Photo by Troy Fields

Walk into Cafe TH on any given day, and the tiny shop's owner, Minh Nguyen, will be there to greet you with smiles and great service. To call it a neighborhood spot is almost a misnomer, because this is the kind of place that people will drive from all over town to experience. The food is humble yet fresh. Chargrilled chicken vermicelli is made with white meat. Pho and curry are offered in vegan form. Nguyen's bánh mí sandwiches are always delicious and, thanks to his hard-core regulars, there's a whole section of items that have been customized so many times, they were christened with the patrons' own names on the menu — among them, Abby's Uncommon Combo (fresh spring rolls and a half order of bánh bot chiên); Trifecta Sanjay (a small tofu sandwich, stir-fried tofu delight, a small bowl of vegan curry with baguette); and Ironman Jay (stir-fried lemongrass beef served over stir-fried vegetables).

David Rozycki

Tuesday is Steak Night at D&T Drive Inn and, with the backyard setting, it feels like a big family picnic — except the beer selection is much better. For $18 or $28, you get your choice of a ten-ounce sirloin or a 16-ounce rib eye, house salad and a baked potato with all the fixings. On some nights, there's even fancy compound butter that's perfect for slathering on baked potato and steak alike. D&T is serious about its beef, and it's not unusual to find grass-fed and grain-finished steaks from Black Hill Ranch on the grill. Chef Mara Serna is usually out back playing mother hen, ensuring all her diners are getting what they need and are happy, which adds to the communal feel.


Troy Fields

Houston's west side has long deserved a noteworthy sushi spot, and now it finally has one. Diners should angle for seats at the sushi bar for a bird's-eye view of chef Adison Lee and his staff diligently forming perfectly textured sushi rice into neat blocks and topping them with some of the best fish and meats to be found in the city. Lee trained under world-acclaimed master Nobu Matsuhisa and that experience has now been honed to a sharp focus. Searing of foie gras is perfectly timed to melt into the rice and on the tongue. Fish is sliced to capitalize perfectly on the most tender layers, even a bit on the surface to ensure it wraps around the rice just so. Often, a tiny amount of ginger, yuzu or other accoutrement is applied to best showcase the fish's flavor. Go now, before Houston's other sushi aficionados find out what Lee is doing over there and make it hard to get a reservation.


Urban Harvest's attitude is the epitome of local pride. Every Saturday, they set up the Eastside Farmers Market to celebrate local farmers and restaurants, small businesses and charities, and pretty much the entire Houston community through a beautiful bounty of fresh products and artisan goods. Along with a happy-to-be-up-this-early crowd, you can find something new to explore each and every visit — whether it's a gardening expert dishing out advice on growing tomatoes, a local chef cooking up a feast, or workshops involving the entire family. Stop by the market on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon to show your love of H-town (and get some grass-fed beef, fresh berries and cold-brewed coffee while you're at it).

READERS' CHOICE: Canino Produce Co.

Photo by Mai Pham
This is "moist" brisket at Killen's Barbecue.

Pork ribs were all the rage during the past two decades. For a while, it seemed as if baby back ribs were on every other menu. Now, beef ribs are king again. They owe their newfound popularity in the greater Houston area largely to Ronnie Killen of Killen's Barbecue. These are not your grandpa's beef ribs, though. They sport a huge slab of meat on the bone. Just one of them is a full serving of beef. That's because Killen uses plate short ribs that come from the chest area of the cow, not the back. Other barbecue places have followed suit and are also offering plate ribs. So, in a way, Killen has made carnivores all over town happy. His own tender, juicy ribs sell out daily, so get there early if you want to try the best.

