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
No. 75: Pupusas at El Petate 7433 Canal, 713-921-2176
The simple queso pupusas at El Petate are filled with salty Salvadoran cheese that only barely melts despite the pupusas' turn across a screaming-hot griddle. The cheese is an ideal offset to the toothsome chew of the soft masa, all of it brought together with a few spoonfuls from the giant glass jar of crispy curtido slaw that's delivered to your table.
No. 74: Pheasant dog at Sammy's Wild Game Grill 3715 Washington, 713-868-1345
A pheasant dog at Sammy's is encased in a Slow Dough pretzel bun and topped with a choice of offerings such as sauerkraut, jalapeños or Sammy's signature house-made ghost pepper sauce on top.
No. 73: X-Tudo burger at Copacabana 2825 S. Kirkwood, 281-496-9922
A Brazilian X-Tudo burger at Copacabana means that you're getting a cheeseburger "Tudo" — with almost everything: bacon, ham, peas, corn, potato sticks, tomatoes, lettuce, mayonnaise and even a fried egg. A surprisingly pleasant crunch is provided by the peas, corn and potato sticks.
No. 72: Espárragos gratinados at Tintos Closed
No. 71: Gua bao at Yummy Kitchen 9326 Bellaire, 713-541-4420
At Yummy Kitchen, the pork-belly-filled gua bao are also referred to as Taiwanese burgers. This finger food comes with a hulking piece of thick pork belly tucked inside a soft bun (or bao), pickled mustard greens and a dusting of crushed peanuts with brown sugar that makes the pork taste almost like pig candy save for a bright bite of cilantro at the end.
No. 70: Geisha dog at Happy Endings
The Geisha dog at this roving food truck comes with spicy mayo and Katsu sauce. Both, however, play second fiddle to the fat, broad ribbons of bonito flakes on top, which melt on the tongue with each bite, reducing into a salty pool of umami flavors that bring out the beefy swagger of the hot dog.
No. 69: Oyster po-boy and gumbo at Goode Co. Seafood 2621 Westpark, 713-523-7154
The half po-boy with a cup of gumbo presents two classics side by side. The gumbo is creamy and light and packed with seafood (no meat — the Creole way). The po-boy comes with a choice of catfish, shrimp or oyster — the catfish and shrimp can be fried or mesquite-grilled — but I prefer the three plump, cornmeal-battered oysters.
No. 68: Ceviche at Sirena Seafood
The cool seafood cocktail at the Sirena Seafood truck is quick and easy to grab for lunch. During a recent visit, the ceviche was made with plump nuggets of fresh Gulf grouper in a tart lime juice with plenty of crisp veggies and herbs: tomatoes, red onions, jalapeños, cucumbers and cilantro.
No. 67: Caldo de mariscos at Taqueria Arandas 920 N. Shepherd, 713-426-0804
The inventory in Taqueria Arandas's massive bowl of seafood soup includes a whole crab, mussels (two kinds), shrimp, octopus, squid, catfish and fake krab-with-a-K, along with huge rounds of carrots and potatoes.
No. 66: Banana pudding at Pizzitola's 1703 Shepherd, 713-227-2283
A successful banana pudding has to have four main components: thick, almost custardlike vanilla pudding; fat slices of bananas; real whipped cream; and crunchy Nilla wafers. Pizzitola's gets them all right, even down to the Nilla wafers that seem to be inserted just prior to serving.
No. 65: Fried catfish and gumbo at Cafe-A-La 1917 Ashland, 713-861-6161
In the basement of the Select Specialty Hospital — Houston Heights at the corner of 19th Street and Ashland lies one of the neighborhood's greatest hidden treasures: the Cafe-A-La cafeteria, where Chef James whips up homemade Cajun and Southern specialties such as fried shrimp, stewed mustard greens, gumbo, ribs and boudin.
No. 64: Soft-shell crab at Banana Leaf 9896 Bellaire, 713-271-2338
The Pattaya-style soft-shell crabs are battered and fried until puffy, then garnished with mango, bell peppers, onions and cilantro in a barely sweet sauce tempered with red pepper.
No. 63: Macaroni and cheese at Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse 1510 Texas, 713-228-1111
The reason I love the macaroni and cheese at Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse so much is simple: It's simple. The béchamel sauce has only three cheeses in it: American, white Cheddar and a pinch of Romano for saltiness. The plump cavatappi pasta is blanched to order and topped with a sprinkle of crumbled croutons for texture, the pasta underneath never baked or tough.
No. 62: Torta burger at El Gran Malo 2307 Ella, 832-767-3405
Both burger and torta in one, this sandwich is topped (if you wish) with fried eggs and crispy pork belly or salty, fatty chorizo balanced between the craggy Angus beef patty and the soft telera bread. Hefty amounts of crema and poblano peppers finish off each massive burger, but can you?
No. 61: Black bean burger at Gratifi Kitchen + Bar 302 Fairview, 832-203-5950
On top of the black bean patty that's made in-house just like Gratifi's veggie patty, I like to throw on pepper jack cheese, jalapeños and green chiles along with the standard accompaniments of lettuce, tomato and onion. The eggy bun is thick and sturdy, holding the entire mess together until the last bite.
No. 60: Parrillada at Pampa Grill 10111 Hammerly, 713-722-0666
You can choose from two different parrilladas at Pampa Grill: one that omits the traditional offal like chinchulines (intestines) and mollejas (sweetbreads) and one that includes both. Whichever parrillada you choose will be heaped high with short ribs, flank steak, skirt steak and more, all cooked to order.