Food & Drinks

  • Best Restaurant in the Tunnels

    Panini

    If you think good tunnel food is an impossibility, and if you think the only stuff you can find down there is doled out by chain fast-food eateries, stop by Panini for a pleasant lunchtime surprise. Homemade soups. Freshly baked pizzas. Wonderful salads. Terrific sandwiches (we particularly like the homemade meatball with a light tomato sauce and lots and lots… More >>
  • Best Restaurant for Lunch

    Ouisie's Table

    Many will say this category is too broad. Do we mean best power lunch? Best place for ladies who lunch? Best place for a quick bite -- alone? How about all of the above? No longer a tiny cafe in an old house, Ouisie's has moved to more upscale digs, where it offers Southern comfort in a rustic yet sophisticated… More >>
  • Best Hunk o' Meat

    Capital Grille

    If you like your meat well hung -- gastronomically speaking, that is -- you'll love the dry-aged, certified Angus porterhouse steak ($30) at the Capital Grille. The dry-aging process takes place in an environment where the temperature, humidity and airflow are controlled. The meat cures for up to 21 days. Once the stuff that has turned bad is removed (up… More >>
  • Best Cajun Restaurant

    Floyd's Cajun Kitchen

    The low-slung white building with its spreading porch housing Floyd's Cajun Kitchen almost looks like a home you might find in South Louisiana. Inside, the aromas of food definitely put you in Cajun Country. The five-page menu covers everything from crawfish boulettes (crawfish stuffing rolled into balls, breaded and fried, $6.50) to court bouillon (seafood stew, $12.95), the best crawfish… More >>
  • Best Indian Restaurant

    Bombay Brasserie

    With its dark wood furniture, abundant greenery and well-stocked bar, Bombay Brasserie exudes a glory-days-of-the-British Empire sort of elegance. The $9.95 lunch buffet is one of the best samplings of Indian food we've seen. The long line of chafing dishes reveals one excellently prepared Indian dish after another. But dinner at Bombay Brasserie is even better. The menu includes chicken,… More >>
  • Best Latin Grill

    Elvia's Latin Grill and Bar

    At this time last year, Charles Clark was making an impressive name for himself as head chef at Tasca Kitchen and Wine Bar. These days Clark heads up the kitchen at the new downtown Elvia's, where he proves he is a master of many culinary disciplines. The killer bee menu includes grilled sea bass, cold avocado soup, portobello mushroom tacos… More >>
  • Best Tex-Mex Restaurant

    Felix Mexican Restaurant

    With south-of-the-border fare having gone gourmet, Felix is often dismissed by highbrow naysayers. They forget that it's the good old-fashioned grease factor that makes true Tex-Mex. It's in abundance here, although it's a little sad to see the disclaimer: "We cook with cottonseed oil only!" Felix also is keeping up with the changing times with its light, bright hacienda. A… More >>
  • Best Drive-thru Breakfast

    Kolache Factory

    There's nothing quite like rolling through the drive-thru around 7:30 a.m. at the Kolache Factory, the morning sun in your eyes and the mouthwatering prospect of imminent kolaches teasing your palate. Even better, should you have a spare moment, step in just as a warm batch of sausage-and-cheese kolaches emerges from the oven, filling the store with that tantalizing smell… More >>
  • Best Late-Night Spot

    Mai's Restaurant

    All the bars are closed, there's no life on the streets, but you and your friends aren't ready to trundle home. Plus, you're all starving. Usually late-night fare is limited to those 24-hour egg-and-bacon places or the drive-thru lane at a fast-food joint. But you want real food. Mai's Restaurant offers an extensive array of Vietnamese food, and the eatery's… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Spot in the Village Area

    The Raven Grill

    Don't be too quick to quoth "Nevermore," upon a first visit to The Raven Grill. This tribute to Edgar Allan Poe's famous poem and the nearby elementary school bearing his name has taken flight as a neighborhood haunt. The flock of fans may be due to the trendy industrial decor with the huge raven print and cute boxed birdseed cocktail… More >>
  • Best New Restaurant

    Amazon Grill

    Nuevo Latino gets funky at this new outlet for Michael Cordúa’s cooking, located in the back of a shopping mall in the Galleria area. At his nearby fine-dining restaurant, Américas, Cordúa uses traditional South American and Central American dishes as jumping-off points for exciting upscale presentations. Here at Amazon Grill, he shows us a more casual side, with lower-priced entrées,… More >>
  • Best Un-Diner

