Houston Restaurants Weeks will operate a little differently in 2020 than it has in previous years. While the month-long dining event, which runs from August 1 to Labor Day, still features restaurants across the city serving prix-fixe, multi-course menus at set price points, HRW has had to adapt to the realities of the coronavirus pandemic.
For the first time, diners will have the option to take their meals to-go. In addition, HRW has diminished the donation restaurants are required to make to the Houston Food Bank. Instead of the usual $3 to $7 per meal sold, restaurants will only donate $1. That change will undoubtedly cut the event’s usual donation to the Food Bank — an amount that’s exceeded $2 million the past few years — but recognizes that restrictions designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 have sharply diminished restaurants’ revenues.
On another somber note, this year will be the first time Houston Restaurants Weeks happens without founder Cleverley Stone, the event’s founder and organizer who died in May. Stone’s daughter Katie will lead HRW in her mother’s stead.
“It has been a great comfort to me to hear from so many of my mother’s friends and supporters as we gear up for this year’s restaurant weeks,” Stone said in a statement. “With COVID such an obvious factor in this year’s preparation and planning, we are still very hopeful that Houston Restaurant Weeks will benefit both the restaurant industry and the Houston Food Bank. This year’s donation of $1 per meal will allow many restaurants to participate, and adding take-out and delivery options makes it particularly appealing to diners who wish to partake at home.”
The HRW website launches today, Friday, July 17 with over 150 individual locations that are each serving one or more of the usual prix fixe menus: lunch, $20; brunch, $20; or dinner, $35 or $45. As always, the event features a mix of returning favorites (Brennan’s, Hugo Ortega’s restaurants, Del Frisco’s, etc) as well as a few newcomers. Below, CultureMap takes a closer look at some of those first-time participants.
All nine Houston-area locations of the Cajun-Creole restaurant are offering a four-course, $35 dinner menu. Start with a choice of gumbo, crawfish etouffee, or red beans and rice before choosing from two different salads or cold boiled shrimp. Entree choices include blackened redfish, shrimp and grits, or a fried seafood platter. BB’s offers three dessert choices, but keep things Tex-Orleans by opting for bread pudding.
Both the Kirby and Voss locations of Johnny Carrabba’s Italian restaurant are serving a three-course, $20 lunch and a three-course, $35 dinner menu. Highlights from the lunch menu include fried calamari, Carrabba’s signature Sicilian chicken soup, and chicken marsala. Dinner also features three savory courses; choices include fried shrimp in garlic-herb butter sauce, choice of soup or salad, meat ravioli, and chicken stuffed with sausage, spinach, and pecorino.
Guard and Grace
The downtown steakhouse will serve a three-course, $35 dinner meun that begins with choices such as a country ham “tartine,” chilled Gulf shrimp, or peach gazpacho. Entree options include beef short rib, grouper with salsa verde, or, for an $8 supplement, koji-cured New York strip. Peach melba, blackberry custard, or pot de creme end the meal on a sweet note.
Kin Dee Thai Cuisine
The recently-opened Thai restaurant in The Heights will serve a four-course, $45 HRW dinner menu. First course options include papaya salad and the “Golden Basket” of stir fried chicken and vegetables. From there, choose chicken satay, beef meatballs, or pork skewers before deciding on an entree of pad Thai, BBQ pork noodles, or two different curries. Finish up with mango sticky rice or one of two ice creams.
The East Coast-inspired seafood restaurant will serve lunch, brunch, and dinner menus during HRW. Lunch choices (two courses, $20) include Caesar salad, gumbo, a cheeseburger, and fish tacos. Brunch (two courses, $20) options include deviled eggs and fried oysters; those willing to pay a little more may opt for chicken and waffles or a crab cake Benedict as their entree. At dinner (three courses, $35), we recommend opting for the fish and chips or paying the supplement for a lobster roll.
The South American-influenced restaurants in The Heights will serve both a $20, two-course brunch menu and a three-course, $45 dinner menu. At brunch, the choices include the restaurant’s signature Texqueño, fruit parfait, tostadas, and a Caesar salad with salmon. Dinner starts with salad, crudo, or carrots followed by linguini carbonara, salmon with black beans and corn, or pork with baked root vegetables.
No, the HRW menu at Tilman Fertitta’s ultra-luxe steakhouse doesn’t include its signature seafood towers, but the three-course, $45 menu does give people a taste of what the hype’s all about. Start with French onion soup, mambo salad, or tuna sashimi. Entree options include a six-ounce filet, blackened salmon, pork chop, and lemon pepper chicken. Three dessert choices are available, but the butter cake is the only correct one.
Like its sister restaurant Loch Bar, this upscale seafood restaurant is also serving lunch, brunch, and dinner during HRW. Highlights from the lunch menu (two courses, $20) include lamb meatballs, a Greek gyro, and a salmon BLT. Brunch (two courses, $20) options feature spanakopita, short rib hash and eggs, and avocado toast. Dinner (three courses, $45) entrees include grilled salmon and lamb osso bucco, but it’s hard to resist paying the supplements for lamb chops ($18) or branzino ($12).
This Mediterranean restaurant inside the Medical Center’s InterContinental Hotel will serve both a two-course, $20 lunch and a three-course, $45 dinner. Appetizer choices are the same for both meals: salad, hummus, or Brussels sprouts. Lunch entrees include chicken shawarma and cacio e pepe ravioli; highlights from dinner consist of short ribs with sweet potato and broccoli rabe or seafood cioppino. Dinner concludes with cheesecake or a chocolate crunch strip.