La Fisheria
Courtesy of La Fisheria

With a new, more visible location downtown, it feels like La Fisheria's focus is solidly on seafood quality. That means all the ceviches are excellent. There's the Natural, with fish brined in lime juice and accented with cucumber and avocado; the Enclamatado, with fish and shrimp in tomato, clam and lime juice; and the Verde, with chunks of snapper in tomatillo sauce and Seville orange juice. Best of all, the restaurant offers a trio so all of these can be tried at the same time.

Cooking Girl
Photo by Troy Fields

Looking for a casual, Chinese restaurant with spicy Szechuan cuisine and a friendly environment? Look no further than Cooking Girl, which feels like someone picked up a Chinatown restaurant and dropped it into Montrose. Dishes like Super Cubic!, with cubes of beef fried with lots of spicy dried peppers, and silky Mabo Tofu will stay on diners' minds long after the meal. As a bonus, Cooking Girl is BYOB with a nominal corkage fee. Bring a good lager or demi-sec Riesling; either would go wonderfully well with the spicy cuisine.

READERS' CHOICE: Fung's Kitchen

Morningstar
Photo by Troy Fields

With David Buehrer and Ecky Prabanto, the owners of Greenway Coffee and Blacksmith, behind Morningstar's coffee program, it was simply expected that the coffee and espresso at this Heights spot would be excellent. They source interesting beans directly from small growers around the world, and the roast levels are adjusted to get the best flavor from each particular batch. Morningstar, though, also has a bunch of unexpected offerings that really push it over the top as a full-service coffee shop. There is a focus on matcha tea like nowhere else in town, as well as savory lunch and breakfast items. As icing on the cake, Morningstar's co-owner is Sam Phan of Donald's Donuts, so there are also intriguing doughnuts with toppings ranging from cherry and cacao nibs to honey and housemade sprinkles. Yes, they make their own sprinkles.

READERS' CHOICE: Blacksmith

Tucked away between Le Mistral French Restaurant and Rouge Wine Bar, Foody's Gourmet is the type of French boulangerie and pâtisserie you might find in Paris. When you walk in, you are assailed by the warmth and aromas of French bread baked fresh that morning. Baskets of tall, thin baguettes line the counter. Shelves of hard to find artisanal breads such as the pain couronne (a ring-shaped bread), pain marguerite (a flower-shaped bread with individual boules you can rip apart), and pain d'épi (bread shaped like a wheat stalk) are simply beautiful. The selection of brioche and perfectly formed croissants are decidedly divine. Add a mouthwatering selection of pastries — everything from simple éclairs to colorful fresh fruit tarts and rainbow-hued French macarons — and you're in undeniable Foody heaven.

READERS' CHOICE: Three Brothers Bakery

Revival Market

When it comes to charcuterie, Revival Market's game is about as good as it gets. The entire ethos of the market, breakfast and lunch spot was founded on the ideals of locavore sustainability. The meat case is a thing of beauty — all the contents are made from antibiotic-free and pasture-raised heritage breed pig or Texas-raised cattle that is butchered and then smoked, cured or prepared in-house. From bresaola to coppa, prosciutto to whiskey pâté, headcheese to salami, lardo to sausage — take your pick, take it home and enjoy.

Cloud 10 Creamery
Courtesy of Cloud 10 Creamery

Sure, you can order plain old vanilla at Cloud 10 Creamery (and it will be excellent), but that's not why you go there. You go for creamy, whimsical flavor combinations that exceed the imagination, like basil mascarpone, brown butter sweet potato or Valrhona chocolate with figs. The brainchild of award-winning pastry chef Chris Leung, Cloud 10 produces ice creams in small batches, so you can come in and get something different every time. When you want to get really fancy, order your favorite flavor in an ice cream sandwich made with French macarons.

READERS' CHOICE: Fat Cat Creamery

When young chef William Wright talks about the food at Helen Greek Food and Wine, it's with polite humility. He has the quiet intensity of one who is constantly working to master a subject. In this case, it's the seasonal aspects and ingredients of Greek cuisine, which he takes far beyond the shish kebabs and lemon potatoes you find at most places. Wright's dedication to the subject is one of the big reasons Helen Greek Food and Wine was a James Beard semifinalist for Best New Restaurant in 2016, a category in which Houston is seldom recognized. Wright is now overseeing not only Helen but also new American-Italian restaurant Arthur Ave. It's a lot of responsibility for a young man, but Wright seems up to the task.

READERS' CHOICE: Chris Shepherd of Underbelly

Irma's
Stephanie Meza

At the bottom of the neon sign at Irma's Original, the motto reads "como en su casa," which in Spanish means "like in your own home." This is the motto that 74-year-old Irma Galvan has employed for the past three decades. When you come to her place, there are no menus. Most patrons have been here before, and they know what they want. They come as much to see Galvan as they do to experience her food, all of it cooked from the heart. Popular dishes include chicken mole and carne guisada, not to mention pork roast tamales topped with mole, chile ancho and tomatillo. There are also chicken, beef, cheese, fresh mahi mahi and spinach enchiladas, along with fish tacos and chiles rellenos. Irma's is more than just a neighborhood spot. It's a Houston classic.

Hugo's

The taco is a humble Mexican street food that you can find all over Houston, but in the hands of chef Hugo Ortega it becomes something unforgettable. A hand-made corn tortilla lays flat on the plate, topped with a tantalizingly plump lobster tail sautéed in butter and spices. A smear of black refried beans, a scoop of pico de gallo and a thick slice of avocado complete the picture, resulting in bite after bite of pure food pleasure. Best taco in Houston? Look no further than the taquito de langosta, Hugo's amazing lobster taco.

Tony's Thai & Sushi Restaurant

Just inside the entrance of Tony Thai, two large bronze Buddha sculptures welcome you in for a taste of Thai as authentic as it comes. A family restaurant where the owner is the cook and her brother is the general manager, this is the place where you'll see a group of Thai ladies waiting for bags of to-go food that they ordered off menu. It's also the place for dishes so spicy you'll cry in your tom yum kung (sweet and sour shrimp soup). Specialty dishes include beef tiger cry and whole fried fish with garlic. Try the yum seafood salad for something unexpected, the red curry for something homey and the catfish in chile sauce for a burst of flavor.

READERS' CHOICE: Thai Cottage

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