Solo dining is trending up, and not just because you can order a bacon appetizer followed by a bacon entrée and bacon dessert without judgment from your boyfriend or girlfriend. There are also the added merits of not waiting for a table at the hottest spots, making friends with chatty strangers, or, best of all, not having to talk to a single human being outside of the ordering process. Here are the best Houston restaurants at which to make the most of your (surprisingly great) solitary eating experience.
Sushi bars are practically made for dining alone, especially because shushing your SO during the chef’s omakase usually concludes with you spending the night on the couch anyway. At MF, “Magic Fingers” – also known by his human name, chef Chris Kinjo – certainly puts on a shush-worthy show. Reserve a spot at the 12-seat sushi bar and revel in the wizardry.
Remember that thing we said about sushi bars being perfect for solo dining? We hope so, because we literally just said it. Go ahead and read it again, but replace “MF” with “KR,” “Magic Fingers” with “Hori” and “Chris Kinjo” with “Manabu Horiuchi.” Now hit Kata’s sushi bar, because that’s a lot of replacing, and you probably worked up an appetite. Hori-san pays just as much attention to the rice as he does the fish, so the temperature, packing, and acidity will be just as on point as that buttery toro you love so much.
Getting a prime table at this see-and-be-seen brasserie can be hard. So it’s a good thing you don’t have to worry about anyone but yourself. Snag a seat at the sleek bar and peruse (via iPad) the surprisingly affordable wine list as you side-eye the young set of Real Housewives table-hopping in red-soled stilettos. The steak frites aren’t so bad, either.
Bar-top tables and stools near the back bar provide a friendly setting for kimchi burger smashing and pint sipping. The bartenders make for good chatter on slower nights, and free wi-fi during weekdays means your data usage won’t be through the roof. For a proper sup’, get homey plates like beef bolognese & polenta, or fried chicken & mash. Or visit during the off-hours (3-5pm) for a cheaper late-lunch menu of small plates and sandwiches.
You may think of pizza pie consumption as a group experience. But these scorched, bubbling, Neapolitan-style pizzas are destined for one. Order an arugula-and-prosciutto pie at the counter and snag a seat with a view of the massive brick oven(s) so you can watch the show. It’ll only take about 90 seconds for yours to be ready once it's in. Owner Bill Hutchinson is one of the friendliest guys in town, and the $3 BYOB policy means you can wine and dine on a budget. Pro tip: bring a screw-top bottle so you can easily take whatever you don’t finish with you for later.
Ramen is unshareable as it is. But this California implant’s take on the dish is so shockingly good, you'll want to take absolutely zero chance of your dinner companion asking for “a little taste” before watching him or her slurp up half the noodles in your bowl. Dining solo is the only surefire way to do that. Saddle up to the industrial bar and get the signature Black Tonkutsu, 18-hour slow-cooked pork broth and made-from-scratch noodles, the only thing worthy of a broth so damn good. Don’t feel like talking? Don’t have to. Craft taps and the TV will keep you company and save you from striking up a conversation with noodles all over your face.
A meal at chef Chris Shepherd’s soulful restaurant is usually a family-style affair. But you can pony up to the modern farmhouse wine bar (from 3-6:30pm or after 10pm) to smash incredible eats all by your lonesome. In the wine room, the chef pays homage to his buddies around the country, creating an evolving lineup of “covers” that truly sing. Peche’s Smoked Gulf Fish Dip, Hog and Hominy Poutine, David Chang’s Fuku Chicken Tenders... would you really want to share braised goat and dumplings? We didn’t think so.
Bring a date and you’re likely to drop a very large dollar amount at this cool kids' hangout. Hit the sushi bar unchaperoned at “saké social hour,” however, and you’ll feast like an emperor on a dime (and without the multi-week wait for a reservation). If you don’t mind spending some cash, get the omakase for razor-sharp cuts and playful takes on classic Japanese flavors. You’ll be happy regardless.
