As the city embraces a return to gathering together safely, one thing is clear: Houstonians are ready to dine out and celebrate, making up for everything they missed in the last year and a half and then some.
With a combination of food, atmosphere, and service, great restaurants have the power to make memorable moments into memories that last a lifetime. Luckily for residents of the Bayou City, restaurants are excited to welcome diners back with greater capacity and revamped menus, with many offering specials and hosting events to give diners the much-needed hospitality and expertly prepared meals they’ve been missing.
Whether it’s a brunch meetup or a late-night dinner, from private first dates to family-sized major wedding anniversaries, work promotions to closing on a new house, these restaurants provide a variety of options for special occasions, no matter what they might be.
This one-time 1880s saloon near Market Square Park retains its draw as a place to eat, drink, and be merry, with the added appeal of tapas, an exciting cocktail menu, and downtown’s largest outdoor patio. Batanga recently revamped its menu, adding dishes such as smoked beer can chicken arepas to complement classics like ahi tuna nachos and paella. On Friday and Saturday nights, the restaurant comes alive with people celebrating to the sounds of live Latin music in the form of samba, bossa nova, salsa, and merengue, among others.
Dining at the restaurant: After reopening this spring, dining is available both inside the restaurant and outdoors on the large, umbrella-filled patio space, where each table includes fans to keep diners cool in the warmer months.
Takeout: Takeout and delivery are available.
Group celebrations are the name of the game at family-owned Tourão, a Brazilian churrascaria serving up choice cuts of meat in the traditional rodizio style. Servers, known as gauchos, appear at the table throughout the meal with skewers of prime beef, pork, lamb, shrimp, and poultry, a selection guaranteed to satisfy any carnivore’s appetite. There’s nothing quite like an all-you-can-eat meat feast to mark an occasion. Head in on a Friday or Saturday night for live Brazilian bossa nova to accompany the meal.
Dining at the restaurant: Whether dining on the outdoor patio or inside the dining room surrounded by large windows and homey stone accents, there’s not a bad seat in the house.
Takeout: To-go meals and delivery are available, with a menu of specials available for one person, two people, and groups of four to six, in addition to a la carte prime cuts.
Sable Gate Winery (Midtown)
With this urban winery located in Midtown, there’s no need to drive to the Hill Country for a wine tasting adventure. Owners Szilvia Konya and Bob Egan oversee the onsite winemaking operations at Sable Gate, where more than 30 varietals made with grapes from around the world are available to taste alongside a creative food menu. The Tasting Room’s atmosphere is fun and festive, encouraging camaraderie and discovery without pretension. Along with special tastings, diners can also celebrate with wine bottling parties, steak nights, Bachata dance socials, and stand up comedy.
Dining at the restaurant: The Tasting Room and bistro are available for reservations Tuesday through Saturday. For those interested in a sneak peek at winery operations, tours are available from opening to 7 p.m., followed by a tasting flight.
Takeout: Sable Gate’s full food menu and wines are available for takeout and delivery.
a’Bouzy (River Oaks)
Known for its affordable and extensive Champagne offerings, a’Bouzy was created with celebratory meals as its defining feature. In addition to the more than 250 bottles of bubbles and a hefty wine list of around 1,000 labels, the French-inspired lunch, brunch, and dinner menus encourage sharing for the table and lingering to enjoy the experience.
Dining at the restaurant: People can dine in the sophisticated French Mediterranean-inspired dining room, or on the very popular shaded patio, a prime spot for weekend brunch.
Takeout: Limited menu items are available for delivery and takeout.
Stepping into Musaafer’s vibrant, elegant dining room, surrounded by custom artwork and handcrafted Indian decor, it becomes clear that this is a space meant for getting lost in conversation and a meal. The menu, which spans the culinary diversity of the Indian continent, highlights beautifully composed shareable plates, including appetizers such as coriander prawn, Seekh kebabs, and tuna chaat with spiced mango. In addition to a varied beverage menu, an ultimate gin and tonic list includes Instagram-worthy cocktails that taste as good as they look.
Dining at the restaurant: With 10,000 square feet of space, the restaurant is divided into seven different spaces, each unique in its design. The main dining room is the largest, and features green velvet banquettes with white marble tables and crystal chandeliers.
Takeout: To-go orders are available directly from Musaafer’s website.
Woodshed Smokehouse (Shepherd)
Nestled in a corner of Levy Park, this new-to-Houston mecca of “all things grilled, roasted, and slow-cooked” from chef Tim Love melds contemporary Western cuisine with the vibrant, relaxed atmosphere of the indoor-outdoor space. Its location makes it a great spot for groups of families and friends looking for a fun and laidback space to celebrate with something for everyone to enjoy. In addition to bar snacks and barbecue plates, there’s a shareable menu section suited for group meals.
Dining at the restaurant: Seats in the all-weather dining room are available for reservations. In nice weather, the large windows slide open for excellent views of the park, and outdoor seating is dog-friendly — there’s even special water and dog treats available for pups accompanying their owners.
Takeout: A limited takeout menu is available on Woodshed’s website. Call the restaurant or walk in to place an order to go.
Brenner’s Steakhouse on the Bayou (River Oaks)
After more than seven decades of operation, this steak and seafood mainstay remains a go-to for diners because of its top notch service, quality sourcing, and romantic atmosphere. With its location on Buffalo Bayou, it feels like a hidden retreat inside the city, made better with signature entrees such as blackened pork chop, Gulf red snapper, and a large variety of steak cuts and sizes.
Dining at the restaurant: Tables inside the two-story dining room offer incredible views of the restaurant’s cascading waterfall, while numerous spacious patios provide panoramic views of the lush foliage surrounding the Buffalo Bayou.
Takeout: Takeout and curbside pickup is available by calling the restaurant directly.
