You feel like heading out for a nice dinner, but you don't want to spend too much money after the holiday cash crunch. How to get the best bang for your buck? A little creative ordering can leave you with a bill that totals $30 or less (not including tax or gratuity) at some of Houston's finest eateries. Here are seven restaurants that you might be surprised to find have appetizer, entree and dessert combos that won't break the bank.
You won't have the heaviest meal for $30 or under at this inspired Montrose restaurant, but it will be worth every penny. Start off with the soup of the day for $5, order the mussels with green curry and coconut sauce for the main at $16 and leave room for those famous donut holes served with coffee ice cream and pistachios for $7.
Grand total: $28.
1972 Fairview St.; 713-523-7667
All of this oyster buzz had us thinking about Danton's, though we knew it might be a tough restaurant to hit up on a budget. We were pleasantly surprised to find that a meal of a half-dozen raw oysters on the half shell ($7.95), a warming bowl of seafood gumbo ($10.95) and the always-elegant crème brûlée ($7.95) met our criteria.
Grand total: $26.85
4611 Montrose Blvd.; 713-807-8883
It seemed highly unlikely any combination of items from Triniti would meet the $30 challenge, but by the grace of the restaurant gods, we found their brunch menu. Behold the following selections: smoked salmon toast with orange dill cream cheese, fried capers and pickled onions ($9), a Hot Brown Bennie with a poached egg, candied bacon, smoked turkey breast, greens and mornay sauce ($15) and one of pastry chef Samantha Mendoza's big fat cinnamon rolls ($4).
Grand total: $28
2815 S. Shepherd Dr.; 713-527-9090
This charming French bistro is casual but by no means cheap. If you're OK with eating a crêpe for more than one course, you'll be right on target. Start with the $11 escargot en persillade - Burgundy escargot in a parsley butter - then order the filling crêpe Bourguignonne with the traditional braised beef in a red wine sauce ($13). Finish with a $6 crêpe ganache chocolat drizzled with housemade chocolate sauce and served à la mode.
Grand total: $30
2916 White Oak Dr.; 713-623-1406
We're changing it up a little for this Downtown South American tapas restaurant. The cocktails are so good here, you'll want to replace dessert with one. Start with the Brazilian Flower made with cachaça, lime and hibiscus syrup ($10). It will be the perfect accompaniment to your light meal of grilled panela cheese with heirloom tomatoes and a cilantro-basil mojo ($7) and three fish tacos adorned with jalapeño aioli, cilantro and slaw for $9. Sit on their patio if the weather cooperates.
Grand total: $26
908 Congress St.; 713-224-9500
This Upper Kirby sushi haven is known for some of the best modern Japanese dishes in the city, not necessarily for the small checks. Fear not, for we've found a solution. Uni chawanmushi is the way to begin - it's a Japanese-style egg custard with creamy, unctuous uni, chicken, shrimp, shitake mushrooms and ginko nuts - for a mere $9. Next up are the pork ribs with yuzu coleslaw and togarashi mango for $12. Soothe that sweet tooth with toasted rice crème brûlée ($8) served with a melon sorbet.
Grand total: $29
3600 Kirby Dr.; 713-526-8858
There's not a better place in town to gather with a few friends and split several small plates of veggies, fried goodies, salumi and some of our favorite pizza in all of Houston. The grilled broccoli with Pecorino Romano is a good place to get in something green ($5), with a classic Margherita pizza to follow ($16). Top it all off with a sweet cannoli Siciliani for $7.
Grand total: $28
500 Westheimer Rd.; 713-520-8222