    Fox Diner, 905 Taft, (713)523-5369

    If you're looking for a chicken-fried steak covered in cream gravy with a strawberry shake on the side to wash it down, this is not the place for you. And you won't find the sparkly blue vinyl booths or garish neon signs that good old Americans have come to expect at the local diner. No, owner-chef-busboy Tom Williams's cozy, quirky… More >>
  • Best Chef's Table

    Rainbow Lodge, 1 Birdsall, (713)861-8666

    Some restaurants feature a table, generally in the kitchen, where you can experience the hustle and bustle of the back room firsthand. Others feature small intimate rooms or cozy nooks for a private get-together, away from the common folk. All of this, in an effort to make the dining experience extra special. If privacy is what you're after, then there's… More >>
  • Best Restaurant to Impress a Date

    La Colombe d'Or

    Start out at the intimate bar, then move on to the elegant and sumptuous dining room, where you'll experience not only first-class classical French cuisine but service to match. If the evening is going well, and you're feeling lucky, upstairs rooms with names like Renoir and Cezanne go for $195 to $575 per night. Of course, you could go all… More >>
  • Best Alfresco Dining

    Backstreet Cafe

    Nestled between La Griglia on West Gray and Tila's on Shepherd, amid a sea of lofts that are sprouting like weeds, you'll find a quiet oasis on the patio of the Backstreet Cafe. Flowers are plentiful and always in bloom, and there's plenty of shade from a huge oak tree, although umbrellas cover those areas that the tree limbs don't… More >>
  • Best Chinese Restaurant

    Hunan's

    It doesn't attract much attention to itself in the large strip center in the 3800 block of Bellaire, but Hunan's food is worth coming back to -- again and again. Go before you're really hungry. You'll need the extra time to wade through the eight-page menu in the understated but elegant surroundings. Where to start? The vegetable dumplings ($5.25 for… More >>
  • Best Italian Restaurant

    Osteria d'Aldo

    In a city proud of Texas-size portions, the waitstaff at Osteria d'Aldo still feels obliged to explain to patrons that the serving sizes are like Italian tapas -- we prefer to call them civilized. And with such manageable portions, one can do a multicourse Italian meal just as the good Lord intended. Start with perhaps a white bean soup, a… More >>
  • Best Middle Eastern Restaurant

    Cedars Mediterranean Cafe - CLOSED

    We're always happy to walk into Cedars, see that splendid buffet line and remember how very little it's going to cost us to dine royally. For meat lovers, there's terrific roast lamb served up simply with just its natural juices, or a nice piece of red snapper with tahini sauce. But as with most Middle Eastern restaurants, this place is… More >>
  • Best Pizzeria

    Star Pizza

    Americans spent more money last year on pizzas than they did on computers and software combined, or so says an industry trade group. At any rate, pizza is one subject about which nearly every American can be counted on to have an opinion. Why Star Pizza? It is not a chain, a "concept" or theme restaurant. The only reason to… More >>
  • Best Thai Restaurant

    Taste of Thai

    Taste of Thai is one of those restaurants whose whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. Sure, the food is wonderful, whether it's the soups, the angel wings, the roast duck curry with pineapple and tomato, the chef's special duck, the pad thai (last year's Best of Houston winner) or the homemade coconut ice cream, but it's… More >>
  • Best Drive-thru Eatery

    Miyagi Bowl

    From the looks of all the new drive-thrus dominating roadway vistas, this car-crazy city craves speed -- in food as much as commute times. What's been missing is obvious: variety. Menu boards may have expanded, but the basic choices seem so limited. How many ways can a chicken or cow or codfish be broiled, fried or filleted? Or a taco… More >>
  • Best Deli

    Kenny & Ziggy's

    Until recently, Houston lacked an authentic New York-style deli, despite the size of its Jewish community and a natural customer base (a million people who like eating giant heaps of meat in one sitting). Sure, we had our share of fine sandwich shops or bagel joints, but nothing that combined all the elements: an oversize menu, several dozen variations of… More >>
  • Best Family Restaurant

    Tokyohana

    The current Asian invasion has revived a classic form of entertainment: the Japanese steak house. Family groups, especially those covering a wide age span, are the perfect audience for the sleight of hand of Tokyohana's master table chefs. Though elitists may find the show a little cheesy, children watch in wide-eyed wonder something as simple as preparing the grill flame.… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Spot in West University

    Edloe St. Cafe & Deli, 6119 Edloe, (713)666-4302

    With its rows of tract mansions and commercial urban sprawl, it's easy to forget about West U's quaint town square. Anchored by the Little League field and surrounded by the school, the grocery store, the library and the courthouse is the Edloe St. Cafe & Deli. There, in the cramped but cozy spot, locals line up for dishes that are… More >>
  • Best Service

