Not only is Vic & Anthony's currently the city's best steakhouse, it's one of the best all-around restaurants in Houston, period. The charmingly old-school service is exemplary, the dining rooms are lushly appointed and lavishly handsome, the food is always impeccable — hell, even the piano player in the dark, loungey bar is fantastic. A trip to Vic & Anthony's always feels like a vacation, especially if food is your destination. Indulge in a beautiful filet mignon or prime rib eye topped with bone marrow bordelaise, or split a porterhouse for two and save room for V&A's equally prime sides such as creamed corn or au gratin potatoes.

Billing itself as "The Story of Houston Food," Underbelly has taken Houston's extremely diverse array of ethnic cuisines and combined them all seamlessly into a modern menu that somehow feels timeless and organic. Chef Chris Shepherd's love for all things Asian shows in dishes like Korean goat dumplings and Peking chicken with crispy eggplant, while Texas's heritage is reflected in cornmeal-cured pork chops and roasted pork belly with pimiento cheese grits. Middle Eastern-meets-homespun in "Lamburger Helper," while Mexican influences come through in green chile soup. And it's all accessible, too, from the prices and easy-to-browse wine list to the come-as-you-are vibe of the dining room and Shepherd's effusively welcoming personality.

Owner and coffee roaster Max Gonzales has made sure that Catalina stays at the top of its game by keeping its baristas well-trained, its coffee selection well-curated and its cortados well-made, every single time. There is no such thing as a bad cup of coffee here, whether it's a flat white or an espresso, and the pastries in the small case from Angela's Oven are reliably good as well. The zen-like, no-frills atmosphere is well-suited to working, reading or just relaxing — leave catching up with your loud friends for the wraparound patio outside.

Natachee's Super 'n Punch's motto is "Sit back and relax...This is real down-home cookin!" They couldn't be more right. Open for breakfast and dinner, the restaurant serves up made-from-scratch comfort food just like your mama makes — that is, if your mama tops her meatloaf with spicy tomato gravy and a fried egg. With live music, an enormous patio and friendly service, this Main Street restaurant manages to mix quirky and classic Southern style in the most charming way. Don't miss out on some of the city's best fried pickles, sweet potato pie or served-all-day breakfast plates. Sit out back, listen to live music and wash down your meal with one of their ice-cold, spiked punches, and — trust us — you'll experience true comfort.

Jeff Balke

Pakistani food is often regarded as a subset of Indian cuisine, but it has an identity all its own. One huge difference between the two types of restaurants: beef, which you're not likely to find at Indian places. No one is doing it better, or more visibly, than Chef Kaiser Lashkari and his staff at Himalaya. Himalaya claims to be the only restaurant in North America that serves authentic Hunter's Beef. The Balochi Resha Gosht is another terrific beef dish, with hunks of tender meat that will remind you of Mom's pot roast, but in a red, savory, spicy sauce of tomatoes, herbs and spices. We were warned that it was "very spicy," but we found it just right. Surprisingly, the other don't-miss category here is dessert. We were amazed by the almond custard, which is similar to flan but denser, like baked rice pudding. The spongy milk cake is utterly delightful as well. Expect portions to provide not only a good meal but great lunch leftovers the next day, or share an entrée and desserts (yes, plural) with a friend.

Pizaro's became an instant classic almost the moment that Bill Hutchinson opened its doors in a Memorial-area strip mall, because there's nothing else like it in town. The Napoletana-style pizza cooks in 90 seconds in a wood-fired 900-degree oven that's the centerpiece of the small, bare-bones dining room. What emerges from the belly of the fiery beast is a pizza with perfectly pillowy crust and wonderfully scorched bottom, topped with fresh mozzarella made on-site daily and San Marzano tomatoes. Bring your own wine when you come and prepare to sit a spell — the rest of the city has discovered Pizaro's, too, but the wait is always worth it.

This seafood-heavy Heights hot spot consistently turns out some of the best seafood dishes in town, from gumbo to whole-fried trout. But the sleek, marble-topped oyster bar straight out of a New England restaurant is equally ambitious. Here, you can dive into an ocean of different raw seafood dishes: Hawaiian-style tuna poke, ceviche marinated in ginger beer, chiles and sweet lime, salmon carpaccio cured in yuzu, campechana with Gulf shrimp and blue crab, or a retinue of different oysters from across the country. Wash them down with a local craft beer and contemplate how lucky you are to live in a city that respects seafood this much.

Named after an island in the Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain, Majorca in Midtown is creating food that was inspired by those islands: tapas. Chef Hicham Nafaa's extensive menu includes typical Spanish classics like paella, albóndigas (meatballs) and gambas con arroz (prawns with rice). In typical tapas fashion, most dishes are small and meant to be shared. On weekends, Majorca offers no-cover live flamenco music, which can be enjoyed while you're sipping a delicious, cinnamon-spiced, house-made sangria. Sunday brunch here is also one of the best values in town, an all-you-can eat Spanish/Mediterranean spread with bottomless mimosas for just $14.95, which can be enjoyed on the lovely patio with live music.

Houston's oldest and best craft beer bar is still going strong since opening in 2007, thanks to the guidance of beer god Ben Fullelove. Of the 30-odd taps that Fullelove has in the bar, all are interesting and dynamic beer selections, whether it be a fruity Dogfish Head Festina Pêche or a hop-heavy Stone Ruination IPA. Petrol also hosts regular cask-tappings and other assorted events for true beer geeks, who keep the bar busy night and day.

Chef German Mosquera, who is vegan, takes his greens as seriously as most chefs take their proteins, but has fun with them at the same time. And his restaurant, Roots Bistro (which also features meat on the menu), encourages diners to do the same. In lieu of a stuffy, self-righteous attitude, Roots features fanciful dishes such as quinoa mac 'n' cheese or risotto made with summer squash, morel mushrooms and sweet corn. Roasted kale never tasted as good as it does here, under a light peach vinaigrette. And an heirloom tomato pie from his wood-burning oven is the Texas version of a margherita pizza. On the run? Head next door to its sister juice bar for more vegetarian and vegan treats in a more casual setting.

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