It is that time of the year again! This month is the reason that many Houstonians mark their calendars. No matter your dining preference or palate, most of us use this time to get out and try a new restaurant, go back for a visit to our favorites, or take the opportunity to indulge in a night of sampling at one of Houston’s very own. Houston Restaurant Weeks, which over the years has progressed from a week long campaign to a month long one, is aimed at fighting hunger in Houston with a percentage of all proceeds benefiting the Houston and Montgomery County Food Banks. This year, the campaign runs August 1 through September 2, 2013. And for those that won’t have the time to slip away for an evening, you can always support the initiative by donating $10 via text message (text “HRW” to 20222).

The campaign is simple, but unlike the previous years, they have added a third option. The brunch or lunch options are still $20 and include 2-3 courses, but dinner has both a $35 option and a $45 option. The $45 option is new this year. It includes an additional 4th course for those that really want to go all in. In addition, instead of the normal $5 donation that goes along with the $35 dinner, this option will give $7 back to the food banks. Two quick tips: Let your waiter know that you would like the special HRW menu (sometimes they will hand it to you along with the regular menu and sometimes they won’t) and make sure to tip based on the value of your meal and not the bill itself (your waitstaff will appreciate it).

For us, this is an even more exciting time, and as we dine out frequently, we love that it supports a great cause. We look forward to the new restaurants, paying a visit to our tried and true, and even enjoying a few oldie but goodies. We select from various cuisines, locations, and atmospheres (required attire) and having a month to indulge is even better. Most importantly, we get to share all of this with our friends and family. The fun is in both the planning and the partaking. Since our friends ask us every year , “Where should we go for Houston Restaurant Week?”, we always make this list and try to keep it short and sweet:

New Kids On The Block

Etoile Cuisine – In the last year, our city has been lucky enough to have several wonderful French restaurants open, and many are taking part in HRW. We have added two to our HRW list. This one, and the next will appear as a lunch offering. We truly love the entire dinner menu, and you can’t go wrong with any of the selections. If we had to pick favorites we would go with the Bisque de Homard (Lobster Bisque) as a 1st course and the Sole Meunière (lemon sole, Peruvian fingerling potatoes, snow peas, roasted cauliflower, “almondine” brown butter) as a 2nd course.

The Federal Grill 
– When The Federal Grill took over the previous tenant, Branch Water Tavern, we knew that some things would change. However, we are just hoping the good food remains because we have our tummy’s set on those Braised Short Ribs!

La Casa Del Caballo – This Mexican Steakhouse became the talk of the town when word made it around about their menu, specifically, the whole ribeye cap steak that can feed six people! Although this monster of a steak is not included on the HRW menu, we are sure their single portion ribeye will do the trick.

Pesca World Seafood – If you love seafood, add this spot to your HRW list quick, fast, and in a hurry. Dishes like the Portuguese Seafood Stew and Paella Pesca will have you scolding yourself for not visiting sooner.

Tried and True

Brasserie 19 – This is always a great one and a great deal as well. You get good food and a great atmosphere when you visit Brasserie 19 or as they like to say, “Where French classicism meets modern luxury”. Did we mention the cocktails are top-notch and it’s quite a scene on most nights!

Laurenzo’s Prime Rib – The Laurenzo family always dishes out the goods, and have been doing so for the last 55 years. This is one of their fine dining establishments in The Heights area, offering some of the best Prime Rib in the city.

Benjy’s The Village – Benjy’s is only offering a dinner this year, but we are still intrigued by their menu. They always come up with something fresh, new and unique and their Buckwheat Gnocchi and Dr Pepper Shortribs are sure to tip the scale for their bold flavors and creativity.

BLU Restaurant & Lounge – When we had a one on one with Chef Jett last year, we knew we had come across an amazing talent and he is showing us why with his “far from boring” menu. Where else will you find Ginger Soy Glazed Pork Belly, Braised Massaman Lamb, Crispy Fish, or High Flame Wok Lobster as options?

Oldie But Goodie

Backstreet Cafe – We love when people set the bar high, and this year that award goes to these guys. They did not want to leave anyone out, so they are offering 5 different menus this year: A 4-Course Vegetarian Menu (optional wine for an additional $28.00), a 3-Course Red Dinner (optional red wine for an additional $25.00), a 3-Course White Dinner (optional white wine for an additional $25.00), a 3-Course Cocktail Dinner (optional cocktail pairing is an additional $26), and finally 3-Course Beer Dinner (optional Beer Pairing is an additional $19).

Mo’s…A Place for Steaks – We will honestly say that we were disappointed when Pappa’s decided not to participate this year. But that’s okay…we have found a replacement. We love the fact that Mo’s has created something for everyone so this should be an easy pick. When in doubt, go with the steak.

Ciao Bello – This casual, family friendly Italian restaurant is a gem. Serving tradition Italian dishes with authentic ingredients makes this a go to spot for anyone craving Italian goodness.

Soma Sushi – Did someone say sushi or maybe we heard Ramen?!?! It does not matter, because Soma has covered all there bases and they’ve got you boo. In addition to some mouth-watering sushi offerings, they’ve added an HRW exclusive – Tonkotsu Ramen (traditional pork broth, curly noodles, poached egg, pork belly and traditional toppings). Back in May they took home the people’s choice award at the annual Go Pig or Go home chef competition for their Texan Ramen.

Lunch Options

Churrascos (River Oaks, Westchase, Sugar Land) – This Cordua restaurant has a lunch menu that put a big fat smile on our faces. They are not only offering cool things like a Crab Spoonbread Martini and Shrimp Sirenas, but they have included their nationally recognized signature beef tenderloin- The Churrascos. #Winning!

Philippe Restaurant & Lounge – The French Cowboy is bringing his A game this year. If you want to show off and take your colleagues to a fancy lunch, this should be your first choice. This is the place to “be” and “be seen”.

Ouisie’s Table – If the only reason you go is to try the Shrimp and Cheese Grits, you will leave a happy camper. We have been going to Ouisie’s for years and she still makes some of the best in the city.

L’Oliver – This is our second new French restaurant on the list, and it is c’est magnifique! This European Brasserie with an American twist, will make you probably got for lunch and then again for dinner before the HRW is over. During lunch you can choose 2 courses for $20 or 3 courses for $30.

Enjoy and let us know which were hits or misses!

The Urban Swank Girls

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