    La Griglia

    It should come as no surprise that a Vallone Group restaurant would claim the coveted prize of best service. Tony Vallone, the patriarch of Houston's most elite dining dynasty, has instilled this work ethic in all his progeny, who provide a horde of servers, from captains to busboys, to surround each table, doting on diners with the tender care of… More >>
  • Best Value

    La Vista

    The regulars lined up outside this tiny sidewalk cafe don't want the secret to get out, but too bad. La Vista is too good to keep quiet. Not only are aptly prepared modern American, Italian and even south-of-the-border dishes offered at a fraction of what they could be, but this is also a BYOB restaurant. Anyone who enjoys a bottle… More >>
  • Best Comfort Food

    59 Diner

    Solace and comfort can be found in the chicken pot pie from the 59 Diner, but be sure to bring a healthy appetite, since the serving is substantial. As you break through the crispy biscuit crust, allowing the steam to dissipate, you'll reach plenty of chunks of white chicken meat along with corn, peas and green beans, all in a… More >>
  • Best Kids' Meal Toys

    Mission Burritos

    Day care has left you broke, but still you have your pride. You hate the fluorescent-lit, Formica-table fast-food experience. You don't want the kids to eat rubbery deep-fried poultry by-products. And please, no more of those offensive, licensed-character-du-jour Happy Meal toys. What you need is Mission Burritos on Alabama. Grab a table on the oak-shaded patio, and leave your adult… More >>
  • Best Vegetarian Restaurant

    Madras Pavilion

    Unless they have chosen a vegetarian way of life, some people won't let anything green cross their lips. An easy way to see some of the magnificent things that can be done with vegetables is at the lunch buffet ($6.95 weekdays, $8.95 weekends) at Madras Pavilion. This vegetarian-only South Indian restaurant makes lentils lovable and beans bearable for even the… More >>
  • Best Cuban Restaurant

    Cafe Piquet

    Waiters with white shirts and black mustaches, wonderful photos and memorabilia of Cuba, and an air of quiet sophistication make Cafe Piquet the No. 1 choice for Cuban dining in Houston. The buttery black beans and gooey sweet bronze plantains are perfect, and the Cuban sandwiches are first-rate, but don't miss the hearty daily specials like picadillo, a ground-beef casserole,… More >>
  • Best Japanese Restaurant

    Kaneyama Japanese Restaurant

    The difficult truth is this: Most native Japanese never, ever have a chance to dine in a truly great Japanese restaurant, of the sort one finds in Kyoto and a few other locations in Japan. The classic kai-seki-ryori dinner is an aesthetic experience that even the most decorated of Michelin three-star restaurants cannot equal. A proper tea ceremony dinner cannot… More >>
  • Best Place to Indulge Anglophilia

    The Black Labrador

    This redoubt of vintage Britannia is dead-on in every sense but two: The pub grub is not the slightest bit grubby, and the pints are cold. Shepherd's pie, beef Wellington, fish and chips, and West Highland cheese soup are but a few of the outstanding victuals. The steamed mussels would draw an appreciative "tallyho" from even the most discriminating Buckingham… More >>
  • Best Vietnamese Restaurant

    Nga's - CLOSED

    Houston has the best Vietnamese restaurants in the country -- the problem is picking one. We like Nga's, a little unassuming joint with a friendly atmosphere and a hip clientele. There are all kinds of discoveries on this menu, but the waiter tells us the most popular thing to order is No. 123, do-it-yourself spring rolls. He brings you a… More >>
  • Best Sit-Down Breakfast

    Goode Co. Texas Burgers & Taqueria

    A weekend breakfast at Goode Co. is a manly meal, but the women like it, too. After all, some mornings call for some serious sustenance, and this place answers with its own call of the wild. Thrillseekers rustle up the Buck Fever, which is venison sausage and eggs. Also paired with the breakfast staple are catfish, quail, fajitas and pork… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Spot in Bellaire

    Auntie Pasto's

    Sinatra's music bellows through this quaint corner cafe featuring floor-to-ceiling windows and Chianti in diner juice glasses. Such a place easily could be found in the Little Italy section of New York, but this bistro overlooks Bellaire's Paseo Park and its newly reconstructed Trolley Pavilion. Locals love the friendly atmosphere of checkered tablecloths and tiny white Christmas lights. It's comfortable… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Spot Outside the Loop

    Barcelona

    Yes, Virginia, there is a great restaurant outside the Loop (way, way outside the loop, to be precise). It's in Katy, its name is Barcelona, and it is a truly excellent Spanish restaurant. Gracious service, charming atmosphere and the best Spanish food this side of -- well, maybe not the Atlantic, but definitely the Mississippi, combine to make this a… More >>
  • Best Atmosphere

