Houston’s 8 Best Romantic Restaurants for Valentine’s Day Weekend

ove is in the air? This month is sure to be the restaurant grid for Valentine’s Day, traditionally one of the busiest foodie holidays.

But Houstonians are passionate about their favorite romantic dining areas year-round. You don’t need Cupid to tell you that these restaurants — some newbies, some longtime favorites — offer irresistible marriages of ambiance, decor, and food.

The gardener : If its Michelin-starred pedigree weren’t enough, this glorious new restaurant at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts is a room with one hell of a view. With floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Isamu Noguchi-designed Cullen Sculpture Garden, Le Jardinier is a visual crush with a modern French menu of meticulously prepared dishes specializing in garden-fresh vegetables. Houston Chronicle restaurant critic Alison Cook praised the restaurant’s bright flavors and compositions “so elegant they’re almost crystal-clear”. 5500 Main, 713-714-3015; lejardinier-houston.com

Egg yolk ravioli with ricotta and butter-sage sauce at Lulu’s, the owners of Armandos’ new Italian restaurant open at 2518 Kirby in River Oaks.

Kirsten GilliamKirsten Gilliam

At Lulu’s: Small and so special, this intimate gourmet Italian restaurant is a new project from the owners of Armandos. Sister restaurant to Lulu’s at Round Top, the Houston outpost offers a fine dining menu: antipasto, meatballs on soft polenta, argular and pear salad, braised short ribs, grilled branzino, chicken marsala and pasta , including lobster ravioli, cacio e pepe radiator, spaghetti with clams and pappardelle bolognese. The warm sliver of a dining room, a magnet for River Oaks locals and Armandos devotees alike, is inviting and the bar is a perfect spot for a Negroni, classic martini or Aperol spritz. 2518 Kirby, 713-590-7350; lulustx.com/houston

Pistachio Chocolate Pie at Trattoria Sofia, a new Italian restaurant from Berg Hospitality Group at 911 W. 11th.
Pistachio Chocolate Pie at Trattoria Sofia, a new Italian restaurant from Berg Hospitality Group at 911 W. 11th.Kirsten Gilliam

Trattoria Sofia: Houston restaurateur extraordinaire Benjamin Berg has planted a stake in the high ground with his new neighborhood Italian restaurant in the former location of the Presidio. The space is charmingly furnished and romantically lit, suggesting upscale rustic dining rooms in Florence or Rome. Dinner options include pastas (cacio e pepe, bucatini with pesto, pasta alla Norma and campanelle with lamb stew) and classics such as veal Milanese, chicken parmigiana and rib eye with aged balsamic and with gorgonzola dolce. Berg’s many fans attached to his powerhouse restaurants, including B&B Butchers & Restaurant, Turner’s, and The Annie Cafe & Bar, find success when they see one. The cocktail list was created by Julep’s Alba Huerta. 911 W. 11th, 713-804-0429; trattoriasofia.com

Salmon gravlax carpaccio with egg, red onion, capers and spiced crackers at the Tonight & Tomorrow restaurant at the newly refurbished La Colombe d'Or hotel in Montrose.
Salmon gravlax carpaccio with egg, red onion, capers and spiced crackers at the Tonight & Tomorrow restaurant at the newly refurbished La Colombe d’Or hotel in Montrose.Becca Wright

Tonight and tomorrow: Hotel La Colombe d’Or’s chic makeover includes the beautifully redesigned restaurant inside the historic Montrose mansion. With a modern European menu (caviar service, rack of lamb, salmon gravlax carpaccio, market fish, rib steak), the chic restaurant presents works of art from the owner’s private collection. Start or end dinner at the adjacent Bar #3 with its own menu of fine snacks and cocktails, or perhaps a glass of champagne. This might be Houston’s new favorite boutique bar. 3410 Montrose, 713-517-1001; tnthtx.com

Musaafer's executive chef, Mayank Istwal, has created a Valentine's Day menu inspired by the ancient Hindu text of the Kama Sutra.  Its seven dishes are prepared with ingredients considered aphrodisiacs, including libido-boosting spices, herbs, fruits, nuts and hot peppers.
Musaafer’s executive chef, Mayank Istwal, has created a Valentine’s Day menu inspired by the ancient Hindu text of the Kama Sutra. Its seven dishes are prepared with ingredients considered aphrodisiacs, including libido-boosting spices, herbs, fruits, nuts and hot peppers.Raydon Creative

