Best Of :: Food & Drink
When you talk about regional Mexican cuisine in Houston, the conversation inevitably turns to Hugo's. One of Houston's finest restaurants since 2002, chef Hugo Ortega's eponymous venue has been a critical hit from the get-go, a reason why he has been a James Beard Foundation finalist in the Best Chef Southwest category for the last five years. What's wonderful about this restaurant is its adherence to Mexican culinary traditions. It takes you on a journey through Mexico's vast geography with dishes like cochinita pibil (slow roasted suckling pig) from the Yucatan or huachinango a la Veracruzana (whole snapper from Veracruz). There are deep, richly flavored moles that hail from Puebla or Oaxaca; tart ceviches one might find in the Baja; not to mention killer churros and hand-churned Mexican drinking chocolate. A bountiful and undeniably fantastic Sunday buffet brunch is one of the city's best. Delicious cocktails utilizing Mexican spirits and a thoughtfully curated wine list complete the picture.
Americans love to joke about how the British can't cook, but chef Richard Knight at Hunky Dory proves them all wrong daily. In addition to his amazing charcuterie, delicate vegetable dishes and hearth-roasted meats, he also has constructed the best burger in Houston. It's a lush, two-patty specimen with amazing beefy flavor. The secret is the combination of ground chuck, brisket and tongue. With the complexity of the meat blend, it makes sense to finish the burger with simple ingredients, and he does so with American cheese, pickles and onion. The warm, willowy fries alongside are excellent too.
READERS' CHOICE: Hubcap Grill
This Vera Pizza Napoletana-certified shop has changed the way Houstonians think about pizza. Blistered in a 900-degree, custom-made Italian brick oven, the pies cook in about 90 seconds, coming out with a just-scorched crust and soft, pillowy center that is best topped lightly. San Marzano sauce and housemade mozzarella are just fine, but you may want to tack on high-quality toppings like spicy soppressata, prosciutto and crimini mushrooms too. Lightly, of course.
When people think "cafeteria," images of sad green beans, soggy fish and scoops of mashed potatoes with wells of brown gravy might come to mind. The cafeteria-style service at Aladdin, though, offers flavor-packed, healthy Mediterranean fare. There are big trays of pickled cabbage salad, hummus and baba ghanoush (eggplant dip). Further down the line is a wealth of roasted fish and meats, like braised lamb shank doused in pan sauce and red snapper filets. Items like deep-fried falafel, dolmades (rice-stuffed grape leaves) and a nice selection of vegetables make it easy to dine vegetarian-style too.
If you thought there was no reason to drive to Richmond, think again. These gourmet rounds come crispy and golden on the outside, with a heavenly interior of fluffy dough. As excellent as the base is, it's the extras that truly make these doughnuts special. Get them in flavors like chocolate tres leches, salted caramel macchiato and key lime pie, or look out for sweet and savory cronuts topped with everything from strawberries and cream to honey chicken.
READERS' CHOICE: Shipley Do-Nuts
With an all-star lineup of local talent (including former Underbelly chef Lyle Bento, former Goro & Gun chef J.D. Woodward and BBQ mastermind Patrick Feges), this Southern-inspired eatery provides full-service comfort through contemporary plates, along with craft cocktails and two dozen beer taps. A constantly rotating menu keeps things interesting, while mainstays like the double-meat, double-cheese SG burger smothered in comeback sauce ensure you'll always leave satisfied. The tiny space is known to get packed, so come early or be prepared to grab a seat at the bar or on the outside patio. Oh, and if bourbon balls are on the menu, get some.
READERS' CHOICE: Max's Wine Dive