HOUGuide

The 11 Most Fun Dinner Spots In Houston

A night out at one of these restaurants will never be boring.
The 11 Most Fun Dinner Spots In Houston image

photo credit: Chelsea Thomas

This guide is reserved for anyone who’s wondering, “Where’s the place to be?” and might have a penchant for mid-dinner photoshoots and post-dinner bar hopping. Chairs aren’t just for sitting in some of these restaurants and, while food is important, a good time takes priority. They range from '90s-inspired pizzerias, to buzzy new spots with a waitlist longer than Houston’s interminable summers. They’re the “it” dinner places in Houston. And if you happen to be looking for our favorite new spots, we have a guide to that, too.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Quit Nguyen

Latin

Downtown

$$$$Perfect For:See And Be SeenFeeling HotA Clubstaurant

Mamajuana Cafe lets you control how fun your night will get. Quietly appreciating good music is totally acceptable, as is hitting a bachata step and letting out an involuntary “woo”. The New York transplant is now Downtown serving Latin food that’s exciting even without flaming sparklers. It’s full of couples toasting their drinks or smoking hookah, and on the main floor, long tables are reserved for crews celebrating birthdays and bachelor parties. You can keep it calm and let the most over-the-top part of your night be the stuffed cassava topped with thin strips of churrasco steak, or dance the night away to the high-energy reggaeton mixes.

photo credit: Quit Nguyen

Nonno’s Family Pizza Tavern in Montrose knows what’s fun: pizza, classic arcade games, and shot glasses glued to little toy cars filled to the brim with $1 shots of Malört. Whether you are attempting to heal your inner child or are an actual child (see photo), Nonno’s provides cheese-drenched food in an equally (but purposefully) cheesy environment that looks a little like an interior designer’s carnival funhouse. Loosen up at Nonno’s and grab dinner with the fam, a few friends, or a second date that’s up for a round of pinball after pizza.


photo credit: Liz Silva

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Some folks make the simple act of people-watching an Olympic sport (that would be us). At Brasserie 19 in River Oaks, you too get to enjoy this good old-fashioned entertainment: observing eclectic people saunter back and forth across the French bistro’s dining room and patio. Grab a table on the patio, some of the city’s best beef tartare and a couple dozen oysters, and let the drama of River Oaks housewives, over-confident teenagers, and former fashionistas unfold in front of you.


Every Friday night at Pampa Grill & Market, a casual BYOB Argentinian restaurant in Spring Branch, a man with an incredible voice belts out opera and old crooner tunes for hours. People pack the dining room to watch, sing along, and perhaps shed a tear at the height of an Andrea Bocelli aria over a giant griddle of sizzling steak. Bring in a bottle of wine and split cheesy empanadas, picanha, and morcilla sausage while a mustachioed tenor lulls you into a state of bliss.


If anyone were to argue Voodoo Queen Daiquiri Dive—an unhinged, eight-frozen-machines-at-the-ready cocktail bar in the East End—isn’t fun, we would just point at the lifesize fake skeletons, neon air hockey tables, and people plunging jello shots into their mouths as proof. Voodoo Queen makes fun even more fun, like fun squared. Plus the late-night rations of loaded fried shrimp po’boys, tater tots smothered in cheese, and giant chicken tender baskets make for ideal drinking food while playing a couple of rounds of pool.


Think of someone effortlessly cool. Maybe that was your older sibling or their friend who drove a van or the guy practicing judo alone in the park. Nobie’s is kind of like that person. As the actual older sibling restaurant to Nonno’s Family Pizza Tavern, dinner at Nobie’s involves loud music from a record player, slightly esoteric amaro-based cocktails, and an ever-rotating menu with ridiculous names—like “finger painting salad” and “love is in the aeration”). The team here is having fun, and you will, too, whether on a date, out with coworkers, or even grabbing dinner with the parents.


It’s almost impossible to leave Winnie’s without a smile on your face. We usually make a beeline for the mile-long bar at the vibrant Midtown Cajun-Creole spot and get straight to business. And by “business,” we mean slinging back as many Gulf Coast oysters as our bodies can handle while we swing our feet like schoolchildren. In addition to some of the meanest handhelds Midtown has to offer (hello, shrimp po’boy), Winnie’s keeps the house tunes pumping as long as you can keep up. And if you’re here with a group, Winnie’s also does frozen drink flights served in treasure chests, which only make the cocktails more exciting.


We didn’t think it was possible to meet the restaurant version of a cashmere sweater until eating at Nancy’s Hustle. The intimate American restaurant in EaDo feels like its own little world—with lighting set to liquid gold, a suave and laid-back setting, and unique twists on classic dishes we love. The menu at Nancy’s changes seasonally, so you can always look forward to a new dish to try alongside regulars like the burger or the infinitely fluffy Nancy cakes. Once you’re settled in the cozy bubble of Nancy’s, all of your energy can be spent on the important things: devouring the cheeseburger served on an English muffin (prepare to have separation anxiety when finished) and taking the perfect selfie to commemorate the experience.

photo credit: Richard Casteel

$$$$Perfect For:Big GroupsBirthdays

At Karne, you wear the sort of clothes that are dry-cleaned only, order a $30 gold-infused cocktail, and maybe spring for valet. In other words, this Korean steakhouse in The Heights is a destination for a lavish night out. While the restaurant is certainly glitzy—everything is a sleek shade of black with gold accents—the food is more than just smoke and mirrors. The best way to experience this place is to order the “karnivore” platter, which contains a chef’s choice of five cuts of meat. Then you can kick back and sip martinis with your pals as an expert server cooks sizzling pieces of hanger steak at the table. Before leaving, maybe stop by Karne’s dry-aging room to give thanks for the meal you just had.


photo credit: Quit Nguyen

If neon lights and K-Pop jams are your speed, then dinner at One Shot Pocha will hit all of the right marks. Everything at the Spring Branch soju bar feels lighthearted and fun. Chalkboard walls are filled with colorful notes from guests. Large orders of soju come served in a watermelon (which is now the only way we want to drink it). And reverb is just as likely to be heard from the crunch deep-fried chicken wings as it is from the speaker system. Come with your pals and hit the karaoke rooms after dinner to sing your heart out (and maybe even play a little tambourine, too).


photo credit: Liz Silva

At Gao’s Kabob, a BBQ spot in Chinatown, folks come for three things: skewered meat, beer towers, and karaoke. Almost all of the wooden tables at Gao’s are filled with hungry groups, laser-focused on inhaling trays lined with silver stakes of lamb, tender beef, and garlic fish. And with golden rivers of beer on tap, there’s no reason to leave this late-night spot (which is open until 2am). This leaves plenty of time to work up enough courage to give your best rendition of “My Heart Will Go On.”


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