lucky, you might snag the mini gazebo for an hour. The jukebox is the best in town.

There isn't any food, so this is a good place to hit up after Hearsay Gastro Lounge. For those wanting to make a night of it, La Carafe is also on Market Square and offers an experience of its own.
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These head-on shrimp get the green mole treatment at Xochi.
Photo by Troy Fields
1777 Walker

Hugo Ortega's Oaxacan restaurant offers fine dining in an upscale but not stuffy space located on the first floor of the Marriott Marquis Houston, across from Discovery Green park. Guests can start with crudos like the raw oysters with tomatillo mignonette or the Aguachile de Fresa with spicy yellow fin tuna. Goat tacos and Taquitos Dorados are available on the Antojitos menu while large plates offer steak, pork shank, quail and fish options. Mole is a big part of the menu and guests will find a number of different styles from pork ribs in ant mole to braised beef cheeks in mole pasilla.

Xochi has a Saturday brunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and its famous Sunday brunch buffet from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Margaritas, mezcal cocktails and palomas add to the experience. 
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Lorretta Ruggiero is a Houston Press freelance writer based in Cypress, Texas. She loves entertaining her family and friends with her food and sparkling wit. She is married to Classic Rock Bob and they have two exceptionally smart-aleck children.