Chama Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse
Photo by Troy Fields

The fact that Fogo de Chão, one of Brazil's most famous chains, is right down the street hasn't stopped Chama Gaúcha from making a name for itself. This Brazilian steakhouse, which serves its meat in the traditional rodízio style, has been winning hearts since it first opened in September 2011 — and with good reason. You start with the salad bar, which is hyper-fresh and restocked regularly so that it always looks full and lush, and comes with a wonderful selection of cheese, olives and bread. Dinner starts with Brazilian cheese bread and sides of mashed potatoes, fried polenta rectangles and roasted plantain. Push the button to signal your server, and the meat procession starts, with skewers of top sirloin, garlic beef, garlic pork, lamb and more coming hot off the grill to your table, and sliced onto your plates. The quality of the meats is superb, and you can get them cooked as bloody as you prefer. The service is excellent and courteous, and you'll leave so full you can hardly breathe, marveling at all you were able to fit in your belly.

When you're looking for one of those gourmet hot dogs that'll knock your socks off, leave it to food truck Koagie Hots to do the job. The brainchild of chef-turned-food-truck-proprietor Matt Pak, Koagie Hots parks every night outside of Boondocks in the lower Westheimer area, offering a formidable menu of Korean hoagies and hot dogs. The best? The Koagie dog, in which a challah hot dog bun is filled with a quarter-pound kosher Hebrew National beef dog topped with Korean beef rib eye bulgogi, spicy mayo, Asian slaw and a fried egg. Over-the-top? Yes. Delicious? Absolutely.

Rustika Cafe and Bakery

Pastry chef Francis Reznik creates beautiful cakes every day at Rustika Cafe & Bakery for weddings, birthdays, holidays and every other type of celebration. But it's what's on the inside that counts, and Rustika's cakes are not only gorgeous, but delicious. Rustika offers dozens of flavor combinations, which makes choices difficult. No matter which one you pick, be it the sweet and smooth white chocolate raspberry filling between layers of delicate and crumbly white cake, or a rich chocolate cake with chocolate dulce de leche filling and chocolate buttercream icing (a chocolate lover's dream), you won't be able to put your fork down.

Common Bond
Photo by Troy Fields

You'll never ask for more chocolate in Common Bond's chocolate chip cookies. As you break open one of the large, firm yet soft treats, you'll discover a hidden treasure of giant, slightly melted chocolate chunks; even after several hours, each chocolate chipper tastes as if it just came out of the oven. The sugary cookie base is balanced by a hint of saltiness. Just as with potato chips, it's hard to stop after just one bite. A single cookie is big enough to share, but where's the fun in that? Pair it with a glass of ice-cold milk for the ultimate dessert.

BB's Cafe
Photo by Houston Press Staff

With ten different kinds of overstuffed po-boys and one of the best and boldest crawfish boils in town, this Cajun hot spot never fails to pack a punch of Louisiana flavor. There is, of course, a Texas twist, making this breed of Cajun cuisine uniquely Houston. Get spiced and crispy cornmeal-battered Gulf Coast oysters by the pound alongside Maw Maw's dark and rich gumbo, not to mention buttery shrimp and grits. There's also a pile of fries you'll be dreaming about for days to come. The thin, crunchy frites are topped with savory brown gravy and shavings of tender roast beef before being drenched in a subtly spicy chile con queso. Oh, and don't forget the jambalaya- and boudin-loaded breakfast burritos, too. As we said, Cajun with a Texan twist.

Boomtown Coffee
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt

Owner Matt Toomey sources and roasts his own beans at Boomtown Coffee, and it definitely makes the difference. The house espresso blend, The Spindletop, is a slightly bitter and sweet brew excellent as simple drip coffee or blended with warm milk and sugar. Standard cappuccinos, cortados, flat whites and lattes are perfectly executed; iced mocha toddies are refreshing and sweet, the finely ground beans having been steeped in cold water for nearly half a day. Spend any morning sipping the creaminess and richness of a salted caramel latte paired with a flaky, buttery croissant.

Melange Creperie
Jeff Balke

Walk up to this crepe stand at the corner of Westheimer and Taft (Friday to Sunday) for a sweet or savory crepe made by the ever-entertaining Buffalo Sean. Choose a breakfast crepe filled with ham, egg and cheddar cheese for a Saturday morning breakfast, or opt for a sweet combination of strawberry, vanilla crème fraîche and Everything Granola from Sinfull Bakery for a Sunday afternoon pick-me-up. If he happens to run out of ingredients, it's no problem at all, Buffalo Sean will create a tasty combination with the remaining items. Each thin crepe is evenly stuffed, then folded so you can hold it in your hands and eat it on the go.

Christy's Donuts
Dawn McGee

After being in operation for so many years, Christy's Donuts is a Montrose neighborhood classic that has become a household name. There's always bound to be a line out the door, a sure-tell sign that you're at the right place. If you're a bit late to work, invest in a dozen fried and glazed doughnuts (plus some extra courtesy doughnut holes), because there's no way you can get in trouble with your boss, especially if you throw in some devil's food cake doughnuts. They're only $6 a dozen, so you might feel inclined to purchase another box.

Figs and goat cheese make one heck of a combination.
Photo courtesy of Macaron by Patisse
Figs and goat cheese make one heck of a combination.

Sukaina Rajani, co-owner of Macaron by Patisse, sells more than 20 flavors in her glamorous River Oaks store. Her beautiful display case features classic and simple flavors such as pistachio, vanilla, chocolate and rose as well as more exotic ones such as lavender with white chocolate, chai spice, and fig and goat cheese, one of her most popular options. As you bite into this sweet French cookie, you'll taste the bright and fruity fig, then as you chew the smooth filling, you'll discover the savory cheese; it's a daring and successful combination that showcases Rajani's pastry skills.

Kolache Factory

The Kolache Factory is a Texas (and Houston) staple. With multiple locations around the city, you can fill up a box with sweet, fruit-filled kolaches, spicy jalapeño poppers, and, of course, the classic sausage, egg and cheese. The exotic and out-of-the-box fillings wouldn't be anything without the soft and hearty dough wrapped around the stuffing. Each bite has the perfect ratio of bread to filling, and the first bite (no matter which flavor you choose) is always the best as you break through the shell and discover the hidden treasure on the inside.

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