July 14th, 2010
First Dates in Houston: A Post Repurposed
A couple weeks back The Loop Scoop was asked by Click2Houston to write a blog post for them about first dates. At that time Paul admitted that he was bad at first dates and dates in general, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know a thing or two of what he should do when it comes to the nerve-racking first meeting. And that doesn’t change the fact that Houston’s Best didn’t ask the rest of us. So we’ve added a few more options.
Now, I don’t know what you kids are doing these days. With all the internet dating sites out there, maybe you’re just plopping in front of the computer, throwing a Lean Cuisine in the microwave and having a date over webcam. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised. But how do you pull out your lady’s chair or compliment your man’s cuff links in that scenario? If you feel like having a good ole fashioned first date, we’re coming to the rescue.
Café Brasil – 2604 Dunlavy Street
Making sure you’re in a setting for potential people watching during a first date is always a good thing. You can deflect attention away from that silly question you just asked by pointing out the artists, businesswomen, merry-makers and studiers within the walls of Brasil. Try one of their many sandwich options (I like the Brasil BLT with Avocado) or personal-sized pizzas (Four Cheese gets four yeses from me). This is a casual date spot; it’s ok to eat with your hands. The great thing about Café Brasil is that if “just dinner” seems to be turning into “dinner, drinks and/or coffee” you never have to leave. Stay and enjoy.
Fred’s Italian Corner – 2278 W Holcombe Boulevard
If you want to surprise your date, Fred’s Italian Corner is the perfect choice. Nestled in an unassuming shopping center in the Medical Center, this quaint little restaurant will show your date that you know where the hidden gems are. With small tables in close proximity to one another, it’s not going to afford you the most privacy, but there is plenty of people watching to help you through any lulls in the conversation. The food isn’t fancy, it’s robust Italian food that comes out steaming hot, just like my grandma used to make it.
BRC Gastropub – 519 Shepherd Drive
Keeping a conversation going can be the most difficult part of a first date. Questions are easy to come by at BRC. “What’s a ‘gastropub?’” “What does ‘BRC’ stand for?” Brush up on some of that trivia and she’ll think you’re good for years of restaurant hopping. Start the night off with a fine beer and boudin balls and try the delicious Pan Fried Pork Chops. I’ve even found that the singular vegetarian option, the Mushroom ‘Steak,’ is delicious. BRC also serves a Saturday brunch, but hold your horses… It’s way too early to be offering your future lady-in-waiting brunch plans.
Reef – 2600 Travis Street
Houston’s premier seafood restaurant is a smart and trendy destination for a first date. As chef Bryan Caswell’s crown jewel, Reef barnstormed the scene a couple years ago and has managed to stay atop the Midtown restaurant totem pole along with Monica Pope’s T’afia. Reef will definitely send a message that you appreciate the finer things in life and know where to find them, at least in the Bayou City. While Reef is renowned for it’s seafood, several of the non-aquatic items are the star for me. For my money, Reef makes one of the best steaks I’ve had and by now, everyone has heard of the famous sliders that inspired their own restaurant, Little Bigs in Montrose. After trying them at Reef, you can always make a second date to compare the Little Bigs version.
Dolce Vita – Pizzeria Enoteca – 500 Westheimer Road
There is no place in Houston that rivals the brick oven, straight from Napoli, pizza that is offered at Dolce Vita. The seating is perfectly intimate for you and your guest. Small tables are closely situated forcing you to lean in for conversation. This is way better than the old “oh, hey, I just yawned and I found my arm around your shoulders” trick. Trust me on the pizza and order one for each of you: The Calabrese is a good standard and if you’re feeling adventurous try the Taleggio. Don’t forget to ask for a plate of Suppli before you begin. They’re fantastic.
Hearsay – 218 Travis Street
Just on the edge of downtown is one of Houston’s newest date spots, Hearsay Gastrolounge. While the crowd can be a little swanktastic, what with the fedora’s and affliction shirts, this is great place for a first date. The exposed brick and warm wood give it an inviting feel and you and your date will be comfortably chatting like old friends in no time. Sit at the bar and they’ll make sure you get a signature cocktail that suits your tastes. The food is spot on, especially the Lamb chops, and if you hit it off, you can always retire to La Carafe for an after dinner drink, before the night cap, but that’s another article altogether.
Zelko Bistro – 705 E 11th Street
A charming, renovated bungalow in the Heights is home to one of Houston’s finest new restaurants. Zelko Bistro extols a low-key vibe even though it seems to be begging for the high-roller treatment. It’s keen on being a neighborhood place, and it avoids any of the snobbery you might expect from a restaurant that serves this great of food. Your date will be put at ease by the vibe, impressed with the menu and your wallet will dodge a blow. It’s a win-win-win. If you’re a fan of fried pickles, try them at Zelko. For your main course, I have to suggest the St. Arnolds Short Ribs braised with our hometown brewer’s root beer.
The Petrol Station – 985 Wakefield Drive
Some of the establishments on this list are fairly swanky or chic as some might call it. If you really want to cut past the bullshit on a first date, ditch the false notions that you’re a refined statesman or clean cut yuppie and whisk your date past the salads and scotch. The Petrol Station by appearance alone offers interest and icebreakers galore. “Is this a gas station?” “Why are we driving through so many residential neighborhoods?” “Are you really just taking me to your parents house in the burbs?” After you’ve established a solid foundation of chit chat, you’ll need to order one of their ever-changing craft beers. Take a glance at the menu and order two burgers. The Rancor and The Hulk will test the limits of your jaw and palate (and the strength of the napkins, the burgers are a delightful mess waiting to happen). Spend a few moments cleaning up, get ready for a second pint or cup of coffee and see if this date will go the distance.
[Remember, vote for The Loop Scoop for Houston's Best Local Blogger]