"Brasserie" means "brewery," and the folks at Max & Julie's have captured the lively spirit of the iconic French experience here in the heart of Montrose. Dive in with a bowl of Soup à l'Oignon, freshly made foie gras or roasted bone marrow, and then hit up traditional favorites such as the Alsatian sauerkraut dish, choucroute, the steak tartar with frites or the cassoulet. Sunday brunch is extra special, as the kitchen turns out the thinnest and most velvety crepes imaginable. The place has the look and feel of a classic brasserie, serving comfort food and decadent brunch fare. And don't forget a glass of French draft beer. After all, it wouldn't be a night at the local brasserie without one.

Best Omnivore's Dilemma Restaurant


Want to eat ethically and locally without giving up your nice dinners? Chef Randy Evans makes it possible at his new restaurant Haven. With menus printed daily, Haven carefully notes all of the local ingredients used in its dishes, from tomatoes to eggs to cheeses. Everything about the atmosphere of Haven is in line with a commitment to cook the freshest, cleanest and most satisfying food possible. Aptly named, Haven is a cool oasis for the conscientious eater.

Batli Joselevitz

Located nearly 15 miles west of downtown, Georgia's Farm to Market food store may be one of the area's greatest secret treasures. And its weekend all-you-can-eat brunch is even more so. Served from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday, Georgia's offers up a rotating menu of delicious, farm-fresh, organic delights. Visit the omelet station for an egg-white omelet with turkey ham, spinach and mushrooms, or dive into the enormous salad bar, with more than 80 locally grown organic fruits and vegetables to choose from. And if ambience is your thing, look no farther. Each week, local jazz acts get you in the mood for an incredible meal that's good for you, too.

Nestled in the Spring Branch area of Houston lies gleaming-clean Taqueria Jalisco. Pick your meat and how you want it — in a torta, taco, etc. — from the posted menu on the side and wait to be wowed. The cooks do not skimp on your servings, and each plate comes with thin-sliced radishes to help kill the heat and clear your palate in between bites. Sip on a jumbo horchata or apple soda to put out the fire of the salsa, which sits in a bowl on the countertop. The waitress described it as "very pico." She wasn't kidding.

Photo by Joanna O'Leary

Sometimes a night in is better than a night out. When reheating frozen foods just isn't cutting it, call on Auntie Chang's Dumpling House to kick those hunger pangs. The place will deliver its awesome steamed dumplings, lo mein, veggie and other classics straight to your door. Don't have a menu and can't remember what you want? The wait staff will patiently help you pick out a dish to your liking. Even if you're out on the town, Auntie Chang's will cart your order over to your favorite bar without a hassle (it's listed on cards for delivery options in some bars). Lo mein plus beer? Yes, please.

Sonoma could beat out its competition in selection size alone, but it doesn't stop there. For the traditionalist, there are elegant cheese and Italian meat platters with fruit and nuts. For the more adventurous, there's lobster risotto with asparagus or the chicken satay skewers. The Sonoma Pizza is another great option, with its thin, crispy crust topped with toasted gruyère, artichoke hearts, roma tomatoes, smoked bresaola and roasted garlic pesto. Select a few small plates, crack open a bottle of wine and prepare yourself for a deliciously relaxing meal.

With a space that epitomizes Texas-size luxury and a Sinatra soundtrack to boot, Vic & Anthony's would be easy to write off as nothing more than a downtown power lunch/expense account destination. But here's the thing: The steaks are really, really good. Like the 22-ounce bone-in rib eye, which you can get with a side of bone marrow bordelaise. Or the obscenely tender filet, in a nine- or 12-ounce portion, charred perfectly and sitting atop some very fine mashed potatoes. Toss in the city's best crab cake, knowledgeable wait staff and a dizzyingly long wine list and you've got yourself a dinner that's well worth the splurge.

New York Bagels is a Houston institution and a hot spot for Meyerland locals. It's a place where both college kids and bubbes can nosh and sip coffee. Perhaps it doesn't have the glitz of other local delis, but it makes up for that in quality. The cafe serves traditional food like salads (chicken, whitefish, egg), liver, pickled herring and kippered salmon, as well as New York-style overstuffed sandwiches. Drop in for great pancakes and latkes in the morning, and come back for the sandwiches in the afternoon. After your meal, stop at the bakery side (don't forget to try the heavenly bialys).

Jeff Balke

Alexander the Great Greek has certain dishes that people come back for again and again. It has the best whole charbroiled snapper in town, reason enough to stop here. Only if you took a boat out in Galveston Bay, caught a snapper and grilled it on the beach yourself could you get a fresher option. The calamari and the spanakopita are amazing, too.

There is no more authentic Argentinean restaurant in Houston than Manena's, despite the presence of other empanada purveyors or churrascarias scattered about the city. To experience a culinary mini-vacation, simply set aside an afternoon to drive out to the west side, order some humita and jamón y queso empanadas to start, a few sandwiches de miga if you're in the mood for something light or a perfectly breaded milanesa if you're going whole hog. And remember to save plenty of room for dessert. Manena's pastry case is transporting: cañoncitos filled with indulgent caramel, flaky vigilantes rellenos filled with quince jam, and the best tiramisu anywhere in the city. You can even pick up yerba mate and other Argentinean specialties in the tiny pantry section to take home with you as souvenirs of your tiny trip.

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