El Rey Taqueria
Jeff Balke

El Rey is not your typical fast-food joint. Sure, the food comes out fast, but what we have here is a full-fledged Mexican-Cuban restaurant. Where else can you pick up a succulent, golden-skinned rotisserie chicken and a three-taco meal, complete with Mexican rice and pork-laced charro beans, at a drive-through window? Not to mention, they do breakfast. Drive-through Cuban coffee, anyone?

Niko Niko's

Every time you visit Niko Niko's, you quickly realize you're not the only one who had the same idea. This Greek restaurant is always packed with loyal customers trying to satisfy their gyro and falafel cravings. There's nothing fancy about this family-owned place, and there doesn't need to be. Whatever you order, whether it's the lamb shank, the Greek salad, or a chopped lamb and beef gyro sandwich, you know you'll get the same quality and flavor each time.

Crisp Wine Bar & Eatery
Photo by Troy Fields

One of Houston's newest places, Crisp is nestled in the Shady Acres neighborhood, hidden away enough that you feel as if you've stumbled upon a secret gem. In addition to their extensive beer and wine selection and stone-deck fired pizzas, the menu features the best chickpea burger you've ever tasted. Crispy on the outside with a soft and inviting middle, it hits your mouth with a light spice that's delicate but so delicious. It comes topped with avocado, sprouts, cucumber and their minted-pepperoncini yogurt sauce, and you won't for a moment wish you had ordered something that once mooed.

Best Neighborhood Spot in the Galleria

Adair Kitchen

Adair Kitchen
Photo by Troy Fields

It's so easy to stop by McDonald's on the way home and pick up fast food. But with a place like Adair Kitchen in the neighborhood, it's just as easy to stop there and get a healthy, fresh meal to go. Brother-and-sister team Nick and Katie Adair, whose family owns both the Skeeters and Los Tios local restaurant chains, wanted to open a restaurant that reflected their personal tastes — American classics that were healthy and wholesome at the same time. The result is a fun, welcoming environment for families to enjoy meals together. It starts with the big pig logo and a breakfast of classics that includes everything from pancakes and chicken and waffles to steel-cut oats and juices from Adair's new juice bar. Lunch offers heart-healthy yet tasty items from the vegetarian black-bean quinoa burger to the goat-cheese turkey burger or grilled whitefish tacos. Dinner, though delicious, keeps things affordable with entrées in the ten- to 12-dollar range without a sacrifice in quality or taste. The pecan-crusted baked chicken, served with Brussels sprouts and risotto, is remarkably tasty, while choices like the fresh fish in a bag or a lean turkey meat loaf make it possible for families to eat delicious dinners that aren't loaded with processed ingredients.

Taqueria La Macro

This cute, modern taqueria just north of downtown takes call-in and to-go orders for its breakfast tacos, but that's not the only reason we love La Macro. Owner Saul Obregon is always present with a warm smile, his staff ready to dish out heaps of chorizo (or potato if you're vegetarian) and eggs into hot, fluffy flour tortillas that never get gummy or tough. The house-made green and red salsas don't mess around; they'll wake you up more than any cup of coffee could ever hope to.

Mandola's Deli

This family-run neighborhood restaurant located near the University of Houston has been serving classic Italian fare since 1975. The space itself may be little, but the family? Not so much. You may have heard of the Mandolas — that is, unless you've been living under a rock. Stop by for a meatball po-boy, a traditional red-sauced chicken parmesan, and a chat with father-and-son team Frank and Joseph. Afterwards, you'll feel just like one of the family.

Fat Cat Creamery

While the storefront is new to the scene, Fat Cat Creamery is no stranger to serving its crave-inducing homemade ice cream all over town. Using fine-quality local ingredients, these cats dream up and scoop out flavors like Maple and Candied Bacon, the eggnog-flavored Railean Rum and Brandy, and the not-so-old-fashioned Cat's Meow Mexican Vanilla. No matter what you get, it'll be ultra-creamy and ultra-delightful.

Pi Pizza Truck

Good news! You don't have to make it to your car for outstanding late-night grub; Pi Pizza Truck has got you covered. The truck, available for delivery till 3:30 a.m., is slinging some serious pies, from the wild-game-topped Outdoorsman — with venison sausage and port-wine-syrup-coated cherries — to the massive bacon-mac-and-cheese-topped Who's the Mac. Of course, it's not just available for delivery. If you can make your way to the truck itself after a night out, the massive slices just may aid in soaking up that booze. At least it's a start.

Dessert Gallery Bakery & Café

You can debate ad infinitum as to the "proper" composition of carrot cake (is coconut really always necessary?), but it's hard to argue that Dessert Gallery's version is anything but absolutely spectacular. Alternating layers of moist spiced cake (chock-full of raisins and pecans) and dense cream cheese frosting make for the sweetest striations found on this side of the Mississippi. A dessert, that is to say, that will make you forget about chocolate.

Trader Joe's

When Trader Joe's opened up in the old Alabama Theater in September 2012, foodies, hipster parents and bargain shoppers squealed with delight. Not only is the store known for its good deals and unique eats, it has an amazing wine selection — and it's cheap as all get-out. Its famous Charles Shaw wines, more commonly known as Two-Buck Chucks, are incredibly easy on your wallet but also taste like they cost you triple the price. Trader Joe's has a wide variety of sparklings, reds, whites and summer's favorite wine, rosé, that won't put a dent in your wallet but will impress your friends at your next dinner party.

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