Typically, CultureMap readers want to know about the newest, hottest places to dine. That's why we publish a list of 10 new restaurants to try every month.
However, that doesn't mean people don't also enjoy visiting classic spots that have been around a decade or more. After all, these restaurants set the stage for the city's current dining boom, and their continued prosperity demonstrates an ability to capture diners' attention even as the city has changed.
What better time to visit one of these establishments than during Houston Restaurant Weeks. After all, it's a time when restaurants typically put their best foot forward to attract new diners, and most of the establishments below are serving dinner at the more economical $35 level. Everyone likes helping raise money for the Houston Food Bank, but getting a good deal never hurt.
Arcodoro Ristorante Italiano
This restaurant at the corner of Westheimer and Post Oak has been serving rigorously authentic Sardinian cuisine for almost 20 years. For HRW, it's offering four different, four-course menus: meat, seafood, vegetarian and Sardinian ($45).
While both the meat and seafood menus have their temptations in the form of osso bucco and grilled octopus, one does not simply walk into Arcodoro without ordering the Sardinia fare. Highlights include seared tuna topped with bottarga and seafood soup in a saffron broth that's reminiscent of bouillabaisse. Optional wine pairings are an eminently reasonable $28 and feature vintages grown by owner Efisio Farris' family.
Brennan's of Houston
At almost 50 years old, this upscale Creole restaurant has served as a training ground for generations of Houston chefs, but that doesn't mean it's resting on its laurels. Brennan's mixes classics like turtle soup and bananas Foster with updated fare like blueberry-glazed quail and seared salmon over maque choux on its $35, three-course dinner menu. Feeling really indulgent? Add shrimp, oysters or crab to any entree for an additional $10.
Damian's Cucina Italiana
Look for classic Italian-American comfort fare at this 30-year old Midtown staple that's serving a three-course, $35 dinner menu. Start with a classic Caesar salad or sweet potato ravioli. Entree choices include lasagna bolognese and a six-ounce, mushroom-topped filet mignon. Dessert options include bread pudding and gelato. Gluten free diners also have options with every course.
For almost 30 years, this westside favorite has earned raves from diners for its upscale atmosphere and attention to detail. Lynn's stands out among other HRW steakhouses by a dry-aged New York strip, rather than a filet, on its three-course, $35 menu. That sort of frugality allows diners a little extra cash to indulge in a selection from the restaurant's 11,000 bottle wine cellar.
Southern food may be trendy now, but Ouisie's has been serving up Southern comforts for over 40 years. The restaurant's three-course, $35 sadly doesn't feature its signature chicken fried steak, but saltine and herb-crusted chicken and garlic and pepper-crusted prime rib are tempting alternatives. Just save room for peach cobbler.
The Heights may be 2015's hottest culinary destination, but chef Claire Smith was something of a pioneer when she opened Shade 12 years ago. The restaurant's three-course, $35 offers up the well-executed comfort food that's made it so successful. Options include steamed mussels, heirloom tomato salad, duck leg confit and a grilled flat iron steak served with blue cheese Yorkshire pudding. Don't worry — a no membership fee private club helps imbibers get around the neighborhood's dry status.