Philippe

The wine list at Philippe Restaurant + Lounge is not the most expensive, nor does it try to impress you with big-name labels (though it offers those if you want them). What it does possess is character and a breadth of choices that marry seamlessly with Philippe Schmit's Texan-French cuisine, a credit to Sommelier Vanessa Treviño-Boyd, our 2012 Best Of winner in the Sommelier category. For certain, you'll find the wines of France well represented — Chassagne-Montrachet, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Burgundy and Bordeaux. But mixed in with those impeccably curated wines are the gems that you'll remember — an unassuming Bandol from Provence, a delightfully crisp Vouvray, a surprisingly amazing Txakolina from the Basque region of Spain — wines that you would never explore on your own but that, with expert guidance from Treviño-Boyd, leap to the top of your list of all-time favorites. The new by-the-glass offerings at Phil's Wine Lounge on the lower floor of the restaurant are also a force to be reckoned with. A Bordeaux from Pomerol for under $20 a glass? It's practically unheard-of, but it's de rigueur at Philippe.

Alamo Tamale & Taco
Photo by Daniel Kramer

You don't have to wait until Christmas to experience the best tamales in Houston; just take a short trip up to the north side and visit Alamo Tamale's recently renovated lunch counter and taqueria. There you will find an assortment of authentic tamales to choose from. They're available in pork, chicken, bean and queso con jalapeño. Choose from the casero (or homemade) variety ($10.99 plus tax per dozen for chicken, bean and queso; $12.99 plus tax for pork) or the smaller but equally delicious machine-made tamales ($5.99 plus tax per dozen, all flavors). With the perfect ratio of masa to stuffing, these tamales are almost as good as your abuelita's!

Croissant Brioche French Bakery
Dave Rosales

The perfectly buttery and flaky croissant is hard to find, unless you're in Paris, of course. However, Croissant Brioche in West University makes you feel as if you just stepped inside a little Parisian cafe. While you can't go wrong with a plain croissant, the almond is where it's at; it's a specialty at Croissant Brioche. Thin slices of toasted almonds sit atop a subtly sweet layer of almond paste, but the best surprise is the creamy almond paste filling between the thin croissant layers. If you have a hankering for something savory, order the ham and cheese or the beef sausage croissant — either is perfect for breakfast or lunch.

Best Of Houston®

Best Of