    The Mercantile

    Atmosphere is a deeply subjective thing. What may delight Zippy the Pinhead could depress Bug-Eyed Earl. Or vice versa on a different day. Additionally, Houston tends to celebrate the shiny and new and to destroy the mellow and old, where atmosphere has had time to develop. Thus, the recent opening of The Mercantile, a downtown brewpub and light menu restaurant,… More >>
  • Best Cheap Lunch

    Cahill's on Durham - CLOSED

    Cahill's owner Martin "Cahill" Hammer honed his chops down the road at Kenneally's Irish Pub, where he was a bartender and chef. Now that he has had his own place for a few years, Hammer has taken a page out of Kenneally's steak night by having a Wednesday steak lunch: a ten-ounce New York strip cooked to order with mashed… More >>
  • Best Place to Eat When You Can't Decide What You Want

    Super Steak & More

    When you're with a large number of people, or have the kids in tow, and nobody can decide exactly what they feel like eating, our suggestion is Super Steak & More. Sure, there are steaks on the menu, but where else in Houston can you get (all at the same place) chili dogs, cheese steaks and burgers, summer rolls that… More >>
  • Best Restaurant Playground

    Joe's Crab Shack

    Yes, your kids like those giant plastic Habitrails that loom over every fast-food burger joint. But wouldn't the little rowdies like a real playground even better? One that's outdoors? One with sand, shovels and buckets? One where they can keep their shoes on? Joe's Crab Shack has thought of all that. And it serves food on the patio next to… More >>
  • Best Barbecue Joint

    Pizzitola's

    This is one of the oldest barbecue joints in the city. When legendary pit boss John Davis founded the place in the early 1930s, it was called Shepherd Drive Bar-B-Q. Davis's secret recipe for zingy sauce died with him, but the business, including the original pit, was sold to Jerry Pizzitola, who kept up the hickory-smoking tradition. Pizzitola added an… More >>
  • Best Greek Restaurant

    Mykonos Island Restaurant

    Opa! You can't go wrong ordering Greek food at Mykonos. The only thing the restaurant doesn't have is crashing plates. The traditional dishes of this long-standing mom-and-pop eatery are all top-notch. Start with the skordalia, a blend of garlic, potato, olive oil and lemon for $4.50. This flavorful "Greek caviar," served with toasted bread for dipping, is so light it… More >>
  • Best Korean Restaurant

    Seoul Garden

    Someone has written a comment in ballpoint pen on Seoul Garden's menu: "Yum!" It's right beside the thinly sliced, marinated beef ($12.95). They might as well have gone down the entire menu, writing the same comment. Other favorites in the barbecue section of the menu are the beef ribs ($14.95) and the sliced pork marinated in spicy sauce ($10.95). The… More >>
  • Best Taqueria

    Gorditas Aguascalientes

    There are so many fabulous little taco places in Houston, it is difficult to single one out. And so we picked a fabulous big taco place instead. Gorditas Aguascalientes makes antojitos of all kinds, not just tacos. The fresh masa huaraches and gorditas are real stand-outs. And the soups are great too. But the tacos here are sensational. All are… More >>
  • Best Restaurant

    Mark's American Cuisine

    If ever there was a "temple of cuisine," this cutting-edge American restaurant located in a former church must be it. There are stars painted above the former altar, and the bar runs where the communion rail used to be. Here, in this Montrose church-turned-restaurant, an un-solemn congregation of convivialists meets nightly to enjoy the culinary inspirations of chef-owner Mark Cox.… More >>
  • Best Hole-in-the-Wall Burger Joint

    Someburger Hamburger Stands

    This is a no-frills experience all the way. These two little Heights-area huts have been around forever and, despite occasional turnover in staff, continue to serve up the best greasy burgers in town. You can either walk up or phone in your order. Most people get their food to go, as there's no place to dine inside. If you feel… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Spot in Montrose

    Baba Yega

    This cozy cafe, named after a Slavic witch, has been a favorite for locals ever since Montrose became the capital of the bohemian culture. Now, the homey converted bungalow -- with patio seating and a lush herb garden, complete with trilling birds -- serves Houston's largest gay population, as well as artist types, workers and even families. Like its clientele,… More >>
  • Best Diner

    Avalon Diner II

    Given that the historic Avalon Drug Co. and Diner is more authentic -- even if it, too, is in a newer spot -- many Houstonians consider it blasphemous to name the also-ran as the best diner. After all, what says "diner" more than screaming fry cooks and surly, seasoned waitresses? Well, let's review. Avalon II has all the right decorative… More >>
  • Best Cafeteria

