Gatlin's BBQ
At Gatlin's, low and slow are the keywords in this family's burgeoning barbecue empire. There's barely any seating inside, and only a small attached patio, but that doesn't stop the lines from forming outside the front door every single day, demanding Greg Gatlin's brisket and ribs. Unusual for a barbecue joint, the sides are just as craveable as the meat: Try the dirty rice and you'll leave an avowed liver lover, and get some creamy coleslaw for a little crunch alongside your meat. And when they say, "Love is the secret ingredient" here, they mean it: You'll always get service with a smile and a gentle reminder not to leave without dessert.
Natachee's Supper 'n Punch
A great Bloody Mary is tricky to pull off. It's not enough to put it together from a mix, and even if you use all the correct ingredients, it can still get watered down by too much ice or overdone by too much hot sauce. The Bloody Mary at Natachee's is a great example of the art. Spicy but also refreshing, and boldly, intensely flavorful without overdoing it, the Natachee's Bloody Mary is perfect — perfect — for nursing a hangover. The fact that Natachee's puts it on special right when it's needed most — Sunday mornings — is a godsend. The fact that, while you're there, you can also wolf down the other World's Greatest Hangover Cure — a big, sloppy, country-fried breakfast — doesn't hurt, either.

Best Place for a Vegetarian to Take Their Meat-Loving Friends

Hoggs 'n' Chicks

Hoggs n' Chicks
For a meat-heavy restaurant that comes from a Frenchman with an extensive butchery background, Hoggs 'n' Chicks makes a mean veggie burger — possibly the best in the area. Quinoa is the base here, along with plenty of vegetables: carrots, spinach, bell peppers and more mingle in this delightful patty. Two different all-veggies salads, a veggie soup of the day and even a goat cheese-topped veggie sandwich round out a menu that's otherwise laden with porky creations like the Pig's Delight with fried pork loin, ham, bacon, Hatch chile sauce and a fried egg. Let your carnivores delight in the Delight while you enjoy your veggie burger.
Samba Grille
Now that it's removed the churrascaria portion of its menu, Samba is a more streamlined South American steakhouse, and Chef Cesar Rodriguez is really allowed to shine. From Peruvian-style steak tartare with peppadew peppers and plantain chips to an amazing dry-aged New York strip, this place knows its way around a cut of beef. A 20-ounce bone-in rib eye is its crowning glory, especially with sides of spicy Spanish potatoes or yucca frites. The adventurous will also love the anticuchos, skewered beef hearts served with a bright huacatay cream sauce.
The Original Marini's Empanada House
Tucked into a strip mall on Westheimer near the beltway, Marini's is a family-run empanada delicatessen offering sweet and savory varieties of the fried pies. The Gaucho is the standard variety, with onions, spices and olives that accentuate the finely ground beef without overpowering it. Vegetarians and omnivores alike will enjoy the Humita — traditional creamed corn and cheese. Add an apple, banana or dulce de leche dessert empanada to your plate for a "balanced" meal. Don't forget to break off a corner and vent the pies before dining to avoid cooking your tongue.
Saigon Pagolac
Vietnamese food is so much more than pho and banh mi. Located in the heart of Chinatown in the back side of Dynasty Mall, Saigon Pagolac specializes in beef cooked seven different ways. There is a beef salad, beef fondue (thin slices of beef cooked in a vinegar broth), grilled beef (thinly sliced beef marinated with lemongrass and cooked over a griddle), beef wrapped in betel leaves, skewered beef meatballs, steamed ground beef pâté with shrimp chips, and beef alphabet soup. Any of these can be wrapped in rice paper along with fresh and pickled vegetables, then dipped in a delicious fermented anchovy and pineapple sauce. (This sauce is extremely pungent, but once the taste is acquired, becomes addictive.) Get all seven beef courses, or order a single dish à la carte. Not in the mood for beef? Saigon Pagolac serves whole grilled catfish — crispy skin and all — also to be wrapped and dipped.
Nguyen Ngo French Cafe
Ask most Vietnamese in town where to go for the best banh mi, and more likely than not, they will point you to Nguyen Ngo French Cafe. It's a favorite destination for out-of-towners, who come here for sandwiches made with the famous family-recipe shredded chicken that the owners brought over from Vietnam. Sweet and slightly addictive, their shredded chicken comes by itself or in combo with French imported pâté and ham and house-made mayo. The baby-size banh mi are a great hit with kids, and for a different sandwich, substitute the banh mi bread with a croissant, and order the house specialty dac biet to taste one of the best sandwiches in Houston for less than $3.50. Cash only.
Pho Danh
When it comes to pho, the secret is in the broth. Pho Danh ladles it daily to discriminating diners from the location in the back of Hong Kong Market. The light yet deep beef flavor in your bowl tells you that some big bones have been simmering for days in large stock pots. Bold souls order the large, with tripe, tendon and fatty beef. Rookies should stick with meatballs and brisket. Doctor your dish with fish sauce, lime and Sriracha as you see fit. Cool your taste buds with a Vietnamese iced coffee.
Americas Restaurant
Photo by Houston Press Staff
The new Américas River Oaks is stylish not only in decor but also in its food presentation and menu. Much like the grandiose booths and larger-than-life lighting fixtures, everything is presented with a flourish: Lobster mini corndogs with corn poblano dipping sauce are playfully served lollipop-style on a wooden block; mixed ceviche is presented in a four-compartment glass plate; an impressive three-tiered plate rack is used when more than one appetizer is ordered. Service is always excellent, and the signature Cordúa Churrasco steak is so flavorful and tender, it's been named one of Esquire magazine's top 20 steaks.
Flora & Muse
The Bloody Mary at Flora & Muse isn't the kind of heavily garnished, Clamato-heavy cocktail that you gulp down as a hangover cure. European-style bistro Flora & Muse offers an elegant twist on the standard cocktail. Served in a long-stemmed glass chalice — the same curving sides to it as a Stella Artois glass, sans the gold rim — this Bloody Mary is subtly spiced and wholly invigorating on a Saturday morning, whether you're hungover or not.

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