WITH SOME NOTABLE EXCEPTIONS, DINING out in Texas has not yet reached the status of a high art. Compared to the East or West Coasts’, Texas restaurants are a pedestrian bunch, afflicted by gimmicks and uninspired cuisine. For many Texans a meal of grilled steak, salad, and baked potato-with-everything is still the first thought that comes to mind when the suggestion is made to “go out for dinner.” (On the other hand, anyone who has tried to find a decent meal in Arkansas or Oklahoma knows that urban Texans are better off than they realize.)
The European tradition of dining as an aesthetic experience got lost with a lot else on the frontier; it is only now beginning to reappear. Perhaps the key to the problem can be found in the very words, “go out for dinner.” Texas dining is still dominated by the school of thought which holds that restaurants exist primarily to give Mom a night off from the kitchen.
There are, however, an increasing number of Texas restaurants which do not cater to these base motives. Never mind that these first-class places, many of them, are often marred by their willingness to treat dining as a form of conspicuous consumption, thereby mistaking show for