In a league of its own, La Griglia rules the River Oaks/downtown power lunch scene.
Brasserie 19 is quite the Houston scene.
The downtown business crowd knows Irma Galvan and her team.
Tony's sophisticated food and dining room make it a must for top notch business meetings.
Hugo Ortega's Caracol is just part of a self-made restaurant empire.
Since opening for lunch last year, Vic & Anthony's has been drawing the hefty expense account crowd.
A standard for 50 years, Brennan's attracts a serious business crowd.
The Palm is a fave power lunch spot for businessmen and women on the west side.
If you're invited for a business lunch at the Coronado Club, we suggest your power suit.
Cafe Annie enjoys its share of lunchtime celebrity.
Masraff's is another lunchtime favorite for business tete-a-tetes.
The bar at La Griglia
La Griglia in River Oaks Shopping Center
Vic & Anthony's main dining room
Vic & Anthony's kitchen-view table
The bar at Vic & Anthony's
In this city, it’s not what you eat for lunch but where you dine that separates the meek from the mighty. The power lunch — sans the Mad Men esthetics of martinis and cigarettes— thrives. Just check the midday crush of luxury cars pulling into valet stations across Houston.
The noontime lineup of Ferraris and Maseratis at Brasserie 19 alone confirms the notion of power lunching.
While the quality of food is of some consideration, it’s the location, the ambience and the reputation that place certain Houston restaurants at the top of the power lunch food chain. A few high up the ladder:
La Griglia, 2002 West Gray — Hands down, the colorful Italian-inspired restaurant on the edge of River Oaks is THE hot spot for power lunching. City Councilmen and lobbyists play footsie across the table spectrum while a big time developer and a veteran oilman each have their own tables. Judges perch in the center of the dining room while in a discreet corner one of the city’s richest women holds court. And if there’s a party in the private room, expect to see a heavy flow of political candidates and power brokers emerge when lunch is done.
The location is convenient to downtown and the food is very good (La Griglia is often overlooked in foodie annals). Look closely at the menu and you will find dishes named after local celebs and business moguls. (Don’t miss the Trout Shelby.) As one regular, an investment banker, says, “La Griglia is in a league of its own.”
Irma’s Original, 22 N. Chenevert St.— Three margarita lunch? It’s possible at this earthy, hyperkinetic restaurant that earned a James Beard award as an American Classic. Tucked into a corner in east downtown just down the street from Minute Maid Park, Irma’s rocks at lunch with lawyers, suits and media types (at least, before the Houston Chronicle exited downtown).
If you’re planing on heading back to the office, skip the ‘ritas and try Irma’s special iced tea or lemonade. Don’t forget to say hello to owner Irma Galvan, she knows everybody who’s anybody in downtown circles.
Tony’s, 3755 Richmond — Ah, the sweet life. This is the place to savor excellent food and service while securing start-up financing, if that’s on your business agenda. A few steps from Greenway Plaza, Tony’s is a regular watering hole for the neighboring execs and is popular with all business types for fine midday dining over contract negotiations.
Tony Vallone keeps close watch on the happenings insuring that service is perfect and that opposing divorce attorneys are not seated within shouting distance of one another.
Caracol, 2200 Post Oak Blvd. — The art of the deal, particularly in real estate, is practiced at the tables where bountiful plates of Mexican-inspired seafood are served. Many an agreement has been reached over a plate of famed chef Hugo Ortega’s wood-grilled Gulf oysters. Keep an eye out for superstar commercial brokers in the well-dressed mix.
The Palm, 6100 Westheimer — Since a swank renovation breathed new life into the steak and lobster staple four years ago, The Palm has been attracting a serious business lunch crowd. While the location, west of the Galleria, might seem like the boonies to downtown snobs, there are plenty of businesses west of the 610 Loop to supply The Palm with a steady stream of Zegna-dressed devotees.
In fact, the venerable steakhouse boasts a three-course “Power Lunch” menu, with choices in all three categories, for a user-friendly $26.
Vic & Anthony’s, 1510 Texas Avenue — Show me the money on the one hand and show me the beef on the other. That could be the mantra for this sleek steakhouse that has been pleasing manly, as well as feminine, palates for a decade. After serving lunch on Fridays only, Vic & Anthony’s began opening at 11 a.m. five days a week early last year and since then has been attracting a heavy-hitter business crowd, many with generous expense accounts.
The Coronado Club, fifth floor of the 919 Milam building — As the private club’s website boasts, it is “a bastion of strength and financial solidity . . . .which has made Houston a prominent player in the world market and upheld its positive national image through all economic cycles.” Get the picture? Think Old Guard, Big Money and very real Political Clout.
It’s quiet. It could not get any clubbier. And you won’t find many women there. The club’s Churchill Bar is a popular watering hole and, as its name might suggest, a place where cigars are allowed.
Brennan’s, 3300 Smith Street — If you want a three martini lunch that you can walk away from without swaying, keep an eye out for Brennan’s occasional 25-cent martini special. The drinks come in petite glasses with just enough alcohol to loosen jangled nerves, in case your apartment plans were stung by the City Planning Department. Lawyers, University of Houston leadership, public affairs types and energy brokers find privacy when seated at one of the tables for four with the over-sized wingback chairs. It’s like having your own private dining room.
Brasserie 19, 1962 W. Gray Street — To see and be seen. That is the primary motivation for all who enter this epicenter of Bayou City schmoozing. The dining room regularly bustles with men in Armani suits head-huddling over business deals or more Ralph Lauren types popping the champagne in celebration of closings and favorable verdicts. While businesswomen tend to make their deals in less visible surroundings, there is the occasional female exec basking here in the social swirl.
An aside: Don’t forget that B-19 (as regulars know it) was named by Town & Country magazine as one of the top watering holes in the country for finding a rich husband.
EVEN MORE: As the nation’s fourth largest city, Houston has a wealth of restaurants where power brokers lunch and big deals are sealed. A few more mentioned in our survey of guys and gals in suits were Cafe Annie, Bistro Lancaster, Masraff’s, Pizzitola’s BBQ, Harry’s Restaurant & Cafe, and Quattro at the Four Seasons Hotel.