This Southern charmer has been fairly swamped since opening in the fall, so going at it alone is quite possibly the best way to dodge a wait. Indoor or covered patio bar seating means you’re good to go no matter the weather, and a constantly rotating menu keeps things from getting boring. The boozy cocktails and rotating selection of 24 taps should help with that, too. Get the SG Burger, a double meat/double cheese number packed with "comeback sauce" you’ll legitimately want to come back for, or the insanely good Beef Belly Burnt Ends, something you’ll never, EVER want to share.
This craft brewpub is almost always packed, so getting a table big enough for you and your crew can be a bitch. Luckily, there’s almost always an abundance of solo stools for you to grab while others give you the hangry stink eye. The Cease & Desist burger is so good it should be illegal, but if you’re there on a Tuesday, their steak night special, in which $15 gets you a flawlessly cooked 44 Farms cut alongside seasonally apropos sides, is the WTG.
Forget the fancy-pants meal in the formal dining room. Bar bites at the wraparound bar attached to the latter are easier on the wallet, and you can eat, like, three of them without feeling like a beast. Get a few small ones (like BBQ meatballs, ceviche, or mac & cheese, only $5 during happy hour), or go for larger plates like mussels & frites, the house bacon burger, or veal bolognese. All of it pairs perfectly well with an old-school cocktail.
Cozying up with the pub fare at this British tavern is like wrapping yourself in a giant, delicious snuggie for one. Weekday specials – think $5 cheeseburger Mondays, $10 moules marinières, and $22 for a curry and a pint – are no-joke tasty, as are the cheap "Night Owl" plates. Belly up to the bar to grab one with a few pints. You may even find a few real life Brits to faff around with.
Wine and dine yourself with a view. All you have to do is reserve a spot at the 28-seat chef’s table that envelops the open kitchen. Then get chef Jacques Fox’s show-stopping "Gastronomique," a tasting so good it will have you forgetting you’re so damn lonely inside. (Or order from the regular menu, which is a bit more affordably satisfying.)
1. MF Sushi5887 Westheimer Rd, Houston
2. Kata Robata3600 Kirby Dr, Houston
3. Brasserie 191962 W Gray St, Houston
4. Down House Houston1801 Yale St, Houston
5. Pizaro's Pizza Napoletana14028 Memorial Dr, Houston
6. Jinya Ramen Bar3201 Louisiana St Ste 105, Houston
7. Underbelly1100 Westheimer Rd, Houston
8. Uchi904 Westheimer Rd, Houston
9. Southern Goods623 W 19th St, Houston
10. The Hay Merchant / Underbelly1100 Westheimer Rd, Houston
11. Mockingbird Bistro Wine Bar1985 Welch St, Houston
12. Red Lion Pub2316 S Shepherd Dr, Houston
13. Artisans Restaurant3201 Louisiana St, Houston
Modern, woodsy interiors set a fresh scene for fine sushi consumption in the Museum District. It is the revival restaurant of Chef Chris Kinjo, affectionately known as “Magic Fingers", who shut down his former restaurant to come back with this badass version. If you're dining alone, reserve a seat at their 12-seat sushi bar where you can experience an umami-filled omakase alongside showy entertainment, course after impeccable course.
Kata Robata is Houston’s preeminent sushi and Japanese tapas restaurant, featuring a signature menu from Executive Chef Manabu “Hori” Horiuchu. On offer is a creative array of Japanese fare inflected with French flavors, evident in dishes like foie gras and duck chawanmushi -- a Japanese-style egg custard -- and miso lobster mac and cheese. The menu’s crown jewel is its 72-hour slow-cooked Texas Kobe beef skewer, which is impeccably succulent and tender. Finally, you’ll want to take advantage of Kata Robata’s sushi offerings; create endless permutations of seafood like spicy chopped scallop, New Zealand king salmon, fatty tuna, and others.