    Cleburne Cafeteria

    Sure, the local institution that once sported a retro, school-cafeteria feel has given way to the neotraditional design trend of West University Place. But the food is still good, and the company is even better. Cafeteria standards like roast beef, chicken-fried steak and a really tasty piece of fried fish are joined by Greek fare, like pastitsio and moussaka, thanks… More >>
  • Best Orange Juice

    El Charro Taqueria No. 1 - CLOSED

    Well, hell. The alarm failed you again; the sun's already long up, importing sweat through the panes and overpowering the asthmatic window unit, and somehow -- hard to remember exactly -- you're hungover. Again. You can tell even before you rise from the pillows that actual food retention is not going to be an option for several hours at least,… More >>
  • Best Salsa

    La Bamba Meat Market

    Sit back with a Mexican Coke and enjoy four tacos for the price of three (that's 75 cents each!). And be sure to slather them all with La Bamba's fabulous homemade salsa. Cooking onions and tomatoes with chiles de árbol makes the dark red sauce. Chile de árbol is a favorite dried pepper for hot sauces in interior Mexico. Mexican… More >>
  • Best Beer Selection

    The Flying Saucer Draught Emporium

    Few Best of Houston categories are as clear-cut as this. Just count the taps. The newly opened Flying Saucer, in the newly renamed St. Germain building (it's known to real Houstonians as the H.S. Kress building), has 85 draft beer taps flowing. If nothing looks good on tap, there are also 130 bottled beers available. A menu divides the draft… More >>
  • Best Bloody Mary

    Four Seasons Hotel

    So it's a chichi hotel -- the Four Seasons still makes a mean Bloody, equally adept at killing a hangover as slaking a fierce thirst on a hot day. The house vodka, though a little too carefully measured for our taste, is Smirnoff -- not some generic brand. Made from a homemade mix and served in a tall glass, this… More >>
  • Best Chicken Salad Sandwich

    Brasil, 2604 Dunlavy, (713)528-1993

    "You eat there?" most people ask. Yes, we eat there. Most people go to Brasil for coffee or Hawaiian Punch-like hibiscus tea, but we always order the same thing: the spicy chicken salad sandwich. Most chicken salad sandwiches are little more than shredded, mashed-up chicken mixed with mayonnaise. Boring. This one is delicious. They serve it on French bread or… More >>
  • Best Steamed Dumplings

    Lai Lai Dumpling House

    Darkened windows prevent you from seeing inside this tiny storefront restaurant next to the Diho Market in the "new" Chinatown. You might even think it's closed. But open the door and you'll discover a hidden treasure. All dumplings are handmade to order, so it takes a little time. While fried dumplings are available, it is the steamed variety that brings… More >>
  • Best Drive-thru Java

    Starbucks

    It's a wonder traffic doesn't grind to a halt as the luxury SUV crowd does a double-take at the competing Starbucks stores at the corners of West Gray at Shepherd. After all, they just need their mid-afternoon java jolt -- not another decision to make. We'll make it easy for them. While chanting, "I brake for coffee," pull into the… More >>
  • Best Non-Cold Boiled Shrimp

    Blue Agave

    These days the Blue Agave, with its tight T-shirted waitresses, feels a bit like a high-class Hooters. But that doesn't diminish our fondness for the restaurant's cornflake-fried shrimp "pina" that's much better than its name. Adding to the improbability of this dish are the chunks of pineapple and hot sauce. Trust us. It works.… More >>
  • Best Enchilada

    Irma's Southwest Grill

    Irma Galvan, the venerable Tex-Mex diva of the Warehouse District, has dished up a mean enchilada for years. Now, her son, Louis Galvan, is betting on the ballpark to score points for his own downtown enterprise, Irma's Southwest Grill. Sure, the grill part of the name specializes in such fancy fare as catfish, trout or chicken breast, smothered in chipotle… More >>
  • Best Soup

    El Rey Taqueria

    You probably wouldn't know it to look at it, but this tiny Cuban/Mexican restaurant with a drive-thru offers up the best chicken tortilla soup in the city. Walk inside, though, and you'll see the chickens rotating on the old-fashioned rotisserie, some of which, we're certain, are the base of the stock that gives El Rey's soups its extraordinary depth of… More >>
  • Best Licuado

    Banana flavor, Nuo Leon

    On those days when Houston's summer refuses to end, when your eyes hurt from too much sunlight and your pores are clogged with sweat, when plastic objects melt on your dashboard, when you see squirrels spread-eagle on the ground, panting, and the neighborhood cats droop nearby, too languid to give chase -- on those days, you need a licuado. For… More >>
  • Best Muffuletta

