My passion is writing, but not far behind it are fine foods and fine dining, and bringing them together to write restaurant reviews has been an amazing thing for me. I’ve written many reviews in my time, but there has not been a single restaurant review I have been as excited about as this for Cullen’s.
I first went to Cullen’s on my birthday, as a surprise for a quiet dinner for two. I had not been told where we were going before we arrived, so I was pleasantly surprised when we pulled up to the restaurant and my eyes were met with a vision of a building that was simply stunning. There was a circle drive around a beautiful waterfall, a impressive covered entryway, gorgeous landscaping, perfectly lit rock facing. The building is huge, and when you walk inside, you’ll understand why.
We have since been to Cullen’s for three different special buffets for Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, as well as for dinner on other evenings.
Reservations: recommended, but not required for most night. Required for the special event buffets.
The Décor and Interior
Upon entering, you are greeted by a host or hostess, who stands behind a granite and wood counter where they check reservations on computers. You will usually be seated nearly immediately. The remainder of this review will discuss the main dining room, but it would be remiss not to mention the Cullen’s Live bar and The Grille at Cullen’s.
The bar is nice for the drinking, dancing and partying crowd, with excellent drink specials and fantastic bar snacks. The Grille at Cullen’s is nice when you want good food, but don’t want to dress up or pay as much as for the main dining room. The Grille at Cullen’s would make a fantastic lunch meeting location, but then so would the dining room.
The main dining room is in woods and brown tones, is dim but well-lit at the same time, and is quite lovely. Ask for a booth seating if you want more privacy, table seating if you want to see the digital artwork change on the walls around the dining room.
The dress is anything from nice casual to black-tie, and diners will likely feel comfortable in whatever attire is chosen. That’s one thing about Cullen’s: it’s nice without being pretentious.
The Wait Staff and Service
Service is one area where Cullen’s shines. We’ve visited Cullen’s several times now, and even the worst service we’ve received there is better than the best service we’ve received at many other restaurants. On a normal evening, weekend or weekday, you will never be without fresh drinks, clean utensils, or anything else you need, and yet, the wait staff is not obtrusive or hovering. They have waiting on their guests down to an art form, and we have always been made to feel special and valued when dining at Cullen’s.
Cullen’s Cuisine and Menu
Cullen’s Upscale American Grille has a modest but varied menu. If you’re accustomed to family dining restaurants, you’ll feel Cullen’s selections are slim, but when compared with the many fine dining establishments I have reviewed, Cullen’s menu is one of the most diverse, with the largest selection of dishes.
You won’t go wrong with the prime rib or the steak, or even the chicken fried rib eye, if that’s your tastes, but I highly recommend trying some of Cullen’s less ‘traditional’ cuisines, because they are worth the venture. There is not an appetizer or a salad on their menu that is not divine. For a salad, the chop chop is a taste sensation, mixing bitters and sweets together perfectly. I personally recommend any appetizer of theirs with the tuna tartare. Heavenly.
Like many upscale restaurants, Cullen’s menu offers will change with the seasons, to ensure the freshest-and in Cullen’s case, most of the time local-produce and seafood offers are made. Cullen’s Chef hand picks the produce and Cullen’s buys as much as they can from local farmers, so the foods are the ripest and freshest when served, and it helps give back to the local community.
Because their menu does change, click here to see their current menu offerings before dining. http://www.cullenshouston.com/cuisine
The freshness, the taste, the quality, and the presentation and pairings are all exceptional.
Cullen’s Dessert and Drinks
The dessert menu has a modest selection, and though quite good, is not Cullen’s strongest point. During the special event buffets, though, the pastry chef at Cullen’s simply shines, with some of the most interesting, unique and tasty treats. Also, ask about Cullen’s chocolates, if they are still making them, because they are not only heavenly tasting, but each chocolate is a true work of art and they are priced quite attainably.
As for drinks, apéritifs with appetizers, wine pairings with dinner, liqueurs or dessert drinks with dessert, and tastings for after dinner drinks are all available from Cullen’s full bar. If you’re not sure about wine, ask your waiter for suggestions or speak with the sommelier for recommendations. Don’t forget a cappuccino, served with fresh biscotti, to go with your dessert.
Cullen’s Price Vs. Value
When compared to family restaurants, Cullen’s will be pricey, but when compared to other fine-dining establishments, we’ve found Cullen’s comparably priced on most things and less expensive on several things than other upscale restaurants in the Houston area. For the type of dining Cullen’s is-which is true upscale, classy fine dining-the price is quite reasonable. However, if you are not used to fine dining, be prepared for the expense.
If money is an issue, consider looking at Cullen’s Monday night specials and dining on Monday evenings. Cullen’s frequently has lobster and steak specials for as little at $19-39.00 per person, for appetizer, entree and dessert all inclusive. Their portions are one of the ways Cullen’s shines. There is a trend in fine dining to provide miniscule portions for large price tags. Cullen’s provides the same flair in presentation, but their portions are larger for less or the same cost as other establishments. We were quite pleased with the portion size.
Special Events and Miscellanea
Cullen’s has in the past offered all-you-can-eat fine dining buffets on special occasions, like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Easter. The manager of Cullen’s has informed us they plan to do more of these in the future, and we certainly hope they do, because their buffets-and we went to all three of them-were simply amazing, not to mention nearly unheard of in fine dining. The buffets are an excellent way for those not accustomed to fine dining to dip a toe in the water and give the restaurant a try at a cost that is reasonable, especially considering the quality of the food. As I said before, the dessert buffet created by the pastry chef at Cullen’s is worth going to buffet events all by themselves.
Cullen’s also offers special events like movie nights, corporate training rooms with catering, conference room rentals, and you absolutely must check out the website and read about the Macy’s table, which is where I currently plan to host my book launching party when my first novel launches.
The final analysis: Cullen’s is quite simply my favorite place to dine. While it’s too pricey to eat there every night, I try to go as often as I can drag someone else with me. And it’s not hard to get people to agree.
If you’re looking for a special place for a birthday dinner, an anniversary romantic dinner for two, a wedding reception or even wedding ceremony, Cullen’s-from romantic dining to large groups-is a place that will make any event memorable.
If you decide to go, ask for Mike, the manager at Cullen’s, and tell him Michy sent you.
Cullen’s Upscale American Grille
11500 Space Center Blvd.
Houston, Texas 77059