Gayest & Greatest 2021

Gayest & Greatest 2021: Dining Out, House and Home

Brennan’s is the perfect spot for a romantic night out.

Brennan’s (photos by Kimberly Park)

Best Place for a Romantic Date and Best Martini

When you want a great place for a dinner date or to celebrate a special occasion, why not check out Brennan’s? As the sister restaurant to New Orleans’ famous Commander’s Palace, this gorgeous Houston landmark has been delighting diners for more than 50 years. With its Southern Creole menu, superb service, and luscious décor, it is the place for an elegant meal, whether in the dining room or outside in the lush courtyard.

“I think it begins with our unique 1920s John Staub building and Parisian gas lamps, but it comes to life through our wonderful servers and their tradition of Southern hospitality,” says proprietor Alex Brennan-Martin, the son of Commander’s Palace grand dame Ella Brennan. 

Brennan-Martin grew up in the industry, traveling along the same culinary road as family members before him. But then he took a multi-year detour to train at La Varrene, a prestigious culinary-arts and hospitality school in Paris. Then he moved to New York to work at Maxwell’s Plum and the Four Seasons restaurant—first in the kitchen, and later at the front of the house.

While he was sharpening his skills in New York, his family was busy adding several restaurants to their restaurant dynasty, including Brennan’s of Houston. Brennan-Martin eventually made his way south to Houston, where he found that the Bayou City shared many similarities with New Orleans, including a passion for exquisite food and memorable dining experiences. He has been at the helm of Brennan’s of Houston for the last 20-some odd years.

“Several of our tenured captains have shared with me over the years that the romance happens at the table between our guests. Our job is to help them make a great memory, but stay out of the way,” he notes. 

Start with the famous snapper turtle soup and oysters on the half shell. Then move on to entrées such as the Gulf fish Pontchartrain or the boudin stuffed quail. And if you have a sweet tooth, you can’t go wrong with the soufflé or the bananas Foster (which includes a flaming tableside presentation).

Brennan’s of Houston has an award-winning wine program arranged by the staff “wine guys” Rich Carter and Jason Durham. They feature more than 2,000 bottles from around the world, and offer over 40 selections by the glass. Their “drink what you like” philosophy centers around the belief that ordering great wine should always be fun and approachable, so the wine program presents a user-friendly list with something for everyone, from classic icons to rock-off-the-map gems.

But Brennan’s is also known for a very specific cocktail—the martini. “Part of the history we’re told is that Miss Adelaide Brennan enjoyed her martinis, and we’ve tried to always follow her two simple requirements: good liquor, and very, very cold,” Brennan-Martin explains. “Her portrait is in the bar, so in a way she’s keeping an eye on us still.”

Brennan’s is open for lunch Tuesday through Friday, brunch Saturday and Sunday, and dinner Tuesday through Sunday. 

For more info visit


Best New Restaurant or Food Concept

ACME Oyster House
Finalists: Eighteen36, King Ranch Texas

Best 24-Hour Restaurant

Chapultepec Lupita
Finalists: House of Pies, Whataburger

Best Bakery

Dessert Gallery
Finalists: Common Bond, Leona’s Bakeshop, Three Brothers Bakery

Best Barbecue

The Pit Room
Finalists: Goode Co., Killen’s, Spring Creek, Truth BBQ

Best Deli

Katz’s Deli (tie), Kenny & Ziggy’s (tie)
Finalists: Nielsen’s, Urban Eats

Best Food Truck

Eagle Eats
Finalists: Fusion Taco, Tasty Arepa, The Waffle Bus

Best Dumplings

Dumpling Dudez
Finalist: Auntie Chang’s

Best Hamburger

The Burger Joint
Finalists: Barnaby’s Cafe, Goode Co., Harold’s in the Heights, Lankford’s  

Best Hot Dog

Good Dog Houston
Finalists: JCI, Minute Maid Park, Love Dog

Best Pizza

Pizza Birra Vino 
Finalists: Bollo, BUDDY’S, Pepperoni’s, Star Pizza

Best Seafood

ACME Oyster House
Finalists: Eugene’s, M&S, The Rouxpour, Truluck’s 

Best Steak House

B&B Butchers & Restaurant
Finalists: Morton’s Steakhouse, Perry’s Steakhouse, Steak 48

Best Steak Night at a Bar

Free Grillin’ at George 
Finalists: BUDDY’S, Pearl Bar 

Best Sushi

AKA Sushi
Finalists: Oishii, Osaka

Best Vegetarian/Vegan

Finalists: Korny Vibes, Soul Food Vegan, Sinfull Bakery

Best Breakfast

Baby Barnaby’s
Finalists: Breakfast Klub, Chilosos Taco House, Lankford’s, Snooze a.m.

