This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston® issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.
The MKT Bar that's attached to the six-month-old Phoenicia Specialty Market downtown has quickly become the epitome of a "useful" restaurant. Its proximity to Discovery Green makes it a great post-park lunch destination, and its proximity to the House of Blues makes it an equally great pre-show dinner spot that's not too fancy but just different enough to be interesting. The beers and wines that Haig Tcholakian keeps on tap at the bar make for a busy happy-hour scene after work and I've even had several pleasant walks after dinner there over to downtown's Theater District for a show (the most recent being the very apropos Marcel Khalife).
What makes MKT Bar's food offerings "just different enough" is the Levantine slant that the Tcholakians bring to old favorites like chips and queso, french fries or pizza. Here, the queso is a four-cheese blend of beemster, white cheddar, gruyère and kefalograviera -- all of which is enhanced by ordering it with crumbled kibbeh on top. The cinnamon and nutmeg of the beef kibbeh bring out all of the wonderful salt, butter and caramel flavors in the cheese blend, the whole thing begging to be poured on top of the thin pita chips served on the side (made in-house, naturally). And the fries are dusted with za'atar and served with tzatziki and Moroccan ketchup
But it's the fruit-and-veggie-laden Farmer's MKT pizza that's my current favorite: spinach, red peppers, green onions, roasted shallots, roasted pears, roasted apples and more of that kefalograviera cheese are all thrown onto a thick, rustic, Kalamata olive-filled crust that's salty and savory enough to stand up to all the sweetness of the roasted fruit on top.
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The list so far:
No. 100: Chili cheese mac at Jus' Mac No. 99: Texas turkey sandwich at Spec's No. 98: Custard at Petite Sweets No. 97: Caprichos mixtos at Taqueria Monterrey Chiquito No. 96: Pineapple-wasabi burger at Lankford Grocery