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The Dan Marino Restaurants

The 13 restaurants that nearly made our 30 essential Texas restaurants list.

6. Wendy's Apple Pecan Chicken Salad

Calories: 710

Fat: 38 grams

Brennan's is notable for serving Creole classics in a refined, dignified setting.
Troy Fields
Brennan's is notable for serving Creole classics in a refined, dignified setting.
Our winning salad at McDonald's. (Wouldn't you rather see this picture than the fluffed-up one on McDonald's Web site?)
Photo by Morton Fox
Our winning salad at McDonald's. (Wouldn't you rather see this picture than the fluffed-up one on McDonald's Web site?)

Wendy's really outdoes itself here, with a salad that already features 570 calories and 27 grams of fat before the dressing is added. An Italian vinaigrette, at that. With 36 grams of sugar, it's also the sweetest of the salads — not something you're generally looking for in a healthy meal. It's the one salad on the list that breaks the 100 mark with its cholesterol count: 115 milligrams. But believe it or not, this woeful salad (which doesn't even taste that great) isn't the worst on the list.

7. Burger King Chicken, Apple & Cranberry Garden Fresh Salad with Grilled Chicken

Calories: 850

Fat: 48 grams

Well, that got out of hand quickly. We sped right past the 600- and 700-calorie ranges right into the nearly-900-calories-in-a-salad range, which is a pretty sad place to find ourselves. Despite buzzwordy ingredients that make this salad sound healthy, BK's fruit-filled salad is a mess. Even before dressing, it's got 560 calories and 30 grams of fat — the highest fat content of any undressed salad on the list — and is pushing 1,000 grams of sodium. The sugar is out of control, too: 37 grams. By comparison, a Whopper is healthier for you than this salad. It only has 650 calories, 35 grams of fat and three grams of sugar. A Whopper. Jesus.

Top 10

Brasseries and Bistros
The top 10 restaurants in River Oaks.

KATHARINE SHILCUTT

The last time we tackled the Top 10 restaurants in River Oaks, Tony Mandola's was still open in what is now Brasserie 19's spot in the River Oaks Shopping Center. Needless to say, things have changed a bit in three years. And in spite of its ritzy exterior, River Oaks still has plenty of inexpensive holes-in-the-wall and divey spots to go along with the big-name restaurants that make bank with their society patrons.

Note: For the purposes of this post, River Oaks is defined as south of Buffalo Bayou, west of Dunlavy, east of Suffolk and north of Westheimer.

Honorable Mention: Weslayan Cafe, Tiny Boxwood's

Although these spots fall outside the boundaries of River Oaks, they're still thought of as area classics. Get the pan-fried dumplings at Weslayan Cafe, and coffee with cookies at Tiny Boxwood's (if you can endure the long line).

10. Avalon Diner

Avalon Diner has been serving up some of the best greasy-spoon food in the city since 1938. The place is usually filled with regulars, and the waitstaff has been there for ages. There's something for every diner craving, from Blue Plate Special comfort food to arterially challenging breakfast staples. The lure of breakfast food all day long is reason enough to stop by and check it out at least once, and the milkshakes — some of the best in the city — long ago cemented Avalon Diner as a true Houston classic.

9. Crescent City Beignets

Except for the updated accents, this no-fuss coffeehouse in a mid-century strip center looks like a New Orleans original, with exposed brick walls, black-and-white photography and zydeco music in the background. The specialty here is, of course, beignets, which are as hot and fluffy as you remember them at Café du Monde. (Just remember not to inhale or exhale while taking a bite, unless you're looking for the perfect powdered-sugar storm.) The house beverage, café au lait, is a vacation in a cup, but we recommend another treat: granitas, akin to frozen coffee smoothies. Crescent City also serves Cajun/Creole entrées, but it's the beignets that always draw me in — especially late in the evening, after dinner has already settled. It's a good thing Crescent City stays open until 10 p.m.

8. Red Lion Pub

Don't let the red pleather-upholstered booths and faux Tudor timbers fool you. This isn't just another fake British pub. This is an authentically fake British pub, right down to the iconic red telephone box inside. Founder and owner Craig Mallinson is the son of British folk singer Sarah Mallinson, and he bakes the Cornish pasties himself. He even has the "Fruity" variety of HP sauce to slather on your sausage rolls. But it's not all Sunday roasts here; true to England's food culture (which incorporates Indian food much in the same way we do Tex-Mex), you'll find excellent curries on the menu, too. In cold months, enjoy the warmth of the cozy interior fireplace. But in warmer months, the tree-shaded patio is the place to be.

7. Ouisie's Table

Leave it to Elouise Adams Jones to bring out the trendy and elegant best in old, homey favorites. Ouisie's Table's cream of mushroom soup, for example, in its thin, milky broth, is loaded with tons of mushrooms that fairly pop with freshness; fried oysters, for another, are so tender and juicy that they seem lighter than air. The chicken-fried steak — once deemed the best in the state, and the winner of multiple Best of Houston® awards across many years — used to be available only on Tuesdays, but proved so popular that Ouisie's was fairly forced to put it on the regular menu, complete with all the fixings: mashed potatoes with black pepper milk gravy, black-eyed peas, mustard greens and Lucy's corn pudding.

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