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These special restaurants provide the perfect setting for tying the knot

Posted on: February 16th, 2016 by fcasio
2.15.16 | 7:45 am
Brennan's Courtyard Bar Courtesy of CultureMap / Jennifer Laura Design

Brennan’s Courtyard Bar Courtesy of CultureMap / Jennifer Laura Design


Wedding planning can certainly be stressful and a simple way to reduce stress is to use one of Houston’s finest restaurants as your venue. Hosting a wedding at a restaurant is great option as a restaurant can handle the ceremony and reception, providing food, tables, and chairs — all under one roof.

To help you find the right spot for the big day, we’ve rounded up the ideal restaurants for hosting the perfect wedding.

Brennan’s of Houston

As one of the city’s most historic restaurants, Brennan’s of Houston provides a lovely setting for a wedding ceremony and reception in the 1930s building designed by John Staub. Surrounded by oak trees, palms and ivy, the red brick courtyard would be ideal for a spring wedding and can accommodate up to 100 guests.

The ballroom — great for a reception as it can seat up to 150 guests — provides a sense of Southern luxury with chandeliers and vaulted ceilings. Brennan’s modern take on Louisiana cuisine is sure to please everyone and the restaurant offers dozens of hors d’oeurve and seated dinner options, including crab cakes and their signature banana’s foster.


As a long-time favorite of the city’s elite, Tony’s offers a luxurious, contemporary setting for a beautiful wedding ceremony. The restaurant offers plenty of venue options depending on the size of the guest list. The airy main dining room, walls replete with master artworks, seats as many 300 guests while the San Remo room can seat up to 100 and the Wine Cellar provides the perfect intimate setting for up to 60 people.

Known for their exquisite updated Italian cuisine — including favorites like the flaming red snapper or raviolo di manzo filled with braised short ribs — a seated reception at Tony’s would impress anyone lucky enough to be invited.

La Colombe d’Or

The Grand Ballroom — also known as La Grand Salon — at the boutique hotel La Colombe d’Or has long been considered to be one of the city’s premier wedding venues. Lined with 300-year-old panels from the country chateau of La Comtesse Greffulhe, as well as resplendent chandeliers, the Grand Ballroom evokes a sense of a bygone era of European royalty and splendor. The venue can accommodate hundreds of guests and is large enough to host both the ceremony and reception.

Cinq, the restaurant at La Colombe d’Or, is known for its updated take on classic French cuisine with dishes like lobster bisque with crispy crawfish tails and cedar smoked duck. An added benefit to using the hotel as a wedding venue is that the most important guests can stay on site in one of the five art-filled suites.

Rainbow Lodge

There are few destinations in Houston that can provide as romantic a setting for a ceremony as Rainbow Lodge, with its beautiful log structure overlooking an acre of bucolic grounds and a bubbling creek. The entire restaurant, while not large, is big enough to accommodate a more intimate wedding (around 100 people) for an outdoor ceremony and a seated reception inside.

Rainbow Lodge is known for its Southern-inspired cuisine, with hors d’oeurve options like fried Texas quail bites with bourbon gravy and entree choices such as rainbow trout with lump crab and pecan brown butter.

Ouisie’s Table

This long-time River Oaks restaurant with a distinctly upscale Southern feel features a lovely garden, called The Bear’s Nest, that can accommodate a cozy outdoor wedding.

In terms of spaces for the reception, Ouisie’s main dining room can seat up to 135 seated guests, and Lucy’s Porch, which faces the garden, can accommodate up to 95.

The restaurant’s fine dining take on down-home cooking includes passed hors d’oeurves like chicken fried steak on a biscuit to shrimp quesadillas and seated entrees such as crispy red snapper and grilled buffalo tenderloin.

Brenner’s Steakhouse on the Bayou

A picturesque gazebo in the large, grassy field overlooking Buffalo Bayou provides the perfect pastoral setting for an outdoor wedding ceremony.

For the reception, The Loft Room at Brenner’s accommodates up to 54 seated guests and includes a fireplace and private balcony. For a spring wedding, the Blue Bar — an outdoor lounge with a verdant view of the bayou — accommodates 100 seated guests or 120 for a cocktail reception.

