Best of Houston®

Best Of 2012

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Best Of :: Food & Drink

Best Indian Restaurant
Shri Balaji Bhavan
Jeff Balke

Shri Balaji Bhavan's sparse atmosphere and counter service don't dissuade Houstonians in search of delicious and authentic Udipi-style cuisine. The place is always packed with people sitting at feast-laden tables. Prices are so reasonable here, you can generously feed a family of four for around $50. It's so delicious that even meat lovers don't mind that the place is strictly vegetarian. The dosas, with their thin, platter-size crepes and savory stuffing, are not to be missed. Shri Balaji Bhavan also offers one of the best selections of puri and chaat (snacks or small dishes like those served by street vendors in India). Those with gentle palates beware; the spices here are not Americanized. This is a must-try if you like a little heat. The vegetable biryani is downright heady. Samosa chaat, drizzled in creamy yogurt sauce and garnished with a colorful riot of onion and tomato, is another winner. Or, order the thali, which provides little samples of several dishes. If the menu seems overwhelming, don't worry. Just pick something from each category or ask the guy at the counter for suggestions and go on a tasty adventure.

5655 Hillcroft St., Houston, 77036
MAP
713-783-1126
Best Taco
Karanchos

Tacos are one of those foods best enjoyed outdoors — yes, even on a sweltering day. It's the Houston way. That's why the all-outdoors Karanchos is such a destination for taco hounds. That, and the rotating pork-on-a-spit called trompo, which marinates in pineapple juice while it cooks. Like barbecue, trompo is best cooked outside. And as with good barbecue, people flock to good trompo from miles away. Get yours on fresh corn tortillas topped with cilantro, onions and some of Karanchos' screamingly hot salsa verde while you belly up to a picnic table in the shade. It's like inviting yourself to a family picnic, only better — you don't have to make small talk with your relatives, just stuff your face with tacos and Topo Chico.

620 Sheldon, Channelview, 77530
MAP
281-862-9968
Best Sandwich
Local Foods

Located inside the old Antone's Deli spot in Rice Village, Local Foods does its former tenant a great honor by continuing to turn out spectacular sandwiches that are wholly Houston. Made with as many local ingredients as possible, whether it be produce, meat or cheese, Local Foods' sandwiches are chock full of good stuff. Try the roast beef with kale, curried cauliflower and horseradish aioli or the truffled egg salad for something more traditional. Feeling adventurous? Check out the Korean barbecue pork sandwich with house-made kimchi or Gulf shrimp and blue crab salad with green goddess dressing on a fresh-baked ciabatta roll.

2424 Dunstan Rd., Houston, 77005
MAP
713-521-7800
Best Food Truck
H-town Streats

It's hard to believe that food coming off a truck can be as inventive, or can taste as good as, what you get at H-town Streats. But then again, it's not every food truck that has trained chefs working at the helm. On any given day, you'll find Jason Hill and/or Matt Opaleski manning the truck, which means that crawfish taco with Tabasco aioli is gonna taste like a lot more than the $3 you're paying to eat it. In fact, whether it's their infamous boudin balls with creole mustard, their fried avocado taco with cilantro slaw, their burger with sautéed mushrooms and cheese, or their watermelon agua fresca, pretty much everything that you try at this truly gourmet food truck is going to be a winner. The menu changes often, too, so no need to worry about eating the same old, same old. Even if you followed the truck around like a die-hard disciple, the menu is extensive enough that you'd still be able to enjoy a different meal every day. Food sells out quickly, so try to visit them at the beginning of service.

No address listed, Houston, 77031
MAP
Best Martini
The Davenport

If you need proof that quality and quantity are not mutually exclusive, look no further than The Davenport martini. Non-purists will appreciate all of the well-crafted martini "varieties" (more than 30!), but the original classic (a frosty balance of gin, dry vermouth and a splash of olive juice) is truly potable art. More than one might even knock James Bond flat, but sip slowly and you'll be able to get off your bar stool without falling. Eventually.

2117 Richmond, Houston, 77098
MAP
Best Wine List
Plonk Beer & Wine Bistro

Just as the sign-less Plonk is a secret treasure here in Garden Oaks, so does its wine list feature hidden gems from the peerless mind of owner Scott Miller. Miller, the former wine director at Pappas Steakhouse, is smart enough to know his clientele on both ends of the wine spectrum and caters to them with aplomb. This means you'll find highly accessible $6 and $8 glasses of Merlot mingling on his menu alongside glasses like a $16 Weingut Bründlmayer Riesling Kamptaler Terrassen from Austria or a $20 Grilli del Testamatta that would have wine geeks swooning in their seats.

1214 W. 43rd St., Houston, 77018
MAP
713-290-1070
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Best Indian Restaurant: Shri Balaji Bhavan

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