Like any major metropolitan city, Houston has more places to eat than you'll ever have time for. No matter the type or size or price range, Houston has it all. Here are a handful of restaurants we've tried during our visits to Houston. Bon appétit!
The Spindletop is located on the 34th floor of the Hyatt Regency Houston. I believed the name comes from its design, which appears to be a spindle shape. And the restaurant (at the top of the building!) revolves once every 45 minutes. I later learned there’s more to the name.
The hotel concierge said to find the elevator with the picture of the restaurant. That was easy!
The Spindletop Express is the hotel’s glass-enclosed elevator, which takes guests up 34 stories to the restaurant and gives them a great view of the city.
As we stepped off the elevator, we felt the curve of the restaurant and saw it had a superb view of the city. Spindletop opened in 1972 and quickly gained notoriety for its revolving dining room, the first of its kind in the city.
The name Spindletop isn’t only about the shape of the revolving restaurant. On January 10, 1901, Spindletop Hill in nearby Beaumont, Texas, burst with black gold, creating the biggest oil boom in America and putting Houston on the map in a big way. Beaumont leaped to international fame when the Lucas Gusher spewed oil on Spindletop Hill, located just south of town. Many oil companies started in Beaumont, including The Texas Company (Texaco), Gulf Oil Corporation (Chevron), and Humble Oil (ExxonMobil). To better appreciate the history of oil in Texas, read our reviews of Spindletop Hill and Beaumont, Texas.
I asked the concierge for a nice table and did we get one! Rose petals awaited Madeline on the table. The service at the Spindletop Restaurant is exceptional. If you are a guest of the hotel, you should use the concierge or other staff to assist you in getting a nice view. I didn’t see a table, however, that did not have a nice view. The outer tables were next to the windows. The inner tables looked out the windows from a raised level.
The menu is smaller than some other restaurants. Still, we felt there was something for everyone. Madeline doesn’t love seafood, but she was willing to try some.
We ordered a Caesar salad that was braised first, and then topped with all the yummy stuff. It was delicious and plan to make something similar at home. But I don’t have the skill of Spindletop’s chef!
They had a nice wine selection. It wasn’t overwhelming to where you feel like you should have gone to wine school instead of college.
I wanted to try the seafood and was intrigued by their Spindletop’s seafood pot. This dish seemed like a southern version of French-style bouillabaisse soup. The chef knows what to do with this dish. I loved it. I thought it might not be enough food for dinner. However, it wasn’t soup at all. There was a sauce with peppers and wine that served as the broth at the bottom of the pot. The pot was chock full of fish. There were mussels, crab, lobster, redfish, whitefish and more. You can get a side of rice; I used it to soak up the broth. What a terrific dish. It had plenty of food as an entrée, so I felt full after eating this signature dish.
Madeline had the surf and turf selection that included filet and Shrimp Scampi. She loved it.
All the while, the restaurant was revolving once every 45 minutes. Madeline had to put down her fork to take photographs from time to time. She even captured a swirl of light illustrating the Spindletop revolutions. And two sleek skyscrapers caught our eyes.
Our server, Mario, took great care of us all evening. He was engaging and attentive despite his young age. He said he started in food service and hospitality because of his mom, Julia. She was with Hyatt for more than 40 years and is still quite active.
We also were lucky to meet Chef Joe, who took time out from a very hectic evening to say hello and talk a bit about how he prepared his food. He told us he mixes three or four different peppers together to make the broth for the seafood pot. It had a warm and spicy feeling but not too hot. It was tasty! I know I can’t make it like Chef Joe, so I guess I’ll have to go back!
Mario surprised us with dessert. Perhaps he and Chef Joe worked together. Even though we professed we were full, Mario brought out a wonderfully light dessert that we shared.
Sometimes at revolving restaurants, the view is great, but the food isn’t. At Spindletop, you can go just for the food and be happy. The view is a lovely bonus. And the service is the cherry on top.
If you enjoy seafood, the menu features plenty. However, there were plenty of other menu items to enjoy. Madeline is not a seafood lover, but she approved of her meal!
Sam’s is in the Hyatt Regency Houston Intercontinental. I’m guessing Sam’s is named after Sam Houston, the city’s namesake. Sam Houston is a very big deal all over Texas as he was a major historical figure. He fought for Texas’ independence from Mexico and was its first president.
We had quite a few meals in this restaurant, more for breakfast than dinner. The food here is excellent and the service is down-home friendly. For dinner, Madeline and I both had dinner salads. I was worried it wouldn’t be enough food. But the large bowl of salad presented was more than enough food. Though Madeline was determined to eat most of her salad, she had difficulty getting to the bottom of the bowl.
For breakfast, the hotel offers a nice buffet with a chef cooking your eggs to order. In addition, they had plenty of local favorites that changed daily. We saw migas, carnitas, salsa and many other local delicacies, along with more traditional choices like pancakes, bacon, potatoes, eggs benedict, fruit and muffins.
We enjoyed Sam’s Restaurant and felt that the food quality and service were both excellent.
