Prohibition Supper Club & Bar

At Prohibition Supperclub & Bar, it's gentility in the front and decadence in the back. The front dining room, with deep, upholstered porter's chairs and marble flooring, speaks of old Southern luxury. A long, sturdy bar anchors the back, and there are giant upholstered booths so huge that a party of eight can dine comfortably. Overhead, ornate crystal chandeliers cast twinkling light across the black and white marble floor, and the silverware comes in matched sets, right down to the oyster forks. Conversely, the ballroom in the back is more like an opulent Grecian theater, complete with stage, cushy booth seating, spiral staircase and upstairs balcony. It's perfect for showcasing the Friday and Saturday night burlesque performances of resident troupe The Moonlight Dolls. No matter which setting is preferred, diners are sure to be impressed.

Da Marco
Photo by Houston Press staff

Set in a refurbished old home in Montrose on the lower Westheimer drag, Da Marco offers a $29 business lunch prix fixe that's the best in town. You arrive to find all kinds of brand-name cars in the tiny parking lot, ably maneuvered by the on-hand valets. Reservations are a must at lunch, which often book a week or two in advance. The room will be filled with power lunch types and couples wanting to indulge. What makes the lunch so special is a combination of service, choice and impeccable execution. You're essentially choosing from the à la carte menu, where items on the lunch special will be asterisked. It's hard to decide whether you want the shaved celery salad with beets and pecorino or artichoke alla giudia to start. For the entrée, wild boar pappardelle, cod gnocchi with shellfish ragu and roasted quail with fava are some of the more than ten-plus items that will catch your eye. For dessert, the pastry chef entices with beautifully plated chocolate torte and more.

Le Mistral

It's hard to beat a place that has its own French bakery. Le Mistral's basket features bread freshly baked by Foody's Gourmet next door. Le Mistral's own whipped signature butter is served right alongside warm, rustic baguettes, crusty slices of bread and country hearth rolls encrusted in sesame seeds. Suddenly, filling up on bread doesn't seem like such a terrible idea.

Revival Market

Perched on a quiet corner on Heights Boulevard, Revival Market is that local farm-to-market restaurant that makes you glad you live in the neighborhood. Serving up breakfast, lunch and dinner, though the market itself has shrunk to a few select shelves and a cold case, Revival is now what we always wanted — a place to drop in any time of the day for a meal that's made with good, wholesome ingredients. For breakfast, that means a Saturday special of huevos rancheros made with pasture-raised eggs or a house-made buttermilk and ricotta toast. Lunch might be a Cuban sandwich or local lamb gyro. But what wins it for us is Revival's awesome new dinner service, when you can come for a date or with friends, order a local peach salad or a charcuterie plate cured in house, get a 44 Farms strip steak or the most delectable roast chicken you've ever tasted, throw in some sides like Revival's Cajun-spiced crispy potatoes, and call it a day.

North Italia

There are many dishes that North Italia does well, but the restaurant puts in the effort and creative thought to make sure even its salads really hit the spot. The seasonal vegetable version is lightly dressed in a sherry vinaigrette, balanced with toothsome farro and quinoa and adorned with delicate shards of almonds, bits of dates, roasted cauliflower, clementine orange slices and avocado. That's only one of the fine choices. There's also heirloom beet, Tuscan kale, Caesar, chopped chicken and an Italian farm salad with pepperoncini, Provolone and salami.

Common Bond
Photo by Troy Fields

Though pastry chef Roy Shvartzapel — who laid the groundwork for the Montrose cafe's cult following — has since left to pursue other opportunities, you're still likely to find a line at the door. And while you may be tempted to get everything on the pastry bar's colorful lineup, you should most definitely add the humble chocolate chip cookie to your hit list. That's because a touch of walnuts and a wealth of gooey Valrhona chocolate chunks bring this soft and fluffy, perfectly chewy cookie to an almost spiritual level. This is the kind of cookie you go back for. See you tomorrow, Common Bond.

Hubcap Grill

It's cool that Hubcap Grill has received national accolades, thereby putting one more feather in Houston's cap. It's great that owner Ricky Craig and his parents have tirelessly worked to grow from a tiny, cramped joint on Travis Street to locations in the Heights and Kemah, with a future airport location on the way. It's interesting that Hubcap Grill offers so many well-received specialty burgers, like the Philly Cheese Steak Burger (topped with thinly sliced rib-eye steak, grilled onions, green bell peppers and Swiss cheese) and the Greek Burger (with feta, Kalamata olives, onions, green bell peppers, lettuce and tomato). Yet none of those things are as important as the fact that even just a simple cheeseburger, with its tender, toasted bun and beef patty with just the right amount of meat juice seeping out, seems life-changing. Even the mundane is anything but at Hubcap Grill.

The Pass
Photo by Troy Fields

The Pass, the fine-dining side of The Pass & Provisions, puts on a show a few nights a week. There's no singing and dancing, though. The show is quiet, and it's on the plates. Special-occasion restaurants should be memorable, and The Pass always is. Dishes on the menu, which can be ordered as either a five- or an eight-course tasting, rotate with new offerings a few at a time, so after a few months, it's an entirely new adventure. Chef Terrence Gallivan and chef Seth Siegel-Gardner's careful platings, with artful swaths of sauce, herbal adornments and astute selections of meats, vegetables, fruits and grains, are so beautiful that it seems a shame to eat them. On the other hand, they're so delectable that it would be a shame not to, so there's nothing to do but enjoy with abandon. A meal at The Pass is truly a gift worth giving — and receiving.

Charcuterie service is fun and interactive.
Photo by Mai Pham
Charcuterie service is fun and interactive.

Tucked away within the unassuming facade of Culinary Institute LeNôtre is one of Houston's best values in French dining. Kris Bistro, helmed by chef Kris Jakob, is staffed by aspiring culinary students both on the floor and in the kitchen. The net effect is earnest but not amateur, and everything is made in-house. That includes the divine charcuterie. Selections change based on which meats are cured and ready to go, but can include aged ham, beef bresaola, merguez sausage and cold smoked duck breast. Also to be admired is the whimsical presentation. The meat is hung from clothespins on a specially built rack, allowing diners to release the lovely slices of meat and watch them fall gracefully onto carefully held plates. Wash them down with one of the many red wines offered at quite reasonable prices.

Cloud 10 Creamery
Courtesy of Cloud 10 Creamery

The most fanciful sundaes are to be found at Cloud 10 Creamery. That's thanks to chef Chris Leung's creativity as well as the experience he gained at acclaimed restaurants like Bootsie's and Kata Robata, among other places. There's a seasonal sensibility at work here. Flavor combinations change right along with the temperatures. A summer sundae, for example, might have raspberry yogurt, apricots, pistachios, potato chip crumble and whipped cream. On Waffle Wednesdays, a crispy, curved waffle serves as a giant edible bowl. The possibilities are endless, and a chocolate chip waffle with corn ice cream, mascarpone mousse, milk chocolate and hazelnuts is just one example of what is possible. No one leaves Cloud 10 without feeling as if he or she just saw something new.

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