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.
Tia Maria's Mexican Restaurant
Batli Joselevitz
Located just outside the Loop, this local spot is always filled with loyal, regular customers who have been coming here for more than 30 years and know it simply as Tia's. You'll find enchiladas, tacos and fajitas on the menu, but the real standouts are the more traditional Mexican fare, such as the carne guisada, the grilled quail served on a sizzling comal and, of course, the homemade tortillas. The food is cheap, the margaritas are strong, the salsa is hot and the roving mariachis are a good time.
The Tel-Wink Grill
Dawn McGee
Tel-wink cranks out breakfast so fast there are stacks of warm toast 18 inches tall at the expediter counter during peak times. Demand like that, and a line of waiting patrons that snakes through the interior, can mean only one thing. The breakfast special rocks: grits, sausage, eggs and toast from the stack. You could go for a biscuit, but don't eat more than two or you'll sleep through lunch.
Dim Sum King
While some may lament its nontraditional choice to serve dim sum all day long, that's exactly the aspect of Dim Sum King we love most. Six days a week (it's closed on Tuesdays), you can get dim sum for brunch, lunch or dinner — and all of it good. There are no carts here, either; just a very cozy room with an à la carte menu. It's good for dim sum neophytes, too, as helpful photos of all the dishes and their English translations are listed throughout the menu. Turnip cakes and beef balls are favorites, but save room for fried bread at dessert.
Demeris Barbecue
The fact that it's named after one of our favorite Astros ballplayers is even more reason to love Demeris Bar-B-Q's Big Puma baked potato. The Big Puma comes loaded with Demeris's signature smoked turkey, juicy and sweet, atop a baked potato that's been split open and stuffed with everything else you'd want on a potato: butter, sour cream, cheese and chives. If that's not enough toppings, you can always load up at Demeris's toppings bar/salad station. But we don't think Lance Berkman would want it that way.
Tacos Del Julio
Unlike a standard caldo de pollo or caldo xochitl, the caldo Tlalpeño at Tacos del Julio calls for the addition of a very important ingredient: chipotle chiles in adobo sauce. The dark red chiles come in a little plastic cup full of adobo, allowing you to flavor the broth as you see fit as stocky white squares of queso panela bob throughout the soup. The vegetables are similarly thick: ripe hunks of carrot, avocado and potato are barely covered by the broth in the bowl. Dosed with generous squirts of fresh lime, the caldo Tlalpeño is the kind of stuff that will fully reinvigorate you — and for less than $4.
Avalon Diner
Photo by Houston Press Staff
There's nothing quite as satisfying as an old-fashioned milk shake made with real ice cream and served in a soda fountain glass with a metal mixing can on the side. At Avalon Diner, they've been doing it for years. Open since 1938, Avalon Diner is part of that dying breed of places that still boast a traditional soda fountain. Regular flavors like chocolate, vanilla and strawberry are always good, but you can also get banana, pineapple, butterscotch, Oreo cookie, mocha and Peppermint Patty. These cold and sweet confections are irresistible all year long.
Oishii Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar
In a city filled with swanky, upscale sushi restaurants serving up overpriced, Americanized fare, Oishii is a breath of fresh air. You won't find any pretentious decor, exotic cocktails or blaring techno music at the tiny restaurant just outside of Greenway Plaza; just warm, friendly service and traditional Japanese-style sushi. The happy hour — $1.25 domestics and $1 sushi Mondays through Fridays from 3 to 7 p.m. — is hard to beat, and the lunch menu is an all-out steal. But while the prices may be low, the quality is not. After all, "oishii" is Japanese for "delicious."
J&J Seafood Market
Jeff Balke
J & J is ostensibly a seafood market, with fresh flounder, red snapper, bass, shrimp and scallops on ice. More so, it bustles with eager customers lined up for the exceptional Gulf Coast-style fried fish, shrimp, and oyster dinners and combos. You get a choice of trout, drum, red, catfish or tilapia, and a large piece of it with three shrimp and french fries will cost $6.69. It doesn't stop there, with a menu of egg rolls, shrimp fried rice, gumbo, boudin balls and deep-fried everything else. You can watch the fresh fish being cleaned while you wait, and if you want to cook it yourself, there's a huge selection of any seafood seasoning that Texas and Louisiana have to offer. Reminds you why you live here.
Giacomo's Cibo e Vino
Everything about Giacomo's whispers romance, but not in that cheesy Harlequin sense. It's effortlessly and casually romantic, just as you'd want your date to be. Fairy lights twinkle in the canopy of the sweet little patio; the wine bar is dimly lit and well-stocked with Italian classics; the dining room is low-slung and moddish; and the small plates of elegant (and surprisingly inexpensive) food are meant to be shared, leading to plenty of Lady and the Tramp-style moments along the way as you both go for that last little chard-filled raviolo and lock eyes.

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