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Houston's Top 10 Patios

There are so many truly fabulous patios in Houston that it's difficult to limit the list to only ten. So this isn't a definitive list of the city's best patios for all time, but a list of the places where I'm enjoying dining alfresco at the moment. I hope you will, too.

10. 901 Postoffice

Cozy, cute and charming — with the added bonus of the sea breeze from Galveston's shores and some of the best food found on the island.

El Pueblito
Jeff Balke
El Pueblito
The Tasting Room Kingwood overlooks the shores of Lake Kingwood.
The Tasting Room Kingwood overlooks the shores of Lake Kingwood.

9. Las Ventanas

The lush tropical patio here makes it feel like you're taking a vacation in the Caribbean — even if you're only in west Houston. There's even a playground to keep the kids occupied.

8. Luigi's

Bocce ball and BYOB reign here, and you're encouraged to linger with a pizza and some of Luigi's equally terrific wings on this blissfully quiet end of Midtown near the Third Ward.

7. Cedar Creek

Sure, you have to endure some bad bros and equally bad service, but the rambling "creek" (it's a drainage ditch, but it's been nicely landscaped) and rolling "hills" (again, it's Houston) make it feel like you've escaped to the Hill Country for the weekend.

6. El Pueblito

This is probably the best-known patio along Richmond, and it's hard not to notice the billowing white sheets of El Pueblito's cabanas from the road. It's even harder not to pull over and ensconce yourself in one, margarita in hand, and escape from the sun for a little while.

5. Lucio's BYOB

The stunning, clean-lined patio at this Montrose BYOB looks like something out of a modern art museum, complete with giant copper sculpture and gray stones scattered across the two-level deck.

4. Baba Yega

Sprawling, eccentric and covered with old oak trees, just like the rest of Montrose, Baba Yega's patio has been the neighborhood's go-to brunch spot for decades.

3. Monarch at the Hotel ZaZa

With a view onto Hermann Park, the Mecom Fountain and the lush Museum District, dining at the Hotel ZaZa feels a little like noshing at a swank Central Park spot — especially as you traipse through the elegant lobby to get there.

2. The Tasting Room Kingwood

The newest location of The Tasting Room is on the shores of Lake Houston, with a relaxing sunset view that can't be beat, with or without a glass of wine in hand.

1. Backstreet Cafe

The original, the best: This is where Houstonians have enjoyed the perfect patio spot — tucked behind a 1930s-era home — for nearly 30 years.
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Sweat and Shrimp Heads
Behind the scenes as Eat St. films The Modular.

BY KATHARINE SHILCUTT

It didn't matter that it was high noon on a weekday afternoon in crushing heat and humidity: The line of customers at Grand Prize wrapped from the rear of the Montrose bar all the way to the city sidewalk out front. Sweaty fans were lined up on the hot concrete in support of The Modular, the popular food truck that often parks outside the bar in the evenings, and — of course — for their chance to appear on TV.

Eat St., a new show on the Cooking Channel, was in Houston last week to film a series of segments on the city's thriving food-truck scene. The production team kicked off the week of filming at Grand Prize Bar with The Modular and wrapped up with St. John's Fire at the Bo Concept furniture store. In between, the camera crew also hit Phamily Bites, The Waffle Bus, The Rice Box and Stick It.

After the crew wrapped up their final bits of filming (and in between water breaks inside the cool, dark confines of the bar), I headed out to do my own quick bit of filming for the show. The producers had invited food writers and food bloggers from across the city to film segments at each truck, and mine, fittingly, was at The Modular — a truck I've loved and supported for years.

Hearing about my fondness for eating shrimp whole, head and all, the producers handed me a paper boat filled with The Modular's kimchi grits and head-on shrimp. In between juicy bites of shrimp heads, I explained how the city's food-truck culture had been entrenched for years in the form of taco trucks and — before that — tamale vendors on Market Square downtown and how only recently had "ghetto gourmet" food like The Modular's taken off in Houston.

The producers nodded politely at my Rainman-style recitations before asking me to eat some more shrimp heads. Slowly this time, they said. Really take your time, and turn to the camera some more. There you go. Sweat trickled out of every pore as I stood in the heat of the midday sun, a collapsible reflector the color of C-3P0 focusing the heat of at least one additional sun onto my reddening face.

I ate another shrimp head. And another. Turning my mouth toward the camera, I did as I was told and made every effort to show how much I was enjoying the briny pop of sweetness beneath each crispy ­carapace. And thought vaguely that this must be how patient porn stars make their living in Arizona's burgeoning porn industry, sweating it out on white-hot concrete while trying to look as composed and excited as possible. But porn sets probably don't have food as good as the kimchi grits from The Modular.

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