Goode Company Armadillo Palace
Photo courtesy of Goode Company

Armadillo Palace serves up some great Texas bistro fries. Thin cut with skins on and ­sprinkled with just enough seasoned salt, these fries are perfectly paired with a side of Goode Company's famous BBQ sauce. The ­secret here is frying them twice, so they're crispy on the outside and tender in the middle. If you like a fantastic burger and fries and don't mind listening to country music and ­being ogled by taxidermy, then Armadillo ­Palace is well worth a visit.

Frenchy's Chicken
Jeff Balke

Just across from the University of Houston, Frenchy's is the perfect place to avoid cafeteria food and even make those freshman 15 worth gaining. Get in line at the drive-thru, or get in your exercise by walking up to the stand to order fresh fried chicken with just enough grease to make it moist while retaining the crispy, spicy Cajun crust. Forks and knives just slow down the process, so ask for extra wet-naps and dig in. For penny-pinching patrons, meal deals are a must. The extra-large wings, breasts and thighs are served in a convenient box with Frenchy's fluffy biscuit and a choice of delectable sides.

Baby Barnaby's Cafe
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt

Don't be fooled by the somewhat decrepit facade of this Montrose breakfast haven. It seems the owners of this gay-owned Montrose staple decided to forgo the manscaping and instead focus on the classic American cuisine, delicious fresh-squeezed juices, on-the-case staff and affordable prices. After all, it's what's inside that counts, right? A welcoming rainbow flag in the window beckons patrons, who wait for a table on the patio and cruise the LGBT scene before heading in for comfort food in a comfortable setting. Baby Barnaby's is the place to enjoy stylish Houston gays and tasty food.

Lucky Burger

From the outside, Lucky Burger looks more like a greasy bucket than a greasy spoon. You may even think that the food inside this dumpy little corner eatery isn't safe, but inside are some really simple and tasty burgers. The short menu gets to the point with burgers and cheeseburgers, with variations of toppings like jalapeños, bacon, extra meat, blue cheese (­really?) and mushrooms, as well as sides of tots and onion rings. There's also fried fish burgers, nuggets, fried rice, chicken-fried steak burger and the teriyaki chicken burger. And don't worry, Lucky Burger has a chili burger — it wouldn't be a greasy spoon if it didn't.

Theo's

The beat-up decor of this all-night establishment might be a little off-putting at first, but as with most things Greek, personality is key. While working through plates of light and flaky spanakopita, dense moussaka and classic Greek salad, the in-your-face staff will make you feel cozy enough to sink into the comfy booths and even stick around once you've finished eating. The sampler will easily feed a family of four while giving a good idea of what Greece has to offer, and the classic gyros, crisp calamari and delectable pizzas are popular choices day and night.

El Tiempo Cantina

There's nothing quite like the flavor of freshly made guacamole. Once you've tasted it, it's almost impossible to eat the stuff that was made earlier or, worse still, the pre-packaged stuff many places try to pass for guacamole, which has either a nasty, preservative taste or a stale taste that overpowers the avocado. Here, you add accoutrements to personalize the guacamole just the way you like it. The mashed avocado still has some large chunks in it, which add texture. Finely-diced tomatoes, onions, jalapeño, garlic and lime wedges make this a dish that can stand alone or be eaten with any of their entrées.

Gelato Blu

The 75 varieties of gelato available here are all made by hand, and they should keep even the worst ice-cream-aholic satisfied for quite a while. All of the gelatos are extremely dense with intense flavors. There's also sorbetto, made with virtually nothing but fruit. It's hard to pick just one flavor, so the kind folks here are ready with a sample spoon. Perhaps you'll flip for the amaretto or the Almond Joy, or maybe the Baileys, tiramisu, blueberry cheesecake, chocolate macadamia or coconut peppermint.

Shri Balaji Bhavan Pure Vegetarian Restaurant
Jeff Balke

Shri Balaji Bhavan serves up some excellent Southern Indian comfort food that has not been dumbed down for the masses. The staff is friendly and willing to help navigate the menu, if you're not familiar with Indian food. Thali, or sampler platters of sorts, are a great way to try a number of things if you can't commit. There is also an impressive list of chaat — the bhel puri is addictive — and rice flour or lentil dosas that will make you return regularly to this unassuming vegetarian gold mine. Almost everything has a healthy amount of spice to it, so you'll want to get a lassi or some chai to go along with the meal.

Shanghai Cuisine

Houston ethnic food doesn't get much more exotic than this. But even if you aren't up to trying street foods like otak otak (tubular "fish cakes" grilled inside banana leaves and dipped in spicy peanut sauce), gado gado (watercress, long beans, cabbage, and fried tofu tossed in chili-spiked peanut sauce with crispy shrimp chips) or nasi goreng with sator (fried rice with "stink beans"), you will still find much to love at this little Indonesian diner. Try the chicken satay. You will think you've never eaten satay before. Covered in sweet soy-and-peanut sauce and dotted with chopped peanuts and garlic bits, the luscious Indonesian version of chicken satay is nothing like the dried-out chicken on a stick you get at Thai restaurants. Truth is, satay, much like the rest of Thai cuisine, comes from the much older culture of Indonesia.

Ristorante Cavour

Flawless is the only word to describe the service at this exclusive place with only seven tables in the Hotel Granduca. However, it's not just the traditional European-style service and unmistakable attention to detail that make Ristorante Cavour what it is; it's the fabulous, authentic, traditional Italian food that puts it over the top. You're encouraged to have three courses here, in the typical Italian manner, excluding dessert. For your antipasto, start with the wild mushroom soup, one of the best-tasting soups you'll ever encounter, or perhaps the beef carpaccio. For your primo, try the homemade gnocchi in a sage-veal juice, the soft polenta with parmesan or the risotto Milanese. For your secondo, have the osso buco or the chicken scaloppini, either of which will give you a taste of real Italian.

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