Best of Houston®

Best Of 2007


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Food & Drink

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Best Of :: Food & Drink

Best Taqueria
Matamoros Meat Market #4
Jeff Balke

Matamoros Meat Market used to sell the best carnitas and barbacoa in the city, but you could only get them by the pound to go. Then they added the taqueria a few years ago, so now you can get your barbacoa or carnitas on a taco and then sit down and eat it. The dining area consists of six high tables furnished with barstools, and a long stainless steel counter that runs under the windows looking out on Washington Avenue. The carnitas taco comes on a hot flour tortilla smeared with refried beans and dotted with a little rice. The carnitas, which are pork chunks boiled in lard, are crispy on the edges and falling-apart tender in the middle. A taco costs $1.69, and the tortilla is so overstuffed, half of the filling falls out onto the aluminum foil. Luckily, plastic forks are provided. The barbacoa, or barbecued cow head, is sublime with green salsa, onions, cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Ask for the cheek meat.

5526 Washington Ave., Houston, 77007
Best Atmosphere

Brennan's of Houston calls its cuisine "Texas Creole," and seldom do you find a cooking style and a restaurant atmosphere so perfectly in sync. When people walk into the old mansion on Smith Street, they look at the dark wooden bar and the magnificent brick courtyard outside and remark, "It looks just like New Orleans." The Brennan's building was constructed in 1930 as the headquarters of the Junior League of Houston. John F. Staub's L-shaped building with its garden patio was an adaptation of French Quarter architecture to the Houston site. It's a building style that might also be called "Texas Creole." The atmosphere of Midtown would be greatly improved if there were more buildings like it. After experiencing the gospel brunch at a courtyard table at Brennan's, your view of Houston will never be the same.

Best Baklava
Phoenicia Specialty Foods

They bake seven varieties of baklava fresh every day at Phoenicia. There are Turkish ground-walnut triangles that ooze honey with every bite. And then there are the large Turkish cream and orange blossom syrup-filled baklava that taste a little like phyllo dough éclairs. The Persian baklava is layered with a heavenly filling of aromatic ground cardamom. And the richest of all may be the ones stuffed with ground pistachios and orange blossom syrup. But the bakery is only a tiny part of the whole Phoenicia experience. There's a meat market, a kebab-rotisserie chicken stand and a huge deli case, too. The choices of salamis, olives and dried fruits are unrivaled. And the European preserves, Asian lentils and legumes, and exotic spices are astonishing. But it's the prices that are the biggest shock – about half of what you pay elsewhere.

12141 Westheimer, Houston, 77077
Best Bang for the Buck
Kim Hung Market
Dawn McGee

In the corner of the Kim Hung Market is a gem of a to-go counter filled with Asian-style barbecue ribs, fried rice and pig stomach. Really, you could feed an entire village for about 18 bucks! The deals here include an entire roasted duck for $12 or the barbecue lunch special, which includes fried rice, one veg and one meat for $2.75. The lunch special is a ton of food. If the pork stomach doesn't entice you, you can get a whole roasted pig for about $110.

1005 St. Emanuel St., Houston, 77003
Best Barbecue Restaurant
Pizzitola's Bar-B-Cue

Originally known as Shepherd Drive Barbecue, this is the restaurant where the legendary John Davis once presided as owner and pit boss. When John Davis died in 1983, the current owner, Jerry Pizzitola, bought the place from the Davis family so he could preserve it. The old-fashioned pit burns hickory, just like it did in John Davis's day. The sausage comes from a Czech sausage maker in the Hill Country; the barbecue sauce is thin and spicy; and the ribs and brisket are among the best in the city. And while the sides are plain, the desserts — which are made by Jerry's mom and include banana pudding and coconut pineapple cake — are excellent. The dining room sports one of the city's wackiest collections of bric-a-brac, much of it related to fishing.

1703 Shepherd Dr., Houston, 77007
Best Bistro
Mockingbird Bistro

After an up-and-down career in the fine-dining arena, Chef John Sheely has found a home in the more relaxed bistro category. Mockingbird Bistro is a perfect example of what a bistro is supposed to be — a place that's both comfortable enough to get a beer and a burger while dressed in blue jeans, yet sophisticated enough to take a date for a foie gras appetizer and a world-class glass of wine. The gothic interior decor, much it of left over from a former tenant, lends just the right sort of eccentric atmosphere to this Montrose neighborhood hangout. Sheely's crispy French fries in paper cones are among the best frites in the city, and his juicy, rare Kobe burger is a joy. And, of course, wherever Sheely goes, you'll find excellent fried calamari.

1985 Welch St., Houston, 77019

Best Taqueria: Matamoros Meat Market #4


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