This stately white and stainless steel taco truck can be found at the corner of Hillcroft and Jessamine on the same block as Droubi's Middle Eastern grocery and bakery. The cooking is top-notch, and the garnishes are unusually elaborate. Try the quesadillas al pastor, lovingly topped off with sour cream, avocado and cilantro. You get two salsas with every order, a fiery red and a tart green, and a little foil pouch full of radishes and marinated onions. "My beautiful Huetamo #2" is the English translation; the taqueria on wheels was named after the town of Huetamo in the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacán. The truck was recently purchased by a seasoned kitchen veteran named Nicolas who has worked in Houston restaurants, including Carrabba's and Pappas Brothers Seafood, for the last 22 years. Nicolas decided it was time to go out on his own. He says the hours are long, but he doesn't have a boss anymore, so it's worth it.

Photo by Daniel Kramer

There are two kinds of tamales to be found here: the machine-made kind, which aren't bad, and the handmade kind, which are unbelievable. Either way, you'll be given a paper bag containing your booty, since there's nowhere to eat them. Pick up a dozen handmade chicken or beef tamales or, best of all, six of each for $8. No two are exactly alike. The meat makes up more than half of these tamales, unlike some places where there's more masa than meat. The chicken and the beef fillings are coarsely cut, so you can easily tell what you're eating. Orders come with red or green salsa, which is almost unnecessary, since the tamales at Alamo Tamale Factory are already so moist.

Serving classic tapas and sangria, Rioja is a standard among Spanish restaurants in Houston. It is pretty much a no-brainer that when you go to Rioja, you're going to get some pretty badass tapas, like the house-made chorizo or the fried shrimp with smoked paprika. Rioja serves good-size proportions of authentic, well-made tapas, reasonably priced and made with fresh ingredients. But the kicker is you can wash them down with an amazing sangria. In a nutshell, this place is perfect for getting borracho and having some handy snacks to take care of you.

If it's down-home comfort you seek, look no further than Laredo Taqueria. From the woman behind the counter hand-rolling the softest of tortillas to the Little League photos and ceramic tiles depicting the Virgin Mary on the walls, this cozy one-room joint on the north side of town just off I-45 brings home the feeling of an old-timey taqueria. Fall into line alongside the display case that boasts simmering troughs of pork, chicken and fajita meats, all of which are falling-apart tender, and you'll see why this little gem is often packed. Plus, at $1.50 for a taco bursting with this much flavor, the price will make you feel good, too.

Jeff Balke

When Los Dos Amigos first opened 32 years ago, the sign above the building was red. The color has washed away over the years, and now you can barely read the name of the place. Los Dos Amigos is one of many restaurants on Washington Avenue that were built to serve the nearby Mexican barrio. The neighborhood has changed, but the humble little eatery still serves a disappearing variety of home-cooked Tex-Mex. Breakfast at Los Dos Amigos features hand-cut potatoes, homemade flour tortillas and silky refried beans. Don't embarrass yourself by asking if the tortillas and beans are made with lard. Of course they are. Breakfast tacos are 99 cents, and the breakfast specials are $3.25 until 10 a.m. For a true taste of yesteryear, order the cheese enchiladas topped with two fried eggs and raw onions.

Vieng Thai's dynamic dishes are a welcome change or addition to the ordinary just-home-from-work quick dinner out. As you enter the modest dining area, remind yourself that it's the food at Vieng Thai that's bringing you here. Random karaoke videos in the background may or may not add to the ambience, depending on your camp-tolerance that day. The impressive menu guides you through lime, peanut, eggplant, coconut and curry, and if you're looking for hot, you've come to the right place. Vieng Thai's spicy dishes make no concessions to the American palate, but there are also plenty of mild options listed for those who want to go home with some taste buds intact. Or meet in the middle with the kee mao noodles. While some heat is present, these are sure to appease those who are looking to take a brief stroll on the wild side. Vegetarians will appreciate an entire page of dishes geared especially to them.

For those who want to live meat-free but still can't shake that craving for the forbidden, Quan Yin Vegetarian is the place. The soy substitutes come in just about every shape, color and type of animal that you'll find on a farm, and are as close to the real thing as you can get without drawing blood. One highlight of the extensive all-vegetarian menu is the soy-chicken and onions dish. Served with perfectly cooked broccoli florets, the tender chicken and sweet onions are brought to your table with a scoop of white rice. Thinly sliced ginger adds a nice kick. Bite after bite, your mouth will swear it's chicken while your mind will rest easy knowing it's not. The textures, colors and flavors in other dishes here get it right every time, and items like egg-less egg rolls make vegans happy as well.

Robert Z. Easley

Field of Greens's mostly meat-free menu has a wide range of dishes, including a raw vegetable rainbow plate, green bean hummus wrap and six different kinds of veggie burgers. Feeling overwhelmed? The knowledgeable staff makes ordering easy and will happily explain the difference between tempeh and tofu or make substitutions to accommodate vegan customers and those with additional dietary restrictions. Carnivorous companions will be pleasantly surprised by the meatless BBQ chicken salad or hearty eggplant parmesan. With weekday breakfast as a new addition, Houston's vegetarians no longer have reason to whine about where to go for their morning meal.

Vietnamese Americans visiting Houston from the East and West coasts tell us there is nothing like Que Huong (pronounced WAY HONG) where they come from. They are blown away by the quality of the food and the cheap prices. Don't miss the hot Vietnamese egg rolls with cold lettuce leaf wrappers and fish sauce dip (#004), and the pan-fried squid (#273). The Vietnamese calamari comes with salt and preserved plum powder for dipping. (You squeeze lime juice onto the fried jumbo squid sticks before you dip them so that the salt sticks.) You can't miss with any of the pho soup bowls. And you probably won't like the bitter melon. Try the tempura softshell crab (#272). It comes to the table on a pile of romaine lettuce leaves with a plate of garnishes and a sweet and hot dipping sauce on the side. To eat it, you wrap a hot crunchy crab section in a cold lettuce leaf with some fresh herbs and cucumber, spritz it with lime juice and then dunk it in some sauce.

Go for the wine; keep going back for the food. Max's Wine Dive has a first-rate wine list, but it's this joint's food that separates it from the growing number of wine bars stretched along Washington. From the Texas-size Kobe-beef burger topped with creamy brie to the fried-egg sandwich with three eggs covered in truffle oil, smoked bacon and Gruyère cheese, Max's elevates dive-bar food to the level of straight-up cuisine. Often cramped with "pretty people," this place sometimes feels like a busy Manhattan bar. But sinful treats like the "Big Ass Brownie" and the "Guinness Float" are more than enough to put the soul at ease.

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