Rio Ranch Restaurant: Texas Hill Country Ambiance in Houston

Updated on April 9, 2020
Peggy W profile image

I live in Houston, and I have worked as a nurse. My interests include art, traveling, reading, gardening, cooking, and our wonderful pets.

Exterior of Rio Ranch Restaurant in Houston
Exterior of Rio Ranch Restaurant in Houston | Source

Delicious Food in a Charming, Rustic Atmosphere

The Texas Hill Country is alluring for many reasons, and the Rio Ranch Restaurant captures some of those qualities. There are rolling hills, creeks, and lakes that offer much in the way of beauty as well as recreation. Each city or town has its unique qualities drawing people from far and wide.

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Rio Ranch exteriorExterior with mural Exterior of the restaurant
Rio Ranch exterior
Rio Ranch exterior | Source
Exterior with mural
Exterior with mural | Source
 Exterior of the restaurant
Exterior of the restaurant | Source

Texas Hill Country Decor

One does not have to travel to Wimberley, New Braunfels, Fredericksburg, Canyon Lake, or the many other Hill Country locations to be able to appreciate a small sense of what one might find by way of building materials, decor, and atmosphere. It is right here in Houston at the Rio Ranch Restaurant, founded in 1993, and located in the Westchase Hilton Hotel.

There is a beautifully landscaped water feature outside of the restaurant that they call the Rio Ranch Creek.

Lots of cedar trees grow in the Hill Country. Notice the knarled cedar posts utilized as supports outside of this restaurant. I have the cutest photo of my mother hugging one of them when we took a visiting relative from Wisconsin to the Rio Ranch Restaurant many years ago. We wished for Aunt Arry to experience the ambiance and good food in this particular restaurant. She loved it!

Entryway looking towards the bar
Entryway looking towards the bar | Source

Interior Decor

The warm and inviting atmosphere inside the entryway includes comfortable rocking chairs, warm earth-toned walls, and lots of Texana-inspired accent pieces.

Limestone that comes from the Hill Country is used both inside and outside of this establishment. The limestone fireplace is a whopping 30 feet tall! The bar in the “saloon” consists of a long solid piece of mesquite wood, which is another type of tree common to the Hill Country as well as other areas of Texas.

As you can see from my photos, the decor is Western-inspired with a Hill Country twist. From horseshoes to horse saddles, punched tin light fixtures to leather-type table coverings, there is much to admire.

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Looking into the main dining room from the entryway Bar areaCondiments on tablesCentral dining room artMain dining room artRio Ranch main dining room
Looking into the main dining room from the entryway
Looking into the main dining room from the entryway | Source
 Bar area
Bar area | Source
Condiments on tables
Condiments on tables | Source
Central dining room art
Central dining room art | Source
Main dining room art
Main dining room art | Source
Rio Ranch main dining room
Rio Ranch main dining room | Source

Eye-Catching Chandelier

One of the most eye-catching features is a large chandelier in the main dining room. At first glance, it appears that it consists of a bunch of antlers. With further inspection suddenly other items are also part of its design. Those items include garden rakes, scythes, plows, and more.

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Unique chandelier inside Rio Ranch main dining room Restaurant main dining room
Unique chandelier inside Rio Ranch main dining room
Unique chandelier inside Rio Ranch main dining room | Source
 Restaurant main dining room
Restaurant main dining room | Source

Delicious Food

You are probably curious about the food if you are reading about this restaurant for the first time. Let me assure you; it is delicious! The first thing presented to the table is a basket of delicious cornbread and biscuits—housemade, of course.

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Basket of cornbread and biscuits Fried calamari, crispy and delicious with a sweet and spicy dipping sauceSmoked chili wings tossed in a black sauce and served with a creamy blue cheese dressing. Spicy and good!
Basket of cornbread and biscuits
Basket of cornbread and biscuits | Source
Fried calamari, crispy and delicious with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce
Fried calamari, crispy and delicious with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce | Source
Smoked chili wings tossed in a black sauce and served with a creamy blue cheese dressing. Spicy and good!
Smoked chili wings tossed in a black sauce and served with a creamy blue cheese dressing. Spicy and good! | Source

Chef Hemwattakit

In consulting the Rio Ranch website, I learned that Chef Hemwattakit was one of the restaurant chefs who cooked for President George H.W. Bush and other attendees of the 1990 Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations held here in Houston.

Chef David Wang of Shanghai River Restaurant was also another participant. That alone speaks volumes!

Chicken tortilla soup
Chicken tortilla soup | Source

Weekly Lunch Specials

One of the best deals on the menu is the Monday to Friday "Meat and 3 Sides Lunch Special," currently priced at $13. My husband and I recently ate there on a Friday when the blackened tilapia was the “meat” of the day.

  • Monday: Buttermilk fried chicken breast
  • Tuesday: Beef and sausage brochette
  • Wednesday: Pork chop
  • Thursday: Mesquite savory chicken

One has a choice of these sides for the lunch special:

  • Cup of chicken tortilla Soup (or soup of the day)
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Creamed corn
  • Mac and cheese
  • Green beans
  • Side salad

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Blackened tilapia on the plate with two of three sides A fork full of delicious blackened tilapiaCheesy mac and cheese
Blackened tilapia on the plate with two of three sides
Blackened tilapia on the plate with two of three sides | Source
A fork full of delicious blackened tilapia
A fork full of delicious blackened tilapia | Source
Cheesy mac and cheese
Cheesy mac and cheese | Source

Our Lunch Choices

As you can see from my photos above, we indulged a bit and ordered the mac and cheese as one of our sides. It indeed was loaded with cheese! The green beans still had a bit of crunch, which was perfect, and the tilapia was tender and oh so delicious! We started with a cup of their tasty tortilla soup. It was a considerable amount of food, and we did not need much more to eat later in the day.

There are many more menu items as well as a couple of private dining rooms at the restaurant. The waitstaff is friendly and attentive.

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Wine RoomLone Star Room
Wine Room
Wine Room | Source
Lone Star Room
Lone Star Room | Source

Location

The Rio Ranch Restaurant is a part of the Westchase Hilton Hotel located at 9999 Westheimer, Houston, Texas 77042. You may enter the restaurant from the free parking out front or via the hotel. The food, ambiance, and service make this a restaurant well worth patronizing. I know that we will be back!

Questions & Answers

    © 2020 Peggy Woods

    Comments

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      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        8 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Ruby,

        Sorry if reading this made you hungry. Ha! I am also getting hungry for dinner now. Enjoy the balance of your evening.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        2 months ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Liz,

        I agree with you. I have never seen such a distinctive restaurant as a part of a hotel previous to this one.

      • always exploring profile image

        Ruby Jean Richert 

        2 months ago from Southern Illinois

        You have done it again. I'm hungry from looking at the food. I know it must be delicious. The entryway is beautiful and the chandelier is very unusual. I would certainly eat there.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        2 months ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Bill,

        The ambiance of the place alone makes this Rio Ranch restaurant special.

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        2 months ago from UK

        It's the most distinctive hotel restaurant I have come across.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        2 months ago from Olympia, WA

        Cool place! We don't do restaurants, but cool place nonetheless.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        2 months ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Liz,

        You are correct. This is a part of the Hilton chain. Rio Ranch is a very distinctive restaurant, don't you think? It is not your typical hotel restaurant by way of decor.

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        2 months ago from UK

        This looks like an interesting dining experience. Am I right in thinking that the hotel is part of the global Hilton chain?

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