Aron Danburg
Campechana at Goode Co. Seafood is almost a Houston institution, and we're pushing for it to move out of "almost" territory and into permanent acceptance. As with the seafood joints that line Airline Drive, the campechana here is served in tall sundae glasses with an olive perched on top like a cherry. Underneath, you'll find the freshest seafood that the Goode family can muster out of the Gulf along with buttery avocado chunks and a just-spicy-enough cocktail sauce that never distracts from the briny sweetness of the shrimp and crab. And during the cold months of oyster season, the campechanas are that much better.
One of the original bubble milk teahouses in Houston, Star Snow Ice is still serving up the same delicious boba drink they've been making for decades. Because the drink here is not as creamy as those you'll find at other teahouses, you can really taste the authentic flavor of the milk tea; it isn't masked by an overwhelming amount of sugar. The tapioca balls are prepared to a perfect gelatinous texture. Star Snow Ice can be found at several locations in the southwest part of Houston, so you won't have to go far to grab dessert drinks after enjoying a meal in Chinatown.
Jamie Zelko was originally the executive chef at Bistro Lancaster before opening her own namesake restaurant in the Heights. Featured on the Food Network earlier this year, Zelko Bistro serves Southern comfort food with a gourmet twist. Each bite of Zelko's parmesan truffle fries is delicate and delicious. The potatoes are cut shoestring-thin and then fried to a golden perfection before being topped with truffle oil and freshly grated parmesan cheese. The truffle oil and parmesan flavors are mild, so that the potatoes remain the star of the dish, as it should be with any order of fries. Order them as an appetizer, and you'll be licking the plate clean.
Not only roosters — ahem, cocks — can be found out back behind Wabash, the old feed store that's been here since Washington Avenue was paved with bricks. You can also purchase chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits, doves, chicks, kittens and puppies. And you can purchase chicken byproducts, too, with a selection of farm-fresh eggs near the front counter. Of course, you can buy soil, fertilizer and plants here as well, but not without a lingering visit to the livestock first.
Jeff Balke
This little side order of macaroni and cheese is not your typical version. Made with Gruyère, with a drizzle of truffle oil finishing off the creamy pasta, Shade's mac & cheese is distinct, yet not pungent. The overall impression is of a dish rich but delicate in flavor. It usually accompanies the grilled pork chop, but you can order the Gruyère mac & cheese as an individual side dish, an appetizer or even as a dessert.
The original location in Chinatown has been serving up savory Chinese food for decades. Now, with a second location in the Galleria area just outside the Loop, both Chinese Cafes are popular destinations for diners wanting quick, delicious Chinese food. Catering to both American and Asian palates, the place is often crowded with patrons ordering individual inexpensive specials for lunch or several dishes to share family-style for dinner. Pictures of the dishes hang on the wall to whet your appetite and make ordering easy. Some favorites include shredded pork or beef with green beans, spicy tofu in black bean sauce, and hot and sour soup. The fried rice is cooked in an authentic hot wok, which makes each grain crispy and flavorful. Hot tea is free of charge.
Most people come to Wild Cajun for the crawfish, and with good reason — the Vietnamese sports bar's two crawfish blends are hopped up with spice and finger-licking fantastic. But the hidden secret here is the chargrilled oysters, each plump bivalve individually topped with shallots and a nose-clearing, eye-opening ginger puree that will make you forget all about horseradish and cocktail sauce.
Batli Joselevitz
One wouldn't expect to find such a delightful Indian restaurant located outside of the Mahatma Gandhi District of Houston, but Gourmet India is an oasis on the west side of town serving up some of the best Indian food in Houston. Lunch is an all-you-can-eat buffet of breads and dips, salads, curries, vegetables, and grilled and saucy meats. Dinner is à la carte, with everything seen in a traditional Punjabi restaurant: samosas, saag paneer, chicken tikka masala, tandoori prawns, lamb curry. The saffron-seasoned basmati rice, which is distinct yet delicate in flavor and comes steamed with peas, is a perfect complement to the rich dishes. Use the naan — flaky, buttery flatbread — to mop up the spicy sauces. The staff is friendly, eager and helpful. Whether you like your food spicy or not, whether your companions are carnivorous or vegetarian, there is something for everyone at Gourmet India.
Phoenicia Deli has been a popular destination on the west side of town since 1992.  In more recent years, it opened an international and specialty food market just across the street from the original deli and started turning out fresh pita bread.  In the middle of Phoenicia Specialty Foods sits an impressive pita-making machine where you can watch each doughy circle of goodness, still warm from the oven, slide down the conveyor belt to the ground floor, where it is then packed for purchase.  A bag of nine large white pita rounds costs only $1.50.  And if you want variety, there's also wheat pita, pita topped with Ackawi cheese and pita topped with sesame and black caraway seeds.  All are made fresh daily.  Later this year, Phoenicia Specialty Foods will open its second location, downtown, making everyone inside the Loop very happy.
Fat and fluffy, the chickpea patties at Niko Niko's are equally tasty on their own, but we prefer them tucked into one of the restaurant's signature breakfast pitas with scrambled eggs, sautéed onions and tomatoes. They're alluringly crispy outside, the crunch giving way to a dark green interior that's soft without being mealy or mushy. And, yes, they're just as good in a regular, tzatziki-smeared pita at lunch, too.

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