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Houston's Top 10 Patios

4. Reef

Reef's "No-Minors" milkshake is thick, sweet and boozy. Served alongside the shake's sipping straw is a delicate, house-made chocolate cigar. This White Russian-flavored shake is by far the thickest of all on this list, the ice cream dense and gooey and creamy and plentiful. We're not quite sure what the ratio of milk to brandy and Kahlúa is, but one sip reveals that this one's for grown-up good times. Designed to be a dessert, the sophisticated concoction is all too fitting in Reef's posh setting.

3. Katz's Deli & Bar

This New York-style delicatessen and bar with two cool locales makes one amazing milkshake. The cheesecake variety contains a gargantuan slice of house-made cheesecake. And the milkshake's garnish? A little slice of cheesecake, which is infinitely better than those tired maraschino cherries. This shake has an unparalleled creaminess that's pretty much addiction-forming, and the graham-cracker crust adds a welcome texture that gives it a homemade quality. At $8.50 a pop, this beauty of a shake is best thought of as an investment in your personal happiness. Trust us, your taste buds will thank and praise you.

2. Jerry Built Burgers

The fresh fruit in the shakes here is from nearby farms, while both the half and half and the whipped cream are organic. Make it a point to try the Ginger Bull shake, not only because it's so good but because it has a cool story behind it. Jerry Built buys gingerbread cookie dough from Three Brothers Bakery that's used to make fresh cookies on a daily basis. The cookies (some of the best we've ever tried) are sold in packs of three for $2.99, with $1 from each pack's sale going to benefit a local charity. Cookies that don't sell are used the next day in the Ginger Bull shake, made with Blue Bell vanilla ice cream. From now through August 24, Jerry Built will be featuring a Blue Bell-based shake each Friday until it sells out. Flavors to look forward to include Peachy Peach (June 15), Dulce de Leche (July 6) and Dreamsicle (August 31).

1. Little Bigs

This low-key, casual spot serves sliders, fries, and inexpensive beer and wine. It also happens to be the place where you'll find two of Houston's most delectable milkshakes. The shakes at Little Bigs are small but make a big impression. The Dude, which is White Russian-flavored like the one at Reef, differs greatly from the version at its sister restaurant. It's icier (think frappuccino consistency), with the alcohol flavors toned down and a hint of coffee flavor. But the king of kings is Little Bigs' butterscotch milkshake. What makes it so special? The fact that it doesn't try too hard to be the best — it doesn't have any crazy, hard-to-find ingredients and isn't complicated to make. The simple, incredibly fine-tasting milkshake features simple ingredients, house-made butterscotch being the best of them. Not only does the divine butterscotch make the shake, it's what holds it together. The shake remains intact even when you're sitting on the patio for an hour under 90-degree heat. Simply put, Little Bigs' butterscotch milkshake is fluffy, creamy joy, second to none.
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First Look at Sweet Paris Crêperie

BY KATHARINE SHILCUTT

Although it's generally agreed that Melange Creperie serves the best crepes in Houston, there is one distinct disadvantage to the crepe cart: the weather. When it's raining or blazing hot (as it's about to get very shortly), head crepe-maker Buffalo Sean and his gang will often close up shop — as well they should. After all, no one wants the Melange gang to die of heatstroke or suffer electrocution just for the sake of a crepe. (Please note: Melange only closes in the last two weeks of August, so don't let the heat keep you away; they're still at it every day.)

Enter the new Sweet Paris Crêperie in Rice Village. It's air-conditioned, open for lunch and dinner (no breakfast crepes here as of yet), and offers an assortment of crepes that — while not Melange-level excellent — are extremely good. And although it doesn't offer the charm of a Left Bank street creperie, it has its own striking French allure.

The restaurant is trimmed out in clean, crisp shades of white, robin's egg blue and pale Nordic wood. The ceilings are tall and the dining room airy and bright, while the small front patio is cozy and welcoming to dogs. In essence, it's an inviting place in which to relax between shopping trips along Rice Boulevard or to catch up over a light lunch. In fact, I can foresee the place shortly becoming inundated with ladies who lunch — albeit a more low-key version of that crowd since the restaurant itself is decidedly low-key as well, fashioned in a sense after a La Madeleine — but before that happens, you should head over to try its offerings.

My favorites from a recent lunch included a turkey and Brie filled with fat green grapes and knotty walnuts and a dessert crepe filled with a simple duo of sweet cream cheese and Bonne Maman strawberry jam. But although I stuck with the lighter offerings on that initial visit, I'm intrigued now to go back and try heavier crepes like the chicken carbonara with bacon or the Italian sausage and peppers — crepes you can make a serious meal out of.

On second thought, maybe Sweet Paris Crêperie — for all its feminine wiles — won't be a ladies-who-lunch-type place after all. I know more than a few men who'd make quick and happy work of those crepes, especially with a graham cracker-and-Nutella-laden s'mores crepe for dessert.

El Pueblito

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