A steakhouse doesn’t have to be stodgy. The scene is certainly more swank at Strip House (1200 McKinney St., 713/659-6000, www.theglaziergroup.com , $10–39). The name references the venue’s red meat and red décor, a nod to the burlesque theme, but the food is the restaurant’s main hook, with sumptuous steaks taking center stage. Featured cuts include the double-cut strip, filet mignon, and porterhouse. The meat is perfectly prepared and the sides (they cost extra, but are well worth it) are ideal accompaniments, including the popular goose-fat potatoes, truffled cream spinach, and roasted wild mushrooms.
Another well-heeled yet non-traditionally bedecked downtown steak house is Vic & Anthony’s (1510 Texas St., 713/228-1111, www.vicandanthonys.com , $12–39). Chic, minimalist, and tightly packed, Vic & Anthony’s wisely sticks with the basics—a simple menu offers high-quality cuts of meat and a few seafood and chicken options. The salads and appetizers here are outstanding (the pear salad and oysters, in particular) and the wine selection is impressive, if a bit pricey. The steaks are enormous, and the bone-in rib eye is considered among the best in town.
Houston  is one of the few places in the country that serves authentic Cajun cuisine. The Bayou City has direct access to the seafood, sauces, spices, and swamps—the style’s integral ingredients. An informal option is the popular downtown lunch chain Treebeard’s (several locations, including 315 Travis St., 713/228-2622, www.treebeards.com , 11 a.m.–2 p.m. weekdays, $5–12). All the Creole classics are here—shrimp étoufée, jambalaya, gumbo, and a hearty dose of red beans and rice. Be sure to order a side of jalapeno cornbread. The only drawback: Treebeard’s isn’t open on weekends or for dinner.