La Guadalupana Bakery and Cafe

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

Tony's

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.

Cavatore Italian Restaurant
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.

Rolling Pin Gold Ribbon Bake Shop
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

"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

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.

Barbecue Inn
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.

"Chicken-fried shrimp" on the bar menu at Café Annie is one of the best fried-shrimp creations you will ever put in your mouth. Half a dozen big shrimp are butterflied and skewered together to form a "patty" which is then dipped in batter, deep-fried and served flat on a plate like a chicken-fried shrimp steak. The batter is light and crisp, and the shrimp come out incredibly juicy. Spicy tartar sauce and a mango-cucumber salad are served on the side, but it's not a bad idea to get an order of giant onion rings while you're there. The bar menu is a lot more casual than the dining-room menu. And, as you might expect, celebrity chef Robert Del Grande turns out some amazing hamburgers and fries, too.

Baba Yega
Jeff Balke

Many members of Houston's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered communities consider Baba Yega to be the heart of Montrose. Just a few feet away from hotspots JR's and The Mining Company, Baba Yega certainly sits in the middle of everything Montrose. But more than that, the restaurant has embraced its GLBT guests, offering them not only great food but a place where they can openly be themselves. For more than 30 years, Baba Yega has served up hearty, healthful dishes for events ranging from wedding showers with two grooms to sedate business lunches.

Poppa Burger
Jeff Balke

Late-night gangsters, early morning landscapers and afternoon hangovers have all come to depend on Poppa's grease. Grease can be like a starter for sourdough bread: A little is carried over from the previous batch to increase flavor. Poppa must have, like, heirloom grease or something. There's genuine flavor in every little greasy item they push through the little greasy security-barred window on Main Street. Try the burgers; the #9 is a double cheeseburger with bacon jala­peños, and a slice of Wonder bread in the middle separating the layers of hamburger and cheese. You can get a Little Pop burger for only $1.20 and chili cheese fries for $2.31. Poppa Burger serves breakfast around the clock, so when you get that craving for a grilled bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, look no further. Other menu items include grilled cheese, breakfast tacos, fried-fish baskets and hot dogs. Poppa Burger has been a greasy Houston institution for more than 50 years. And if you really like the place, you can be its MySpace friend.

Best Of Houston®

Best Of