Occupying a stately corner in the Saigon Houston Plaza on Bellaire is Tony Thai Restaurant, one of the most beautifully appointed Thai restaurants in Houston. Step through the doors, and you're greeted by ornate sculptures and fountains shipped to Houston direct from Thailand. Tony is the owner and his wife, Ede, is the cook. She whips up dishes effortlessly, everything full of flavor and spiced as hot as you like. They've made things easy here by creating a laminated picture menu so that you can just point at what looks good, but top bets include the sweet and spicy Thai chicken wings, papaya salad, beef Tiger Cry and the spectacular fried fish garlic. Noodle dishes, such as the pad Thai or pad see ew, are also excellent, and the service from the primarily Thai front-of-the-house staff is friendly and helpful. For an extra bit of adventure, ask for off-menu specials by Ede, and you're sure to discover something new and delicious.

The Ham O' The Day has been on the Provisions menu since day one, and is still the must-order appetizer that manages to be light and flavor-packed at the same time. Paper-thin slices of cured domestic ham from heritage pigs are piled up across a smooth, oblong platter and rest on top of rye aioli studded through with whole mustard seed. The featured ham changes from week to week, but the varieties have included La Quercia's Tamworth and Prosciutto Picante from Iowa, as well as Surryano from Edwards Virginia Smokehouse. If you think Italian prosciutto is always superior, these feathery layers of meaty goodness may very well change your mind.

Photo by Troy Fields

This spot in Webster brings a wide selection of craft beer to patrons south of Houston. The beer list is updated on the website daily, which is helpful for those who might have to make a drive to the southern outpost. On any given day, there are more than 40 beers on draft and more than 100 by the bottle, and Nobi regularly taps limited-offering kegs, too. Just as an example, on a single Saturday, Nobi served Founder's CBS Imperial Stout and Avery Brewing's Mephistopheles Stout and had bottles of Saint Arnold Bishop's Barrel on hand, too. As if more incentive were needed, there's an ambitious Asian-inspired food program (chargrilled pork banh mi and beer go hand in hand) and theme days like "Sunday Phonday," when the pub makes one big pot of beefy pho (Vietnamese noodle soup). When it's gone, it's gone, so get there early.

Dawn M Simmons

Charivari Restaurant, owned by Transylvania-born Johann Schuster and his wife, may look like a throwback to a 1980s restaurant somewhere in the middle of Europe, but that's part of the charm. Schuster earned his chef's whites in the old country, which means that the food here is prepared with the skill and technique you'd find in European kitchens. Staples like the Hungarian ghoulash, schnitzel or pan-seared foie gras are always on point. Daily specials, created with seasonal local ingredients — white asparagus, chanterelle mushrooms, fresh-catch fish from the Gulf — are always a pleasure. If anything, it's the weekday lunch specials that make this a great neighborhood spot. Drawing regulars for the $9.99 special of soup and main course, or $15.50 business lunch special of salad, main course and dessert, the menu changes daily, and features comfort-food items like Vienna-style meat loaf with pan-fried egg, Caesar salad and crab cake, or polenta Toscana with fresh wild mushrooms and four Italian cheeses.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Best Of Houston®

Best Of