    Murphy's Deli - CLOSED

    Who says you have to go to New Orleans to get a good muffuletta? Murphy's Deli, with 18 locations to choose from, gives the Big Easy a run for its money with its hefty, heavy-on-the-meat-and-cheese rendition. Hot hickory-smoked ham, Genoa salami and provolone cheese are stacked inside a huge round sesame seed-studded bun and made to order while you watch.… More >>
  • Best Mussels

    Cafe Montrose - CLOSED

    Mussel ecstasy reigns at this warm Belgian bistro, with diners endlessly spooning tastes of their steamed mussels into their companions' mouths like priests giving communion. The reaction is always the same -- thoughtful mastication followed by an energetic nod of delight. Once your own black mussel pot arrives, the real fun starts. Under the fragrant fog sit two dozen of… More >>
  • Best Oysters

    Fung's Kitchen

    While many will argue that the only good oyster is a raw oyster, we believe that the oysters in garlic sauce at Fung's Kitchen will cause anyone to reconsider that position. Large (usually huge) oysters on the half shell are steamed just enough to bring out their maximum, well, oysterness, and topped with a transcendent sauce of garlic and ginger,… More >>
  • Best Sandwich

    Urban Foods

    Urban Foods, a friendly deli/gourmet food store in the Rice Lofts, makes one of the best sandwiches we've ever tasted. Here's the blueprint (as Ken Hoffman might say): house-smoked salmon, sliced hard-boiled eggs, slightly bitter arugula and a sprightly, creamy dill spread. We suggest you have it on ciabatta. As each of the ingredients adds to and enhances the others,… More >>
  • Best Appetizer

    Nachos cubanos, El Meson Restaurant

    Some of life's most dynamic beauty exists in its contrasts: the famous yin/yang, the complementary push/pull, the popular in/out. And these mouthwatering morsels of Caribbean glory are no different. The crunchy blue corn chip plays off the slathering of soft black beans that covers it. The thick slab of sweet, chewy fried plantain intermixes with the blanket of tangy melted… More >>
  • Best Bread

    Whole Foods Market

    Rosemary-and-olive-oil focaccia was the bread special the last time we stopped by Whole Foods on Kirby. The flat, crunchy Italian bread dripping with olive oil didn't make it out of the parking lot in one piece. Day in and day out, Whole Foods stocks excellent European artisanal breads. The chewy Prussian rye is our favorite for ham sandwiches, and the… More >>
  • Best Tamales

    Berryhill Baja Grill

    One of the last of Houston's old-time tamale men was an American Indian named Walter Berryhill. Dressed in a white jacket and top hat, Berryhill sold tamales from his pushcart in River Oaks. He rigged the cart with a propane burner in order to comply with health department regulations and kept selling tamales long after most tamale men had disappeared.… More >>
  • Best Drive-thru Food

    Chicken tortas, Taqueria Fiesta Guadalajara,

    First, you need to take into account the logistics of eating while driving. For the record, a car with a standard transmission is not the most desirable drive-thru vehicle, unless you have someone in the passenger seat to help out. Shifting gears complicates unwrapping and eating your dinner, and may even offset the benefit of efficient drive-thru food -- that… More >>
  • Best Crabs

    Kim Son, 2001 Jefferson, (713)222-2461

    After five years of satisfying customers with his famous black-pepper crabs ($11.95), Kim Son owner Tan La became concerned that the restaurant's most spectacular menu item was becoming passé. So he sent his mother back to Vietnam to find another crab recipe. She returned with one for tamarind crabs ($11.95), a dish introduced last year that marries Kim Son's plump,… More >>
  • Best French Fries

    Cafe Annie

    Great french fries are probably the last thing that come to mind when thinking about Cafe Annie (something we do a great deal), but since one of the keys to a great restaurant is the details, it should come as absolutely no surprise that its fries are first-rate. They are, in fact, the fries of your dreams: thin and crisp,… More >>
  • Best Burger

    Market Square Bar & Grill

    The burgers at this downtown watering hole are the real deal: a half-pound handmade patty of 80 percent lean ground chuck that is never frozen and never more than two days old. The most popular burger at Market Square is the blue-cheese burger, but the restaurant also offers a bacon cheeseburger, Canadian bacon cheeseburger, a regular cheeseburger and a portobello… More >>
  • Best Mariscos

    Pico's Mexican Restaurant - CLOSED

    If you don't know what al mojo de ajo means, ask before you order. Loosely translated, it means Godzilla portions of garlic. But there must be a lot of garlic lovers out there, because Pico's camarones al mojo de ajo ($14.99) is one of the restaurant's most popular dishes. Six jumbo shrimp are lightly breaded then sautéed in olive oil… More >>
  • Best Nachos

