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. 27: Brisket and turkey at Corkscrew BBQ 24930 Budde, Spring, 832-592-1184
The red oak chips used at this roadside barbecue stand impart a gentle flavor to the fatty, smoke-ringed brisket, and Corkscrew's long smoking times mean that the turkey breast — normally a dry cut of meat — is rendered surprisingly juicy and flavorful.
No. 26: Menudo at La Mexicana 1018 Fairview, 713-521-0963
This menudo is reserved for weekend breakfasts, where you can sop up the tripe-studded broth with La Mex's fresh flour tortillas. I top it with the finely diced white onions that cut through the greasy broth, powdered oregano and chile pequin for a meal that's both comforting and eye-opening at once.
No. 25: Shrimp and grits at Shade 250 W. 19th, 713-863-7500
The shrimp at Shade don't come swimming in a bowl of grits but are presented on their own. An ample serving of grits accompanies them, while the golden-fried shrimp rest on top of a bed of Frank's Red Hot sauce that offers a nod to Lowcountry cuisine with its vinegar tang.
No. 24: Kinilaw at Reef 2600 Travis, 713-526-8282
The Filipino kinilaw that Reef serves changes with the week's catch, marinated in snappy ginger, lime juice and cool coconut water and decorated with more tropical touches: bites of orange and daikon as well as lotus root slices that have been fried to a gentle crisp.
No. 23: Lamb barbacoa at El Hidalguense 6917 Long Point, 713-680-1071
This house specialty is listed on the menu as barbacoa de borrego, or lamb barbacoa that's been cooked in maguey leaves, which keep the lamb tender and moist while it cooks. After being unwrapped, the lamb is stewed in El Hidalguense's tart salsa verde, which cuts the fattiness of the meat.
No. 22: Gumbo at Danton's 4611 Montrose, 713-807-8883
The texture of the thick, smokey roux at Danton's is velvety-soft, with hefty body to it that is nothing like the thin, reedy gumbos so often found elsewhere. This is a Cajun gumbo — rice served on the side — which employs shrimp, crab and huge, two-bite oysters in the broth.
No. 21: Chicken-fried water buffalo at The Hay Merchant 1100 Westheimer, 713-528-9805
Water buffalo from North Texas has a sweet, grassy note that is otherwise missing in chicken-fried steaks made with straight-up beef. Chef Antoine Ware's crunchy breading never becomes gummy or flaky, and the cream gravy on top tastes like the cast-iron-skillet gravy I grew up on that's thick with flour, butter and pan drippings.
No. 20: Roasted cauliflower at Roost 1972 Fairview, 713-523-7667
The cauliflower here is roasted and fried, then presented in a bowl of satiny miso broth that coats each buttery chunk with a rich, salty, earthy sheen. Delicate flakes of bonito dance across the top and provide a briny bite, while crunchy pine nuts and bright slivers of green onion provide a final buoyant boost.
No. 19: Truffled egg toast at Dolce Vita 500 Westheimer, 713-520-8222
A giant piece of toasted bread is soaked in truffle oil before being topped with shavings of black truffle, a snowcap of Parmesan cheese and a runny egg yolk. Cut it open and the egg yolk flows forth, providing an equally rich dipping sauce.
No. 18: 63-degree egg at Brasserie 19 1962 W. Gray, 713-524-1919
Pierce the poached egg that rests next to spoonfuls of caviar on top of a savory Parmesan custard, scoop all three components up with your spoon — viscous yolk, creamy custard, salty eggs — and spread it across a piece of warm, soft baguette for a flavor combination that's sudden and sharp, elegant and refined.
No. 17: Drunken foie gras at Philippe 1800 Post Oak Blvd., 713-439-1000
The fattiness of duck liver is cut and mellowed even further by the full-bodied Sauternes and Armagnac that chef Philippe Schmit employs. It's a lovely little luxury that requires absolutely no other accompaniment than a piece of soft, crusty brioche upon which to spread the foie gras.
No. 16: Beet salad at Triniti 2815 S. Shepherd, 713-527-9090
Triniti's beet salad is both the perfect appetizer and the perfect bar snack. The relaxed plating finds a tumble of multicolored beets jostling with green, white and purple cauliflower over a thick spread of curried goat cheese that could turn on even the most hardcore carnivore.
No. 15: Yogi thali at Pondicheri 2800 Kirby, 713-522-2022
The thali is the Indian version of a sampler plate, with small servings of many dishes in metal bowls grouped on a large platter. The yogi thali at Pondicheri contains a brightly hued jumble of vegetarian dishes including sautéed greens, a hearty barley salad and the day's vegetable curry.
No. 14: Bialy and lox at The Hot Bagel Shop 2009 S. Shepherd, 713-520-0340
The Polish version of the bagel — missing a hole — is a less frantic version of an everything bagel. A bialy offers you more spreading surface and sweet, chewy dough, which — when paired with the tangy onions, the tart cream cheese and the hunks of buttery salmon scattered throughout the lox spread — represents my ideal breakfast bagel.
No. 13: Ribs at Gatlin's 1221 W. 19th, 713-869-4227
The ribs have a luscious char on the outside that comes from the low-and-slow smoking technique employed by Greg Gatlin, who uses hickory to impart a sweet aroma and taste. The meat is never soggy or soft, though, just moist and tender, with a pleasant crunch as you shatter through that exterior char into the sweet rib meat below.