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If you're planning dinner out this weekend, schedule it while the Final Four teams are on the court

If you're planning dinner out this weekend, schedule it while the Final Four teams are on the court

If you're looking for a good meal in downtown Houston this weekend, you'll have to book now and be flexible in your dining hours as the Final Four VIPs take over the restaurant scene, particularly those establishments within walking distance of The Big Dance partying.

Forget The Grove. With its ideal location on the edge of Discovery Green and within shouting distance of the performance stage, it's the place to be. But you won't be able to get in unless you have the Final Four creds to this invitation-only Big Dance party. The Grove with its outdoor, second-floor terrace and proximity to the entertainment madness will serve as official hospitality nest for NCAA honchos as well as the big guns from Turner and CBS Sports and all Big Dance sponsors (AT&T, Coca-Cola and Capital One). Look for Robert Del Grande and Lonnie Schiller to be pulling out the stops for this crowd more accustomed to being coddled in a luxe cocoon than crushed in a public park.

Bonus for those sipping cocktails and grazing through fields of heavy hors d'oeuvres at The Grove are meet-and-greet opportunities with the big name entertainers. 

It's a big, big weekend for downtown restaurants, particularly those with national culinary cachet. Brennan's is brimming with private parties hosted by "high-profile individuals." Like restaurants across the city, no one is spilling the beans on who is partying where or when. Damn! The Strip House is sold out for Friday night but had plenty of tables available for diners the remainder of the Final Four competition.

You can still get dinner reservations but it will ultimately be a full house at Brennan's. If you want to see the celebs, hang around in the bar to catch a glimpse of those attending the pre-game feasts.

At Morton's The Steakhouse on McKinney, manager Josh Snyder is grinning from ear to ear over this weekend's business prospects. Morton's qualified as one of the NCAA's 60-plus recommended restaurants and the reservations are pouring in. There will be extended hours with the steak house opening as early as 2 p.m. this weekend and perhaps 1 p.m. on game days. Closing hours will also be extended to 11 or midnight depending on customer demand. 

"We're going to be very busy and we're extremely excited about it," Snyder said.

Things will be hopping as well at neighboring Vic & Anthony's, where the staff is annoyingly hush-hush about whose partying there. But the private rooms have been booked and the steak and lobsters are ready for searing on the grill. Still, on Wednesday night, there were seats available for the weekend.  

Of course, at most heavily-booked eateries, there will be plenty of room while the teams are on the court. And numerous restaurants around town are gearing up for the games, bringing in extra flat screen TVs and throwing Final Four themed parties. Mo's, for example, has sent out Facebook invitations for sports fans to head over to the Post Oak steak house for game-viewing.

The House of Blues is hosting Louisiana-style crawfish boils on the patio Friday through Monday. And the club will host the Sports Radio 610 Finals Viewing Party in the Bronze Peacock Room. Promoters are billing it as  the biggest viewing party in Houston. The event kicks off at 6 p.m. on Monday with beer pong, a crawfish eating contest. Drink drink specials all night and fave stadium foods including burgers, fries, chicken tenders and House of Blues' famous hot wings served throughout the night.

And if you have a hankering for relaxing on the outdoor terrace at Brenner's on the Bayou, forget it. Blu, the always-hopping outdoor bar and dining area of Brenner's, is closed for private parties Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And most of the private spaces inside the restaurants are booked as well.

But it's not necessarily Final Four action that has this spot rocking. GM Chris Shaw says that weddings and unrelated private parties are loading up the reservation book.

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The steaks at Morton's are proving a lure for basketball fans. Courtesy of Morton's
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The Grove is VIP central throughout the Final Four weekend and is closed to the public.
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The Strip House has been bought out for Friday night but you can still sit down to your fave dishes the rest of the weekend. Courtesy of The Strip House