Prom Night: Adventures in Dining (Or Not)

One of the questions I've been fielding a lot lately is, "Where should my [son, daughter, sister, brother, etc.] go for dinner before prom?" And the answer I've been giving is always the same: Haven.

Haven has a beautiful dining room and patio; a great central location to where most proms seem to be happening these days; dim lighting if you're an 18-year-old who's into romance and not just going with the neighbor kid from down the street; an accessible menu that's full of items that would appeal to a teenage palate (shrimp corn dogs? wild boar chili? delicious roasted chicken?) and won't cost as much as a mortgage payment; and your kid/sister/brother/whoever is going to be eating at one of the city's best restaurants and eating genuinely fabulous food. What's not to love?

Inevitably, the people who ask me for this recommendation end up sending their spawn to The Cheesecake Factory while I seethe with annoyance. "That's a little too 'adult' for high schoolers," they'll say. Or sometimes, even more abruptly, "I just don't think they'd get it."

Way to sell your kids short. Damn.

But I refuse to sit here and suggest that you send your kids to PF Chang's or Benihana or Buca di Beppo. Those aren't the kind of restaurant recommendations I'm ever going to make.

For a dinner that's [been built up to be] one of the most special and important meals in their young little lives, wouldn't you want to send your kid somewhere truly special and memorable, not manufactured and corporate and serving the same trite meals night after night? Trust me; in no time at all, your kid is going to be all grown up and spending miserable business lunches at places like Grand Lux or eating at PF Chang's on a Friday night because that's where his boring girlfriend wants to go. You'll hate her. Her name will be Susan.

Your kids have all the time in the world to eat at boring restaurants. Send them somewhere that will blow their little minds -- in a fun and memorable way -- and leave that Benihana crap for an awkward first date at some point in their futures. It's going to happen.

As for me and my prom, we ate at Shanghai Red's. Now long-closed, it was already past its prime at that point, but that didn't mean we didn't bask in the view of a Texas sunset over the Turning Basin and the beer cheese soup that was, at the time, the pinnacle of fine dining to a group of 17-year-olds. It was memorable because it was different, because it was something outside of our normal routine.

So don't ask me for any more recommendations on where to send your children for prom this year. It's still right up there in the very first paragraph. Of course, if your youngsters still choose Buca di Beppo, they're on their own. Just aim for the Pope Room, kids.

Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Katharine Shilcutt