Mark's American Cuisine
Among Houston's top-rated restaurants, Mark's American Cuisine is housed in a grand, renovated church with a golden ceiling and hand-painted walls. While Mark's is on the pricey side, the intricate entrees, extensive wine list and candlelight tables add up to one of Houston's most romantic dining options. West Virginian chef Mark Cox changes the menu regularly, but expect complex dishes with a Southerner's touch, such as grilled shrimp atop a grit cake with crab-meat ragout, or pork paired with smoked bacon and sweet potatoes. The staff also includes a full-time sommelier who amasses wines from around the world, including extremely dear bottles for those who wish to splurge.
Mark's American Cuisine 1658 Westheimer Road Houston, TX 77006 (713) 523-3800 marks1658.com
La Colombe d'Or
La Colombe d'Or translates to "the golden dove," fitting for this restaurant in the Montrose area that blends peace and romance into its quiet mansion setting. The building, which also houses a few luxury hotel suites, used to be the home of Houston oil baron W.W. Fondren and usually is not overcrowded, though reservations are a good idea. Named Houston's best romantic hideaway by the Houston Press in 2008, La Colombe d'Or specializes in gourmet French cuisine. The menu varies, but popular dishes include lush salads, buttery escargot and a lobster bisque topped with lump crab meat. The wine list is mostly French, and extensive. Save room for a sampling of chocolate mousses for dessert, and consider making a full romantic night of it by staying in one of the suites or courtyard apartments.
La Colombe d'Or 3410 Montrose Blvd. Houston, TX 77006 (713) 469-4750 lacolombedor.com
This European-style cafe in the Rice Village doesn't take reservations, which largely keeps big, rowdy groups away and makes it worth a wait for an impromptu romantic evening or quick lunch getaway. The menu, written on the wall, changes daily but always features fresh fish, specialty mussels and a variety of rich sandwiches. Despite the cafe's small size, wine choices are plentiful, with hundreds of bottles literally surrounding diners as part of the decor. Cafe Rabelais closes on Sundays.
Cafe Rabelais 2442 Times Blvd. Houston, TX 77005 (713) 520-8841 caferabelais.com
Crapitto's Cucina Italiana
Don't let the name throw you. (For the record, it's a family name.) Located in a converted farmhouse in the Galleria area, Crapitto's is just off Westheimer but feels miles away from the busy thoroughfare. Go on a non-summer month to enjoy seating on the restaurant's patio, or opt for the quiet wine room when the humidity is high. Dinner features typical Italian favorites alongside fresh gulf seafood entrees and, on Saturdays only, osso bucco.
Crapitto's Cucina Italiana 2400 Mid Lane St. Houston, Texas 77027 (713) 961-1161 crapittos.com