The steakhouse menu includes dozens of passed hors d’oeurves like mini jumbo lump crab cakes and bacon-wrapped quail breasts, as well as entrees like their famous filet mignon and Gulf red snapper.

Crawfish Reigns Supreme on Brennan’s 7-7-7 Happy Hour Menu

Posted on: June 4th, 2013 by fcasio No Comments

Republished from Houston Press

Crawfish Reigns Supreme on Brennan’s 7-7-7 Happy Hour Menu

By Mai Pham Tue., Jun. 4 2013 at 6:00 AM


Photos by Mai Pham
During happy hour, this $7 crawfish enchilada is fantastic

Brennan’s of Houston may not come up in conversation as a go-to place for happy hour, but it should. During happy hour, which takes place in their Courtyard Bar, Brennan’s offers a 7-7-7 menu that includes seven cocktails, seven wines, and seven appetizers, all for just $7.

And the great thing about it? Unlike other restaurants where happy hour only happens during odd hours and only on weekdays, Brennan’s 7-7-7 is offered daily from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. — plenty of time for you to relax, unwind, and get happy.


The bar area is well appointed with attractive chairs

Three of my friends and I stopped in on a random Friday evening around 5 p.m., and were greeted enthusiastically when we arrived. Right inside the door, Brennan’s famous house-made butterscotch pralines were piled up on a plate to welcome us as well.

The bar area was lightly occupied at that time, so we got our pick of where to sit, choosing a four-top table by the window, where we started off with cocktails, including a Tom Collins, made of Segram’s gin, club soda, and fresh lemon and lime; a Deep Eddy Daly made of Deep Eddy Sweet Tea and lemonade; and a Smoky Mary, the Brennan’s version of bloody Mary made with smoked Poblano pepper infused Svedka vodka.

For food, we literally tried everything on the menu. I’m told the menu changes seasonally, but right now, all the happy hour offerings are crawfish themed, which means we had Crawfish Remoulade, BBQ Crawfish, Crawfish and Andouille Empanadas, Crawfish Boudin, Crawfish and Corn Fritters, Crawfish Enchilada, and Crawfish and Tasso Waffles.

Yep, that’s a waffle underneath all that crawfish

When they came out, the tapas-sized portions were all delicious, though some stood out more than others. My favorite out of all of them was the Crawfish enchilada, which I ordered a second order of because I didn’t feel like one shared bite was enough.

The Crawfish and Corn Fritters were fun and lighthearted, crispy fried balls pierced with skewers and served a dark piri piri sauce. My friends quite enjoyed the rich Crawfish and Tasso Waffles, which were full of flavor due to the sweet sugarcane smoked tasso. The Crawfish Boudin was also a hit, and went surprisingly well with the kimchi and crackers that it came with.

If you love boudin, you’ll love this crawfish and andoille version

We ordered a second round of drinks while feasting on the huge, well-priced spread, but saved room for dessert, which is one of those things you just have to save room for if you go to Brennan’s.

The chef decided to show us what their dessert was all about and brought out a sampling of some of their desserts: strawberry shortcake, pecan pie, two types of bread pudding, chocolate mousse cake, and key lime pie. My girlfriend’s eyes grew as big as saucers and she had to hold her hands underneath her legs while I took pictures. “Can I eat yet?” she asked impatiently before starting to do some heavy damage to the spread before us.

The dessert spread. Worth. Every. Calorie!

That was before a smiling server wheeled a cart over to our table and started preparing bananas foster table-side. The smell and the sizzle of the dessert was almost my undoing as we watched him perform an elaborate, fire-enhanced culinary mini-show . Talk about decadent. And mouthwatering. And absolutely positively unbelievably amazing!


Restaurants ready for soft-shell crab season

Posted on: April 22nd, 2013 by fcasio No Comments
Chefs develop new preparations for the delicacy as its season approaches
Apr. 18, 2013 Fern Glazer
Fried soft-shell crab at Brennan's of Houston
Fried soft-shell crab at Brennan’s of Houston.

