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.

Bombay Pizza Co.
Photo by Troy Fields

Bombay Pizza Co. is worth visiting for its sheer originality. It only helps that every pizza made here is fantastically scrumptious. The pie starts on a thin, crispy crust studded with sesame seeds, unlike any crust you have tried before. Next comes an unprecedented array of toppings. The saag paneer version features spiced greens, paneer, fontina, goat cheese and mozzarella. For something spicier, try the Gateway to India, which boasts tandoori chicken, crabmeat, artichoke hearts, fresh cilantro, mozzarella, provolone and cilantro chutney. You can also make a custom creation, but with so many amazing options available, you probably won't want to.

Huynh
Stephanie Meza

Huynh is an easy spot to love — this family-owned-and-operated restaurant serves up fresh, authentic Vietnamese in a casual dining room in east Downtown. Favorites like char-grilled pork noodle bowls and spicy bun bo hue are lined up alongside some of the best tofu in town (No. 82, tofu with curry, coconut and peanut) on a cheaply priced menu. Thoughtful touches, like simple syrup served with iced tea, add to the restaurant's value and set it apart.

Best Of Houston®

Best Of