- Sixteen of Houston's iconic dining rooms
- Rainbow Lodge may have moved from its Buffalo Bayou location to a log cabin in the Heights, but it still maintains its rustic charm. The trophy room matches the restaurant's mission of serving wild game in various preparations. Photo Credit: Gary Wise
- Underbelly's clean, understated appearance leaves the food as the star of every meal. The space is warm and welcoming, much like chef Chris Shepherd's personality. The open kitchen provides plenty of entertainment. Photo Credit: Gary Wise
- Triniti's no-expenses-spared appearance reflects that lengths to which the dining room is a showcase for chef Ryan Hildebrand's food. The space itself is clean, elegant and comfortable. Photo Credit: Debora Smail
- The Grove is situated in Discovery Green, and the decor reflects the setting. Diners feel like they're in a forest. Photo credit: Debora Smail
- RDG + Bar Annie is another seminal Houston restaurant that changed locations. The expansive dining room and luxurious interior reflect the restaurant's history as a gathering place for Houston's elite. Photo Credit: Julie Soefer
- Oh sure, the Ragin Cajun's patio has views of busy Richmond and a heavily traveled set of railroad tracks. What it lacks in scenic beauty it makes up for in a warm, friendly vibe when never ending buckets of crawfish hit every table. Photo Credit: Gary Wi
- Philippe might be Houston's most elegant dining room. It's a luxurious space that provides an appropriately French atmosphere to match the food. Photo Credit: Jack Thompson
- Maybe a three week old restaurant isn't iconic, but give The Pass and Provisions credit for a dining room full of thoughtful touches that's raised the bar for every important new restaurant that follows it. Photo Credit: Gary Wise
- L'Olivier's transformation from its previous tenant is pretty impressive. The space is clean and modern, with a showstopping wine display at the front of the dining room and a fantastic view onto Westheimer's urban scenes. Photo Credit: Gary Wise
- La Fisheria's dining room captures the coastal, beach atmosphere that matches chef Aquiles Chavez's coastal cuisine. If a person wants a coastal escape but can't make it to Galveston, La Fisheria fits the bill. Photo Credit: Gary Wise
- World-renowned architect Philippe Starck designed Katsuya's dining room, and the design is one of Houston's most impressive spaces. The space itself is laid out like a Bento Box. Photo Credit: Katsuya by Starck
- While Hawthorn's food may tend towards the safe end of the spectrum, the dining's room luxurious, clubby decor provides the an excellent setting for the River Oaks type that frequent it. Photo Credit: Gary Wise
- Goode Co Seafood's transformed rail car and art deco design harken back to a simpler, classier time. That those times probably didn't exist will not prevent modern diners from enjoying a gigantic shrimp cocktail or seafood campechana. Photo Credit: Goode
- Simply put, there is no better dining experience anywhere in Texas than sitting on the Gilhooley's patio and eating oysters on a cool, Spring day. Anyone who disagrees is wrong. Photo Credit: Gary Wise
- El Real, chef Bryan Caswell's homage to classic Tex-Mex, has distilled all the signature elements of long-gone restaurants into one, cohesive whole. The portraits that pay tribute to icons "Mama" Ninfa Lorenzo and Felix Tijerina are particularly appropria
- Coppa gets extra credit for the way it so seamlessly replaced the now-shuttered Catalan. The decor has a Mediterranean vibe that suits chef Brandi Key's updated Italian dishes. Photo Credit: Gary Wise
- Midtown French restaurant Artisans could feel stuffy, but instead it just feels elegant. The space defines a modern concept of luxury that feels welcoming and comfortable rather than stuffy or pretentious. Photo Credit: Gary Wise
Unlike iconic food or drinks, defining Houston's iconic dining rooms has proven to be a tricky process. First, so many of Houston's oldest restaurants, like Tony's or RDG + Bar Annie (in Cafe Annie form), have changed locations or design over the years. Brennan's may be an iconic Houston restaurant, but the restaurant remodeled after nearly burning to the ground during Hurricane Ike. Second, design details that seemed like showstoppers when the restaurant opened, like the mural at La Griglia, feel dated and out of touch now. Eating in Chinatown is great, but the dining rooms are so generic-looking that it's hard to tell one from another.
With those problems in mind, consider the restaurants in this gallery to be the new icons. Or maybe the future icons: restaurants with thoughtful designs that are setting a new standard for Houston restaurants. They embody spaces that are warm and welcoming rather than clubby and exclusive. Comfortable rather than cold. Plus, there's a few classics thrown in so angry commenters don't completely excoriate the choices.
Feel free to sound off on what's missing in the comments. We can take it.