BORI (Spring Branch)
Family-style group dining is a key feature at chef Steve Won Heo’s Korean steakhouse, where each table includes a small grill for diners to cook thinly sliced cuts of meat to taste. With a focus on quality and style, the menu includes specialty dry‐aged steaks, marinated boneless short rib, and even A5 Wagyu from Japan. Extensive happy hour specials include a variety of dishes, such as seafood pancakes, bibimbap, and kimchi fried rice, in addition to a selection of soju and Korean wine.
Dining at the restaurant: Reserve a table inside the peaceful dining room for the full experience of cooking your own meats.
Takeout: A to-go menu with select items is available via BORI’s website.
Upper Kirby Bistro (Upper Kirby)
Featuring a menu that takes inspiration from the African diaspora, Upper Kirby offers soul food with Creole, Caribbean, and African American influences. The wood-fired oven churns out everything from coconut curry wings to Creole salmon and smoked turkey collard greens. Weekend brunch-only dishes such as oxtails and grits, crab cake benedict, and the stuffed blueberry waffle make this a favorite destination for groups on the weekends.
Dining at the restaurant: Banquette and table seating is available inside the modern black and white dining room, with al fresco dining available on the outdoor patio.
Takeout: Curbside pickup is available by calling the restaurant directly. The robust takeout menu includes a family fried chicken meal complete with collard greens, mashed potatoes, house salad, and dinner rolls.
La Lucha (Washington corridor)
Some restaurants hold a significant space for the memories they create, and that was the inspiration behind chef Ford Fry’s restaurant, La Lucha. Inspired by a long-closed childhood favorite known for fried chicken and big fried seafood platters eaten with family, Fry’s menu offers a modern take on Gulf Coast classics, all best when shared. It’s the perfect spot to create new memories during special occasions.
Dining at the restaurant: Reserve a table in the cleverly designed lounge-like main dining room for seafood plates such as grilled snapper collars, deviled eggs with popcorn shrimp, or a whole fried chicken served with biscuits and pickles.
Takeout: La Lucha’s full menu is available for curbside pickup and delivery.
Calle Onze (Heights)
North Mexico meets South Texas cuisine at this stylish Heights restaurant serving up Mexican and Tex-Mex fare. The chic outdoor lounge space, happy hour specials, and extensive cocktail list make this a favorite neighborhood spot for celebrating everything from birthdays to the end of a long week at work. The indoor dining room is kitted out with sleek concrete-topped tables, large windows, and a clear view of the open kitchen, where a mesquite grill lends a smoky flavor to favorites such as oysters in chipotle butter, smoked corn with chili aioli, and spicy beef and shrimp fajitas.
Dining at the restaurant: Indoor and outdoor dining is available.
Takeout: The full menu is available for takeout and delivery, with special menus available for brunch and happy hour.
1751 Sea and Bar (Heights/Washington)
Nothing says “celebration” like a seafood tower, and the options at 1751 Sea and Bar are second to none. In addition to classics such as crab legs and shrimp, the menu’s premium oysters and caviar service are available for truly special splurge-worthy moments, along with items such as cured salmon, seared snapper, and scallops.
Dining at the restaurant: Reservations are available for seats in the spacious dining room, and special accommodations can be made for the chef’s table, which seats up to 14 lucky diners.
Takeout: Takeout is available by calling the restaurant directly.
Brennan’s of Houston (Midtown)
Since its opening in 1967, Brennan’s has been a go-to for marking milestones over a table filled with Gulf Coast specialties in a fine dining setting. From Mardi Gras parties to marriage proposals, birthdays to a long martini lunch with friends, the attentive service, elegant environment, and consistently excellent Creole fare can make any meal feel celebratory.
Dining at the restaurant: Reserve a table in the ornate dining room, or dine al fresco in the beautiful garden courtyard. In addition to recently expanding its weekday lunch service, Brennan’s now offers two-course lunch duo deals for a less expensive way to mark a moment.
Takeout: Takeout and delivery is available via Brennan’s website.
Rainbow Lodge (Heights/Washington)
Along the banks of the White Oak bayou, a century-old log cabin is home to one of the city’s favorite fine dining restaurants. Given the cabin’s historic origins as a hunting lodge, wild game plays a central role in the restaurant’s menu, alongside the beloved smoked duck gumbo and more traditional surf and turf. Check in for monthly wine dinners and rotating Sunday suppers, which feature specials such as chicken fried steak. On nice summer days, the large outdoor patio makes a lovely spot to enjoy live music on Friday nights beneath the great big Texas sky.
Dining at the restaurant: Dine inside the cozy wood-lined dining room — complete with sconces and wall-mounted stags—for a taste of history with modern touches.
Takeout: Curbside pickup is available via the Rainbow Lodge website.
MAD (River Oaks)
This high-energy, Spanish-influenced restaurant serves as an homage to Madrid and its nightlife, creating an atmosphere that makes diners feel like guests in a luxurious funhouse. MAD’s modern menu includes lots of impeccably composed plates that aren’t always what they seem, like the MAD tomato, which is actually a strawberry-gazpacho mousse creation with pesto. Other standouts include dishes such as the Segovian-style suckling pig empanadillas, Ibérico de Bellota skirt steak, and grilled lobster tail with crispy angel hair pasta. Tables in the indoor dining room are a hot commodity, as the striking interior presents a riot of color, with neon lights, custom sculptures, and an original Picasso. It all comes together for a thoroughly fun atmosphere for celebrations.
Dining at the restaurant: Dine in to take advantage of the OpenTable experiences, which include the signature tasting menu with optional wine pairings and Midnight in Madrid, a limited tasting menu that blends affordability and flavor.
Takeout: To-go orders are available online via MAD’s website, or by calling the restaurant directly.