When Victor Scargle tasted his first soft-shell crab back in 1995, it was at the behest of some more senior chefs he was working with in a New York City seafood restaurant. Then a young, up-and-coming chef who was more familiar with the hard-shell crabs of his native West Coast, Scargle thought his new co-workers were pulling his leg when they told him to eat the whole crab, shell and all. But he took the bait and has been in love with the delicacy ever since.

“It was wonderful,” said Scargle of that first experience. “What a delicious surprise and treat it was.”

Scargle is now chef at Lucy’s Restaurant in Yountville, California, where, once the season hits in late April, he plans to serve fennel pollen and phyllo-crusted soft-shell crabs with Lucy artichokes barigoule, morel mushrooms, wrinkled crinkled cress and apple balsamic.

“It’s such a great product, very versatile, sweet flavor, has a crunchiness to it,” he said. “It goes well with a lot of stuff.”

Scargle isn’t alone in his passion for the delicate crustaceans. Chefs across the country are discovering the uniqueness and versatility of soft-shell crabs and are increasingly adding them to their menus. According to Datassential MenuTrends, soft shells now appear on 15 percent more restaurant menus than they did five years ago.


Brennan's of Houston's Blue Crab Bread Pudding with Soft-Shell Bisque

Brennan’s of Houston’s Blue Crab Bread Pudding with Soft-Shell Bisque.
Soft shells are most common on fine dining menus, where 10 percent of menus feature the item. The biggest increase over the last five years has occurred at the midscale and casual-dining segments, where the appearance of soft-shell crabs on menus increased by 28 percent and 20 percent respectively.

A number of trends are driving the increased interest in soft shells, say chefs, including diners’ desire to eat more seasonally. At a time when most seafood can be had during any season and in any location, soft-shell crabs remain seasonal. They are only available from late April through summer when the crab sheds its shell in preparation to grow a new one.

“It’s a very unique time of year that you can eat the whole crab,” said chef Frederik de Pue of Azur in Washington, D.C, a contemporary seafood restaurant that opened Thursday. “You have to take advantage of products that are in season and unique.”

While soft shells are traditionally deep fried, de Pue prefers a lighter preparation. He will serve pan-roasted Maryland crab with English peas, house-made crème fraiche and Japanese yuzu koshu paste.

Also breaking from tradition is chef Mike Isabella, chef and owner of Graffiato in Washington, D.C., and former contestant on Bravo TV’s Top Chef and Top Chef All-Stars. Isabella will be serving a wild rice–crusted soft-shell crab with eggplant relish and green plum. The breading, which includes fried rice, flour and egg, gives the crab an exterior he describes as being “almost like a Rice Krispie.”


Soft-shell crab

Mike Isabella features fried soft-shell crab in his cook book, “Crazy Good Italian.” Photo: Greg Powers Photography

“It’s cool lookin’ … unexpected,” said Isabella of his puffed-rice creation. “Everyone loves a fried soft-shell crab.”Though soft shells primarily come from The Gulf of Mexico, The Chesapeake Bay, the Carolinas, Louisiana, Georgia and Florida, advances in packaging, shipping and storage mean the crabs can noweasily travel across the country, allowing chefs such as Sonny Sweetman of Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles to serve them as well.

“They have an amazing natural, briny, sweet flavor, and they remind me of home,” said Sweetman, who is originally from Maryland. “But the season is short so you have to get them quickly when they are available.”

Sweetman puts soft shells on the menu at Wolfgang Puck every spring and varies the preparations. This year he’ll be coating Maryland soft shells in tempura, deep frying them and serving them with fava beans, eggplant and Indian spices.

In Houston, chef Danny Trace of Brennan’s of Houston plans to take advantage of the rare product by serving a variety of preparations. His menu will include Soft-Shell Crab Imperial, Blue Crab Bread Pudding with Soft-Shell Bisque, Blue Crab Soufflé with soft-shell saffron cream, Crispy Smoked Soft-Shell Crab and Soft-Shell Provencal.

“There’s something unbelievable about a fried soft shell crab,” said Trace. “[I’m] always excited to see them coming. We always try to do something different.”