Courtesy of Cloud 10 Creamery

In a city dense with cookie-cutter chain ice cream outlets, the arrival of Cloud 10 Creamery and its finely crafted flavor selection (which has included red currant mascarpone, gingersnap and buttermilk chai) was a breath of fresh air. Among creator Chris Leung's many unique spins on traditional treats is Cloud 10's fantastic banana split, composed of three plump mounds of chocolate, vanilla and Nutella ice creams dressed with fudge, jam, milk chocolate, caramelized plantains, whipped cream and Nutella powder. Whew! With confections like that on offer, here's hoping Cloud 10 continues to expand.

At Poscol it's easy to get distracted by the many, many masterful dishes, but resist filling up on bruschette and salumi, and save room for the succulent risotto with chicken livers and squash. Autumnal vegetables and rich bits of poultry offal mingle in each bite of supple, plump rice saturated in oil and broth. Painstakingly prepared, this risotto deserves to be consumed just as conscientiously, so savor your forkfuls for the full flavor experience. Almost as delicious is the price, a mere $10, which means no need to share.

You can't help feeling right at home when you walk inside Harry's. The entire cafe smells like maple syrup, bacon, pancakes and French toast, just as a diner should. And speak of the delicious devil, the baklava French toast is a must-order meal. Rather than simply being topped with butter and syrup, this Greek version is smothered in agiant scoop of Greek yogurt ice cream and stuffed with nuts and honey. The fluffy, creamy challah bread, provided by Three Brothers Bakery, brings this dessert breakfast together. There's something for everyone at Harry's. Whether you're simple and want plain pancakes, or fancy yourself adventurous and prefer a spitiko greek omelette filled with feta and Monterrey cheese, green onions, spinach and tomatoes, you'll find the dish for you.

Jeff Balke

This is not your high school cafeteria. At Mikki's Soul Food Cafe, staples such as fried chicken, smothered pork chops, macaroni and cheese, and the infamous sits-like-a-brick-in-your-belly beefsteak with "40-pound gravy" are done in superior fashion. Look no further than the consistently long lines and blissful faces of exiting customers for proof. The turkey necks, chitterlings and oxtails are required eating for any diner looking to become a soul-food connoisseur. There's also a rotating daily menu of entrées that come with a choice of three sides and complimentary cornbread. Portions will challenge the capacity of your stomach, but don't worry, that's what the sweet tea is for. Just sip, take a breather and dig back in.

To make a great banh mi, a restaurant must have great bread, and Les Givral's, once a bakery in Paris and Saigon, certainly does. It has a thin, crispy crust and a soft inside that soaks up the juice from the meat, veggies and sauces. Les Givral's keeps it simple with the veggies — carrots, cucumber, half a fresh jalapeño and a whole heckuva lot of cilantro — which are a constant no matter which protein you order. The best meat option is the thit nuong pâté, loaded with chargrilled pork, a Vietnamese specialty, and a bit of pâté, which adds a creamy element to the spicy, crunchy sandwich. But be warned: This banh mi is so good, the line for a sandwich is often out the door.

Jeff Balke

After it closed because of fire damage late last year, we missed this standby diner so much, we couldn't not name it our 2014 Greasy Spoon winner. Thankfully, it opened back up last spring. Now you can get your big country breakfasts, old-fashioned tuna melts and classic BLTs 24/7 again, just as you were meant to. And since you're celebrating, you may as well tack on a slice of pie — like the pecan-crusted, sweet-cream- and vanilla-custard-slathered, chocolate-chunk-studded Bayou Goo that we're pretty sure dreams are made of. Welcome back, HoP.

Photo courtesy of Bernie's Burger Bus

The juicy patties and doughy buns at Bernie's Burger Bus are so popular that Justin Turner, chef and owner behind the army of three food trucks, recently opened a brick-and-mortar location in Bellaire where diners can get more than just burgers. It's the burgers that Bernie's does best, though, thanks to the fatty Black Angus beef ground in-house (or rather, in-bus, in some cases) and the great homemade condiments. The patties are always cooked to a perfect medium with a nice sear on the outside to hold in the juice, while each burger topping is artfully prepared for the ultimate in gourmet burgers with a no-frills fast-food sensibility.

Photo by Troy Fields

Meat butter. That's the way foie gras is most often described, and the torchon at Étoile is the perfect example. It's almost gamey but delicate at the same time, and when rolled into a torchon — so named for the dish towel in which it's wrapped — and cooked in a double boiler, the fatty duck or goose liver can be spread onto toast much like butter. At Étoile, chef Philippe Verpiand makes the torchon himself, trimming, seasoning, wrapping, simmering then compressing and chilling the fatty liver into an incredible dish using techniques he learned in France. And oh, is Étoile's foie like soft butter on your tongue! Pink, smooth, creamy, ringed with a thin layer of light-yellow fat, not a hint of grit or vein, no sour flavor, no crumbly texture. The attention Verpiand pays to the preparation of this small but important dish is impeccable.

The Kim Cheese Fries at fusion food truck Coreanos are neither Mexican nor Korean per se, but they contain elements of both cuisines. The scorching hot french fries are thicker than most fast-food fries, but still thin enough that they're crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. They're topped with caramelized kimchi, twice-cooked pork belly with a kick, shredded cheese and Coreanos's signature El Scorcho sauce, a creamy drizzle of garlic, chipotle, lime juice and mayo. The cooks also add a sprinkle of cilantro for extra zing and some chopped fresh onions to give it a little more heat and texture. The kimchi is slightly spicy and has a great cabbage crunch to it when you bite down, releasing the sweet juices. The pork belly is similarly juicy and bursting with flavor, and the grated-cheese mixture sprinkled over the top melts, linking all the ingredients together with gooey strands of goodness.

Courtesy of Cloud 10 Creamery

Chris Leung started his dessert business by selling to restaurants and chefs, but eventually demand for his stunning sweets became so great that he decided to open his own place. Cloud 10 Creamery launched last October, and there's been a steady crowd lining up for Leung's unique flavors and whimsical creations ever since. The banana split is a thing of beauty that re-examines all that a banana split should be (ice cream, bananas and toppings) with a gourmet twist. The ice cream flavors themselves are impressive in both texture and because they all taste exactly like what they're supposed to. That may sound like obvious criteria for good ice cream, but never before has smooth, creamy peanut butter and jelly ice cream actually tasted like the toast, too. Bravo, Mr. Leung. Bravo.

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