Guide

The Best Restaurants for Every Budget in Houston

By Ellie Sharp  |  February 14, 2017
Credit: Erin Hicks

Location, cuisine type, noise level and a lot of other variables go into finding the perfect Houston restaurant, but the final decision is often determined by cost. With that in mind, we've created a guide that breaks down where to go for date nights, celebrations, business lunches and more, with options for every budget. 

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  • Credit: Kimberly Park

    Brunch

    Inexpensive: Dish Society
    Sometimes "locally sourced" is code for "$$$," but not at this cheerful casual spot that supports Texas farms and ranches without breaking the bank. Visit either location in Houston or Katy for a generous weekend brunch available until 3:30 PM on Saturdays and 3 PM on Sundays, and try hearty fried chicken and biscuits with gravy, Nutella French toast or lunch-ier options like barbecue brisket and salads. 

    Moderately priced: Weights + Measures
    Spread out with friends at this popular cafe housed in a 1950s industrial building that has its own bakeshop (yes, it smells amazing). Five featured brunch cocktails come in at $10 or less and form a convenient foundation for soaking sweet and savory fare like muffins, croissants and breakfast pizza with eggs, panchetta and basil. Afterwards, bond with pals over art and arthropods in the world-class Museum District just blocks away. 

    Worth a splurge: Brennan's of Houston
    Settle into cushioned chairs and prepare for a Creole-inspired feast at this elegant Midtown mainstay where brunch is served in packages that include choice of appetizer, entree and dessert. Mix and match to suit personal tastes from selections like grilled oysters, pecan-crusted Gulf fish and bananas Foster prepared tableside. Splurge a little more on signature snapping turtle soup, which Houston has loved for 45 years.

  • Credit: Paula Murphy

    Celebrations

    Inexpensive: El Tiempo Cantina
    Sure, filling up on bottomless baskets of chips and salsa is the quickest way to extend dollars in the Tex-Mex world, but this multi-location concept inspires restraint with extensive options at cautious price points. Can't-miss selections include fajitas and enchiladas that both pair well with house margaritas (split pitchers = economical sharing!). Reserve myriad seating options that accommodate large and small groups with private spaces available.

    Moderately priced: Peli Peli
    This upscale South African locale with two area locations offers festive vibes all day long via unique custom lighting displays unlike anything else in town, but the evening enjoyments come at a price. Opt for midday reveling instead, when the flavorful meat- and seafood-centric lunch options come sans sticker shock.

    Worth a splurge: Xochi
    ​The latest concept from Hugo Ortega (Hugo's, Caracol, Backstreet), located inside the swanky new Downtown Marriott Marquis hotel, offers lavish dishes heavily based on the flavors and textures of Oaxaca. Linger over antojitos (snacks) of masa cakes or crispy goat tacos before filling up on scallops in mole verde or suckling pig; unique cocktails primed for toasting make a great accompaniment to an over-the-top chocolate menu.

  • Credit: Erin Hicks

    Tasting menus

    Inexpensive: Pax Americana
    As the name suggests, American dishes are the norm at this concept near the Museum District — but the presentations are anything but average. Luckily, the six-course tasting menu makes it easy to try a range of goodies at a $50 price that's easy to digest. Sample dishes include whipped goat ricotta with citrus and grilled Portuguese octopus with sunflower hummus, but note that entire table participation is required due to the family-style service of dishes and that wine pairings cost extra. 

    Moderately priced: Uchi
    Find several tasting menus at this upscale Japanese locale in the heart of Montrose including a "Sake Social" available from 5–6:30 PM (an economical approach especially when split with a friend), a signature tasting for $93 per person and a full daily tasting that can range from $165 to $220 for two people. Each option provides a mix of hot and cold fish, vegetable and meat items that may include scallops, royal bluefin tuna and A-5 Wagyu beef.

    Worth a splurge: Tony's
    Choose four, six or eight indulgent courses at this upper-crust Italian destination near Greenway Plaza known for its old-school charm and classic dishes with a twist. Seasonal selections may include butter poached baby Maine lobster, and Tony's standards steak Diane and filet au poivre are always on hand. Rates start at $80 per person for the four-course option and run upwards of $165 per person for the eight course menu. Proprietor Tony Vallone's exquisite taste extends to the wine list which means it's well worth springing for the optional pairings.

  • Credit: Courtesy of Cafe Annie

    Business lunch

    Inexpensive: Cafe Annie
    When the office walls start closing in, head to this second-story hangout for a quiet and stylish respite from the hustle and bustle of Galleria-area crowds. Deciding on grub comes easy with the $26 three-course prix fixe lunch that includes choice of soup, entree and dessert, or choose from the "Neighborhood Lunch" of American and Tex-Mex options, most coming in at $16. Seating includes tables and booths for private discussions, a spacious patio and a bar fit for guests dining solo.

    Moderately priced: Bernadine's
    ​It's (almost) all seafood, all the time at this charming Heights gem centrally located for easy access from Downtown, Montrose and the Galleria. Treat colleagues to oysters at the raw bar then close deals over po' boys on the spacious patio.

    Worth a splurge: 51fifteen
    Two well-equipped private dining rooms and high-end finishes make this luxury destination inside The Galleria mall a no-brainer for meetings, while several dining areas offer space for small groups. Grease the wheels of discussion with lobster and crab ceviche and a classic cocktail, or get down to business with heavy hitters like double pork chops and bacon dressed rib-eyes. Just don't blow off the boss to go shopping at attached Saks Fifth Avenue.

  • Credit: Courtesy of Añejo

    Date night

    Inexpensive: Añejo
    Turn date night into dance night with live music on the patio and toss back half-price drinks and appetizers during happy hour that runs from opening until 6 PM. This Uptown shines with Tex-Mex favorites including street tacos stuffed with eight different combinations like chicken tinga, beer-battered snapper and spicy pork carnitas. Combination plates make things easy for indecisive minds and each come in at less than $20.

    Moderately priced: Oporto Fooding House & Wine
    Walk about Midtown for pre-dinner drinks at assorted bars or just head straight to this romantic corner spot with a cozy patio and relaxed but cultured interior. The Portuguese-inspired fare offers many chances to navigate shared tastes with small bites like stuffed piquillo peppers and lamb meatballs. Adventurous duos must order the housemade octopus salami. Stay for dessert or take a romantic stroll a few blocks to Fluff Bake Bar for signature sweets.

    Worth a splurge: Château at La Table
    French flings come easy at this plush Galleria area restaurant serving up rich dishes worth flirting over like lobster frites, caramelized rib-eye and wine-roasted chicken. Soak up the elegant details and enjoy the impeccable service, which complements a romantic night out. Don't skip the best part: a vintage dessert cart comes laden with handcrafted sweets while the rich and decadent chocolate soufflé for two will make hearts skip a beat.