Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse

Steakhouses are simply expected to have an excellent, rich macaroni and cheese, but Del Frisco's takes it a little further than usual. Topped with breadcrumbs, this decadent offering is loaded with chunks of lobster tail meat. The dish is broiled until the blend of fontina and Parmesan cheese bubbles and the crumbs make a toasty topping. The pasta choice is brilliant. It's pipette, a tube similar to macaroni but narrowed at one end, which means it captures and holds the creamy cheese sauce. Talk about gooey luxury.

READERS' CHOICE: Jus' Mac

La Table
Photo by Troy Fields

Any restaurant can dish out food, but few places provide guests with a sense of being truly valued and taken care of during a meal. La Table, managed by Invest Hospitality, the same company that oversees L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas, understands how. It's all about good training that emphasizes the power of observation. The trained eye knows when it's time to offer a purse stand, or take someone's jacket, or fill a wine glass. (That last part might be the most important.) Houston has never lacked good food but we sure could use more places with outstanding service like La Table.

Fat Cat Creamery

At Fat Cat Creamery you can create your own marvelous concoction from your choice of ice cream and three toppings, but there's also the Every Day is Like Sundae, a special offering that changes regularly but always features two scoops of ice cream, housemade sauces, freshly whipped cream, cherries and a baked good. One example from this year was the Coffee Cake Sundae with two scoops of Fat Cat's Coffee & Cream ice cream, hot fudge, cashew praline crumbles, fresh whipped cream and a cherry. What makes these sundaes exceptional is the quality of the ingredients. The hot fudge is made from TCHO dark chocolate and the ice cream uses milk from Texas dairy Mill-King.

Kata Robata Sushi & Grill

Sushi lovers in Houston know to count on Kata Robata for a consistently excellent and interesting selection of fresh fish. Every day the first page of the menu highlights special arrivals, such as skipjack, konoshiro (gizzard shad) and uni (sea urchin), as well as the prized otoro and chutoro (fatty and medium-fatty tuna, respectively). Visit Kata Robata for the reasonably priced sushi combo lunch special or, for the ultimate experience, make a reservation for omakase (chef's choice dinner) at the sushi bar.

READERS' CHOICE: Uchi

El Real Tex-Mex Cafe

El Real Tex-Mex doesn't take itself too seriously. (Really, you can't assign too much gravitas to a place that has a combo platter named after Chingo Bling.) It's a fun place for margaritas, enchiladas and big, sizzling comals of garlic butter-braised beef fajitas. None of it would be nearly as successful, though, were it not for the underlying reverence for standards set by the pioneering cooks of South Texas. There's even a museum upstairs to see old menus and artifacts from restaurants that made Tex-Mex history. By the way, El Real is also an excellent spot for weekend brunch. Don't miss the bacon enchiladas.

READERS' CHOICE: The Original Ninfa's On Navigation

El Big Bad
David Rozycki

You can get endless baskets of subpar, on-the-house chips and salsa at nearly any Tex-Mex haunt in town, but it's worth the bit of extra money for chef Jonathan Jones's badass lineup of freshly made salsas. The big and bold delights pack punches of serrano, cilantro, garlic and lime, as well as unexpected flavors like toasted sesame, pumpkin seed and cranberry. And the freshly fried house-made corn chips are the perfect vehicle with which to scoop it all up.

What could be more fun than sneaking up to the back door of a restaurant, handing a worker $20 in cash and getting a rotisserie chicken, tortillas, pico de gallo and two small containers of elote (Mexican corn with lime, chili and crema) in return? It sounds sketchy, but that's really the way it works at Velvet Taco. The chicken tastes of butter and rosemary, the corn tortillas are tender and the hot sauce is a smoky one. Best of all, on Mondays this deal is only $10.

Public Services Wine & Whisky
David Rozycki

First off, Public Services Wine & Whisky has the best happy hour for wine lovers. Between 4 and 6:30 p.m., every wine by the bottle is half price. What makes Public Services truly exceptional, though, is the range of its wine list. You'll find an extensive list of sherry and other fortified wines in Houston. The other wine options constitute a trip all over the world, with red and white selections from pretty much everywhere: Spain, Germany, France, Australia and, of course, the good old U.S. of A. There are always at least a dozen sparking wines for celebrating too. The equally ambitious whisky selection means two entirely different types of drinkers can finally imbibe together in peace.

READERS' CHOICE: 13 Celsius

BCN Taste and Tradition
Chuck Cook
BCN Taste and Tradition

BCN Taste & Tradition admittedly provides the kind of expensive dining experience you'd reserve for a special occasion. That said, this traditional Spanish restaurant takes everything it does very seriously. Start with the exquisite gin and tonic program that sees each variant garnished with ingredients like juniper berries and flowers, making the drinks seem like little works of art. Then it's time to dive into a meal of beautifully plated meats, vegetables and fish. The indulgences include real Spanish Ibérico ham, fresh anchovies, wood-grilled beets and roasted suckling pig with the crispest skin imaginable.

READERS' CHOICE: El Meson Restaurant

La Table
Photo by Troy Fields

Château, the fine dining area upstairs at La Table, is a much-needed reminder of what a refreshing experience a beautiful meal served with grace can be. Roasted rack of lamb trundled out on a silver cart and carved tableside would be droll if the servers didn't have such utmost respect for their work, the food and the guests. In fact, that respect means this place is warm and friendly, not snooty. Prices are surprisingly reasonable for a restaurant of this caliber as well. Worthwhile indulgences include the colossal lump crab cocktail with mustard sauce; yellowfin tuna flatbread with crème fraîche aioli, green onions, Himalyan salt and capers; and the grand chocolate soufflé for two.

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