The Best Date Night Restaurants In Houston guide image


The Best Date Night Restaurants In Houston

Whether it’s the first or the 101st date, this guide to date night has you covered.

Houstonians love to eat. We stalk spots we want to try like prey. So when it comes to a romantic outing at a restaurant—whether it's a first date or a 20th anniversary—the stakes are even higher. Date night in Houston isn’t a spectator sport, it’s a cage match, and you should be prepared. Unless that special someone is close by or your teenager finally agrees to babysit, it’s not exactly easy to set up a last-minute date.

So, plan! Gamify the reservation systems and triangulate those traffic patterns. Whether you're looking for a casual spot with wine and charcuterie, a place that's proud of its vegetables and plays music on vinyl, or a full-out tasting menu flex, this guide has you covered.


Street To Kitchen

The folks at the East End Thai restaurant Street to Kitchen are restaurant magicians. Somehow, they figured out a way to stop time. The colorful walls of the tiny, dimly-lit restaurant, along with layers of curtains, plants, and a puzzle of tightly-packed tables, holds you in momentary temporal suspense until everything around you sizzles and softens around the edges. Soon, all that matters is the person across from you and the incredible food as it rhythmically arrives at your table. Make a reservation—you will absolutely need one—to split drunken noodles and make googly eyes with that special someone.

Maderas, a romantic and colorful Mexican restaurant in Montrose, is a great spot for date night, whether it’s your third or thirtieth. Housed in a bland strip center, the interior is anything but. Maderas feels unpretentious, yet incredibly stylish with tropical plants, massive floral murals, and plush booths. And the food is full of flavor, from plates of crispy golden flautas in a pool of salsa verde or blue corn tortillas lying beneath charred octopus tentacles. Plus, the dim lighting and what feels like hundreds of LED candles at night makes the entire restaurant feel like it was built just for you.

From the second you walk up to Bungalow, an upscale steak and seafood restaurant in Downtown, you feel the fantasy. Hosts in matching dresses hand you complimentary champagne and lead you to a plush booth in a dimly lit, high-ceiling room. Order excessively decadent cocktails alongside a juicy pork chop. The food is decadent—a great excuse to playfully feed your date a forkful of lobster macaroni and cheese, if that’s your thing. For dessert, crack open the luscious chocolate dome dessert together because nothing says date night like making everyone else jealous.

Dining at Nobie’s is always fun: maybe it’s because the seasonal spot has as killer of a record collection as they do cocktails. Or maybe because like every great house party, it’s in a bungalow in Montrose. Everyone here feels like they’re ready to let loose, including the staff, so go along with it. Break in a first date over some buttery pull-apart milk bread, snacks like cast iron spinach dip served with focaccia, and some pasta. Or switch up your routine and go straight for the HOV lane: a whole fried crispy chicken dressed in truffle jus, priced at a cheeky $69.

The Acadian and Cajun restaurant Prey in the Galleria neighborhood is cool and so romantic—it’s the sort of place that inspires you to sit on the same side of the booth as your date. During the day there’s plenty of natural light, but at night the lamps give off just enough light for you to see your date and the spicy seafood gumbo when it hits your table. So stop in, canoodle over creamy crawfish fondue, and watch the sunset through the floor-to-ceiling windows. On weekends, if you don’t want the night to end, you can stay late for “Prey After Dark,'' where you can enjoy live jazz music and have a nightcap.

Giacomo’s Cibo E Vino is pretty comfy for being located right off Westheimer. This no-frills neighborhood Italian restaurant in River Oaks is great if you either need a quick night to yourselves or a casual first date setting. Cozy up at a corner table and split a bottle of Italian wine over plates of mozzarella-stuffed radicchio and eggplant parmesan. Or shack up on the plant-clad patio with as many half orders of housemade eggy pastas you can fit on the table. This place is all about consistency and comfort, the kind of place you'll happily default to every other "date night."