    Italian nachos, Ciro's Italian Grill

    If you ask the owner of Ciro's Italian Grill, Ciro Lampasas, how the delightful Italian nachos came into thankful existence, he'll tell you it's what you get when an Italian restaurant owner and his Mexican kitchen manager cross culinary wits. This appetizing amalgam of ingredients is one of the finest examples of the fusion cuisine that can be created in… More >>
  • Best Pasta

    Josephine's Ristorante

    As much as we love the pasta explosion of the past 20 years (lighter sauces, Asian pastas, Cajun pastas, pan-cross cultural pastas, you know the rest), sometimes it's nice to eat the kind of pasta that reminds us why we loved it so much in the first place, and for that, we recommend the chicken lasagna Alfredo at Josephine's. Tender… More >>
  • Best Shish Kebab

    Cafe East

    The "East" in this spiffy, clean little restaurant, housed in a former fast-food outlet, does not refer to its location in Houston (it's actually on the far west side of the city), but to the Russian word for east, vostok. In Russia, east is a shorthand term for the Moslem regions of the former Russian Empire. Owner Ayat Ilyakhunov, a… More >>
  • Best Beignets

    Crescent City Beignets - CLOSED

    Shuffling your tray down the line at Crescent City Beignets amid the Lamar High students, you can't help feeling like you're eating breakfast in the high school cafeteria. You also can't help wondering whether these beignets are going to be as good as the ones you get in New Orleans. And then you get to the cashier and see the… More >>
  • Best Catfish

    Goode Co. Seafood

    The twisted, splintery logs stacked in a pile behind Goode Co. Seafood right next to the barbecue pits are a good omen. Just in case anyone was worried, there will be mesquite-smoked catfish tonight. In a day and age where catfish just isn't considered any way but coated with flour or cornmeal and deep-fried, the mesquite-grilled catfish ($11.95) is a… More >>
  • Best Steak Dinner for Two for 20 Bucks

    PJ's Sports Bar

    Finding a cheap steak dinner can be dicey -- if the price is right, the meal usually isn't. Small tough cuts of meat that have been sitting under a warming light for an hour or so ain't a bargain, no matter how inexpensive they might be. PJ's Sports Bar, on West Gray between Taft and Montrose, has a more appetizing… More >>
  • Best Club Sandwich

    Express Deli - CLOSED

    'Tis a monstrous thing, this double-decker piled high and sliced in substantial halves, not those traditional quarters. That single diagonal cut, though, is as far as Express Deli, the all-purpose lunch counter-grocery on the ground floor of Houston House apartments, strays toward the experimental. Sure, you can choose your cheese and take it on toasted white or wheat, but the… More >>
  • Best Curried Goat

    Sheshahnen

    The $5.99 lunch buffet at this Pakistani hangout is an incredible bargain. The zesty curried goat features the softest goat meat you've ever eaten. Pakistani curry is spicy and much more exciting than most Indian versions. There also are plenty of chicken, beef and vegetable dishes on the buffet along with a great saag paneer and a steady supply of… More >>
  • Best Fried Chicken

    Frenchy's Chicken

    Time, an endless river, rolls along, as does the channelized stream of Brays Bayou, a few blocks south of Frenchy's Chicken. But this family-run operation just keeps on keepin' on. Opened in 1969 by Louisiana native Frenchy Cruzot, this small 99 percent takeout spot (a few metal tables are set out for those who have to have their chicken right… More >>
  • Best Iced Tea

    Kaldi Cafe

    Iced tea is a gracious beverage. It hints of endless refills and an infinity of time, and it's the right thing to drink at funky, laid-back Kaldi Cafe, where no one is ever in a hurry. Kaldi offers tea drinkers a nifty selection of flavors du jour -- ginger-peach, say, or herbal mint -- and because you fetch your own… More >>
  • Best Martini

    The Twister, The Remington Grill

    In our ardent quest for Houston's best martini, we asked several bartenders to define the drink. Of course, each gave us a different answer -- and all were correct. While there are some definite guidelines, a single definition does not exist. A generation ago, a martini was as cut-and-dry as its taste: gin and vermouth, shaken or stirred. A generation… More >>
  • Best New York Deli Sandwich

    Kahn's Deli

    Weighing in at slightly less than a pound, the Reuben ($6.99) at Kahn's Deli is a delicious way to exercise jaw muscles. It's a jungle of pungent sauerkraut, piles of corned beef and a thick layer of melted Swiss cheese that makes one wonder if any human can open their mouth wide enough to get a traditional bite. The Russian… More >>
  • Best Poor Boy

