Restaurants / Lists

OpenTable’s Romantic Houston Blunder — Reservation Service Swings and Misses on City’s Best Spots for Love

These Top 100 Restaurant Picks Aren't Built for Wooing

BY // 02.04.20

Just in time for booking your Valentine’s dinner reservations, OpenTable, the online restaurant reservations service, has revealed its 100 Most Romantic Restaurants in the country. Two are from Houston. Seriously, those two?

I beg to differ.

No, it’s not the uber romantic Rainbow Lodge or Brenner’s on the Bayou. It’s not Tony’s, THE go-to fine dining establishment for engagements and anniversaries.

One would think that the national list, curated from more than 80 million diner reviews of more than 30,000 restaurants, would have some authenticity. But just as the Iowa caucuses fell flat, so does this evaluation. (See specifics below.)

I’m not knocking the quality of their food or the ambiance. I’m just sayin’ that neither Uchi nor Pappas Bros. Steakhouse — the two Houston restaurants OpenTable selected as the most romantic — come to mind when pondering a dinner spot for love and romance.

Neither restaurant is mentioned in the romantic restaurant roundups of Trip Advisor, Yelp (which included 30, mostly dubious), Eater, Houston Press, Gayot.com, FourSquare and Zagat. PaperCity did not choose them on our list of Houston’s 10 Most Romantic Restaurants either.

OpenTable selected Houston’s Uchi as one of the most romantic restaurants in America.
OpenTable survey respondents selected Houston’s Uchi as one of the most romantic restaurants in America.

Uchi is fab, the design great, the food unbeatable but the ambience? Romantic? No. Just try whispering sweet nothings into the ear of your tablemate. She/he won’t be able to hear them. At Pappas, I’m not in the mood for love after being forced to wait in the bar for half an hour after my reservation time. No quarrel, however, with the highly-praised steaks or the service and it’s a pretty swank setting.

Yes, it’s hard to imagine a beefy, manly steakhouse being romantic but there was one that appeared on a number of those listicles and that is Vic & Anthony’s. It’s beautiful, the food is outstanding and if tucked into one of the corner booths, I’d give it a 7 for romance.

My personal survey of the various romantic restaurant compilations found that certain eateries might be winners for the sheer number of times they were mentioned. So which Houston restaurants have won the affection of foodie sites?

Rainbow Lodge makes every list as everyone who has ever crossed into the cozy sanctum knows that the wood-beamed, fireplace-warmed ambience, cosseted in a grove of oaks, is pure romance.

Others winning the critics adoration as the place for salivating romance-seekers were Brennan’s, Brenner’s on the Bayou, Etoile, Da Marco, Artisans, BCN, Emmaline, and the aforementioned Tony’s.

In response to PaperCity’s request for details on the selection process (it’s complicated), OpenTable responded:

“OpenTable’s 100 Most Romantic Restaurants in America for 2020 is generated solely from diner reviews collected between December 1, 2018, and November 30, 2019. All restaurants with a minimum ‘overall’ score and number of qualifying reviews were included for consideration. The overall score is made up of unique data points, such as overall diner rating, user klout, total number of reviews, and regional overall rating. Qualifying restaurants were then scored and sorted according to the percentage of reviews, for which ‘romantic’ was selected as a special feature.”

With that in mind, it’s our fault (certainly mine) that we don’t answer the OpenTable survey after booking our dinner reservations through the service. I am guilty of skipping the questions and, probably, so are you. Not any longer.

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