Dinette doesn’t take itself too seriously. This Vietnamese spot in the Heights on the precipice of something great. The menu has fun twists on classic dishes like a lobster fried rice blanketed in salted egg, as well as standouts, like the Vietnamese pizza, which is a crunchy and cheesy jolt of electricity. Although Dinette doesn’t take reservations, it’s a great spot for a casual weeknight dinner. And you should know that at Happy Hour, lemongrass shrimp skewers, hushpuppies, and $7 cocktails are aplenty. Order a tiki dressed dressed up in ridiculous glassware, like a giant ceramic elephant or saguaro cactus. Just make sure to go with someone who you won’t mind sharing a post-meal nap with.

If you’re not in the mood for an activity that requires a lot of effort, the people-watching at Brasserie 19, a classic French bistro in River Oaks, never disappoints. Everyone dining there wants to be seen, or at least be part of the scene, so get cozy on the patio, or settle in on the plush seating inside. Share a plateaux de fruits de mer (or at least some oysters), a delicate beef tartare, and maybe some boeuf bourguignon. If you are lucky enough to snag a patio table facing Brasserie 19’s fabled entrance, you’ll get to enjoy the scene from the first row.

For a casual date night, look to Reggae Hut, a cozy spot in the Third Ward that’s been making staple Caribbean meals for over 25 years. Immune from life’s daily hustle and bustle, the place practically mandates that you stay awhile. The food here, including some of the best oxtail you’ll find in Houston, is rich, decadent and leaves you grooving in the lived-in wooden chairs. Or maybe it’s the reggae tunes playing in the background? Probably a little of both. The only alcohol served is the housemade rum punch, but you can head to The Savoy or another bar nearby afterwards for a drink.

Rosie Cannonball, the Italian restaurant in Montrose, is a beautifully designed restaurant that’s great for a first date. The warm, inset lighting around the ceiling makes everything look ravishing and beautiful, including you, your date, and even the many houseplants throughout the dining room. This is a place where you go to feel alluring and drink wine and not pay much attention to the food, which is only occasionally great. Also, there are fabulous and frankly kind of sexy bathrooms you should very much check out.

Nearly everyone else here is on a date, so you probably should be, too. The Midtown wine bar 13 Celsius is great not only for its seasonally curated wine list, but also for the candle-lit ambiance, historic architectural patina, and dreamy romantic vibes. Whether you sit at the bar, a table, or the patio, service is always attentive and discreet. Trade glances over charcuterie, slowly snack on baked brie or duck rillettes, or order the toast-your-own s’mores for dessert with someone you want to get closer to.

Kata Robata’s dreamy, sunken booths lull anyone into a state of temporary bliss. This sushi bar and izakaya in Upper Kirby always knows how to show you a great time. You feel as though every need you could have as a diner is anticipated before you even think about it. Book the sushi bar for an omakase featuring some very special octopus sashimi, or go a la carte and cross chopsticks reaching for the last bite of grilled and smoky hamachi collar.

Even at the coziest table at Nancy’s Hustle, the staff will keep dinner running smoothly so that you, your date, and your nancy cakes have as much elbow room as possible. And the food is just as impressive as the service. This dimly-lit, charming EaDo joint serves creative, bistro-y dishes like lamb tartare on a crisp sesame flatbread, pastas you can share, or a juicy cheeseburger served on an english muffin (that you can also share but you probably won’t want to). As cool and lighthearted as Nancy’s Hustle is, a free table for walk-ins is probably somewhere next to a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, so make a reservation unless you want to try your luck at the bar (which is also a pretty dreamy spot for a date night).

The Ethiopian restaurant Blue Nile in River Oaks resembles a grand hall, filled with billowy white curtains and mesob sweetgrass baskets. As you stare deeply into each other’s eyes, you feel like royalty dining in the privacy of a stately home. Your hands softly graze past each other’s while reaching for another piece of injera to scoop up the smoky, spicy yemissir wot lentils and the onion-sweet kik alicha split peas. The tender yebeg key wot’s berbere-spiced lamb makes you wonder why you’d ever eat anywhere or anything else.

