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Some suggestions for Houston Restaurant Weeks

A chicken dish at Caracol
A chicken dish at Caracol

The exceedingly popular Houston Restaurant Weeks is nearly upon us. The now month-long specials offered by numerous area restaurants have provided an impetus since 2003 for countless diners to experience new restaurants during the otherwise slow dining month of August (and for restaurateurs to enjoy some additional income).

This year’s event runs from August 1 through September 1 and around 200 restaurant locations are participating. With that number of menus, it can be difficult to choose a restaurant. After going through the offerings available online, I have suggestions for fifteen restaurants for dinner during Houston Restaurant Weeks; unfortunately, not too many of us have time for an extended lunch these days. Factoring the quality of the restaurant, the typical expense of dining there – what is the use of spending $35 at some place where you usually spend far less – how enticing and satiating its Houston Restaurant Weeks menu appears to be, and the restaurant’s reputation for past Houston Restaurant Weeks’ offerings, below are fifteen establishments that should be worth visiting listed alphabetically below. Plus, there are plenty more where you will likely be able to have an enjoyable meal.

To note, if you typically order a small filet at a steakhouse, you might want to visit one of the dozen or so steakhouses participating in Houston Restaurant Weeks. If you enjoy something heartier and tastier, there are two steakhouse options listed among the fifteen restaurants below that can oblige.

Also, and not incidentally, the $35 and $45 spent on dinner will result in a $5 and $7 donation, respectively, to local food banks.

60⁰ Mastercrafted – $45 – 4 courses – 3 choices per course – Among the highlights are Akaushi Bistro Steak – Texas-style Kobe beef – that is served with mashed potatoes and vegetables and a North African-flavored lamb shoulder cooked sous vide.

Americas – $35 – 3 courses – 4 to 7 choices per course – Plenty of choices at $35, suggested wine pairings, and their legendary tres leches cake make this a fine choice. The signature Churrasco steak is offered, though just 6-ouces worth, but there are heartier other main courses sporting vibrant flavors including an achiote-crusted seared ahi tuna served in a cilantro-laced broth. And for dessert, the tres leches is joined by the Delirio de Chocolate that might be even better.

Arcodoro – $35 – 3 courses – 3 to 5 choices per course – This Sardinian-flavored Italian is offering three fresh pasta dishes among the five entrées including two unique pasta dishes from Sardinia, gulurgiones, a version of ravioli stuffed with mild cheeses and gnocchetti sardi. For dessert there is an unusual, and season-appropriate, basil sorbetto that is made in house.

Backstreet Café – $35 – 3 courses – 5 different menus – Backstreet Café and its sibling Hugo’s have always put more thought in their Restaurant Weeks menus than most other establishments, creating separate dinner themes that can be paired with the appropriate drink. This year for dinner, Backstreet offers a Vegetarian, Red (Meat), White (Seafood), Cocktail, and Beer menus. Each can paired with an optional choice of selected beverages for an additional charge of $20 to $28. The highlight of the entrées might be the pepper-crusted grilled lamb chops in a roasted eggplant puree, part of the Red Menu.

Bradley’s Fine Diner – $35 – 3 courses – 3 choices per course – I had an excellent dinner during a media event soon after this opened and have a couple of very good to pretty good lunches since then. But, for just $35 for three courses of well-prepared and refined solidly American fare like Berkshire pork chops and pan roasted rainbow trout, this should be an easy choice to try this comfortable spot just south of the Heights.

Brennan’s – $35 – 3 courses – 2 to 4 choices per course – Turtle soup to start, the choice between the cast iron-seared salmon served with maque choux and a filet mignon enlivened with roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions and a honey, green peppercorn sauce, finishing decadently with Bananas Foster or bread pudding make this local Creole classic a fine option.

Caracol – $45 – 4 courses – 4 different menus – One of the most exciting restaurants to open in a while, this, like its sister establishments Backstreet Café and Hugo’s, Caracol has created several different, enticing menus. There is vegetarian, seafood-centric, meat, and one “Our Style.” The entrées include the catch of the day cooked on a flat grill and served in tomatillo-caper sauce with crispy shallots, a pork shank with mole mancha, and a crispy duck leg in a seed pumpkin seed sauce. Wine pairings are available for an additional $28-$29.

Del Frisco’s – $45 – 3 courses – 3 to 5 choices per course – The popular choice among Houston Restaurant Weeks diners in each of the last several years, it will likely be so again by offering a 12-ounce USDA Prime New York Strip – with potato, too – among their entrée choices. There is a filet, too, along with a couple seafood options including a tempting-sounding tempura-fried lobster tail.

Haven – $35 – 3 courses – 4 to 5 choices per course – Thirty-five bucks makes for a good deal for three courses of Randy Evans’s vibrant cooking, especially with entrées like their Filet & Peppercorn Crusted Beef Belly, iron skillet Gulf fish and the quail and venison mixed grill.

Hugo’s – $35 – 3 courses (4 for the vegetarian) – 4 different menus – The city’s best Mexican restaurant – or is its sibling Caraccol, now – has always been a fine choice for Houston Restaurant Weeks since it has long offered distinct well-thought menus in a particular theme, typically complementing a type of beverage. This year there is a menu for agave-based drinks, white wine, red wine and a vegetarian menu. For under $30, those drinks can accompany the meal. Duck and huitlacoche enchiladas, wood-grilled skirt steak with rajas and guacamole, wood-grilled achiote-rubbed pork ribs, and a squash blossom salad are a few of the items scattered across the four tempting menus.

Indika – $35 – 3 courses – 4 to 5 choices per course – Just $35 for three courses of what might be the best Indian restaurant in the city, and beyond, and you can safely bring your vegetarian friends along.

La Casa del Caballo – $35 – 3 courses – 3 choices per course – This Mexican steakhouse offers several unique entrée choices for a steakhouse like an 8-ounce center of the Ribeye or a 10-ounce beef shoulder, both cooked over a mesquite-stoked fire. Then there is the 20-ounce beef brisket smoked for thirteen hours and then baked a few hours. This is likely largest entrée among the Houston Restaurant Weeks offerings.

Latin Bites – $35 – 3 courses – 3 to 4 choices per course – This Peruvian-centric restaurant is one of most interesting and adept around and having three courses for just $35 is quite the deal. The most difficult choice might be weather to start with a trio of their terrific tiraditos, refreshing, exquisite cured seafood preparations, or the Kobe-style beef ribs that have cooked for 72 hours.

Post Oak Grill – $35 – 4 courses – 4 choices per course – Though it has been around forever and even has a billboard standing above the 610 Loop, in part, since I don’t live or work near the Galleria, Post Oak Grill has been out of sight and out of mind for me for a long time. So, I was surprised last year when a friend who is a very avid Houston Restaurant Weeks diner told me that the Post Oak Grill served him best meal he had had during the entire month. Perusing the menu, it seems that the restaurant is certainly worth a try this year. Four courses for just $35 and the entrées include a crabmeat-encrusted flounder filet and a surf and turf with sliced prime beef tenderloin and Lobster Imperial.

Vallone’s – $45 – 4 courses – 4 choices per course – Though Tony Vallone’s upscale steakhouse is not offering a big steak for Houston Restaurant Weeks – there is a tenderloin tip entrée – but there are number of enticing choices among the four courses to venture a visit including their top-notch corn-filled ravioli or the hearty (and different) chicken fried quail with scrambled eggs to start, and a Gulf red snapper filet done in the delicious pan-fried Italian-American fashion, alla Francese.

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