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. 43: Wings and grits at the breakfast klub 3711 Travis, 713-528-8561
The breakfast klub's chicken wings are deservedly famous for being some of the most well-seasoned and well-fried wings in town. But the grits often get overlooked, which is a shame — especially considering how difficult it is to find honest, perfectly cooked grits in Houston.
No. 42: Frito pie at C&D Burger Shoppe 10606 Fuqua, 281-481-8606
This is the kind of Frito pie that has sustained generations of Little League spectators and Friday-night football fans. Corn chips piled high in a Styrofoam bowl are topped with raw white onions, meat-filled chili and nacho cheese from a pump.
Silky and rich, with only a hint of cocoa, the mole at El Gallo is the complete opposite of the overwhelming moles that spark and dazzle others with intricate blends of a thousand different roasted spices and dried chiles. This is village food, easy and comforting.
No. 40: Fried avocado taco at H-Town StrEATs
The best place in town to enjoy a fried avocado is at H-Town StrEATS, where the food truck applies a crunchy, pleasantly thick batter to huge slices of the fruit. Along with the fried avocado, a tangy cabbage slaw with a light mayonnaise dressing and a zing of Sriracha are tucked inside two corn tortillas.
No. 39: Rigatoni in Bolognese sauce at Paulie's 1834 Westheimer, 713-807-7271
Paulie's's freshly made pasta is tender but chewy, soft but firm, and bordering on addictive. The Bolognese sauce on the rigatoni holds its own, made with both beef and veal in a light, creamy tomato sauce with plenty of fresh herbs scattered on top.
Owner Raymond Peña makes his own dough for the kolaches. This sweet, yeasty, finely textured dough, combined with the orange-grease-laden chorizo, fluffy eggs and melted Cheddar cheese, makes his chorizo kolaches into a contender for the title of "Most Houstonian Breakfast."
No. 37: Hwe at Dadami 1927 N. Gessner, 832-657-0007
The centerpiece of any group meal at Dadami is undoubtedly the hwe: Korean-style sushi that's served in a giant boat featuring raw flounder, salmon, sea anemone and sea squirt, which arrives after waves of banchan and other smaller Korean dishes have already hit your table.
No. 36: Half-pound burger at benjy's 2424 Dunstan, 713-522-7602
A menacing half-pound of beef topped with salty shreds of Cheddar is served on a house-baked bun along with super-fresh produce. Like the bun, benjy's makes its own pickles in-house, and they add as much pep to the burger as the swipe of garlic aioli on the top bun does.
No. 35: Fried chicken at Haven 2502 Algerian Way, 713-581-6101
Chef Randy Evans's buttermilk-fried chicken is quickly becoming the stuff of Houston legends. It's crispy and savory without being too greasy and is served with classic sides such as creamed greens or mashed potatoes with andouille cream gravy.
No. 34: Whole fried speckled trout at Liberty Kitchen 1050 Studewood, 713-802-0533
There's nothing like the sight of a whole fried fish, seemingly caught in midswim, arching spectacularly across your plate. And there's nothing like digging around in its little crevices — in the head, under its cheeks or collar — for the sweetest bites of dewy flesh left after you've eaten both fat filets.
No. 33: Moules congolaise at Jeannine's Bistro 106 Westheimer, 713-874-0220
Moules congolaise are mussels steamed in a barely creamy broth of coconut milk, tomatoes and spices. It's a bit spicy, with licks of paprika and chipotle coming through the broth, and the fat, juicy mussels do an excellent job of soaking up the rich flavor.
No. 32: Pancakes at Fountain View Cafe 1842 Fountainvew, 713-785-9060
The pancakes here are impossibly thin, straddling the line between pancake and crepe, with lacy, delicate edges and a rich, buttery taste that's consistently delicious week after week and year after year.
No. 31: Pineapple with chile en polvo at Canino's 2520 Airline, 713-862-4027
Dark gold, richly flavored pineapple sprinkled with chile en polvo works much like salting watermelon brings out its flavor. The subtly spicy combination of chile powder, cumin, oregano and garlic enhances the juicy sweetness of everything from pineapple to corn on the cob.
No. 30: Fried chicken at Barbecue Inn 116 W. Crosstimbers, 713-695-8112
I don't know what's more incredible about the fried chicken at Barbecue Inn which has been on the menu since 1946: how neatly the crispy batter clings to the juicy meat or how shockingly greaseless it is.
No. 29: Dirty Burque at Green Seed Vegan 4320 Almeda, 713-487-8346
Unlike bean- or tofu-based patties, Green Seed's veggie burger is mostly buckwheat, made from scratch — like everything else here. The buckwheat patty is studded with colorful chunks of vegetables and topped with avocado, peppery arugula, raw white onion, a tangy spread of egg-free mayonnaise and a New Mexican-style green chile sauce.
No. 28: Egusi at Finger Licking Bukateria 9811 Bissonnet, 713-270-7070
Egusi is a Nigerian "eating soup," scooped up with pieces of fufu, which is accessible in its basic flavors and comforting in its odd familiarity — even if you've never eaten it before. The soft, fatty seeds of the egusi melon thicken the tomato-based broth and add a sweetly nutty flavor to the greens and onions underneath.