With a name like Liberty Kitchen & Oysterette, you'd expect a strong oyster program, and that's what you get at this gorgeous River Oaks establishment. The little brother of the more established Liberty Kitchen in the Heights, this location is always packed with people. One of the reasons? The oysters. Fanatics can feast on a selection of fresh bivalves that come in daily from the upper East Coast and the mid-Atlantic, the East Coast of Canada, the Gulf of Mexico, Texas, Louisiana and Florida. Single selections of the day range from $2.75 to $3.50 each (about $33 a dozen). For a Southern spin on the Gulf oysters, you can also get them fried and topped with LKRO's signature bacon jam — always a win.

READERS' CHOICE: Liberty Kitchen & Oyster Bar

Evan Turner has proven that if you shout at the wind long enough, eventually someone will hear you. He fell in love with Greek food and culture at the young age of 11. Seventeen years ago, as an adult, he started a serious exploration into the country's wines and he's been preaching the gospel of Greek wine in Houston ever since, both at competitions and at special events he's planned and coordinated himself. There's still a long way to go before Houstonians embrace Greek wine on a grand scale, but Turner has turned his dreams into a viable platform from which to evangelize. He, along with business partner Sharif Al-Amin (previously at Philippe Restaurant + Lounge and Prohibition Supperclub & Bar), opened Helen Greek Food and Wine this year, and it sports the second-largest Greek wine list in the United States.

Yeah, when it comes to plain glazed, we're a Shipley town and everyone knows it, but there has always been room for more creative takes on Houston's favorite morning pastry. Enter Hugs & Donuts, a storefront operation by Matt Opaleski and Jason Hill. These are the same minds who brought Houston one of its ugliest — and best — food trucks, H-Town StrEATS. Come early for kolaches because Hugs & Donuts sells out early. With fillings like sausage and pepper jack and brisket and cheddar, that's to be expected. As far as the doughnuts go, half the fun is in the surprise of seeing what's new in the glass case. How about a "Fat Elvis" banana cake doughnut topped with peanuts, marshmallow fluff, bacon and banana chips? Or, maybe the s'mores variety are on-deck, topped with a chunk of a Hershey's chocolate bar. On other days, there might be maple bacon (with chunks of actual bacon on top) or the Fruity Pebbles variety in glorious Technicolor. In all fairness, though, even the plain glazed might make converts out of new visitors.

READERS' CHOICE: Shipley Do-Nuts

Best Neighborhood Spot in Upper Kirby

Fat Bao

Jaff Balke

Fat Bao is one of those places that is easy. It's easy to order (you do so at the counter). Easy to get to (it's at the corner of Kirby and Richmond). Easy to park (translation: free). Plus, it's easy to visit several times a week. The brainchild of owner and chef Pak Tsui, the specialties here, as the name would suggest, are the overstuffed fluffy white bao buns, stuffed with a choice of fillings such as the popular crab daddy (panko-crusted soft-shell crab) or pork belly, Peking duck or the bulgogi (Korean-style beef). Then there are the fat fries, which come Korean-style and topped with kimchi mayo, sriracha and your choice of meat. On specific days you can order a filling bowl of tonkatsu ramen. For dessert, the deep-fried banana Nutella bao and marshmallow-stuffed s'mores bao are hard to beat. With each bao ringing in at about $3 or $4, Fat Bao is also family-friendly, especially during lunchtime, when its lunch combo is less than $10 and comes with two baos, a drink, and fries, chips or a side salad.

Tucked away on the second floor of the Hotel Sorella, where it is accessed via a stairway from the lower-floor bar, Radio Milano is one of those places that you have to go and find. When you do, you'll discover modern Italian cuisine that's a pleasure to savor. Under the helm of Jose Hernandez, the menu reads exceptionally well, filled with delights that will make you want to order altogether too much. Starters are noteworthy: asparagus with prosciutto di Parma, drizzled with summer truffle dressing, and burrata cheese (made in-house) on local heirloom tomato, with pesto. It's seasonal, local and absolutely delicious. The vincisgrassi, a multilayer white lasagna made with alternating layers of veal ragout and parmesan cream, is unparalleled. The scrumptious, beautifully constructed desserts and a wonderful Sunday brunch buffet complete the package.

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