    La Tapatia Taqueria Mexican Cafe

    La Tapatia Taqueria's poor boys are practically an entire Mexican meal between two fresh buns. Along with a belt-bustingly generous serving of one of 12 meats or a veggie, the sandwich is smeared with refried beans and sour cream. It also includes slippery avocado slices (which sometimes escape the sandwich when you're taking a big bite), lettuce and tomatoes. Shredded… More >>
  • Best Drive-thru Drink

    Frozen lemonade, Bambolino's

    1. Houston is a car city. 2. Houston is hot. 3. Driving in the heat makes you crave big cold drinks. Which is why you should drive to Bambolino's. Without leaving your car, you can buy a semifrozen lemonade for a piddling $1.29. At 32 ounces, the large serving is sufficiently big. And it's crushed-ice-cold enough to give you an ice-cream headache.… More >>
  • Best Bar Food

    Pizza at Kenneally's

    Pizza? At an Irish bar? We didn't think that made sense either. We were expecting DiGiorno or something far more frozen. But this homemade pizza is the best we've ever tasted. They've made it fresh every day for the past 11 years, and they almost always sell every slice they make. It's hot and greasy, and the cheese oozes off… More >>
  • Best Chicken-Fried Steak

    Treebeards

    Normally Texans do not associate chicken-fried steak with a Cajun restaurant. Granted, the one served up at Treebeards -- best known for its red beans and rice -- is not the typical battered piece of meat smothered in a white cream gravy. Instead, this is chicken-fried like your grandmother used to make. This thick but tender piece of steak looks… More >>
  • Best Margarita

    Cafe Adobe - CLOSED

    Life is complicated enough. Don't let your liquor be that way. Unhappily, Houston has hundreds of bars and restaurants trying to hook consumers with ever-evolving concoctions. By all means, let them audition. Encourage them to pour all kinds of fruity and frothy mixtures to be zapped into life by 220-volt blenders, like some Frankenstein creation. Just don't let 'em mess… More >>
  • Best Drive-thru Drink

    Frozen lemonade, Bambolino's

    1. Houston is a car city. 2. Houston is hot. 3. Driving in the heat makes you crave big cold drinks. Which is why you should drive to Bambolino's. Without leaving your car, you can buy a semifrozen lemonade for a piddling $1.29. At 32 ounces, the large serving is sufficiently big. And it's crushed-ice-cold enough to give you an ice-cream headache.… More >>
  • Best Cold Boiled Shrimp

    Captain Benny's Half Shell Oyster Bars

    Some people refer to journalists as bottom-feeders. Well, as long as there are crustaceans like the ones served up at the Captain's around, we will consider ourselves in good company. Since the restaurant is best known for its oysters on the half shell, the cold boiled shrimp sometimes get overlooked, but not by us. Never overcooked, these large pink beauties… More >>
  • Best Dim Sum

    Ocean Palace

    Being new, big and shiny, Ocean Palace has a few obvious advantages over its competitors: a ballroom-size dining room with 100 tables, a pond in front of the restaurant garnished with lily pads, and substantial hype that keeps people waiting every Sunday morning for a table -- for good reason. Ocean Palace serves the largest variety of dim sum in… More >>
  • Best Fried Rice

    Chinese Cafe

    At most Chinese restaurants, fear the "special" fried rice. Rumored to be made of day-old rice and whatever leftover meat and vegetable bits fall from the cutting board, the only thing special about the rice is that it's drowned in soy sauce, creating a super-salty and greasy meal. But not at Chinese Cafe. Here, "special" means lots of ingredients (shrimp,… More >>
  • Best Garlic Beef

    The Golden Room

    Almost everything at this Thai/Chinese restaurant is good. One strange bonus is that the place is almost always empty. The walls are red with gold trim and funky Chinese artifacts; the waitstaff smiles and doesn't say much. The garlic beef is the best food we've ever tasted in our entire lives. They must marinate the meat for a month, or… More >>
  • Best Lemonade

    Barnaby's Cafe

    Some things you just can't get year-round in other parts of the country. Take lemonade: It's a seasonal refreshment up north, and even then, it's usually made with the powdered stuff in a can. That's not the case in Houston, or at Barnaby's Cafe. Every morning they squeeze their own lemons and make the most delicious citrus beverage this side… More >>
  • Best Mashed Potatoes

    Vallone's Steaks, Fish & Chops

    Once you get over the fact that they look like a failed attempt at guacamole -- made with the bright green avocado paste, no less -- you'll realize that the poblano pepper mashed potatoes at Vallone's are some spectacular spuds. Sure, the bright color is not found in nature, and the creamy lump-free consistency causes a major ooze factor on… More >>

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