When wooing a new love, basking in the warmth of a longterm relationship or even just having quiet time with a friend, everyone needs places to go that promise to be intimate and classic. Excellent service and minimal dining distractions are a must.
Many restaurants on this list are longtime Houston classics that have their routines down. There is no waffling or experimentation—these are already committed and know how to provide an excellent experience. A few relative newcomers on the scene have happily given Houston some more modern choices on where to spark some flames. All 20 give couples a good chance for side of romance with their meal.
20. Quattro, 1300 Lamar It's not hard to have a romantic dinner in a room adorned in lush red upholstery and punctuated in glassy gold and blue. Dine on traditional Italian fare like Vitello e Tonno Tonnato (cold sliced veal with mayonnaise sauce) or modern creations like whiskey-braised short ribs, while looking out at the streets of downtown Houston. By the way, it's located in Four Seasons Hotel Houston, the granddaddy of high-class, full service hotels (hint, hint).
19. Backstreet Café, 1103 S. Shepherd When the weather is fair, Houston's restaurant patios sing their siren songs. The one at the old home where Backstreet Café is located has bubbling fountains (often with a few birds splashing away in them), patio umbrellas and huge trees overhead. It's as appealing at night as it is during the day for staging a getaway from the bustling streets just outside the door.
18. Le Mistral, 1400 Eldridge Here's one of the best romantic dinner splurges: book the Chef's Table at Le Mistral. It's located in a private room just off the kitchen where chef David Denis and his staff cook guests a French meal specifically to their tastes. Even if you don't want to splurge on private dining, a meal of seared foie gras, duck breast and French wine have a good chance of kindling the flames of romance.
17. Spindletop at the Hyatt Regency, 1200 Louisiana If you haven't been to Spindletop in a while, it's time to go back to this rotating restaurant for more than just the stunning view of downtown. The menu has taken on a Texan bent in recent months, featuring vegetable soup with produce sourced from Atkinson Farm and Seared Mahi Mahi with Mesquite-Smoked Fingerling Potatoes and Tito's Vodka-Infused Texas Grapefruit Sauce. But yeah, that view will still take your breath away.
16. Brennan's of Houston, 3300 Smith This Creole restaurant may have evolved from the original Brennan's in New Orleans, but it is a beloved part of Houston's consciousness. Whether enjoying the famous Turtle Soup or sipping one of the many reasonably-priced cocktails, it's not hard to lose your head here. Don't forget to grab a rich, sweet praline on the way out for a last, memorable taste.
15. Kiran's, 4100 Westheimer Chef Kiran Verma pretty much introduced fine-dining Indian restaurants as a concept to Houston with her first location, Ashiana. Her subsequent place, Kiran's on Westheimer, is a beacon of sophistication without the horrid dumbing-down of authentic flavors seen at too many other "nice" restaurants that serve the native cuisine of other countries. Sure, if you're afraid of spice they can point you to milder territory, but didn't you come here to feel some heat?
14. Mark's American Cuisine, 1658 Westheimer Open since 1997, Mark's has become a Houston classic. Part of its ambiance comes from being housed in a gorgeous 1920s church. While entrées tend to lean toward the Continental American side, appetizers (like the Spiced Tourchon & Seared Hudson Valley foie gras duo) and desserts (such as the Assorted Mignardise of Miniature House Made Pastries, Mini Bites & Confections) are spectacular. Sommelier Cathy Nguyen's wine list is much more adventurous than you might expect. Sure, there's Napa Cabernet there, but do yourself a favor and take a guided adventure for an evening that's memorable in more ways than one.
13. Triniti, 2815 S. Shepherd It's a joy to be able to say, "Just look for the big, red sign on Shepherd!" New signage is just one of the tweaks and reinventions over the last two years that have turned Triniti into the Restaurant That Could. Sophisticated yet playful dishes, like Hamachi 'Pastrami' with sweet potato? gel, cranberry, endive, wax bean, and sweet and sour, keep regulars coming back for more. For a romantic meal, go for the eight-course chef's tasting menu. There's even a six-course vegetarian option.
12. Mockingbird Bistro, 1985 Welch Chef John Sheeley's intimate restaurant is full of dark woods and an ornate, carved bar holds down one side of the room. The rich, slow-roasted onion soup with its thick crouton and preponderance of gruyere is all anyone could want from it while the Choucroute D'alsace—roasted pork loin, boudin blanc, pork belly, sauerkraut, green beans and potato confit—will make you think you and your date somehow accidentally ended up in France.
11. Américas River Oaks, 2040 West Gray If there was a restaurant actually created for dating, this might be it. The interior décor simply screams sex. Actually, some of the textured décor in reds, deep browns and creams is indeed based on intimacy. The Latin American cuisine will keep the flames going right down to the end, with desserts like Delirio De Chocolate— chocolate truffle cake, hazelnut chocolate mousse, chocolate ganache, chocolate meringue, espresso cajeta—perfect for capping off the evening. They suggest pairing port with that dessert and we think that sounds perfect.