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.

Hugo's

Who needs to go to Vegas when you can get Sunday brunch at Hugo's? The Sunday all-you-can-eat brunch consistently offers an excellent sampling of regional Mexican cuisine that is the staple of Hugo's trademark. Beautiful shrimp and octopus salads, hearty rich seafood soups, rack of lamb and roasted pork ribs, along with traditional brunch fare of eggs Benedict and huevos rancheros, are just some of the savory items on rotation every Sunday. By 11 a.m., a live Mexican band starts playing festive, traditional Mexican music. And then there's the dessert stand, complete with fruits, cheeses, a myriad of cakes, Hugo's famous tres leches, flan and hand-stirred Mexican hot chocolate. Without a doubt, this is the best Sunday brunch in Houston. $27 for adults, $10 for children. Reservations recommended.

Shri Balaji Bhavan Pure Vegetarian Restaurant
Jeff Balke

Shri Balaji Bhavan's sparse atmosphere and counter service don't dissuade Houstonians in search of delicious and authentic Udipi-style cuisine. The place is always packed with people sitting at feast-laden tables. Prices are so reasonable here, you can generously feed a family of four for around $50. It's so delicious that even meat lovers don't mind that the place is strictly vegetarian. The dosas, with their thin, platter-size crepes and savory stuffing, are not to be missed. Shri Balaji Bhavan also offers one of the best selections of puri and chaat (snacks or small dishes like those served by street vendors in India). Those with gentle palates beware; the spices here are not Americanized. This is a must-try if you like a little heat. The vegetable biryani is downright heady. Samosa chaat, drizzled in creamy yogurt sauce and garnished with a colorful riot of onion and tomato, is another winner. Or, order the thali, which provides little samples of several dishes. If the menu seems overwhelming, don't worry. Just pick something from each category or ask the guy at the counter for suggestions and go on a tasty adventure.

Hubcap Grill

Though primarily known for its innovative burgers (like the Sticky Monkey with peanut butter, bacon and grilled bananas), Hubcap Grill offers fries that can steal the show from the patties. The Hell Fries, thin strips of deep-fried potato topped with jalapeños, cayenne and chile powders, and a Siracha mayonnaise, are (irony noted) heaven for those who want some serious spice with their starch. Pair them with a milder burger or eat them on their own; either way, you'll need a fork and some milk.

Best Of Houston®

Best Of