Find casual dining options in Houston without scouring local reviews or magazines. Visitors may be surprised to find that some of the best dining options in Houston are actually casual dining establishments as this Texas city is long on hospitality and runs a little short on pomp and circumstance.
Dharma Café in Houston is now located in the historic Kessler building and features a warm inviting atmosphere that welcomes guests as soon as they step through the door. The Dharma Café strives to keep the atmosphere romantic enough for a special night out but comfortable enough to welcome tourists wearing shorts and tennis shoes. The menu features something that the owners refer to as food for life, they define this as something that is unique and flavorful yet familiar and reflective of the way people live life. This is one of the hipper restaurants in the area so no matter what you wear you want to wear it well and look cool in the process.
Shade is a great little establishment that offers quality dining yet a casual atmosphere that even features outside accommodations. Shade is open daily for lunch and dinner and serves a great brunch on Saturday and Sunday. The menus is seasonal and brings a new, outside-of-the-box perspective to the ingredients. There is something about Shade that just makes you feel as though you’re a regular to this establishment even if it’s your first time. And if you’re a local you’re bound to become a regular.
Cascadas is aptly named as their waterfall is the aesthetic highlight of the restaurant. But the food will be the highlight of your visit. The Mexican inspired cuisine at Cascadas packs the menu to the brink with authentic dishes that are sure to delight everyone. There are several places to sit when you dine, but if the weather permits and there is room, ask to be seated on the outdoor patio with its beautiful landscaping and awesome 10-foot high waterfall. Try something from every area of the menu as there really are no misses at Cascadas.
La Strada is on the nicer end of casual dining but what else would you expect from a restaurant that provides exquisite Italian food with a truly authentic flair. The atmosphere at La Strada is fun, energetic and suits the art district well. If you’re looking for a more casual atmosphere and the weather is willing, ask to be seated outside. The food at La Strada is great and predictably reliable. They’re best known for their Bellinis and if you’re interested in brunch then they are the place to hit on Sunday mornings.
Ouisie’s Table in Houston features great southern cuisine with a dash of Texas, Louisiana and Mexico rolled in. The main dining room is large but offer a touch of intimacy with slow turning ceiling fans and a wood burning fireplace. The additional rooms offer their own personality and can be reserved for private parties or suit those more interested in a casual night on the porch or outside. Owner and executive chef, Elouise Adams Jones spent more than a decade on Sunset Boulevard and decided to return to her home base to open her namesake restaurant. The recipes are consistent with a chef who was raised with a respect for local ingredients and the vibe that comes with southern cooking.
Ruggles Grill 5115 is one of the most popular restaurants in the Houston area, it’s also one of the most eclectic restaurants around. The menu starts with sandwiches, heads over to pizzas and pastas, and wraps back around to include grilled fish and steak. Something for everyone and yet somehow it all works and the experience is one to remember for the casual diner. The location, in the second floor of Saks 5th Avenue in the Galleria may turn some people off while seeming absolutely ideal to others. By being tucked into Saks there is a sense of class and sophistication assumed by patrons but the food is down to earth, reasonably prices and delicious.
Arcodoro is another Galleria restaurant but this one is more about the owner, Efisio Farris and his Sardinian heritage with taste elements inspired by Costa Smeralda. Sardinian food is most recognized by its simple, rustic approach to ingredients and the resulting rich cuisine loaded with flavor and texture. There are two dining areas at Arcodoro, The Grill and The Dining Room. The Grill is the more casual option with spacious dining outdoors, a wood burning pizza oven and an emphasis on pasta and grilled selections. The Dining Room is much more formal and features daily specials.
Sullivan’s Steakhouse is a bit unusual for the Houston scene as it’s a hip and happening 1940’s Chicago style steakhouse. But the atmosphere works because Texans as well as Chicagoans know quality steaks and will take them no matter what region they’re from. Sullivan’s is bold enough that they take their specialty from another state with a 20 ounce bone-in Kansas City strip. In addition to the exciting steak and seafood menu options there is also a live entertainment element that makes your dining experience more inviting. The bars have live musicians seven nights a week and on Thursdays Swinging at Sully’s offers great music, food and drink features.
And finally, a Texas mainstay, the rib joint is a must for any visitor and a staple of the diet for any local. Baker’s Ribs is a good old fashioned family run restaurant that has become so popular they have locations popping up all over Texas. This comfortable rib joint knows how to cook a great meal and welcome guests to the table. It’s the ultimate in casual dining as you can stumble up to the counter and eat there or have a seat at a table that comes equipped with paper towels for cleaning drips of that delicious bar-b-que sauce.
No need to slip into your fanciest duds when going out on the town in Houston, stay comfy and head to one of the city’s casual dining options and enjoy of the best meals you’ve ever had.
photo credit: axzm1