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Uncommonly Keen

The 10 best restaurants in the Upper Kirby district.

2710 Montrose

Today: BB's Cajun Cafe

Previously: Alfredo's European Grill, others

Breakfast thali at Pondicheri.
Gary R. Wise
Breakfast thali at Pondicheri.
An oyster-filled po-boy at BB's Cafe.
Katharine Shilcutt
An oyster-filled po-boy at BB's Cafe.

I spent a long time looking for what used to be housed in the small space behind the Valero at the corner of Westheimer and Montrose. I know this parking lot well; when I was a teenager, our moms would drop us here to hang out at places like Numbers as a compromise and promise that we wouldn't go up to that "horrible area" off Washington Avenue that housed places like The Vatican and Mary Jane's. I can't for the life of me remember anything that preceded Alfredo's in that spot, though people assure me it's been many different things. I guess that shows you the problem. BB's has bucked the trend, however, with soulful Cajun food and late-night hours.

3600 Kirby

Today: Kata Robata

Previously: Hue Restaurant, others

Anyone who follows food in Houston probably scoffs at the idea of Kata Robata ever being included on a cursed-locations list. Three short years ago, however, someone probably still remembered the names of its predecessors at the corner of Kirby and Richmond. Needless to say, the curse has been lifted. (Too soon to see if it's been dumped on Maggie Rita's across the street, though.)

706 Main

Today: The Burger Guys

Previously: Korma Sutra, Laidback Manor, Yatra Brasserie

If anyone has a shot in the midst of downtown's ongoing construction woes, it's the nearly universally adored Burger Guys. Their far-flung Westchase location attracted steady crowds, so it stands to reason the downtown location will draw strong crowds during lunchtime. How they will fare in the evenings may be another story, but with a handful of restaurants and bars planned downtown in the next 18 months, evenings downtown are bound to get a lot more vibrant.
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Top 10

MIDNIGHT MEALS
The top 10 late-night dining spots in Houston.
By Katharine Shilcutt

Regardless of when you're staying up super late (or why), Houston's increasing number of late-night dining options are affording you more choices than ever in 3 a.m. pancakes or midnight po-boys. It wasn't so long ago that you had to pick from a short roster of places — most of them with the word "House" in their name somewhere — to satisfy late-night/early-morning cravings, but that's not the case anymore.

Of course, spots like Waffle House, House of Pies, the International House of Pancakes (see what I mean?) and Whataburger are still as great as ever when you really need to have a short stack and grits at 2 a.m. — but if diner food isn't calling your name late at night, here are our ten (okay, more like 16) picks for the best spots to satisfy that witching-hour craving.

10. Mai's / Majorca (tie)

Open until: 4 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 a.m. the rest of the week (Mai's)

Open until: 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, midnight the rest of the week (Majorca)

This Midtown classic was many Houstonians' first encounter with Vietnamese food. And 34 years after opening, it's still the most reliable spot in the area to get a midnight meal of pho and spring rolls (or to watch the girls spilling out of area clubs stumble around awkwardly on tired, be-heeled feet as their eyes readjust to the light). And on the other side of Midtown, relative newcomer Majorca is a fun change-up from diner food with its menu of tapas and other Spanish favorites (like the albóndigas with a fried egg on top that will perk up even the weariest diner).

9. Copacabana Pizzeria

Open until: 1:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 11:30 p.m. the rest of the week

It can be tough to find good late-night options this far outside the Beltway, but Brazilian-Italian joint Copacabana Pizzeria (formerly known as Friends Pizzeria before it relocated to its new home a few months ago) has everything from rum-soaked caipirinhas (now that it finally has its liquor license) to wonderfully messy X-tudo burgers. And — of course — pizzas, topped with anything from basic pepperoni to Brazilian specialties like soft, savory catupiry cheese.

8. Max's Wine Dive

Open until: 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, midnight the rest of the week

Max's would be higher on the list if only its 2 a.m. closing time extended to the rest of the week — can you imagine being able to get chef Michael Pellegrino's fried chicken or beef belly meatballs on duck fat biscuits at all hours of the night? As it is, being able to dine at Max's past midnight on the weekends is still pretty cool.

7. Shepherd Park Draught House / Cottonwood (tie)

Open until: 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, midnight the rest of the week

These two GOOF-y spots (that's Garden Oaks-Oak Forest to the uninitiated) are located practically right next door to each other off Shepherd, and both offer great food and excellent craft beer late into the evening. Although it's too new to say how Cottonwood's food will ultimately fare, I was seriously impressed with a plate of late-night jerk chicken wings one recent night. And the slightly upscale pub grub at Shepherd Park Draught House — especially the burgers — is reliably good stuff.

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