Brassiere 19 is true to its roots, serving French classics like Croque Monsieur, steak tartare, and creme brulee. The best part about this trendy River Oaks date spot, besides the excellent French press coffee, badass champagne selection and stellar fare, is that you can feel like you’re brunching in Paris without having to deal with actual French people.
Down House serves up beautifully presented, seasonal eats alongside craft beer and specialty coffee drinks. This spot is an especially good choice for brunch: Big Ol’ Bloody Marys are on hand, ready to help you wash down a giant kimchi burger.
This no-frills pizza spot will fire up your pie in a classic wood-fired brick oven. The best part? You can dine on classics or specialty pizzas like the patata e funghi (potato and mushroom) with beers from home. Thank god for BYOB.
This California-based ramen chain brings its hand-made noodles and 18-hour slow-cooked pork broth to Houston's Midtown. The service is quick, the industrial space is sleek, and the ramen is just so damn good. Not to mention, it's pretty cheap.
With a seriously diverse and ever-changing menu, this Montrose spot offers Asian and Southern cuisine, among many others, and all under the header of 'food'. That means there's no appetizers and entrees on the menu, which chef Chris Shepard has done to tell "the story of Houston food" through an ethnic mosaic of seasonal shared plates. Locally raised meats are butchered in-house and served family-style in the form prosciutto aged for 26 months, smoked beef shoulder, and Korean-braised goat & dumplings along with fresh catches, seasonal sides, and an admirable wine program.
Located in Montrose, from acclaimed Austin Chef Tyson Cole, Uchi is Houston’s outpost of the Austin-based Japanese hot spot. The intimate, upscale restaurant is constantly bustling with sushi- and sake-craving diners, and because reservations are hard to come by, be prepared to wait for a taste of the inventive Japanese cuisine. Or, beat the crowd and arrive early for their daily Sake Social, where for an hour and a half, you can sample the highlights of the menu, accompanied by copious amounts of sake (or beer, or wine), at a fraction of the cost.
This Southern restaurant in Heights restaurant is a collaboration between former Underbelly chef Lyle Bento, BBQ guru Patrick Feges of Killen’s Barbecue fame, and the late Goro & Gun’s J.D. Woodward -- along with restaurateur Charles Bishop. Indoor or covered patio bar seating means you’re good to go no matter the weather, and a constantly rotating menu keeps things from getting boring. One mainstay, however, is the bourbon balls, a dessert you absolutely need to make room for.
A joint venture, The Hay Merchant and Underbelly operate separately but are attached via a butchering room that’s fit to hold a whole hog, a cow, and other large, meat-bearing animals. Hay Merchant, a craft beer bar, boasts 75 draft beers that range in style from cask-conditioned American porters to sour and funky wild ales. Underbelly, the more upscale of the two, is a restaurant and wine bar serving up juicy burgers and meats, like roasted pig’s head and smoked brisket. No matter how adventurous your palate, consider pairing your dish with one of the aged barleywines on tap.
Mockingbird is the casual hang out spot you've been looking for. The menu is familiar with a slight French influence and is updates seasonally. Go for lunch and get a bacon-marmalade topped, kobe beef M Bistro Burger and fries for $10, it's the more affordable cousin of the dinner burger that is also toped with seared foie gras (and is also awesome).
This friendly, British neighborhood pub in River Oaks keeps a steady crowd due to daily specials like $5 Burger Mondays and Fish & Chip Fridays, all of which are complemented by cheap pints, pours, and bottles. There's surprisingly great Indian food on the menu as well, and you can often snag a beer and curry combo deal. Belly up to the bar for a may even find a few real life Brits to faff around with.
When locals are looking for a fancy restaurant to take guests or a quiet place to dine alone, they always end up at Artisans Restaurant. Their entire menu is delicious and reasonably priced, and there are plenty of great wines and beers to choose from. We highly recommend Artisans Restaurant to anyone looking for a unique fine dining experience in Houston.