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'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.

Houston is well-endowed in the empanada department. There are Colombian, Argentinean and Central American empanadas to choose from. But the richest, flakiest, tastiest in town are served at this Venezuelan pastry shop in Braes Heights. The half-moon-shaped meat pies come with a delicate yellow crust and your choice of a minced chicken or beef filling. They taste like a cross between South American empanadas and Jamaican patties. And they go great with Cuban coffee. While you're at Venetian, take a look at Venezuelan pastry chef Hugo Penaranda's fantastically colorful cakes, caramel-topped éclairs and Cuban-style breads. During the last decade, Penaranda has opened more than 30 Cuban-style bakeries in Florida. But when he decided to build a Latin-style bakery of his own, he headed for Space City.

Ah, enchiladas, the cornerstone of all Tex-Mex combo plates. Most are good in the sidekick position, but there are a very few that can take center stage and demand the spotlight for themselves. The mole enchiladas at La Guadalupana are among them. A little different from the ordinary rolled tortilla topped with cheese and a chili sauce, these enchiladas are made with lightly sautéed corn tortillas rolled around a chicken filling, then topped with a rich mole sauce. Okay, so far, nothing unusual. But then comes the Guadalupana signature, a layer of shredded lettuce, onions, avocado slices and Mexican cheese. The fresh lettuce and avocado make a nice counterpoint to the heavy, thick mole sauce, creating a savory mix of flavors. READERS' CHOICE: Chuy's Restaurant

Everything about Tony's exudes class, and if you're entertaining an important client, you'll want everything to be executed flawlessly from the moment you arrive to the moment you leave. That's precisely what you'll get here. If you're into "over the top" and have a limitless expense account, open with a magnum of 1995 Perrier Jouet for $550; nothing says celebration better than champagne. A bottle of 1945 Petrus at $30,000 should work for the meal (although the wine list warns that vintages more than 20 years old are opened at the buyer's risk), and a final flourish of a 1963 Taylor Fladgate port at $850 ought to impress even the most jaded of clients. As for the meal, expect nothing but the finest ingredients with service to match. A touch of foie gras to start, followed by double-cut lamb chops with portobello mushrooms and French whipped potatoes should do the trick. Finish off with a Grand Marnier soufflé and an artisan cheese plate, and the $100-plus tab for the food will seem insignificant compared with the booze. So eat away and don't worry about the bill — someone else is ­paying.

Photo by Leonel Nerio

Cavatore's has been serving Houston families for generations. A warm, friendly staff, excellent food, reasonable prices and Michaelangelo on piano make this one of the most popular Italian restaurants in town. (Folks drive in from the suburbs to dine on Cavatore's scrumptious spaghetti and handmade meatballs.) The restaurant is still owned and managed by the Cavatore family, who keep the food and service quality high, paying personal attention to everything that comes out of the kitchen. Cavatore's has a down-home setting, so you can bring the kids, but it also has a few romantic corners to hide in. Try it once and you'll be hooked.

Dave Rosales

Buffets can be a wonderful way to sample the cuisine of a particular country, especially if you're not familiar with it. At Gold Ribbon, names of dishes appear above each item on the buffet, which helps to identify the choices. White rice and fried rice anchor the buffet offerings, where you will find such dishes as green beans in coconut sauce, fish with ginger escabeche, a rich, dark chicken adobo or a chicken afritada stew. The lechon kawali, or roast pork, comes with the crispy pork rind and is delectable. The restaurant is large and can be rented out for weddings (they also make sweets and wedding cakes).

"Wild Kitchen, London and Cajun Style" reads the confusing sign in front of this wacky fish-and-chip stand. The Korean-American owner, Joon, explains that he moved to Houston from Northern California, where he had a 14-store chain of London-style fish-and-chip restaurants. But when he tried to serve London-style fish and chips in Houston, everybody asked for spicy Cajun-style seafood instead. So he decided to roll out a new concept featuring both London- and Cajun-style fried fish. Thus Wild Kitchen was born. You will probably like the lovely golden-brown coating on the London-style fish over the slightly gritty Cajun cornmeal. But the Cajun cornmeal is vastly preferable on the shrimp. Don't miss the extremely juicy, large fried oysters. They taste great with both the London and the Cajun coating. And the onion rings resemble the tempura onions you get at a Japanese restaurant — they're spectacular.

Laurier Café is a modern neighborhood bistro with some seriously addictive fries. Shoestring cut, they are always crispy, golden and piled high. Whether you choose the traditional steak frites, the steamed mussels and fries with a side of aioli, or one of the many outstanding sandwiches with fries offered at lunch, there won't be any left on the plate when you're done.

Photo by Robb Walsh

For the best fried chicken in town, there's nothing like homemade. But if mama's isn't available, there's always the Barbecue Inn. I know, you're thinking, BBQ Inn? Yep, BBQ Inn. When you order the Southern fried chicken, you will face two problems. The first is that it takes 25 minutes, because it's made from scratch. The wait is somewhat alleviated with the salad course, but then there's the second problem: the excruciatingly long time between when the plate is placed in front of you and when you can take your first bite, at least five minutes later. All you can do is to stare at the four perfectly cooked pieces of chicken while you wait for them to cool just enough not to burn your mouth. Think you've had crispy chicken before? Think again. This stuff is so crispy, you'll be picking up every crumb of crispy coating that falls off.

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