Romance may be a construct, but delicious dry-aged beef is a reality. At Pappas Bros, a classic Houston steakhouse with locations in downtown and by the Galleria, you’ll certainly be able to find one of those things. The dining room is pleasantly dim, the wine list is dubiously long, the staff is diligent, and the prices run high (as you might expect). Stay long enough and the private-club atmosphere and perceptive service—bonus if they swipe the crumbs off your table—will have you and your date saying, “I do,” to everything on the decadent dessert cart.

Even though the dining room at Himalaya feels stuck in time, with plastic-covered tables and dispenser napkins made of air, there’s a particular charm to this classic Pakistani and Indian restaurant. Everything at this Mahatma Gandhi District spot is no-nonsense and unfussy, meaning you can settle in knowing you’ll be both taken care of and unbothered. Share a spicy, herbaceous chicken hara masala or the sweet mutton biryani with a side of warm, buttery garlic naan. And since it’s BYOB, make sure to bring a bottle of wine that will impress your date.

For a classic, celebratory dinner, you should head to Hugo’s, Hugo Ortega’s flagship restaurant serving regional Mexican dishes in Montrose. Everything here feels upscale—the building is from 1925, and the historic, Latin-inspired space is stunning, with chandeliers that look like they were shipped in from a local castle. You and your date can cherish your milestone anniversary over pulpo al carbón, slow-roasted lamb barbacoa, and margaritas that get shaken tableside. The staff here seems prepared for just about anything, so you can expect a date to go pretty seamlessly, save for maybe a heated debate about which one of you gets the last handmade blue corn tortilla.

Early-in-the-game date jitters get the best of us all, so if you want a spot that makes everything feel a little easier, try Ostia, the Italian/Mediterranean restaurant in Montrose. Book a table on the airy patio, or even better, in the dreamy greenhouse room, with rustic brick walls, enormous skylights, and enough plants to make you forget that you’re dining indoors. Split the mortadella paté and some pasta, grab a bottle of Lambrusco, and if the conversation starts to dwindle, you can use the romantic view as built-in small talk.

Forget about arguing over who’s going to order what for once. Hamsa, an Israeli restaurant in Rice Village, has done most of the thinking for you. The food is meant to be shared and lingered over. An appetizer salatim spread of little dips and marinated vegetables served with warm pita takes time to enjoy, as do the grilled kebab skewers that get served tableside. Even the sweet chocolate halvah dessert, alongside some Turkish coffees or espresso martinis, are invitations to take your time. As are the low-slung booths, where, despite how crowded it gets, you are an island to yourselves. Reservations are recommended, but the sultry navy bar is pretty dreamy, too. 

Tatemó’s dining room is small, lit only by a few candles and extremely dim wall sconces. You can barely see anything here, except your date across the table, and, well, the incredible small plates in front of you. Eating at this tasting menu restaurant in Spring Branch feels like dining at one of those new age, minimalist resort spas, but if it was exclusively focused on interior Mexican cuisine and heirloom corn varieties. Everyone working there seems focused on you and maintaining a cocoon of calm around you. Plus, paying in advance when making a reservation ensures you never have to do something as unsexy as fiddling with credit cards. They’re only open for dinner on Friday and Saturday, so plan ahead, and get intimate, starting with Tatemó’s house-nixtamalized corn tortillas.

A’Bouzy in River Oaks knows (or, at least, wants you to think) a special date night requires a few things: a special bottle of champagne, elegant charcuterie boards, maybe some caviar, and definitely another bottle of bubbly. The French bistro isn’t subtle about suggesting you order a bottle, like, right the hell now, which you’ll want to do to not only treat your sweetie, but also hear all the servers across the restaurant yell “A’Bouzy!” in unison. Add on a chocolate lava cake for dessert and feel transported right to the rues and avenues of Paris (mostly because the champagne is working).

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photo credit: Nobie's

The Best Date Night Restaurants In Houston guide image