13 Celsius Wine Bar
Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg

So named for the temperature at which it carefully stores its hoard of wine, 13 Celsius has become the paradigm by which all other wine bars in Houston are judged. The meticulously restored building is a metaphor for the meticulously compiled wine list, which prominently features Old World wines that may have been otherwise snubbed or forgotten by a Napa Cab-heavy modern world. You come to 13 Celsius to experience something fascinatingly old-yet-new or find a subtly exciting new favorite under the friendly guidance of the knowledgeable servers; you don't come here to pick up cougars or guzzle cheap wine by the glass. That said, 13 Celsius is justifiably famous for its half-price Sundays, when it sells all uncorked bottles for 50 percent off.

Huynh
Stephanie Meza

When you're getting ready to go to a concert at Warehouse Live, or fueling to cheer on your Houston Dynamo at the new stadium a few blocks away, you must first have yourself a plate of Huynh's spring rolls. Whether or not you order shrimp, tofu, pork or all of them, you can't do much better than these spring rolls in Houston unless you actually have a real, live Vietnamese grandmother. The whole menu at Huynh is great, too, so make sure to give yourself a good hour for gorging.

Radical Eats

Vegan Mexican food? Why not? Lard makes a lot of things better, but its use is rendered moot here at Staci Davis's all-veggie paradise. Instead, she's perfected a tortilla recipe that features no lard at all — nor are her tamales, enchiladas or tacos laced with the fatty stuff. Instead, she batters and fries avocados and stuffs them into tacos with a creamy, spicy slaw and makes spinach-and-corn tamales that are just as good as the "real" thing, especially paired with cold aguas frescas. Most of her food comes from the garden out back or local farmers, and the cooking is mostly done by volunteers. Sunday brunches are lavish affairs, but are also first-come, first-served — so get there early.

Roost

The epitome of a cozy, welcoming neighborhood bistro, Roost hosts local residents — many of whom walk or ride their bikes — in its comfortable, low-slung dining room while they nosh on whatever weekly specials chef Kevin Naderi has whipped up. Whether it's whole roasted Cornish game hen with grilled lemon and duck confit Lady Creamer peas one night or crispy Galveston by-catch shrimp with masago mayonnaise the next, Naderi's multiethnic food shows off Houston's melting pot of cuisines with a subtle Southern touch, and the selection of local beers is terrific for washing it all down.

Niko Niko's

A Greek restaurant for Texan appetites, Niko Niko's routinely has a line out the door. Thankfully, it moves quickly. Excellent service and awesome food make Niko Niko's a bastion of consistency in the Houston food world. Whether you want falafel, baba ghanoush or a gyro, you can find it all and more at this local landmark. Make sure to eyeball the dessert display before you go, but try not to drool on the glass.

Connie's Seafood
Jeff Balke

What do you get when you mix Connie's spicy bottled michelada sauce and a cold bottle of beer in a frosty beer mug? One of the best-tasting and refreshing micheladas you'll ever have the pleasure of tasting. Often described as a Bloody Mary made with beer, the tomato-ey, spicy michelada is the quintessential everyman's beer cocktail in Mexico and Latin America, where it's typically made with lime, beer, salt and hot sauce. Connie's has taken that recipe, tweaked it and perfected it so that the micheladas there taste just right every time. Fans can even buy a pre-made bottle of michelada base to take home, but drinking a michelada at Connie's, with a fresh fried snapper or a fresh fish platter, is still the way to go.

Uchi

The massive, multisensory menu at Uchi can be intimidating — even to hardcore food lovers. Machi cure with yucca crisp and garlic brittle? Walu walu with yuzupon and myoga? It could all be a bit much if it weren't for Uchi's impeccable service. With a waitstaff that knows the menu inside-out and blindfolded, you can allow your server to be your friendly sherpa while you navigate Houston's Mount Everest of restaurants. They'll even custom-design a dinner for you, allowing you to relax and enjoy the food. Not only is your server ready, willing and able to do all of this — you'll come out of your dinner there with a wealth of knowledge and new experiences that far surpass the monetary value of just a plain old meal of sushi.

Dacapo's Pastry Cafe
Jeff Balke

As far as sandwich fillings go, egg salad can often be tame, mild — dare I say, effete? Not so at DaCapo's Pastry Cafe, whose version is genuinely peppy thanks to an infusion of honey mustard in the dressing and a sprinkling of dill. After experiencing this sweet-spicy punch, you'll never again see egg salad as the stuff of staid tea parties. And that's a good thing, because if you go for the sandwich, you'll be licking your fingers. Which is awkward in gloves.

Rainbow Lodge

There's a reason Houstonians continue to host their weddings and celebrate their anniversaries at this beloved institution — and it's not just the verdant views onto the lush bayou or the romantic, lodge-like feel imparted by the wood-beamed, fireplace-warmed structure. The food is amazing, too, as is the warm, high-end service. Rainbow Lodge offers a meal well worth paying for in every single aspect. Nibble on rabbit boudin bites or smoked lamb belly between glasses of wine with your beloved, or treat your man to such exotic game as grilled elk chops, chile-rubbed antelope back strap or buffalo short ribs. Either way, everyone comes away happy.

Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse

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.

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