Sometimes, diners want to get away from the hustle and bustle of their lives and enjoy a quiet meal. That doesn’t mean they’re in search of a restaurant with no customers because it's in its death throes. It’s about finding a respectable place where fellow diners are subtly encouraged to behave with some decorum.
For those who seek a peaceful meal, this isn't the time to visit the hot new restaurants or a Tex-Mex place that specializes in tequila shots. It’s about finding a restaurant fit for the grownups.
Also, consider timing. There's a reason why professionals in the restaurant industry call holidays as well as Friday and Saturday nights "amateur hour." Weeknight dining is where it's at. Those who absolutely must go out on Friday or Saturday night will do well to have dinner earlier or later than the usual, like 5:30 or 9 p.m.
Here are ten Houston restaurants where diners can find a good meal and peace of mind, and perhaps even have a good conversation with a friend.
Paulie’s, 1834 Westheimer. It’s not that Paulie’s doesn’t get full and a little “buzzy,” but as a neighborhood Italian restaurant, it never get raucous. Those lucky enough to be able to dine between 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. will discover a place peaceful enough to work in, free Wi-Fi and half-price wine.
Mockingbird Bistro, 1985 Welch. Chef John Sheely’s contemporary French bistro is a date-night favorite thanks in no small part to its respectable atmosphere. Happy hour at the bar between 5 and 7 p.m. is the most lively it gets, but people still generally keep the noise down.
La Table, 1800 Post Oak. At La Table, diners can choose their preferred volume. How about the hushed, elegant, “at your service” atmosphere in the upstairs dining room, Château? Maybe instead it should the patio, where even the sound of the cars making their way down Post Oak isn’t particularly noticeable? Downstairs at Marché is likely to be the most energetic spot, but even so, it doesn’t get crazy.
Vallone’s, 947 Gessner. Much like Tony Vallone’s original restaurant, Tony’s, this Memorial City-area Italian steakhouse is full of actual grownups who know how to dine — and that means using “inside voices.” That said, people who actually want to have a party should check out the spacious upstairs dining room, which is ideal for social gatherings.
KUU, 947 Gessner. Located mere footsteps away from Vallone’s is another restaurant where conversations are actually possible. Japanese restaurant KUU has amazing sushi thanks to highly trained chef Adison Lee. Actually, some of the best talking to be done here is over the sushi bar with the chefs, so this is also a great place to dine alone.
Sud Italia, 2347 University. Dining at this cozy Italian restaurant is almost like eating dinner in someone’s home. There are two reasons for that. First, it is located in a home. Second, restaurateur Shannon Scott and his staff provide attentive service the whole night through. Be sure and ask about a shot of the homemade limoncello after dinner.
Rainbow Lodge, 2011 Ella. Diners probably don't make a lot of noise here because they're too busy gazing at one of the most opulent log cabins they've ever seen. Between the excellent menu, which often features wild game, and an ambitious but friendly wine program helmed by sommelier Marc Borel, Rainbow Lodge is a wonderful place for date night.
Kris Bistro, 7070 Allensby. Houston’s best-kept secret in French restaurants is nestled inside of Culinary Institute LeNôtre. It’s a lovely space staffed with a mix of professionals and students. Look for both classic and nouveau dishes, and don’t forget to check out the reasonably priced wine and beer list.
Artisans, 3201 Louisiana. Chef Jacques Fox is always conjuring special prix fixe menus and wine dinners, so a quiet meal here can be both enjoyable and interesting. Artisans’ proximity to downtown makes it especially suitable for business lunches — and you can actually hear the business proposals.
Cuchara, 214 Fairview. It’s almost possible to guarantee there will be no screaming children interrupting a diner’s culinary tour of Mexico City. It’s not that kids aren’t welcome here. It’s just that they’re expected to behave. Since, unfortunately, many parents can’t be relied on to make sure their little darlings aren’t “expressing themselves” in public, Cuchara has a handy little postcard to remind them. That’s good news for their fellow diners.
What are your favorite hideouts for when you want to dine in peace? Leave them in the comments below.