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Eat, Play, Love

Houston's 10 most romantic restaurants.

Possible new slogan: "Here at Hooters, while we recognize that you may have ballooned into a colossal lard-ass, our lovely waitresses are still big in just the right locations."

The release also told us that Hooters' new environment is perfect for a meal with the family. We're not ones to promote sexuality as a taboo, but a trip to Hooters with Mom and Dad for a 12-year-old sounds right on par with watching Eyes Wide Shut on Christmas morning. But in this competitive market, restaurants are trying for every last customer, even if that means marketing directly to that niche group happy to bring in their impressionable child to learn all about objectification of females.

Possible new slogan: "Come to Hooters and see where Daddy was last week instead of watching your dance recital."

We have to admit, though: The new remodel looks pretty snazzy. Raised-wood paneling in a variety of finishes and sleek dark-wood accents — when viewed apart from the signature Hooters bright-orange wing sauce splotched here and there — actually looks very nice.

"Did they change the menu, too, or is it the same old crap?" my friend wondered as he flipped open the menu. "Yup," he found. "Same crap."

Possible new slogan: "Hooters: We care about the food more than you do. But not by much."

Hooters also failed to update one other key item: the uniform. This may be why Hooters has never really done it for us. The girls wear incredibly silly outfits. If we had a Flashdance fetish, we'd probably be in heaven. Since that isn't the case, the whole 1984-era wind shorts and suntan-colored pantyhose look just isn't our thing.

Possible new slogan: "Hooters: where every night is like sneaking downstairs to watch USA Up All Night."
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TOP 10

GET GOOFY
The 10 best restaurants in Garden Oaks/Oak Forest.

KATHARINE SHILCUTT

It wasn't too long ago that the Houston Chronicle called Oak Forest "the new West University." The neighborhood just north of Loop 610 and east of U.S. 290 has been attracting young families in droves — families who are helping to reinvigorate the subdivisions that make up Garden Oaks and Oak Forest. Along with the influx of residents is a slow influx of new restaurants, which is making the area a hot spot for new and old coexisting side-by-side.

Lance Fegen and Lee Ellis are opening Surfing Cowboys soon in the vacant space that recently housed That Pizza Place on Ella, and there's a full-size restaurant planned for its neighbor across the street: Facundo Cafe, which serves burgers and breakfast tacos inside a car wash. Meanwhile, spots such as Cottonwood Bar and Shepherd Park Draught House are drawing people to north of 610 with craft beer, cocktails and above-average pub grub.

And just a bit farther south — while not technically in the Garden Oaks/Oak Forest confines — restaurants such as El Gran Malo, Pappa Geno's and the Rainbow Lodge give the larger area personality and a wide range of options. But for today, we're just focusing on the spots that make Garden Oaks/Oak Forest great.

10. Roznovsky's

Ron Roznovsky has been grilling old-fashioned burgers and making homemade chili for more than 40 years, so he's had plenty of time to perfect his technique. Step back in time; admire the gimme cap collection on the walls; crack open a longneck; and enjoy a hot, juicy burger topped with cheese or bacon. Seasoned fries and onion rings are the only sides, and the Frito pie comes highly recommended.

9. Facundo Cafe

Could food from a car wash be any good? Facundo Cafe and chef Danny Harper prove that it can be with a small but capable kitchen that turns out everything from omelets and sandwiches to gourmet burgers and fish tacos with mango slaw. As a bonus, you can get your car's oil changed, get it detailed or have your inspection sticker updated while you wait. In a hurry? Call ahead and they'll have your food ready and waiting for you to pick up, curbside, although it's far more fun to eat inside at the perpetually busy grill.

8. Cottonwood Bar

A new addition to the Garden Oaks family of bars, Cottonwood is sure to be a hit in coming years. The bar — from the folks who brought you Liberty Station on Washington Avenue — is packed almost nightly. The list of beers is massive, which suits the neighborhood surroundings (the area already includes craft beer mecca Petrol Station as well as equally beer-heavy spots such as Plonk and Shepherd Park Draught House) and makes it a destination spot for beer snobs all over the city. The menu is short and sweet here, but the Jamaican jerk wings are a favorite as are the BBQ oysters and pork-belly corn dogs — fun dishes that perfectly match the quirky icehouse atmosphere.

7. Doyle's

Opened in 1954, Doyle's is a vintage institution where many Houstonians ate their first spaghetti and pizza. As befits its legacy, spaghetti and meatballs are the house specialty; former Houston Press food critic Robb Walsh even called the dish "the kind of spaghetti dinner that once defined Italian food in America." The time capsule atmosphere is great — and so are the lasagna and the oven-baked sausage po-boy with red gravy and mozzarella. And in keeping with the neighborhood, this is a very family-friendly joint, so bring the kids with you.

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