Majorca

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.

The Petrol Station

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.

Roots Bistro

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.

La Mexicana

This family-run restaurant has been serving Montrose its Tex-Mex since 1982, and the food reflects those years of loving care. You'll find old favorites like entomatadas here that are a rarity on more modern Tex-Mex menus, as well as huge weekend portions of soul-saving stuff like menudo and barbacoa breakfast tacos. If the line gets too long, seat yourself at the bar or grab some tacos to-go; they're made to order and always fresh.

Gatlin's BBQ

The line at Gatlin's never gets any shorter, but the city's barbecue fans keep coming. Could this one day be Houston's answer to Franklin's, outside of Austin? Perhaps, but for now it's our little secret. And the secret lies in Greg Gatlin's ribs, cooked low and slow over pecan wood, his fall-apart-good brisket with a thick smoke ring, his liver-laced dirty rice and his mother's homemade desserts — not to mention the smiles of the people who hand it to you over the counter of the small shack as you receive your bounty of barbecue after a long wait. At that moment, you'll feel victorious.

Fadi's Mediterranean Grill

With locations all around town, family-run Fadi's offers diners wonderful Mediterranean cuisine — always fresh and incredibly tasty — in a cafeteria-style setting. Fadi's offers outstanding fried cauliflower, lamb shanks, kebabs and hummus. The falafel is absolutely a must-try. With the exact balance of crispy outside and soft, airy inside, it somehow transforms simple chickpeas, onions and spices into crave-worthy, crunchy fried goodness.

Anvil Bar & Refuge

Don't go to Anvil looking for a vodka and soda. The name of the game at Anvil is cocktails, and whether it's a Pimm's cup, a French 75 or something mixed with bourbon, gin or another spirit, Anvil's bartenders get it right, every time. What started out as a project among self-professed cocktail freaks Bobby Heugel, Kevin Floyd and Steve Flippo has emerged as the de facto cocktail standard in Houston. Each drink is meticulously handcrafted with specific measurements so that no matter who makes it, your drink will always taste as it was intended to taste. Other details, like the type of ice (crushed or cubed) or the type of glass used, have been planned thoroughly to ensure that every drink is perfect. The menu is updated on a regular basis to introduce seasonal specials, which may include fruit-based preparations like peaches and blackberries, or hand-made bitters, sodas and liqueurs.

Thim Hing Sandwich Shop

Thim Hing Sandwiches has been serving sandwiches to Alief for at least a decade. The hole-in-the-wall shows signs of long-term wear with chipped melamine tables, chairs and floors that have seen better days, but their banh mi sandwiches are still top-notch. The secret is in the bread: They use just-toasted baguette bread that is thin and crispy, but not so crispy that it will cut up the roof of your mouth. Their xiu mai meatball and dac biet specialty banh mi with an egg on top is so good, you'll want to eat two. Small banh mi are $2.50, large are $3.50. Cash-only.

Brasserie 19
Photo by Mai Pham

As any good brasserie should, Brasserie 19 offers a voluptuous selection of seafood to its swanky River Oaks clients — including a super-spendy seafood tower christened "Le Grand Dix Neuf Plateau" — as well as other specialty items like Osetra caviar. Fans of cooked seafood will enjoy classics like trout almondine and house-made salmon gravlax, while more adventurous diners can enjoy grilled octopus. The restaurant brings in fresh mussels from Prince Edward Island and oysters from all over the world, which you can watch being shucked to order in a cozy, quiet corner of the otherwise boisterous brasserie.

BB's Cafe
Photo by Houston Press Staff

Open until 3 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, the always-hopping BB's Café is a little bit of New Orleans right in the heart of Montrose. The Creole-style eatery boasts a menu packed with Louisiana favorites like po-boys, gumbo and fried oysters by the pound. But the true standouts are dishes like the "Tex-Cajun Virgin," a heaping plate of queso, roast beef and gravy-topped shoestring fries; the incredibly crisp and delicate fried pickle chips served with bacon-ranch dipping sauce; and "Door Steps in the Marigny," a fully dressed roast beef, ham and swiss po-boy. We're not even sure if the names make any sense, but it's late-night, so we don't really care.

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