We Love Food

Our 100 favorite dishes in Houston.

What's not to eat in Houston? The answer is very little. In keeping with the city's modern image as a 21st-century melting pot, almost every conceivable cuisine can be found in our sprawling metropolis — and you'll need to be willing to explore nearly every square inch of it in order to find some of its most fascinating foods.

That's where our first annual 100 Favorite Dishes list — completed on the Eating...Our Words blog during the weeks leading up to our most recent Best of Houston® issue — comes in: From Nigerian goat pepper soup to updated Salvadoran-American breakfast hybrids, from historic Nation of Islam desserts to Vietnamese waffles made with pandan grass, this is our guide to some of the most interesting food in the city. The list comprises favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's dynamic cultural landscape and classics that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once. We've put the whole thing together into one package here. And as a companion piece, be sure to take a look at Lauren Marmaduke's suggestions for where to eat on Valentine's Day, page 18.

No. 89: Eggs El Salvador from Brasil
Katharine Shilcutt
No. 89: Eggs El Salvador from Brasil
No. 76: Bacon-avocado burger from Facundo Cafe
Allison McPhail
No. 76: Bacon-avocado burger from Facundo Cafe

Although a few of the restaurants have closed since the list was completed, there are still 94 dishes out of 100 waiting to be tried out. Start today and maybe you can try all of them before our 100 dishes for 2012 starts in May.

No. 100: Dumplings at Heights Asian Cafe

2201 Yale, 713-880-9998

The gently hand-pinched dumpling wrappers at this converted Long John Silver's are ideal: just thick enough to hold together without being chewy, giving way to a savory mixture of ground pork and spinach inside. They're brightened up with a vinegary sauce served on the side.

No. 99: Mixta Pizza at Friends Pizzeria

7952 Westheimer, 281-888-9564

The fresh vegetables — tomatoes, onions, black olives, corn and green peppers among them — are sweetly snappy, an ideal counter­balance to the plump drops of salty, extra creamy catupiry cheese that are scattered throughout on this thoroughly unique (to Houston) Brazilian-style pizza.

No. 98: Veggie tacos from Radical Eats

3903 Fulton, 713-697-8719

Fat, furiously green slices of avocado are battered in cornmeal and end up gently oozing out of their crispy skin like melting butter. They're tucked into homemade tortillas so fluffy you'd never know they're vegan, then topped with crunchy red cabbage slaw and chipotle-spiked Vegenaise.

No. 97: Bean pie from Conscious Cafe

2612 Scott, 713-658-9191

You'd never know this classic pie is made with navy beans. Its sweet taste, smooth consistency and warm undertones of nutmeg and cinnamon make it remarkably close to sweet potato pie. The gently sweet and crumbly graham cracker crust is a bonus.

No. 96: Swiss chard crepes from Giacomo's Cibo e Vino

3215 Westheimer, 713-522-1934

Sweet crepes, bitter greens and nutty, salty cheese combine in effortless harmony here, and although the dish is easily split, you won't want to share. And with Giacomo's extremely affordable prices, you don't have to.

No. 95: Eggs Mia Bella at Mia Bella Trattoria

320 Main, 713-237-0505

Of the many variations on eggs Benedict on the menu, it's the eggs Mia Bella that are best: Two perfectly poached eggs sit atop soft English muffins and a mess of spinach, mushrooms, onions and potatoes, all covered with a bright, citrus-punched Hollandaise.

No. 94: Mulligatawny soup at the Queen Vic Pub & Kitchen

2712 Richmond, 713-533-0022

This rich soup gets even heartier at the Queen Vic, where it has a base of silken coconut milk and lentils in place of the more traditional rice and chicken, all of it mixing with fresh bites of apples and turmeric in a dish that combines British and Indian influences in one sunny bowl.

No. 93: Helado de Lúcuma from Pollo Bravo

10434 Richmond, 713-278-0801

Lúcuma's sunny flesh has a highly unusual flavor — almost like naturally occurring caramel custard — that makes it a natural for desserts. Pollo Bravo's house-made lúcuma ice cream is cold and refreshing but also creamy and thickly sweet, like a lighter version of dulce de leche, all at once.

No. 92: Black bean burger from ­Natachee's Supper 'n Punch

3622 Main, 713-524-7203

A patty made from a mélange of black beans, rolled oats, red peppers, corn and cilantro comes served with several heavy slices of buttery avocado cozied between two sweet, eggy buns. It's an anomaly to find such a good veggie burger at a Southern classics restaurant, which makes it even sweeter.

No. 91: Chupacabra pizza from ERA


No. 90: Roast chicken from El Norteño Pollos ­Asados Estilo Monterrey

1381 Gessner, 713-722-0550

A whole roasted chicken at El Norteño — its skin caramelized to a crisp and its fat turned to butter — will easily feed four people, and comes with a roasted onion, roasted jalapeños, peppy salsa and plenty of corn tortillas, all for less than $15. Viva los food trucks.

No. 89: Eggs El Salvador from Brasil

2604 Dunlavy, 713-528-1993

In this modern interpretation of traditional Salvadoran food, two poached eggs sit atop a mound of dark persimmon-colored chorizo and a tender pupusa filled with beans; both the chorizo and the pupusa are made in-house, and it shows. The whole pile is covered with green and red salsas, served alongside a cup of black beans and a twist on curtido, a slaw of cabbage and carrots in a vinegar dressing.

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Thanks for the 2012 dining guide!