Tiny Boxwood's Cafe

The simple chocolate chip cookie is surprisingly difficult to make well, judging from the host of dry, bland discs that regularly pose as America's favorite cookie. Tiny Boxwood's has managed to find the perfect combination of ingredients, prepared with the appropriate timing and temperature, to produce lusciously chewy, soft-but-sturdy assemblages of buttery vanilla dough and rich chocolate pieces. You'll find these cookies sunning themselves just next to the register; needless to say, grab 'em while they're warm.

This artsy neighborhood dive is more than just a laid-back spot to grab drinks with friends; Max's Wine Dive makes some serious fried chicken wings. The wings are butchered daily, soaked in a jalapeño buttermilk batter, and deep-fried low and slow to form the most incredibly crisp, moist and juicy chicken around. You can enjoy Max's wings drizzled with chipotle honey for just $6 during the daily happy hour or enjoy them served atop three larger-than-life cornbread griddle cakes with a side of thick maple syrup at weekend brunch.

Mala Sichuan Bistro

There is no better nor more consistently excellent Chinese restaurant in town right now than Mala Sichuan, thanks to the peerless stewardship of owner Cori Xiong and her team of highly trained Sichuan chefs. The flavors in Mala's water-boiled fish or mapo tofu are clean, vibrant and piercing, while less heat-heavy dishes such as the Funky Stick Chicken, Arctic surf clams or Four Joy Lion's Head show off the less spicy — but no less invigorating — side of Sichuan cuisine.

Queen Vic Pub & Kitchen

Although there's snazzier fare to enjoy at the Queen Vic, dismissing the fish and chips would be a royal mistake. This classy take on the dish involves a bouquet of spry fries and several thick halibut filets encased in a perky coriander batter. Sides of ketchup and dill yogurt sauce are there to keep the Yanks happy, but just a few squeezes of lemon and dabs of vinegar do just as well. Although the Queen Vic, unlike its beloved namesake, has not reigned for 60 years, the fish and chips just might secure a similarly long tenure in Houston.

Monarch Restaurant & Lounge

With a view onto sprawling Hermann Park, the beautiful Mecom Fountain and the lush Museum District, dining on the Monarch's shaded patio feels a little like noshing at a swank Central Park spot — especially as you traipse through the elegant lobby to get there. Much of chef Adam West's food seems purpose-built for patio dining, too, with modern picnic-like dishes such as heirloom tomato tartare and roasted chicken with sweet corn maque choux and a lemon/fennel marmalade. An expansive brunch menu amps up the fun on the patio during Sunday Fundays.

Live Oak Grill

Outside, there is a 120-year-old oak tree and a tin roof with a large Texas flag painted on it. Inside, there are burgers, onion rings and a chicken-fried steak that will make you thank your lucky stars you were born a Texan. It's a great place to go if you're catching a Skeeters game, as the stadium is just around the corner. Family-run and always consistent, Live Oak is a great place to spend a warm, summer night with a burger and a cold beer.

The Hay Merchant

The new craft beer bar from Anvil Bar & Refuge co-owners Bobby Heugel and Kevin Floyd is bigger in both size and beer selection, with 80 taps that include five devoted solely to cask selections. Within those 80 taps, you'll find nearly every style of beer conceivable, from Rauchbiers to Russian Imperial Stouts and everything in between.

L'Olivier

Chef Olivier Ciesielski made Tony's into one of Houston's top destinations for years, and finally branched out into a place all his own with the effortlessly chic L'Olivier. Inside what was once a convenience store (among other things), Ciesielski has transformed the space with cool, herringbone marble floors in the bright bar area and a mid-century modern-style dining room and patio punctuated with pops of color. The menu is just as elegant and streamlined: hand-cut beef tartare or homemade pâté to start a meal and a brasserie-like steak-frites or rich boeuf bourguignon to finish it off.

Good Dog Hot Dogs

When you see Good Dog's baby-blue-and-white food truck with cheerful red and gold lettering parked next to a coffee shop, museum or bar, it's hard not to pull over immediately and get your hands on one of its signature hot dogs. All of the condiments are handmade, the soft buns are from Slow Dough and the specially blended franks themselves are a savory mixture of 85 percent beef and 15 percent pork (all-beef and tofu dogs are also available). But it's the combination of all these items into fun, creative hot dogs that makes Good Dog special: Try the Sunshine Dog with cream cheese, dill relish and pickled red onions or the Guac-a-Dog topped with avocado, jalapeño, tomatoes, onions, roasted garlic aiolo, cilantro, cumin and lime.

Kenny & Ziggy's Delicatessen Restaurant

Step into Kenny & Ziggy's, and it feels like you've landed in the middle of a New York City neighborhood, complete with the Jewish grandmothers, waiters in black-vested uniforms, and red booths with classic brass accents. Order a pastrami sandwich with meat piled high on rye, smoked salmon that tastes like you'd get it in New York, chopped liver like Grandma made, or matzo ball soup, and revel in the certainty of being in a bona fide, authentic New York-style Jewish deli — in the middle of Houston's Galleria area, no less. There's a reason why business is always bustling at Kenny & Ziggy's. It's the respect for tradition, the absurdly large portions, the consistently good food and, most of all, knowing that this is one of the last great delis around.

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