Musafer: It’s almost impossible not to feel special at this sumptuous, almost stately fine-dining Indian restaurant in the Galleria, which Time magazine recognized in its list of the greatest places in the world last year. Luxury reigns here, from lavish design to chef Mayank Istwal’s indulgent menu of beautifully plated dishes such as pani puri, tandoori octopus, tamarind pearl oysters and what is probably the richest take on butter chicken in the world. Houston. The restaurant, whose name means “traveler” in Hindi and Urdu, is ready to send diners on an epic journey of exciting food and drink in an unforgettable setting. 5115 Westheimer, 713-242-8087; musaaferhouston.com

Homemade vermouth is a seasonal welcome cocktail in the March restaurant lounge.

Homemade vermouth is a seasonal welcome cocktail in the March restaurant lounge.

Julie Soefer / Julie Soefer

Restaurant in March: Goodnight Hospitality’s intimate restaurant offers seating for just 28 people with refined six- and nine-course tasting menus. As attractive as the menus are, the restaurant’s design is among the most elegant in the city, complete with a Murano glass chandelier above the bar and artwork created specifically for the luxurious dining room. Chef Felipe Riccio’s explorations into the flavors of Andalucia and Murcia will now flow into the French region of Occitanie, spanning the south of France. The new menu, launching February 10, promises to bring a delicious new study in the glories of Mediterranean cuisine. 124 Westheimer, 832-380-2481; marsrestaurant.com

Lobster salad with mesclun, mango, avocado and spicy mayonnaise at BCN Taste & Tradition photographed on July 18, 2018 in Houston, Texas.  Photo by Nick de la Torre

Lobster salad with mesclun, mango, avocado and spicy mayonnaise at BCN Taste & Tradition photographed on July 18, 2018 in Houston, Texas. Photo by Nick de la Torre

Nick de la Torre/For the Chronicle

BCN Taste & Tradition: Maybe it’s the hushed, minimalist design of the adults-only dining room in a charming Montrose bungalow. Maybe these are the original works of Picasso and Miro. Perhaps it is the elegant garnish of Spanish dishes featuring the flavors of Barcelona. Together they contribute to one of the city’s special and, yes, romantic dining experiences. BCN executive chef/owner Luis Roger offers indulgences like sea urchin and truffle pasta; Spanish Iberian ham on grilled pan con tomato; octopus on mashed potatoes; grilled branzino with Jerusalem artichokes; vacuum-packed rabbit loin with porcini mushroom rice; grilled duck breast with quince sauce and Idiazabal cheese; and Iberian suckling pig with apples. The small bar also serves the best gin and tonics in town. 4210 Roseland, 832-834-3411; bcnhouston

Rainbow Lodge on Ella has made upgrades to its terrace dining areas, which are now the most requested tables in the restaurant.

Rainbow Lodge on Ella has made upgrades to its terrace dining areas, which are now the most requested tables in the restaurant.

Rainbow Pavilion / Rainbow Pavilion

Rainbow Pavilion: No list of romantic restaurants in Houston would be complete without a nod to what many consider the go-to restaurant for lovers. Set in a historic cabin nestled along the shores of White Oak Bayou, the fireplace-heated design somehow manages to marry the rustic of the outdoors with the warmth of a mansion. Dim lighting, wooden beams adorned with antler chandeliers, and terraces covered in trees and natural foliage all contribute to a one-of-a-kind dining experience. The kitchen specializes in game dishes and American bistro classics: crabcakes, smoked duck okra, rainbow trout with lump crab, lobster risotto, duck leg confit with Creole okra and golden rice, and chop from elk to green chili enchiladas. Top notch wine and cocktails too. 2011 Ella, 713-861-8666; rainbow-lodge.com

Greg Morago writes about food for the Houston Chronicle. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter. Send him topical tips at [email protected] Listen to him on our BBQ State of Mind podcast to learn more about barbecue culture in Houston and Texas.

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