Kirby's Prime Steakhouse
We chose Kirby's Prime Steakhouse in The Woodlands because of its excellent reviews and proximity to the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. We were seeing Bob Seger on his farewell tour and wanted to have a nice dinner before the concert.
We arrived at the restaurant a little before five o’clock in the evening when it opened, and staff directed us next door their bar and lounge. We had a couple of cocktails before being seated in the restaurant.
Kirby’s has a massive wine list. After recently spending a couple of weeks touring vineyards and wineries in the Mendoza region of Argentina, we came to love malbec, particularly with steaks and burgers. For this evening, we ordered a bottle of malbec from Doña Paula Estate.
The steak selection at Kirby’s is pretty amazing. That night, they featured wagyu, which we recently enjoyed when we were in Kobe, Japan. See our restaurants and attractions posts for Japan.
Madeline tried Kirby’s filet mignon with blue cheese. I chose their rib-eye steak, also with blue cheese. Our meals were served with salad and hot bread.
The restaurant is casually elegant. We saw diners dressed casually and others dressed up. I normally would not wear a T-shirt to a restaurant like Kirby’s. But it was appropriate for our Seger show later in the evening. Madeline dressed up as usual, so maybe I was forgiven sitting next to her style and class.
Kirby’s service is great and the food was excellent. While it’s a steak place, they offered plenty of seafood choices I wanted to try. I guess we’ll have to go back during our next trip!
The restaurant runs a shuttle van to take you to the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. You could also walk to the venue from the restaurant. The walk takes about 20 minutes.
Shula's Steak House
Shula's Steak House is located on the lobby level of the Hyatt Regency Houston, which is downtown. We’ve been to a Shula’s restaurant before in downtown Miami. Many of his signature restaurants are located in hotels similar to the Hyatt Regency.
It wasn’t very crowded when we arrived for our reservation. Our server, Joseph, escorted us to our table and explained the menu and cuts of meat. We had already peeked at the menu online, so we had an idea of what we wanted. But we asked Joseph’s opinion on a few things. Madeline and I both wanted steak but different kinds.
We also had some questions about the wine. Then I spotted a malbec from Mendoza, Argentina, on the list. It was a vineyard we’ve visited. After that, the choice was easy.
Madeline chose the filet combo, which were two filet medallions and two seafood items of her choice: a crab cake and barbequed shrimp. We split a wedge salad because we were thinking about dessert. After eating it, we were not ready to consider dessert—we were full!
We met Chef Louie who was delightful and graciously spent time with us. He brought us a signed toque as his introduction. Chef Louie was so easy to talk with, we felt like he invited us into his home. He told us he was going to go back to Mexico soon to cook for Mother’s Day. What a sweet guy! He and the culinary team are talented, and they do a lot more than steak.
We also met Shula’s head coach, Brenton, who explained how the menu was going through an update. I guess Chef Louie is always reinventing the menu. It makes it fun for diners. Shula’s of course will continue to offer traditional cuts of steak. But the chef and his team do many other tasty dishes.
Chef Louie came back to our table with a special dessert. He decided that even though we were full, we still needed to sample his dessert. He was right! We took it back to our hotel. Madeline ate a few bites, and then I did my best to finish it off.
Shula’s is a nice restaurant, and the hotel offers free validated parking with your meal.
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse Houston/Town & Country
We had dinner at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse with our daughter, Andrea. The restaurant conveniently was located in Houston's Energy Corridor near the Memorial suburbs. This is a well run chain restaurant that consistently delivers. We had a cozy booth, and our server took great care of us.
Madeline ordered her usual: filet mignon with a cool iceberg wedge salad drenched in blue cheese dressing. I went with a Texas-sized rib-eye steak with the same wedge salad. Andrea went for a filet with a normal dinner salad.
The restaurant also offered crab cakes, fried calamari, spicy ahi, New Zealand petite lamb chops with polenta fries and sliced filet mignon atop shiitake risotto.
We’ve been to Flemings several times in Colorado, so it was nice to see an old friend in a new location.
After Madeline and I discovered that the famous San Jacinto Inn had closed, decided to the Monument Inn. The Monument Inn is a nice seafood restaurant with alternatives for the non-seafood lover. The service was professional and friendly. We both had seafood, even though Madeline doesn’t usually go for it—she knew it was fresh. The restaurant is on the water and has a great view of the Battleship Texas.
On our recent visit to Houston, we heard that the Monument Inn had a little setback: a nearby chemical fire led to the only road to the Monument Inn to be closed for six weeks for cleanup and repairs. That meant that the restaurant was closed for six weeks as well. All their fresh seafood had to be thrown out.
During the closure, the Monument Inn owners, Bob and Ann Law, continued to pay all their employees, even with no revenue. Their employees had been with them since “forever,” and Bob and Ann were going to take care of them. They’re good people.
If you’re in Houston, I encourage you to dine at Bob and Ann’s Monument Inn. The food is great, and you’re supporting some great local business owners. While you’re there, visit the historical area and soak up some history while you walk off that extra biscuit or two you snagged.