Dine Alone At Houston Restaurant Bar Counters Like A Rock Star

While most of us prefer to share meals with friends or a special someone, a dining companion is not always a given. Fortunately, certain Houston restaurants are especially appealing options for solo diners.

Dining at the bar suits most single eaters, and sure beats skipping a meal or settling for drive-through. At restaurants with pleasant atmospheres and friendly bar staffs, a solo meal can be quite enjoyable.

Rainbow Lodge, 2011 Ella: This is a place that makes you feel like you might be visiting someone’s home rather than a typical restaurant. The restaurant’s Tied-Fly Bar is a fascinating bar venue that was inspired by fly fishing adventures and carved from a single piece of wood. The unique bar functions both as a food and drink surface, as well as a horizontal work of art.

The Tied Fly Bar at Rainbow Lodge overlooks the wine deck and scenic banks of White Oak Bayou. Photo courtesy of Rainbow Lodge.

The nightly bar menu at Rainbow Lodge includes reasonably priced items, such as griddled Gulf shrimp with pesto caper butter and pulled pork sliders ($12 each), plus happy hour pricing on wines (starting at $6 a glass), domestic and draft beers ($3 each), and house martinis ($5 each). Chef Mark Schmidt’s Sunday Suppers offer seasonally inspired comfort food that’s often well executed and reliably satisfying.

“Enjoy our buffalo hanger steak while you search our trout stream bar top for the secret bottle cap carved into the stream,” suggests owner Donnette Hansen. She proudly notes that the tomato relish on the steak dish is made using cherry tomatoes from the restaurant’s own garden.

Liberty Kitchen Garden Oaks features a rustic chic decor and friendly bar service. Photo by Pop Ratio.

Liberty Kitchen, 1050 Studewood and 3715 Alba: Both the Heights and Garden Oaks locations offer comfortable, not-too-large bar spaces that appeal to solo diners. The Heights restaurant features an L-shaped bar counter finished with reclaimed wood and a stainless top. The Garden Oaks location offers a slightly more formal bar décor with tufted, Kelly green barstools and glossy stone counter surface in the main dining area, plus a more intimate raw bar counter towards the back of the restaurant.

Liberty Kitchen’s Dixie Fried Chicken may be the only dining companion you’ll need. Photo by Pop Ratio.

Liberty Kitchen’s menu focuses on modern comfort food with Gulf Coast influences and includes items such as their Dixie Fried Chicken and kale Caesar salad (ask for extra dressing). Each location offers different weekly specials. On Mondays, grab a half order of the Dixie Fried Chicken platter for $13.95 at the Garden Oaks location. All Liberty Kitchen locations offer happy hour specials that range from small appetizers and drinks priced at $6.

Torchy’s Tacos, 350 West 19th: For a casual option for breakfast, lunch or dinner,  location the Heights location of Torchy’s Tacos features a full bar where single diners can order drinks and tacos, thus skipping the infamous line. Ask the bartender for a half-order of the zesty queso or guacamole (not listed on the menu) and order your favorite tacos. Ask for the secret menu, when you’re bored with the usual offerings. In a hurry? Request the check as soon as the food is delivered, because the bar staff often stays busy handling to-go orders and drink orders for the rest of the restaurant.

Benjy’s on Washington, 5922 Washington: Want something upscale but approachable for a party of one? The small downstairs bar at Benjy’s Washington location feels much cozier than the larger upstairs bar, which tends to be more of a haven for couples or groups of singles. Wine selections by the glass are not the same old varieties seen everywhere and cost just $5 per glass at happy hour ($9 and up otherwise). Snack on the crispy Brussels sprouts or goat cheese cakes, or try the braised short ribs or crunchy chicken entrees for a hearty meal likely to yield leftovers for at-home solo dining.

Kata Robata, 3600 Kirby, Suite H: Sushi Bars and Japanese restaurants are often well-designed for solo dining, as this is a common part of Japanese culture. In the Greenway/Upper Kirby area, Kata Robata does a brisk business at lunch (and often dinner, too), so get there early to snag a seat at the sushi bar. The compact counter seating is nicely proportioned for parties of one and the sushi chefs make for great people watching. It’s like a built-in live cooking show.

Grab a seat at the sushi bar at Kata Robata for a hand-crafted meal, perhaps by Chef Hori himself. Photo by Paula Murphy.

The lunch menu offers affordable options, such as five pieces of sushi and a roll for $14 or various bento boxes for $14. Whether you enjoy sushi or fully cooked Japanese cuisine, Kata Robata delivers on flavor and artistic presentation thanks to the talent and direction of James Beard Award-nominated chef Manabu (“Hori”) Horiuchi .

When you find the right combination of atmosphere, food and service, eating alone doesn’t have to be awkward. It can be a welcome change—and even a special treat.

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