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  • 13 Unexpectedly Romantic Restaurants in Houston

    Houston, Texas Published by Zagat, Author: Ellie Sharp

    'Tis the season for romantic restaurant romps, and Houston is primed to deliver a slew of date-worthy destinations ideal for Valentine's Day, including those that may not immediately come to mind (and those that do). With picnics-to-go, intimate chef's counters and cozy private booths, Cupid's presence is virtually guaranteed. Call ahead to ensure availability for the big day.

    Mi Luna
    Fuel romantic inclinations with a slew of hot and cold tapas like marinated octopus, grilled asparagus or Moroccan-style meatballs at this Rice Village hangout that features live music and flamenco dancing Wednesday through Sunday (see website for complete calendar). Want a quieter spot? Claim a table on the front patio for views of passersby and the open night sky. 

    Must-order: The rich and decadent braised oxtail in a Rioja wine sauce

    2441 University Blvd.; 713-520-5025

    Southern Goods
    There are myriad ways to bond at this Heights hideout where low-light environs, accompanied by energetic clientele, ensure intimate conversations stay private. Nosh on creative Gulf seafood, slow-smoked barbecue and inventive vegetable dishes that pair well with local craft beer and an extensive bourbon collection. Don't pass up a chance to visit the customer-dubbed "kissing tree" on the back patio where couples regularly take photos with a smooch — a perfect end to date night. 

    Must-order: Catch of the day, including fried whole red snapper or blue crab salad

    632 W. 19th St.; 346-980-8152

    State of Grace
    Brass, wood and velvet elements greet guests at this River Oaks charmer outfitted with multiple romantic nooks and corners, including candlelit booths and a posh circular oyster bar. Reserve up to six seats at the chef's counter where views of the wood-fired oven complement an interactive seven-course tasting menu from chef Bobby Matos (go big with the optional wine pairing). Advanced reservations are recommended for the nightly dinner sittings and guests may reserve one to six seats.

    Must-order: Sizzling fresh from the grill, oak-roasted oysters with bone marrow and seaweed butter 

    3258 Westheimer Rd.; 832-942-5080

    ​Combine dinner and a movie at this Montrose mainstay that hosts regular film nights on the back patio; bring a quilt and camp out on the deck or take a seat at traditional tables beneath strings of white lights. Order assorted fare like pizzas, burgers and pastas capped off with housemade desserts washed down with coffee, craft beer and wine. 

    Must-order: Hearty tamales, filled with choice of chicken, pork, black bean with kale and sweet potato or butternut squash and poblano

    Le Mistral and Rouge Wine Bar
    Travel to France without leaving the Energy Corridor thanks to these side-by-side concepts in the "French Corridor" of Houston. Begin the evening nestled in leather couches with champagne and cheese plates at Rouge before walking across the connecting courtyard for an upscale dinner of French classics and wine amongst intimate plush booths and gentle lighting. Finish the round trip with a cocktail and dessert at the wine bar.

    Must-order: Signature duck and sausage, duck leg confit and a duck breast-trumpet mushroom sausage finished with black currant sauce and carrot ginger purée (Le Mistral)

    1400 Eldridge Pkwy.; 832-379-8322
    1400 Eldridge Pkwy, C; 281-741-0079

    B&B Butchers
    Head to Washington Corridor and impress your main squeeze with the exclusive taste of certified Kobe steak, so rare that only 400 pounds are shipped to approved vendors in the United States per month. Don't feel like dressing up for dinner? Bring the experience home instead with selections from the ground-floor butcher shop.

    Must-order: Chef Tommy's bacon, topped with crumbled blue cheese and truffle-infused honey

    1814 Washington Ave.; 713-862-1814

    Bistro Menil
    Though the quaint setting of this museum district gem invites lingering indoors, take the party outside with "picnics to go" featuring options such as cheese and charcuterie plates, pizzas, quiches and desserts. Purchase beer and wine available by the growler, or BYOB and spread out a blanket under gracious trees before hitting up nearby art exhibits.

    Must-order: Goat cheese galette with cured olives, caramelized onions and chèvre

    1513 West Alabama St.; 713-904-3537

    Paulie's and Camerata at Paulie's
    ​Just like a good love story, these adjacent concepts never get old — they just get better, as proven by a cadre of loyal patrons who seek the warm and casual atmosphere that's still elegant enough for a special night out. In that vein, treat your date to classic Italian goodies like pasta plates fit for sharing, plus chops, steaks and one of the best wine lists in town. Pick up some signature cookies — a cross between an Italian pizzelle and Irish shortbread — expertly iced and ideal for Valentine's Day.

    Must-order: Rigatoni Bolognese, ground beef and ground veal with Parmesan, tomatoes, basil, red wine and cream

    1834 Westheimer Rd.; 713-807-7271
    1834 Westheimer Rd.; 713-522-8466

    Raven Tower
    Find love at first sight — and sip — at this bar in the Heights where a generous patio offers romantic views of the Houston skyline along with next-door access to acclaimed White Oak Music Hall, home of some of the city's best concerts. For an extra personal experience, rent the five-story tower itself, complete with private bar, seating and an open observation deck overlooking Little White Oak Bayou and the city beyond.

    Must-order: The Bayou pirate which blends together Captain Morgan spiced rum, Texas honey cider and cranberry juice

    310 North St.; 832-925-7585

    ​This neighborhood gem in River Oaks attracts two- and four-footed locals thanks to an enclosed dog friendly patio. Chef-owner Lynette Hawkins says couples regularly turn up for dinner with their pooches in tow before digging into shareable small plates of fresh pastas, vegetables and local meats. No dog, no problem: The interior of the cafe caters to those seeking elegantly casual experiences.

    Must-order: Tortelli di bietola, half-moon ravioli stuffed with Swiss chard, ricotta and goat cheese, and served with a sage butter sauce

    3215 Westheimer Rd.; 713-522-1934

    NAO Ramen House
    Slurping noodles in undignified bliss may not be the sexiest form of eating alive, but who are we to judge? Assorted ramen and small plates highlight the menu at this Rice Village newcomer that also boasts a range of date-friendly spaces including a quiet sushi bar and casual front patio. Fan the flames of love while sipping the oversized Scorpion bowl cocktail; it arrives flaming and with two straws.

    Must-order: Red curry ramen stocked with roasted chicken, pickled veggies, bamboo shoots and coconut milk

    5510 Morningside Dr. #120; 713-526-1669

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