Croissant Brioche French Bakery
Dave Rosales

In the heart of Rice Village is a little French bakery that serves an almond-crusted monster of a croissant. These things are huge. Somebody had the ingenious idea of making an almond sandwich out of a croissant and almond paste. The croissant is big, buttery, flaky and a rich dark color. Almond paste is slathered on the top and on the inside of the sliced croissant and covered with perfectly toasted almond slices. It's a meal of a pastry. And who better to serve you a gigantic French pastry than a French model? Okay, there may not really be French models working behind the counter, but damn, they look like it.

If you're looking for atmosphere, don't go here. You will be disappointed in this hole in the wall, whose only wall decorations are pictures of Cuba. However, if you want simple, authentic, homemade Cuban food, and lots of it, you won't find any finer or any cheaper. Start out with mariquitas, crispy plantain chips smothered in garlic sauce, or try the empanadas or croquetas. Then on to heartier fare like ropa vieja (shredded beef) or palomilla (top sirloin) steak covered in onions. Or try two different kinds of pork: masitas fritas, fried pork chunks; or pernil, a wonderful roasted pork. All are served with glistening white rice and black beans, ripe plantains or yuca (cassava). Wash it down with a mango milkshake and finish with a flan and a cubanito, a pre-sugared espresso. Before you leave, get a Cuban sandwich to go, just in case hunger pangs strike in two or three days.

Kahn's Delicatessen - CLOSED

Kahn's Deli is a Houston institution, and as you sit and wait for your sandwich you'll soon figure out why. This old-school deli in the Village makes one hell of an amazing Reuben sandwich, and almost everyone in line will be ordering the original or some variation of it. The rye bread is homemade and remains soft on the inside even when toasted, and the corned beef is tender and plentiful. All of the other things that comprise a classic deli are here too, but once you bite into your Reuben, you might not notice anything else.

Dacapo's Pastry Cafe
Jeff Balke

If you have even the slightest sweet tooth, you will find this place irresistible, not only for the sheer quantity of desserts, but the way they remind you of homemade cooking — you know, the kind that happened before the microwave. If you're yearning for an old-fashioned raspberry and blackberry pie, then the "wild berry blast pie" is for you. Think you've found the ultimate tres leches? Think again. The version served here is topped with a raspberry sauce that makes this unlike any other you've tried. Key lime? Unbelievable. Red velvet cake? Check. Italian cream cake? Mamma mia! Pecan pie? Choose from chocolate and cinnamon versions — yes, cinnamon. It's good! Carrot cake? Check. Dutch apple pie? To die for. And don't forget the banana split cake, the chocolate fudge cake, the chocolate mousse cake, chocolate covered strawberries, truffles — the list goes on.

Kim Son

The Hong Kong-trained chef at Kim Son's Southwest Freeway location in Stafford turns out more than 100 different dim sum dishes. His green-skinned xiu mai is gorgeous, and his shrimp-stuffed eggplant is divine. Ask for the photo-illustrated dim sum menu at the front desk; it will help you figure out what you are seeing rolling by on the carts, since the cart pushers seldom speak English. If there's something on the dim sum menu that you specifically want to try, you can send your waiter or waitress out on a scouting mission for you. If they can't find it on a cart, they'll put in a special order for you in the kitchen.

Shipley Do-nut Shops

As with Dunkin' Donuts fans in the Northeast, there's something about Shipley's that Texans can't get enough of. Started in 1936 in Houston, Shipley's is in just about every Texas town and throughout the South. The offerings here are always fresh and, if your timing is good, the hot glazed "do-nuts" will go straight from the cooling tray to your takeout box. There are more than 60 varieties here, but the maple-frosted and chocolate-filled are insanely good. Several types of kolaches are also available, but your best bet is the "do-nuts."

Concert Pub -- Galleria
Photo by Houston Press Staff

While the heyday of the Richmond Strip has gone the way of slap bracelets and grunge, The Concert Pub's Industry Night Mondays are the best way to get drinks that are typically expensive on the cheap. With their $2 Kamikazes and $4 Bull Blasters, you can pull an Elvis and combine uppers with downers all night long without worrying whether the tab's gone into triple-digit territory. Attractive, talkative bartenders add to the friendly atmosphere, and the spacious game rooms feature everything from air hockey to Golden Tee. Finish off the night on the outdoor patio with a $5 domestic pitchers and a half-price pizza, and you've saved yourself a bundle. While you're at it, go ahead and indulge in the '90s karaoke: Who knew you still knew the lyrics to Snow's "Informer" by heart? A licky boom boom down!

Baytown Seafood Restaurant
Jeff Balke

Can't wait for your seafood? Then order ahead and use the drive-thru at Baytown Seafood. Here you'll find glorious gumbo, sensational shrimp (both grilled and fried), fresh oysters, catfish and red snapper, to mention but a few of the items on the extensive menu. Need a quick lunch? Try the oyster or shrimp po' boy without leaving the confines of your car. Sides include the obligatory French fries but also dirty rice and grilled mixed veggies, which lighten the blow of the fried fish. One of the finest dishes is the spicy Mexican appetizer cocktel de pulpo y camarón, the octopus and shrimp cocktail in a tomato sauce. Although it can get a bit messy eating this dish while driving 80 mph on the freeway.

Dry Creek Cafe

Sure, you can't drink here — but beer and wine will only fill you up, and you want to have plenty of room for all the delicious menu items at Dry Creek. Try a flavored limeade instead of a mixed drink as you dip into their fried goodies, tasty ­burgers and a great salad (order it with the creamy serrano dressing). Right on Yale, the place has a great patio and a nice indoor atmosphere too, and it's great for lunch or a lazy dinner. It's just a few blocks away from its boozy counterpart, Onion Creek. Hey, you can go out for drinks afterward. But if you can't wait, the BYOB rule is in full effect.

Fu Fu Cafe

Fu Fu's awesome soup dumplings appear on the menu disguised as "A26 Steam Pork Bun (4) $2.50." The only way to appreciate the true genius of the soup dumpling is to burst the whole thing in your mouth. That way, the soup combines with the soft dough and the loose meatball to form a wonderfully slurpy bite of soup, meat and dough. By all means try them, but remember they come to the table extremely hot. Wait until they cool! Fu Fu's Beijing-style pan-fried pork dumplings are long rectangles with open ends that look like miniature hot dogs. Fresh out of the pan, when the thick dough is crispy on the bottom and noodle-soft on the top, these are sensational. But if you are looking for something else in a dough wrapper, Fu Fu Café has ten other varieties to choose from, including chicken dumplings, pan-fried pork buns and mushroom dumplings.

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