Flying Saucer Pie Company
A long, long time ago, Publius Syrus said that to do two things at once is to do neither. Sorry, Pub, but having visited the Flying Saucer Pie Company, we strongly disagree. Since 1967, co-owners Bill Leeson and Marilyn Smith have been doing at least a dozen things at once, each one of them brilliantly. Cherry, coconut cream, pecan, fresh strawberry cream, pumpkin, key lime, chocolate cream...Maybe their loophole is that they do pies and pies alone -- no sandwiches, no tables, no drinks. No matter. On Tuesday through Saturday mornings at 8 a.m., Flying Saucer's legions of loyal customers line up at the modest Garden Oaks-area store to get a whiff of the tantalizing aroma of baking and take home a perfect pie (or two) straight from the oven.
Churrascos
Photo by Houston Press Staff
In Latin America, plantains -- raw, mashed or fried -- are what's for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So it's no surprise that they show up all over South American menus in Houston. One of the best uses for the banana's big brother is the plantain chips at Churrascos. Known for its tender steaks and divine tres leches, Churrascos secures its loyal following with bottomless baskets of perfectly cut and lightly fried plantain slices. Throw in the amazing dipping sauce, and it's a good thing the baskets are bottomless.

In their definitive rendition of the oyster poor boy, the humble Main Street dive called Original New Orleans Po' Boy approaches greatness. They start with a toasted skinny roll, a spatula-full of tartar sauce, a bed of lettuce and a couple of tomato slices. Then come the six golden oysters fresh from the fryer. They fit the bread perfectly. If you eat it there, the oysters are still hot and juicy, so they gush into the lettuce, tomatoes and tartar sauce, creating a moist and creamy texture. This is one of those rare sandwiches in which every bite tastes better than the last. Rarer still is the price: $5.14, with tax.

Daniel Wong's Kitchen
Never thought you'd ever eat anything that had the words "road kill" in its description? Think again. Daniel Wong's Road Kill Pork is good, really good. It's basically the same dish as the restaurant's garlic pork, but with fewer vegetables and more meat. We recommend starting off with some dumplings and an order of Sparkling Chicken (chicken wrapped in aluminum foil with special spices and sauces). Though you'll be tempted, try not to lick the sauce directly off the foil. Hold out for that big dish of road kill. And don't share -- you'll want the whole thing, or at least the leftovers.

El Pupusodromo No. 1
Any late-night Inner Looper knows what a taqueria is. But a pupuseria? Ask a Salvadoran and they'll tell you that's where you go to get pupusas. These delicious little treats are thick, soft, corn masa tortillas stuffed with cheese, refried beans, chicharrones (pork cracklings) or any combination thereof. Eaten with cortido, a spicy Salvadoran pickled cabbage-and-carrot side dish (like kimchi with carrots, but let's not get our cultures too crossed), they're tasty, filling and affordable (under $1.50 each). And nobody makes them better than El Pupusodromo. The mural of the El Salvador countryside on the wall and the happy customers speaking in the charming Salvadoran dialect of Spanish (and little else) attest to the fact that this place is keeping it real on this side of the border.

Romano's Pizza
Who in their right mind would go to Romano's and not order the pizza? This shopping center spot is known for its thin, crispy, delicious pies, but if you never try the portobello ravioli, you're denying yourself an insanely indulgent pleasure. The Queens, New York, transplants at Romano's make this daily special from scratch, and you can taste it in the chewy pasta squares, the mild mushroom-ricotta-mozzarella filling and the spicy marinara-cream sauce. When you've successfully chased around the nine or ten puffy pillows with your fork, use the hot buttered garlic bread (included with the meal) to soak up the gobs of tangy sauce. And don't be surprised to find big chunks of sautéed garlic and large strips of fresh basil hidden in its depths. So do yourself a favor and break out of that pizza mold -- you can always have a cheese slice for dessert.

The way we see it, if a Mexican restaurant doesn't make its chips and salsa in its own kitchen every day, then it's not worth your time. There's nothing like dipping one of La Jaliscience's hot, greasy chips into their smoky, spicy, tomato souplike salsa. Served steaming hot -- if someone gets lazy and brings it cold, just ask for a fresh one -- with a bowl of jalapeos, onions, carrots and celery on the side, this salsa eclipses that of all other taquerias in town. Its consistency is different from what most people think salsa is supposed to be. The chunks of tomatoes, onions and peppers are conspicuously absent. But rest assured. They're in there, all mixed up in liquid form and ready to rock your world.
Otilia's
Finding good sangria at a restaurant is as difficult as predicting summer rain. Don't fool around with commercial, store-bought knockoffs when you can have the real thing made with love by the owners of Otilia's. A former hamburger stand, this family-owned Mexican eatery concocts a sangria that would make Jerry Jeff Walker pick up his guitar and sing it for the millionth time. Making it from scratch each day involves a lot of improvisation. "What recipe?" chuckled the owner. Ingredients aren't measured, just blended by taste for optimum refreshment. Great for hangovers, Saturday-morning garage sales or marathons.

Pass on the $6 panini. Decline the $8 deli sandwich. Instead, visit the original Givral's sandwich shop and try a banh mi thit for between $1.50 and $2 each. At Givral's, they use time-honored methods for making these Vietnamese hunger-busters. They start by heating an eight-inch-long French roll until it's super-crispy. Then they cut it lengthwise, scooping out all of the doughy center (to make room for extra filling) and slathering both sides with creamy homemade mayonnaise. They fill the sandwiches with long, thin strips of crisp cucumber, carrots, jalapeos and cilantro. Then comes your choice of meat -- from homemade pâté and ham to pulled chicken and pork. The most popular is the grilled barbecue pork, which goes straight from the grill to your sandwich.

There are many reasons to like tofu: It's good for you, and it's versatile. But there are some people who think tofu basically tastes like nothing -- no matter how many spices you put on it or how much soy sauce you drown it in. These are people who could never imagine the phrase "Can I please have some more tofu?" ever exiting their lips. We challenge these die-hard carnivores to try Vung Thai's cashew ginger tofu. It's deep-fried (so you can forget about any health-conscious hang-ups you may have). It's got zest. It's got spice. And amazingly, it still tastes good the next day. If you have leftovers (which is unlikely), stick them in the fridge and they're tasty cold or reheated. This is miracle tofu.

Best Of Houston®

Best Of