The Best of Dining Out - Houston

By. Jill Fergus

Whether your culinary mood is cosmopolitan or local, there's a restaurant in Houston to serve it up when your meetings end.

America's fourth-largest city is chockablock with delicious and varied dining, from barbecue to steakhouses to farm-to-table restaurants, as well as plenty of ethnic choices (Thai, Cuban, Indian). So you won't be lacking for choices when it comes to hosting a business lunch or dinner. Whether you need a formal or casual setting or simply an attractive spot to chat over drinks, consider these eight options on your next visit to Houston.

1. Mark's American Cuisine

This 1920s-era former church in Montrose, with arched windows, vaulted ceilings and a organ loft (now an intimate dining area), makes for an elegant and dramatic setting. Chef-owner Mark Cox's New American menu changes often, but diners can expect such dishes as Kobe beef osso bucco, grilled salmon with coconut risotto and roasted pork loin with bourbon short ribs, as well as a well-stocked wine cellar.

2. Brennan's of Houston

A midtown landmark since 1967, this family-owned Cajun-Creole restaurant has been a longtime go-to spot for the business community. In addition to a sprawling main room, it has numerous private dining areas, including the brick-walled John Staub Room, the Wine Room and the Terms of Endearment Room, so name because a scene from the 1983 film was shot here.

3. The Grove

The George R. Brown Convention Center is across from this 10,000-square-foot, eco-friendly restaurant, so you won't need a taxi to get there. It's located within an 11-acre urban park, making it a serene sanctuary in the heart of downtown. Chef Robert Del Grande uses ingredients from local farms for dishes such as Texas quail skewers with pineapple-bourbon dipping sauce and Hill Country venison.

4. Pizzitola's

If you have a craving for authentic barbecue, head to this family-owned pit-style BBQ joint in Washington Avenue Corridor, open since 1935. Don't expect anything fancy: The three dining rooms have unadorned tables and booths, and Texas sports memorabilia lines the walls, It's the perfect down-home setting in which to savor hickory-smoked ribs, brisket, full-off-the-bone check and, for dessert, creamy banana pudding.

5. Vic & Anthny's

Located across from Minute Maid Park, where the Astros play, this elegant mahogany and leather-filled downtown restaurant is consistently ranked as one of Houston's top steakhouses. Expect huge cuts of beef with yoru choice of sauces (port peppercorn, bearnaise, blue cheese-bacon butter), as well as 1,000-bottle wine list from around the globe that has been recognized by both Wine Spectator and Food & Wine magazines.

6. Hubcap Grill

Make like a local and join the line at this super-casual downtown burger joint, which boasts the number-one burger in all of Texas, according to Houston Chroniclel food editor Alison Cook - now that's saying something. Dig into your burger of choice, served on a toasted bun with fresh-cut fries: the Philly Cheesesteaks, the Black & Blue (bacon and blue cheese), the Frito Pie (chili and Frito-Lay chips) and other wacky but delicious combinations.

7. Branch Water Tavern

In a handsome setting with hardwood floors, exposed brick and warm lighting that flatters everyone, chef-owner David Grossman serves French-influenced American cuisine in his homey tavern in the Washington Avenue Corridor. Standouts include chicken-fried oysters with celery-root slaw and crispy-skin red snapper with braised escarole, along with Grossman's complimentary cheddar biscuits. You'll also find artisanal beer, boutique wines and American whiskeys.

8. Anvil Bar & Refuge

Join the after-work crowd at this industrial-chic cocktail lounge in Montrose that specializes in old-fashioned cocktails. Order classic libations like a Manhattan or a Pimm's Cup, try an original drink such as the whiskey-based Black Betty, or pick from the daily selection of craft beers listed on a chalkboard. When you get hungry, order the cheese and meat platter or a German-style pretzel.