The Fountains in Stafford
Malls all over Houston try to distinguish themselves in some way, but not many succeed. The Fountains, just past Beltway 8 on the Southwest Freeway, does better than most. There are the eponymous waterspouts, of course, but there's also a semi-boardwalk along a small lake that links restaurants such as Sam's Boat, Kim Son, Texas Land & Cattle Steak House and Razzoo's. The mall also includes suburban outposts of two longtime Inner Loop favorites: the Avalon Diner and Otto's Barbecue. Beyond the food, there's a Loews movie house, an Old Navy discount outlet and a Borders Books. Let's be honest -- even with the fountains and boardwalk, the aesthetics aren't going to make anyone forget Venice. Or Kemah, for that matter. But there's a lot of stuff within strolling distance of wherever you park, and you don't have to go into the big mean city to experience it.