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3004 Canal, 832-266-0105

There's something magical about Moon Tower Inn, out there in the untamed wilds of the Second Ward, the little red shack situated on a third of an acre of land that contains a few scattered picnic tables, a fire pit and a horseshoe setup, among other backyard-y items. But what you won't find in your backyard are the hot dogs that Moon Tower Inn serves up nearly every night starting at 5 p.m. Wild game like pheasant and elk is mixed up with ingredients like foie gras, sauternes, apples, pears, blueberries and cognac by owner Evan Shannon, transformed into a gourmet meal on a soft pretzel bun for only $6. Add one of the microbrews they have on draft and you're in for one of the best meals you'll have in Houston, under the night sky with a beautiful view of downtown to the west.

3. Gatlin's

The Burger Guys use Akaushi beef to make their dripping, oozy cheeseburgers.
Troy Fields
The Burger Guys use Akaushi beef to make their dripping, oozy cheeseburgers.
Jamie Zelko's new venture has staying power.
Troy Fields
Jamie Zelko's new venture has staying power.

Location Info

Map

Zelko Bistro

705 E. 11th St.
Houston, TX 77008

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Heights

Arpi's Phoenicia Deli & Coffee House

12151 Westheimer Drive
Houston, TX 77077

Category: Restaurant > Coffeehouse

Region: Memorial

Americas Restaurant

2040 W. Gray St.
Houston, TX 77019

Category: Restaurant > South American

Region: River Oaks

The Barbed Rose Steakhouse and Seafood Co.

113 E. Sealy St.
Alvin, TX 77511

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Outside Houston

Samba Grille

530 Texas Ave.
Houston, TX 77002

Category: Restaurant > Brazilian

Region: Downtown/ Midtown

The Burger Guys

12225 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77077

Category: Restaurant > Burgers

Region: Memorial

Umai Japanese Restaurant

8400 Bellaire
Houston, TX 77036

Category: Restaurant > Japanese

Region: Outer Loop - SW

Moon Tower Inn

3004 Canal St.
Houston, TX 77003

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: East End

Gatlin's BBQ

1221 W. 19th St.
Houston, TX 77008

Category: Restaurant > Barbecue

Region: Heights

Bootsie's Heritage Cafe

112 Commerce St.
Tomball, TX 77375

Category: Restaurant > Gourmet

Region: Outside Houston

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1221 W. 19th St., 281-804-4555

Although plenty of people were sad to see Jazzie's Cafe shut down, little did they know what depths of deliciousness would take its place. To go to Gatlin's on the few days that it's open each week is to enter a world of barbecue brotherhood, where people have traveled for many miles to try Greg Gatlin's sausage and brisket. They never leave disappointed. The same can be said for Mary Gatlin's desserts, like the sumptuous peach cobbler. And if you thought barbecue joints couldn't do great sides if they're also doing great smoking, taste the delicious dirty rice and enjoy proving yourself wrong. Best of all? Gatlin's is in the Loop. When's the last time you had truly authentic, low-and-slow barbecue in the Loop? Exactly.

2. Bootsie's Heritage Cafe

112 Commerce St., Tomball, 281-516-9699

The accolades for Randy Rucker's little-restaurant-that-could in Tomball, Bootsie's (named for his mother), keep piling up. The most recent came from GQ, in which Alan Richman named its hay-smoked Gulf mackerel as one of the top five dishes of the year, and from Alison Cook, who placed the restaurant at the top of her list of new restaurants for 2010. And like The Barbed Rose, Bootsie's has more than succeeded despite (or perhaps because of) its far-out location in Tomball, where Rucker and his chefs are able to farm and forage for area ingredients to use in their hyper-local, hyper-seasonal, hyper-creative dishes.

1. Zelko Bistro

705 E. 11th St., 713-880-8691

It was worth the wait to taste Jamie Zelko's dishes at her first restaurant after leaving Bistro Lancaster in 2008. Zelko Bistro is the culmination of all of Zelko's talents and passions, and — much like Bootsie's — it's clear that it's a wonderful labor of love. In spite of Zelko's pedigree and the fine line she treads in offering highly popular comfort food that could easily veer off into faddish territory, there's no whiff of pretension here. Only good, honest, solid food at an affordable price in a warm and cozy environment. Wines by the glass or by the bottle are equally affordable, and Zelko even has a great craft beer selection, perfect for sipping on the quiet patio while you polish off a Boss Burger or her famous fried chicken. More important, Zelko Bistro has staying power; one can easily imagine it being in this Heights neighborhood for the next ten years, even if Zelko herself moves on to bigger and bolder things. But for now, she's pouring her heart and soul into every dish at her namesake restaurant, and the love shows in every bite.

katharine.shilcutt@houstonpress.com

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