Top 5 Prix-Fixe Lunches in Houston

It's not every day that you'll want to indulge in a fancy meal for lunch, but when you do, a lunch prix-fixe is the only way to go. For a fraction of the cost you would pay for dinner, many of the best restaurants around town offer set lunch menus for your dining pleasure. Here are our picks for the Top Five Prix-Fixe Lunches in Houston.

5. Le Mistral $10 for two courses or $20 for three courses, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. If you find yourself over on the west side of town or anywhere near the energy corridor, Le Mistral is the place to be for lunch. The popular French restaurant, owned by chef David Denis and his brother Sylvain, offers two incredible specials for the business lunch crowd: an "Express Lunch," which includes your choice of soup or salad and pasta of the day for $10; and a three-course "Business Lunch," which includes a soup or salad to start, a daily entrée and dessert. Subscribe to the restaurant's Facebook page for daily updates on what they'll be serving. Recent features on the Express menu have included items like a penne pasta with red wine bolognese and orecchiette pasta with traditional Provençal basil pesto topped with tomato coulis. The Business menu has offered dishes such as Chilean sea bass kebabs with saffron rice and beef Provençal stew, saffron rice pilaf and sautéed mushrooms.

4. Brennan's of Houston $16 to $25 for two courses, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. What could be better than dining in the recently renovated dining room at Brennan's for lunch? Indulging in a scrumptious two-course prix-fixe. The two-item lunch "packages" range from $16 to $25, and include a starter, such as their famous turtle soup, followed by your choice of entrée, such as Texas rabbit stuffed with tasso and mozzarella over sweet potato greens and blistered tomatoes with andouille country gravy. A vegetarian option is also available. While you're there, don't pass up the opportunity to indulge in one of their amazingly strong 25-cent martinis, available in a variety of flavors with the purchase of a lunch entrée (limit of three per person).

3. Americas River Oaks $19 lunch trio, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. When you want to step away from the stresses of the day, visit Américas River Oaks and let the Cordúa magic sweep you off your feet. The otherworldly decor has the effect of suspending time, while the delicious food will transport you to a tropical place where chicken is grilled with achiote, or bacon-wrapped shrimp and filet brochettes are served over chorizo Caribbean rice. In addition to these entrée choices, the trio lunch menu includes a soup or salad to start and ends with the famous tres leches or cocoa tart.

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2. Tony's $21 three-course "Greenway Express" lunch, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Tony's may serve its fair share of celebrities, socialites and VIP customers, but its lunch is meant to be accessible to just about anyone. For only $21, you get three gourmet courses that include soup of the day or an Italian chopped salad, choice of an entrée, such as a beautifully crisp speckled trout with cerignola olive essence and crispy potatoes, plus your choice of gelati or cheesecake for dessert. Italian fine dining without the price tag -- this is hands-down one of the best lunch deals in town.

1. Da Marco $29 for choice of three courses 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. The three-course lunch prix-fixe at Da Marco has increased from $26 to $29 in the past year or so, but the breadth and quality of the choices you get, coupled with the old-school white jacket and bow-tie five-star service, make it hard to beat. To start, you get your choice of items like shaved celery salad with beets and pecorino, or a daily special soup, like the utterly delectable butternut squash with corn and crab I had recently. For the main course, choose items from the à la carte menu, including a pappardelle with wild boar ragù, calf liver veneziana with polenta, or the rich and hearty chianti-braised short ribs served over risotto. Desserts range from sour cream chocolate torte with gianduja and chocolate gelato to a traditional panna cotta with saba or fruit plate. Portions are ample, and dishes are executed with aplomb. Just make sure to reserve a table in advance, because they definitely book up.

Honorable mentions -- Though these restaurants didn't make our Top 5, they certainly made our short list: Charivari in Midtown for their $15.50 three-course business lunch; Cuchara in Montrose for their three-course comida corrida lunch; Sorrel Urban Bistro, which offers a three-course power lunch that ranges from $16 to $18, depending on the entrée selected; and Caracol in the Galleria area, which is offering a two-item $22 lunch menu.

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