Best Brunch

Gloria’s Latin Cuisine
Finalists: Bar Boheme, Eighteen36, Piggy’s Kitchen, Traveler’s Table

Best Lunch Spot

Urban Eats
Finalists: Barnaby’s Cafe, Gloria’s, Tacos Doña Lena

Best Dessert

Dessert Gallery
Finalists: Chocolate Bar, Leona’s Bakeshop, Urban Eats

Best British

Red Lion Pub

Best Cajun

BB’s Tex-Orleans
Finalists: Acme Oyster House, Ragin’ Cajun

Best Central/South American

Gloria’s Latin Cuisine
Finalist: Casa do Brasil

Best Cuban

El Rey
Finalist: Cafe Piquet

Best Chinese

Cafe Ginger
Finalists: Ambassador, China Garden, P. King

Best Japanese

Roka Akor
Finalists: Aka Sushi House, Osaka, Nippon, Uchi

Best Thai

Nidda Thai Cuisine
Finalists: Khun Kay, Thai Spice, Thai Village

Best Vietnamese

PHO 518 of Silverlake
Finalists: Kim Son, Mai’s, Pho Saigon

Best Greek

Niko Niko’s
Finalists: Eighteen36, Helen Greek Food and Wine

Best Indian

Tarka Indian Kitchen
Finalists: Himalaya, Pondicheri, Surya India

Best Italian

Giacomo’s Cibo e Vino (tie), Riva’s (tie)
Finalists: Maggiano’s, North Italia

Best Mediterranean/Middle Eastern

Finalists: Aladdin, Zoë’s Kitchen

Best Mexican

Tacos Doña Lena
Finalists: El Tiempo Cantina, Gloria’s, Hugo’s, Teotihuacan

Best Place for a Romantic Date

Finalists: Bludorn, Giacomo’s Cibo e Vino, Traveler’s Table

Best Cooking Experience (Virtual or In-Person)

Dumpling Dudez
Finalist: 210 Fusion (Chef NaTosha Barber)

Best Restaurant for Cheap Eats

Jenni’s Noodle House
Finalists: Barnaby’s, La Tapatia, Raising Cane’s, Tacos Doña Lena 

Best Restaurant for Elegant Dining

Finalists: B&B Butchers & Restaurant, Brennan’s, Eddie V’s, Morton’s, Traveler’s Table

Best Restaurant for Outdoor Dining

Finalists: Backstreet Café, Eighteen36, Postino Heights

Favorite Food Delivery

Finalists: Favor, Uber Eats

Friendliest Restaurant Staff

Barnaby’s Cafe
Finalists: Gloria’s, Tacos Doña Lena, Urban Eats


Best Female Insurance Agent

Shenice Brown
Finalist: Jennifer Majors Baca

Best Male Insurance Agent

Lane Lewis 
Finalists: Dustin Harwell, Jeremy Henry, Jason Rocha, Patrick Torman

Best Air Conditioning & Heating Company

Village Plumbing & Air
Finalist: Newport Air Conditioning & Heating

Best Architectural Design Firm

Morningside Architects

Best Florist

Perfect Petals by Geo
Finalists: Gaye Jackson, Webwood Flowers

Best Furniture Store

Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
Finalists: Cantoni, Donna’s Home Furnishings, Nadeau

Best Furniture Store on a Budget

Alabama Furniture
Finalist: Gallery Furniture, IKEA

Best Gardening/Nursery Supply

Joshua’s Native Plants & Garden Antiques
Finalists: Another Place in Time, Buchanan’s Native Plants, Fountains and Statuary

Best Interior Designer

Jacob Medina (tie), Jean Quila (tie)
Finalist: Donna Dorrell

Best Architect

Morningside Architects

Best Landscaping Company

AJ’s Landscaping
Finalist: Suzanne Longley

Best Pest-Control Company

Natural Care Pest Control
Finalists: Amrid Pest Control, Bulwark Exterminating

Best Plumber

In the Loop Plumbing
Finalist: Village Plumbing

Best Pool Company

Venture Pool Co.
Finalist: Ultima Pool Service

Best Home Security Company

Fortress Shield Security
Finalists: Alert 360, ADT

For a full list of winners, go here.

This article appears in the October 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and, among others.
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