Southern Goods
Photo by Troy Fields

With an all-star lineup of local talent (including former Underbelly chef Lyle Bento, former Goro & Gun chef J.D. Woodward and BBQ mastermind Patrick Feges), this Southern-inspired eatery provides full-service comfort through contemporary plates, along with craft cocktails and two dozen beer taps. A constantly rotating menu keeps things interesting, while mainstays like the double-meat, double-cheese SG burger smothered in comeback sauce ensure you'll always leave satisfied. The tiny space is known to get packed, so come early or be prepared to grab a seat at the bar or on the outside patio. Oh, and if bourbon balls are on the menu, get some.

READERS' CHOICE: Max's Wine Dive

Les BaGet Vietnamese Cafe
Photo by Troy Fields

At this homegrown Montrose newcomer, excellent daily baked baguettes get the proper banh mi treatment with the addition of scratch-made truffled garlic aioli, housemade pâté and plently of pickly things. But it's the 24-hour sous vide pork belly that really warms the soul. The delectably fatty pig comes unctuous as all hell and packed with Vietnamese spices, with those aforementioned spreads adding to the decadence and thin slices of pickled daikon, carrot and cucumber helping to cut through all that richness. You can also get the sandwich on a croissant and add a yolky egg.

Revival Market

Though we'll miss this Heights staple's brief stint in dinner service, the recent cafe expansion brought a satisfyingly awesome all-day breakfast to the next level. Get farm-fresh yard eggs with a house-made corn beef and potato hash, fat and fluffy buttermilk biscuits stuffed with insanely hot Memphis-style fried chicken and local honey, and a rotating selection of daily quiche that will keep you coming back for more. Wash it all down with 24-hour cold brews and flawlessly crafted lattes. And this should go without saying, but if Revival is running one of its coveted Kolache Saturday specials, you most definitely want to show up for it.

READERS' CHOICE: The Breakfast Klub

Soup dumplings, or xiao long bao, are a deliciously delicate type of Chinese steamed bun with soup trapped inside. The best ones are crafted one-by-one using a thin, preferably hand-rolled wrapper, then filled with a dollop of marinated meat and a block of gelatin, before being quickly closed with tiny pleats that end with a pinch at the top. The gelatin melts when the dumplings are steamed, which results in a treat with a savory broth surprise. One Dragon Restaurant, more than any other Asian eatery in Houston right now, has perfected the delicate craft of xiao long bao. The dumpling wrapper is very fine and thin without breaking. The soup gushes when you bite into the dumpling, and the meat inside is tender, juicy. There's a reason why the dumplings are the first item on the menu, and also why this restaurant is usually packed with over an hour's wait on weekends.

READERS' CHOICE: Auntie Chang's Dumpling House

Melange fans rejoiced when the beloved Montrose crepe cart announced it would have a full-time spot at the underground food hall and beer garden, Conservatory. That's because the Parisienne-style creperie slings out what is easily considered the best version of the classic French street eats in town. Get the incredibly delicate crepes stuffed with high-quality ingredients, from the traditional banana and Nutella to the more creative additions such as chicken satay with peanut sauce. Rumor has it chef-owner Sean Carroll is still working on opening his own brick-and-mortar, so we can only expect even bigger, better things from Melange Creperie in the future.

Bernie's Burger Bus
Photo courtesy of Bernie's Burger Bus

With locations in both Bellaire and Katy and a soon-to-open Heights spot under its belt, this new-school burger joint continues to draw crowds of patty aficionados. That's because the very talented chef Justin Turner focuses on all things house-made, with from-scratch buns, daily ground Angus beef patties, and homemade condiments ranging from mustard and ketchup to a chipotle blackberry barbecue sauce. Hungry patrons can go for the beastly Detention burger, a monster beef bomb with two cheddar-topped patties and all the fixins packed inside two buns made of bacon grilled cheeses. And burger purists can take solace in the flawlessly prepared Principal, an old-fashioned cheeseburger with mustard, mayo, ketchup and house pickles. Add on classic milk shakes and hand-cut fries for extra credit.

Caracol
Photo by Troy Fields

Coastal Mexican restaurant Caracol is more than a nice place that happens to sell seafood. It's a celebration of seafood in all its forms, from raw oysters to wood-roasted fish. The warming blue crab soup with rich, chile-infused broth and masa dumplings is a good beginning; or start off on the cold side with the namesake caracol (conch) ceviche with pineapple, ginger and red jalapeño. From there, Caracol offers a dozen or more different seafood dishes to try. The camarones encamisados (bacon-wrapped shrimp stuffed with poblano and Chihuahua cheese and accented with roasted pepper mole) and the atún a las brasas (coal-roasted peppered tuna with charred yellow bell pepper escabeche and avocado salad) are just a few worthy seafood adventures.

READERS' CHOICE: Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen

Flying Saucer Draught Emporium

The Flying Saucer beer bar in downtown Houston has been around for 16 years and still feels like a real original, no matter that there are 15 locations across five states and ours wasn't even the first — Fort Worth holds that honor. The Houston outpost has 85 beers on tap, with everything from local favorites, like Brash and Saint Arnold, to the best of Belgium, such as Maredsous and Westmalle. New, interesting brews arrive daily and are posted to the website so that beer nerds can keep up. (The list is even searchable by name, location or style.) A big part of the company's success is its community outreach and customer loyalty program, which includes getting a free beer party and their name on the wall after trying 200 brews. In 2016, Draft magazine named Flying Saucer one of the top six chain beer bars in the United States for being a company that "has set the standard since 1995.

READERS' CHOICE: Flying Saucer Draught Emporium

The Pass
Photo by Troy Fields

The desserts at both the fine-dining and casual sides of The Pass & Provisions change regularly. What doesn't change is that the sometimes fanciful — even improbable — ingredient combinations always end up tasting even better than they sound. Maraschino cherry soft serve with cocoa nibs and chile makes perfect sense: Cherries and chocolate go hand in hand, as do chile and chocolate. However, what other place would come up with combining a pistachio financier, yogurt ice cream and bitter chocolate with prune-infused Armagnac? Such combinations exemplify the overall brilliance of executive chefs Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan. Yes, they are, in fact, the pastry chefs, too. When asked who was responsible for the dessert program, Siegel-Gardner told us, "We just found that it's another outlet that we really enjoy the creative process with."

READERS' CHOICE: The Chocolate Bar

Ritual
Photo by Troy Fields

When El Cantina Superior closed, it did so under the gaze of disappointed and underwhelmed diners. Really, it was for the best. The death of that concept made room for the birth of Ritual, helmed by Delicious Concepts' Ken Bridge and Black Hill Meats' Felix Florez. The latter is well known for providing locally raised meat to many of Houston's top restaurants. Suffice it to say he's got that covered at Ritual too. The food perspective is fiercely Texan, as exemplified in dishes like Smoked Lamb Bacon & Tomatoes with Deep Ellum blue cheese and the Red Eye Chop rubbed with coffee from local roaster Katz Coffee. There's a small but satisfying brunch menu as well: Try the Butcher's Breakfast, with house-cured bacon, a link of coarsely ground sausage, a petite steak, fried potatoes, outstanding grits and a fried duck egg.

READERS' CHOICE: State of Grace

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