If you're looking for what's fresh and seasonal on the Gulf Coast, you can do no better than the Eastside Farmers Market from Urban Harvest. More so than any other market in the city, this is where the chefs shop. You'll spot them talking strawberries with the folks from Atkinson Farms, picking up some freshly made goat cheese from goatherd-to-the-stars Lisa Seger, testing their mettle with chiles from Finca Tres Robles or thumping watermelons from Gundermann Acres. All of the vendors are friendly and knowledgeable, willing to dole out cooking advice for unfamiliar produce, and an array of prepared-food vendors keeps you from shopping hungry.

Stephanie Meza

Sure, other Brazilian-style steakhouses have opened (and closed) in Houston since Fogo de Chão appeared 17 years ago, but this international chain is the one they're all trying to beat. When it comes to sumptuous salad bars, with everything from cold cured meats to warm black beans and rice, and skewers of deeply roasted meats that just keep coming, Fogo de Chão still rules. Favorites include the signature picanha cut, or top part of the sirloin, bacon-wrapped tenderloin and Parmesan-encrusted pork loin.

Photo by Troy Fields

When the bakeshop opens at 6 a.m., the folks at Weights + Measures get their neighbors off to a good start by serving espresso drinks that pair nicely with their many flaky pastries and muffins. Then, they segue into lunch service, offering interesting soups, juicy burgers and full-fledged pasta, chicken and steak entrées. Dinner starts at 5 p.m., and late visitors can enjoy a bar food menu "until the last patron leaves." Why would anyone want to, though? Weights + Measures is as much of a full-service neighborhood spot as anyone could ever wish for.

Shopping at the giant Korean-centric HMart is an absolute delight. In the food court, you'll find quality food stands selling everything from Korean fried chicken to Japanese pastries to Korean noodles and soups. The produce is bountiful, with exotic and in-season fruits and vegetables aggressively priced so they won't break the bank. Whole aisles are dedicated to sauces and condiments from all around Asia — fish sauce, soy sauce and gochujang. Noodles, candies, cookies and canned goods allow you to stock your pantry with specialties from Japan, Vietnam, China, South Korea and Malaysia. Then there is the fresh seafood counter, one of the city's best for fresh-catch whole fish, lobster and oysters, and the butcher's counter, which offers ready-marinated meats and thinly sliced offerings that you can grab for an at-home session of shabu-shabu (Japanese hot pot). And don't get us started on the free samples.

Photo by Chuck Cook

This collection of deep-fried, traditional Thai herbs, such as water celery, rice paddy herb, fish mint and sweet leaf, is not only one of Houston's most unusual appetizers, but also one of its most compelling. The crunchy green treats are drizzled in a bold, creamy sauce of pork and shrimp paste. Chef PJ Stoops works with a local Cambodian farmer who grows the hard-to-find herbs fresh for the restaurant. The Crispy Fried Herbs is the kind of appetizer that incites a craving for more, days and weeks later.

READERS' CHOICE: B&B Butchers & Restaurant

Photo by Troy Fields

Southern Goods was pretty much constructed to be a neighborhood hangout. The architecture practically screams it, from the open-air bar and patio to the backyard and small stage set up for live bands. Residents of the Heights have definitely responded to the good intentions, since Southern Goods is busy most nights. The late-night hours, stellar craft beer list and great food don't hurt a bit. The SG burger is one of the can't-miss dishes in Houston. Beyond that, the menu is as seasonal as it is Southern. Don't fail to visit during peach or tomato season.

Designed to emulate an Amazonian rain forest, the restaurant Américas is bold yet whimsical, drawing you in for a dinner experience that takes you on a ride from Argentina to Peru to Nicaragua. For something playful, start with the lobster corndogs or the smoked lamb lollichops, then move on to one of the many ceviches. The signature churrasco steak — butterflied, marinated, grilled tenderloin served with chimichurri sauce — is always a home run. But then so are a myriad of other dishes, from the pollo encamisado (plantain crusted chicken) to the paella mariscada (seafood paella) for two, not to mention the legendary tres leches. Sunday brunch buffet is not to be missed, and the daily happy hour is one of the city's best.


Photo by Chuck Cook Photography

The name of the game at Bernadine's is Gulf Coast cuisine, so of course there's an excellent selection of oysters from the region. They are available by the dozen, either raw on the half shell or chargrilled. The shuckers at Bernadine's don't limit themselves, though, and they often have oysters from the East Coast as well, including Prince Edward Island and Virginia. Accented with a dash of Bernadine's housemade hot sauce or mignonette, these bivalves make for a mighty fine ride. Get there early because the rarest oyster varieties often sell out long before closing time.

This classic neighborhood haunt off Airline is old-school in the best possible way. Teotihuacan serves three varieties of vintage Tex-Mex nachos, and our favorite just may be the nachos rocio. Served simply with beans, cheese and borderline greasy ground beef, the chips are best eaten with sour cream, guacamole, pickled jalapeño and a giant, seriously boozy frozen margarita for good measure.

Rice Village welcomed an outpost of the fast-growing Liberty Kitchen empire at the beginning of the year, and Little Liberty quickly became a favorite among locals, mostly thanks to its cozy atmosphere and refreshingly good grub. Get sloppy double burgers smothered with Thousand Island dressing, hickory-grilled Gulf fish and weekend brunch plates piled high with Southern eggs and heirloom cheesy grits, all of which pair nicely with local suds and craft cocktails. Be sure not to miss Little Liberty's latest hit, a customizable Hawaiian poke menu.

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