There are few things in life as enjoyable as that perfect slice of right-out-of-the-oven, bubbling-hot pizza. At Dolce Vita, it's happening every day. Their Neapolitan-style crust — light as air, super-thin yet almost fluffy — is a thing of beauty, something you'll be loath to leave on your plate once you've finished the pizza's innards. You can stick with something classic, like a margherita, with just tomato, basil and bufala mozzarella, or the calabrese, a spicy salami pizza akin to a pepperoni. Gourmet options like the prosciutto e rucola, or arugula and prosciutto, or the taleggio, with arugula, pears and truffle oil, are always fantastic, and for picky eaters, you have the option of building your own and adding an egg to any pizza. Rest assured that no matter what you order, it will be absolutely, unequivocally ­delicious.

This isn't the first year The Davenport has won "Best Martini," and it probably won't be the last, either, so long as they continue to serve incredibly well-balanced cocktails in frosty, finger-numbing glasses. Classic gin and vodka martinis are straight-up successes, as are the more creative variations such as the Lady in Red, Mango Tango and Dear Old Cranny. Fussy aspiring mixologist types may initially scoff at this selection of more than 30 "martinis," but no one rolls her eyes after one sip of these icy-cold, knock-your-boots-off libations. After drinking the whole thing, however, your eyes may roll back in your head.

"Damn good food. Cold ass beer." That's Moon Tower Inn's motto. And it's spot-on. Loyal fans of the East End dive were heartbroken when it shut its doors for renovations in late 2011. But no worries: Houston's favorite beer-and-hot-dog yard is now back...and with a vengeance. Gone are the old amenities, making way for a shipping container-enclosed service counter, a 60-plus tap wall of beer and an even larger kitchen for pumping out some serious wild game creations. Like the ghetto bird — a sausage made with pheasant and cognac, or the velvet elkis — with apple, pear, port and, you guessed it, elk. Add a pretzel bun, the open air and a pint of locally crafted brew, and you've got yourself a damn good time.

We've all eaten fajitas. They are available at every Mexican restaurant and taco truck in Houston, of which there are thousands. But what if I told you that not all fajitas were actual, real fajitas. Sometimes you get ungraded sirloin or some other type of beef, disguised as fajitas. For the real thing, turn to the source, Ninfa's on Navigation. There you will find certified Hereford outside skirt steak, the only tender piece of carne that should be crowned fajita. The good stuff doesn't require lots of marinating or seasoning, either. Chef Alex Padilla simply applies a splash of soy sauce, salt and pepper as he grills it to ­perfection. Add some frijoles a la charra, handmade tortillas and a Ninfarita, and you will taste heaven.

Photo by Troy Fields

It was bound to happen. Ciao Bello, the younger sibling of River Oaks staple Tony's, just needed some time to rise to its full potential. This year, it's turning out the kind of food that people talk about, return for, tweet about and remember. Under Executive Chef Bobby Matos, a simple burrata salad of grilled peaches and arugula is amazing. Braised beef cheeks are so tender that you need nothing but a fork to enjoy the richly flavored meat. The pastas, made from the same "00" flour and imported Italian water as those at big brother Tony's, are just a joy to taste and sample, from the house special pappardelle bolognese and the buttery rich mezzi rigatoni amatriaciana to the sinfully creamy and delectable plush pillows of summer corn pansoti. Impressively large and impossibly thin pizzas never disappoint, either, and the wine list, curated by beverage director Scott Sulma, is approachable and extremely drinkable. And then there are the desserts, like the incredible house-made carrot cake or the light-as-a-feather buttermilk panna cotta topped with blackberry and sage conserva. Just about everything at Ciao Bello is a delight, including the sparkler-topped ice cream cake that will arrive miraculously at the table whenever it's someone's birthday.

Pop-up dinners tend to be exclusionary: Not only can they be cost-prohibitive, but by their very nature — limited seating and temporary life­spans — they can be hard for the casual diner to experience. Austin King's series of pop-up dinners eschewed tradition by offering his dinner service in popular Midtown and Montrose bars like Grand Prize and Glitter Karaoke. With menus like "Southern Fried Dim Sum" featuring shrimp and grits, taro cakes, and boudin mai gai, self-taught chef King manages to pair innovation with accessibility each trip out.

You can tell a lot about a Cajun joint by the service, and both the service and the atmosphere at Beaucoup are about as laid-back and casual as it gets, which by our estimation is a good sign. Wedged just south of the Texas Medical Center and 288 off Old Spanish Trail, Beaucoup Bar & Grill cranks out great standard Cajun and Creole fare six days a week, as well as a brunch service on Sundays. The Beaucoup hot wings and crawfish bread are standout winners, as is the housemade fruit lemonade. Call ahead if you want to try to tackle its monstrous two-foot shrimp po-boy.

Courtesy of Hotel ZaZa

Picture this: It's mid-afternoon. You're lounging in the shade of a luxurious, lush patio, a glass of chilled rosé in hand, overlooking the picturesque Museum District as a fountain gently dances in the background. It feels like vacation, so you relax and take your time. You laugh with friends and nosh on the feast before you: tequila-and-coconut-milk-soaked mussels; bonito-flaked fried cauliflower in curry sauce; and a crisp, light baby kale salad. When you find yourself ready, go ahead and try the dessert sampler. It's vacation, after all.

Photo by Houston Press Staff

When you're looking for kebabs, Bijan offers a menu full of them. There are chicken kebabs and lamb kebabs, beef kebabs and salmon kebabs. There are kebab combinations and ground meat (koobideh) kebabs, Cornish game hen kebabs and vegetarian kebabs. At this staple Persian restaurant that's been on Hillcroft for many years, meats come right off the grill and to your table, with edges just charred and cooked through to moist perfection, nestled next to a mound of fluffy Persian rice and grilled tomatoes. All diners get a complimentary mint and cheese salad to start, and bread is served with every meal. As a bonus, the outdoor seating provides the ideal setting for patrons to smoke their hookahs, which is something to look forward to almost as much as the kebabs themselves.

Bloody Marys are serious business. And trust us, during Sunday brunch, Hearsay Gastro Lounge means business. The restaurant infuses its vodka with jalapeños in-house, resulting in a cocktail that has the perfect amount of heat to balance out the acidity of the drink. It provides just enough spice to simultaneously wake you up and kill that Sunday morning hangover, the way only a truly great Bloody Mary can.

Best Of Houston®

Best Of