By Kaitlin Steinberg
By Minh T Truong
By Molly Dunn
By Brooke Viggiano
By Kaitlin Steinberg
By Molly Dunn
By Molly Dunn
By Eating Our Words
A good choice for either lunch or dinner, Skewers smartly caters to both crowds independently. At lunch, you'll get a quick and filling meal with quality food — baked chicken or gyros are both great choices — for a low price. And at night, with full service and live entertainment (on the weekends), it's a lovely spot for a post-work drink (you must try the Lebanese wine) or a dinner date over silky hummus and fragrant kafta kebabs. As a bonus, the Edwards Greenway Plaza movie theater is right around the corner.
Oishii is a fun and funky sushi diner. Most regular sushi is a dollar apiece, with rolls starting around $5. During its famous happy hours on weekdays from 3 to 7 p.m. and on Saturdays from 3 to 6 p.m., domestic beer is $1.25, imported is $1.75, hot sake is $3 and all of the $4 appetizers are buy one, get one free. There is free Wi-Fi, and much of the scruffy, multicultural crowd is usually taking advantage of it.
8. Pepper Tree
Pepper Tree is best known for its buffet, which features vegetarian Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and Western cuisines. Typical dishes made with meat are reimagined as vegetarian here: Tofu versions of Peking duck, General Tso's chicken and kung pao chicken all come out tasting delicious. The modern, calming decor, spotless interior and friendly, knowledgeable staff make this the place for the novice or the experienced vegan.
7. Nielsen's Delicatessen
Unstinting applications of a good, snowy mayonnaise make this Danish hole-in-the-wall's old-fashioned chicken and potato salads among the very best in town. Other treats: corned beef and Swiss on rye with a pale, homemade liver pâté and devastating Danish butter cookies by the sack. Take your food to go, unless you enjoy dining in closetlike quarters.
Hot and trendy Korean fusion food isn't just found in food trucks; Kobecue offers a brick-and-mortar location on Richmond at Weslayan for you to get your kimchi fix. Pork and short rib tacos are among the most popular items, served with cilantro, onion and lime just like you'd find at a taco truck. But the real star here is a paper boat of kimchi-covered cheese fries. Drizzle some sweet, vinegary bibimbap sauce on top for a unique combination of flavors.
5. Ragin Cajun
If, for some reason, you can't find Ragin Cajun (it hasn't moved in over three decades...), just look for the huge red crawfish covered in Christmas lights next to the railroad tracks. Inside, you'll find picnic-style seating and walls adorned with Mardi Gras, LSU and various other Louisiana paraphernalia. If the counter service in the main dining area isn't your preference, there is a smaller table-service area to the right as you enter towards the back of the restaurant. Happy hour happens every weekday starting at 3 p.m. and runs until 7 p.m., except on Mondays, when it lasts until closing. I've been ordering the boudin links and red beans and rice since I was a kid, and my love for both has never waned.
4. Thai Cottage
Thai Cottage offers a thoughtfully heat-indexed menu (and trust me — trust them when they try to warn you "five pepper too spicy!"). Standouts include the crispy crab meat and cream cheese rolls with a spicy-sweet raisin sauce, and the velvety tom kha soup: chicken chunks and enoki mushrooms swimming in coconut milk spiked with lime juice and lemongrass. Diners choose their own degree of heat for red or green Thai curries; on the one- to five-pepper scale, three will gently prickle your scalp.
3. LA Bar
The elegant older sister to Ragin Cajun (the ultra-relaxed Cajun hot spot next door that's been owned by the Mandola family since 1974), LA Bar features many of Ragin Cajun's best menu items in a much nicer setting. Dark wood tones, chandeliers and a chic full-service bar highlight the grown-up space, while entrées such as a bone-in Cajun rib eye and barbecued blue crabs serve as a reminder that this is still a solidly Louisiana spot.
Oporto Cafe offers unusual wines and great snacks from chef Shiva Patel — who owns both it and The Queen Vic Pub along with partner Richard Di Virgilio — in a hip, relaxed, cozy atmosphere, making this a great happy hour or date-night destination. The wine list features several selections from Italy and Portugal, and there are tapas-size portions of interesting dishes such as linguiça (a Portuguese sausage), empanadas, meatballs in a saffron-tomato sauce and a bacalhau (salt cod) croquette. Lunch includes excellent pizzas and panini sandwiches (try the Italiano, with lots of meats, provolone and arugula).
For the quintessential dining experience with service (and prices) to match, there's only one place to go in Houston — and Tony Vallone's namesake restaurant is it. The decor is elegant yet subdued, and the wine list under wine director Scott Banks is unparalleled, with many sold by the glass. Every day brings a new list of specials influenced by whatever is freshest and in season. The regular menu under chef de cuisine Grant Gordon at this Greenway Plaza mainstay is a food lover's delight, with dishes like Petrossian Imperial Ossetra caviar as an appetizer or main courses such as handmade ravioli stuffed with soppressata and a 55-day dry-aged Prime New York strip. And you simply haven't lived until you've had one of Tony's soufflés for dessert, which can be made in any flavor imaginable.