Hubcap Grill

Hubcap Grill is a relative newcomer to the Houston burger scene, yet its influence is undeniable: Come lunchtime, the teensy downtown eatery is packed with suits, families, athletes, hipsters, youngsters, old folks, Americans and multinationals, all eating contentedly in close comfort. Among creative menu options like the Frito Pie Burger and the Peanut Butter Sticky Burger sits the Philly Cheese Steak Burger, our pick for best cheeseburger in Houston. This two-hander is a thing of beauty crowned with thin-sliced ribeye steak and melted Swiss cheese. The patty is juicy without sog, nicely enveloped in the warm queso, and the buns are lightly toasted to offer just the right crunch. It may not be a cheeseburger in the traditional sense, but it's one that will have you joining the crowd that worships at this house of ground beef.

Nippon Japanese Restaurant

Nippon's simple and traditional sushi is but a grain of sand in this culinary pearl. Before the hostess leads you to your table, request the Japanese menu. Sure, you might not be able to read Japanese, but that's part of the fun. With tapas-style dishes, most of the Japanese menu is intended for sharing over your favorite sake. Ask your server for help with recommendations or, if feeling truly adventurous, have the server order his/her favorites. Either way, you'll get a taste of true Japanese fare.

Broken Spoke Cafe

How good are the fries — or frites, as they're appropriately called here — at Broken Spoke? So good that you won't even think twice about recommending them as Houston's best fries to all of your friends once you've tasted Catherine Duwez's miraculous, double-fried, truly Belgian frites. Duwez, who was once part of the team that ran the late, lamented Café Montrose, debuted a Belgian menu at The Broken Spoke — a pre-existing restaurant which had a rather bland menu in place — in late 2009. The restaurant has been a hit ever since, due in large part to the beautiful moules frites it serves up, as well as the house-made mayonnaise which Duwez makes herself. The fries are crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, never frozen and always perfectly seasoned. And if you ask nicely, Duwez will even give you a jar of the mayonnaise to take home if you want to tackle a meal of moules frites in your own kitchen.

Uberrito Mexican Grille

Despite all the fabulous burgers and enchiladas Houston has to offer, sometimes you just gotta sneak in a salad. Our go-to place for salads is none other than Mission Burrito, where we just can't quit that Que Mas salad. For any of you Yankees, youngsters and nonnatives, "que más" means "what more," and the salad is a veritable treasure chest of ingredients — greens, potato, corn, roasted red peppers, jicama, tortilla strips, cheese and the meat of your choice (we like shrimp). It's an eclectic mix, yet somehow it works — the darn thing is hearty, healthy and gooood. Try the low-fat buttermilk dressing if you're a health nut, but we think the salad is especially fine with the cilantro ranch dressing. Dy-no-mite!

Pesce

Pesce doesn't get the respect it deserves among foodies because it's part of the Landry's chain, and though it is a bit pricey, it does fish right. The Spicy Buffalo Calamari is a standout. For $10 you get a heaping portion of golden, fried calamari which can best be described as little ringlets of spicy goodness. Spiked with a dash of Crystal hot sauce, it's refreshing to see a high-end Cajun version of this classic appetizer that is often missing from so many menus. Served with carrot and celery sticks and a side of ranch dressing, the calamari is great to order at happy hour or to start off a fish feast.

Enjoy the bread at places like Da Marco and Branch Water Tavern? That's because it's baked locally by Slow Dough, an artisanal bakery run by Heath Wendell and Marlo Evans. Like the talented folks at Feast — which Slow Dough supplies with loaves of fresh sourdough — Wendell has taken up the craft of his ancestors. The fifth-generation baker started Slow Dough in April 2009 and quickly began to turn out the best ciabatta and baguettes in town. Restaurants like BRC and Poscol as well as bars like Anvil now stock the fresh bread, delivered daily. Recently, the bakery partnered with Georgia's Farm to Market to sell products directly to the public, so you don't have to wait until your next night out to enjoy a dreamy loaf of pain au levain.

Barnaby's Cafe
Photo by Houston Press Staff

Never atop any list of health foods, hot dogs seem to get a bad rap these days. But if you feel the urge to splurge and gobble down a dog, you won't find a better option than the all-natural foot-long at Barnaby's Cafe. Served on a toasted bun and sliced down the middle into two meaty halves, this hot dog is seared to perfection, with the grill marks to prove it. Purists can order it plain and revel in that all-beef flavor, or pile on the cheese and chili. If you still have room afterwards, don't forget that often-overlooked side of crispy, Cajun, thin-cut fries, and see how Barnaby's delivers the classic hot dog experience that brings you back to those childhood cookouts, but without all the work.

Tecate Mexican Restaurant
Jeff Balke

From the outside, the place doesn't look like much — just a typical near-Northwest Side Mexican joint that has just about evolved from a taqueria into a full-fledged restaurant. And once you are inside, you will see that there are few frills and the prices are still nice. But one bite of Tecate's carne asada will melt your soul. Wrapped in a tortilla with a dollop of guacamole and a sprinkle of pico, this perfectly marinated, charred just so and delectably juicy beef will renew your faith in a dish that is too often served up tough and overly chewy. Wash it down with a namesake beer and enjoy your ascent into el cielo.

Joe Steelhammer is cranking out some of the most luscious gourmet cakes, pies and cheesecakes in town, but it's his ethereal quiches that are beyond impressive. His motto is "Real Men Eat Quiche," and he takes this very seriously. It all starts with a decadently buttery, flaky crust which he fills with farmers' market-fresh ingredients that rotate weekly. Recent offerings include tender baby spinach, sweet sun-dried tomatoes, succulent crab and plump, pink shrimp. Steelhammer then works his magic by combining these gems with eggs and a sinful amount of cheese. Just try and resist the deliciousness.

Luigi's Pizzeria

At Luigi's, the owner works in the kitchen, the wife takes your order and the daughter brings you your food. In a fast-food culture, this kind of business is few and far between. Luigi's just has plain good food and service. The pizza is thin-crust, with mounds of toppings and piping-hot cheese. The menu is written on a dry-erase board and is kept simple, with salads, hot wings, calzones and gelato. Specials range from lamb to spaghetti. The honest, hardworking family that runs Luigi's will keep you coming back for the great pizza, while the amazing gelato will keep you there a little longer.

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