Snow may not be glistening, but sleigh bells are definitely ringing here in Houston. From where to dine after you've shopped 'til you drop to places to grab a drink away from the family, click below for your ultimate holiday dining survival guide.
Where to Dine Near the Galleria
Lighten things up after a round of shopping with healthy American fare at this laid-back cafe. We recommend the white fish-tacos and a refreshing beverage from the juice bar.
We're sure you've worked up a hunger after a hectic day at the mall. Fill up on housemade pastas, pizzas and other traditional Italian eats (eggplant parmigiana, chicken Francese) or simply unwind with a glass of vino.
Where to Take Visiting Family
As if the stellar coastal Mexican cuisine from chef Hugo Ortega wasn't enough to lure you in (think roasted oysters topped with chipotle butter and achiote snapper tacos), the stunning decor at this Galleria eatery is sure to impress mom and dad. A tribute to Mexico, the design pays homage to the country's beaches with aquatic-themed art by American Modernist painter Charley Harper and sailboat booms and a suspended sailcloth in the bar.
Give out-of-towners a feel for the city with a feast at this Montrose restaurant. The New American menu showcases our local bounty, while also giving a nod to Houston's culturally diverse population — recent favorites include a new fall dish, roasted butternut squash, and the always popular Korean braised goat and dumplings (pictured).
Where to Order In for Hanukkah
Kenny and Ziggy's
From potato pancakes and matzo-ball soup (pictured) to sweet noodle kugel, this New York-style deli fuels Hanukkah feasts with multiple à la carte and full meal options. (Orders must be placed 48 hours in advance.)
Where to Celebrate for a Good Cause
Toys for Tots at The Dirt
Mingle, drink and, most importantly, make a difference for a family in need — bring a new, unwrapped toy to this Downtown watering hole and it'll go to Toys for Tots (December 11; 6 PM-2 AM).
Halo Group Houston Holiday Formal at La Colombe D'or
Ring in the season with music, hors d'oeuvres and an open bar at this chic boutique hotel. Ticket proceeds benefit the Clayton Dabney Foundation, an organization helping kids with cancer (December 19, 8 PM-midnight; $85 per person).
Where to Dine on Christmas Eve
The Memorial neighborhood gem will be offering a taste of the season via a three-course menu of French fare that includes a starter, entree (we favor the lobster tail à l’orange and herb-crusted rack of lamb) and dessert (lemon meringue tart with red berry coulis or chocolate mousse). Reservations are required. (Open seating: 6, 6:30, 8 and 8:30 PM; $60 per person)
Along with three courses (choose from options like cauliflower soup, roasted beef tenderloin and butter pecan bread pudding), diners also get a complimentary amuse bouche and a cup of eggnog as part of the prix fixe deal. (5-9 PM; $52 per person)
Where to Take a Break from Family
The Nightingale Room
Downtown's hottest new bar offers solid drinks, vinyl beats and — coming soon — live acts and DJs set to rock the house on the weekends.
The River Oaks den, marked only by a blue door, got a revamp after new ownership, but the speakeasy vibe is still intact, making it a perfect escape. Stick with a classic drink, like a gin martini.
Where to Get in the Spirit
Holiday Performances at The Houstonian
This Memorial-area hotel is adorned with thousands of lights that sparkle all season long. Head to the lobby for some live holiday entertainment (Monday through Saturday, 6-7 PM) provided by local organizations, such as high school and church choirs, local pianists, bell ringers and instrumentalists, while noshing on cookies and sipping hot chocolate, on the house.
Afternoon Tea at the St. Regis
Mind your manners as you indulge in afternoon tea at this posh hotel, featuring a traditional menu of petit fours, tea sandwiches and scones.
Where to Meet Up with Old Friends
The large punch bowls ($68 full, $38 half; pictured) at this handsome, two-story bar is great for groups. Swing by on Wednesdays between 4 and 8 PM, when the large-format drinks are half-off, and snag a seat upstairs for a bird's-eye view of all the action.
This neighborhood favorite will put you in an island state of mind. Your ticket to paradise: the Daily Grog for two or Trader Vic Mai Tai for eight.
Where to Find Gifts for Food-Lovers
Along with tasty sandwiches and soups, this specialty market in the Heights sells local products that range from heritage-breed meats to artisanal baked goods.
Pondicheri Bake Lab + Shop
This newly opened sister of Pondicheri, located directly above the restaurant on the second floor of the West Ave complex, acts as a retail market for chef Anita Jaisinghani's superb chutneys, snacks and wide range of Indian-inspired pastries (pictured).
Where to Grab a Holiday Drink
Reindeer Games at Down House
The traditional old fashioned gets a merry overhaul at this Heights-area cafe. The savory sip ($12) is made from rhum agricole, cranberry liqueur, plus a blend of cinnamon simple syrup, celery shrub and spiced cranberry bitters. More fresh berries poached in a celery-seed syrup top the drink.
Kringle Cream and Cookies at Brennan's Houston
This swanky swizzle had us at gingersnaps. Ditch the milk and cookies for this Santa-inspired mix of rum-based cream liqueur and vanilla cream soda ($10, pictured) topped with shaved housemade snaps.
Check out more festive cocktails here.