Truluck's stone crabs are flown in every day from company beds in Florida. If they were any fresher, these crustaceans would arrive at your table fighting. They're kept on ice for the journey but never frozen. This yields a watery, stringy stone crab. Novices take note: You should eat only the white meat in the large claw. It's nearly impossible to find a more enjoyable feast than this, served with either a simple melted butter or a spicy mustard sauce. Monday is the best day: The all-you-can-eat stone crab feast is $39.95.
The challah is braided and brown on the outside and golden with egg yolks in the middle -- take some home and make French toast with it and your breakfast will take on a whole new dimension. If you're thinking of making roast beef sandwiches, you'll want to build them on moist, onion-covered Three Brothers onion rolls. Corned beef sandwiches? Get the seeded rye; the chewy crust increases the interest level of your typical meat-and-mustard combination dramatically. On Fridays, there's also corn rye, a super-dense version of rye that's outstanding with chopped liver. (It can't be cut with an ordinary bread knife so remember to ask them to slice it for you.) On Friday, Three Brothers also has chocolate and cinnamon babkas and other sweet breads to choose from -- all of them first-rate. What else would you expect from the best Jewish bakery in the state?

We're willing to bet that Oysters Gilhooley are the best barbecued oysters on the entire Gulf Coast. The fresh-shucked oysters are topped with cheese and sauce and then smoked over a pecan-and-oak fire. The shells get partially blackened and the oysters pick up a strong smoky flavor while remaining juicy. And the wonderful flavor is only accentuated by Gilhooley's charming atmosphere. The outdoor seating area, with its ramshackle patio furniture, is overgrown with vegetation. The interior is all worn woodwork and old furniture. The rafters seem to be held together by the license plates that cover them. Children are forbidden here, no doubt in part because of all the show-us-your-tits photos. Gilhooley's Raw Bar may also be the last place in the United States where you can get a dozen raw oysters and a rare hamburger for lunch.
And on the eighth day, God created Istanbul Grill's stuffed mushrooms. Yes, they really are that good. The popular Turkish restaurant in the Rice Village is known for a lot of great dishes, but it's the stuffed mushroom appetizer that is an absolute must-have. The dish comes with four medium-sized mushrooms filled with mozzarella cheese, parsley and black pepper. The shrooms are then topped off with a special sauce made from fresh tomatoes, bell peppers, garlic, oregano and, according to a restaurant employee, "some special Turkish herbs."
With an outdoor walk-up bar, you don't even have to go inside to quench your thirst at our new favorite pub in the Village. You can sit on a stool outside and have a pint and watch passersby. Even inside, the place has an outdoor feel -- the place doesn't really have a front wall. You can sit on the leather couches indoors (if you can find an open spot) and feel like your mom opened the living room's sliding glass doors. Bottoms up.
The eggplant is a fine-looking fruit (yes, technically it's a fruit). It's big and round and dressed up in royal purple. But let's admit it, most of us are at a loss as to what to do with it in the kitchen. So why not leave that task up to the cooks at Brasil? They've certainly proved themselves worthy enough with their delicious baked eggplant sandwich. Big yummy hunks of the nutritious food (low in calories, but high in fiber) are nestled between fresh spinach, tomatoes, feta and a delicious black-olive tapenade -- pure delight with every bite. The sandwich is served on warm French or focaccia bread with a side of bagel chips. While we're busy honoring the lovely eggplant, here's another fun fact: Although technically a fruit, the eggplant is botanically categorized as a berry. But who cares when it tastes this good?
With 57 draft beers and 52 in bottles, The Ginger Man has something to please even the most discerning drinker. It also has the best selection of ciders in Houston. Draft selections include our locally brewed cask-conditioned St. Arnold's Amber, as well as a wonderfully refreshing Paulaner Hefeweizen (Germany) wheat beer. Then there's the highly complex Young's Double Chocolate (Great Britain) and the Lindemans Framboise (Belgium), with more than a hint of raspberries. Bottled beers include an organic brew called Wolaver's Brown Ale (United States) and the wonderfully named Delirium Tremens (Belgium), which is what you may end up with if you attempt to try all the brews available here.

Sometimes in Houston you need to fight fire with ice -- and the right thing to put over that ice is horchata, the Mexican agua fresca made from rice and sugar. Sure, there are pleasant versions flavored with vanilla or cinnamon, but the best of all is coconut. The deli of your local Fiesta Mart offers a coconutty version so good that you'll be tempted to suck the last sandy dregs of rice from the bottom of your Styrofoam cup. But when a grande costs only $1.39, why not just spring for a second?
Over at the Hard Rock, it's not all about framed trinkets of rock-and-roll days gone by and a stocked gift shop. They also serve delicious food that's worth eating under a glass display of Rick Springfield's surgical scrubs from General Hospital. And believe it or not, one of their best delicacies is their milk shake, because, unlike those at some other Houston eateries, their milk shakes actually taste like freakin' milk shakes. When you order a strawberry milk shake, there are real strawberries in that bad boy -- none of that syrupy stuff like they serve at IHOP. Usually the Hard Rock serves it up in a slim glass. But when you order it to go, they give you this big-ass Styrofoam cup, and they thick that baby up so good that you have to suck with all your might just to get a sip. It's a struggle, but it's a good one. Fight the good fight, the sweet fight.
At least four things have to be right to make the perfect espresso. First, the ingredient: finely ground Italian espresso-roasted coffee. Second, the equipment: a machine capable of bringing the water to 2000 degrees and delivering the right pressure. Third: the know-how, in the form of an experienced barista who both knows how to tamp down the coffee in the gruppa (the metal cup) and keeps a watchful eye on the whole process. Last: knowing to serve it in a porcelain demitasse, which is far more civilized than a cardboard cup and makes it taste much better. A fine espresso should be enjoyed much as you would a fine wine. Swish it around in your mouth to get the full flavor and texture; it should have an almost syrupy feel. The thick, reddish-brown crema on top, the symbol of a perfect extraction, should be thick enough to hold two teaspoons of sugar for a few seconds before letting it sink to the bottom of the cup. At Dolce & Freddo, that's what you get.

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