Mikki's Soul Food Cafe
Jeff Balke

Mikki's Soul Food Cafe is in the back of a sketchy-looking strip center next to a gym, but this place is one of Houston's hidden gems. Service is very real in a no-bull kind of way and ranges from "Here's your food" to "How you doing, hon?" Food is served cafeteria-style and it's important to check out all the steam counters before deciding on an order. No one should risk missing out on homemade-style meatloaf in tomato gravy or silky oxtails. There are big squares of strawberry, German chocolate and coconut frosted cake next to the register (buy one just to take home, if nothing else) and if someone asks if you would like cornbread, the answer is yes. Dine here and be in good company. Customers have included singers Usher and Patti LaBelle.

READERS' CHOICE: Frenchy's Chicken

Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen

There is an art to making the perfect enchilada, and Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen has definitely perfected it. The enchiladas here are the not the biggest you'll find in Houston, nor are they overstuffed. They are, however, crafted with hand-made corn tortillas, then filled and topped so that each of the 20 options on the menu has a distinctive taste and personality. North of the border faves include Tex-Mex classics such as the Refugio cheese enchilada topped with chili gravy. South of the border specialties take you on a journey through the cities that inspired them. In Puebla, you get chicken enchiladas topped with mole poblano; in San Miguel, you get enchiladas suizas. Nowhere else in the city will you find the breadth of enchiladas that you do here, and they are all fantastic.

Prohibition Supper Club & Bar

You don't even have to leave the building to catch a show at this Theater District gem. That's because Prohibition Supperclub & Bar houses a theater of its own. Built in 1912 and kissed with Art Deco details, the seriously gorgeous space hosts sultry performances from burlesque troop the Moonlight Dolls. Out front, the restaurant is just as enticing. The menu evokes of sense of Southern decadence, with small plates ranging from New Orleans BBQ Shrimp and Croque Monsieur Oysters to Blistered Shishito Peppers. Don't miss the addicting Smoked Fried Chicken, a signature of former chef Ben McPherson that lives on through the talented chef Matt Wommack.. With an incredible bar program to match, you'll have one satisfying night at the theater.

Etoile Cuisine et Bar
Photo by Troy Fields

Since its 2012 debut in Uptown Park, Etoile Cuisine et Bar has steadily gained a loyal clientele, and with reason. This cozy, upscale French restaurant is helmed by chef-owner Philippe Verpiand, and he's on the kitchen line almost every night, cooking the food himself. What you get, then, is not food prepared by a cook who has never lived in France, but cuisine that is made by a French-born, award-winning chef who has been surrounded by Gallic tastes and flavors all of his life. Foie gras au torchon, escargots à la bourguignonne, magret de canard à l'orange and filet de boeuf au poivre are all masterfully executed. An affordable wine list and excellent bar menu overseen by Kimberly Paul enhance what is always a wonderful experience.

READERS' CHOICE: Brasserie 19

Connie's Frozen Custard
Photo by Houston Press Staff

Drive-throughs for hamburgers and tacos are standard, but driving through for creamy frozen custard is awesome. Connie's Frozen Custard is a classic gem in northwest Houston, serving up shakes, floats, concretes and sundaes. There are many options to choose from, including the decadent Almond Delight concrete. It's essentially an Almond Joy in a cup with coconut, melted chocolate chips and roasted almonds. There's also the J.B.'s Texas Turtle sundae, topped with hot fudge, caramel, roasted pecans and cherries. The truth of the matter, though, is that even just the plain ol' vanilla custard is divine.

Huynh
Stephanie Meza

Yes, the word is out on this humble family-run Vietnamese restaurant. It will be bustling whenever you come, and there can be a wait, but you'll know why when you taste the food. There's the goi vit (duck salad), nothing more than a simple jumble of shredded cabbage and duck and herbs that's so good you could come just for that. But there's so much more: Bowls of steaming hot bun bo Hue (beef and pork hock noodle soup), delicious pho (beef noodle soup), tasty bo luc lac (shaking beef) and delicate rolls of freshly steamed banh cuon (steamed rice cakes), not to mention satisfying rice plates and pan fried noodles. The fact that you can BYOB just makes us love it all the more.

READERS' CHOICE: Mai's

Mockingbird Bistro

Whether piled up next to a legendary Wagyu burger or alongside a steaming pot of mussels and chorizo in white wine sauce, the pommes frites at Mockingbird Bistro are thin, lightly crisp and highly addictive. If you love the pungent richness of truffle oil, this place has you (and the fries) covered. Or, skip the truffle oil and go simply with wisps of shredded Parmesan. Even plain, these are the best fries in town.

This is "moist" brisket at Killen's Barbecue.
Photo by Mai Pham
This is "moist" brisket at Killen's Barbecue.

The barbecue scene in the greater Houston area just gets better and better. Over the past two years, new and improved barbecue joints have set down roots in the Heights, Tomball, The Woodlands, near Memorial and even in downtown. Yet when it comes to across-the-board value and quality, Killen's Barbecue is still the one to beat. Consistency is a demon when making barbecue, but the ribs, brisket and sausage at Killen's are always smoky, tender and flavorful.

READERS' CHOICE: Killen's Barbecue

Rice Box Truck

Over the past few years, many gourmet food trucks have washed out, but The Rice Box has proven its staying power, even opening a small storefront in the food court at 5E Greenway Plaza. On Friday and Saturday nights, the truck is optimally positioned across the street from Montrose mainstay Poison Girl, ready to dish out American-Chinese food to any drunken denizens in need of ballast. The General Tso Chicken is as good here as at any restaurant (even better with the fried rice), and so are the dumplings filled with chicken and napa cabbage. Housemade dumpling sauce is served alongside.

Fielding's Wood Grill
Photo by Molly Dunn

Why have one Bloody Mary when you can have four? The Bloody Mary flight at Fielding's Wood Grill includes four variations on the delectable hangover cure. There's the Fielding's Mary, made with vodka and housemade Bloody Mary mix then garnished with an olive and housemade pickle. There's also one with candied bacon and a smoky-spicy seasoning mix, and another that comes with a pickled egg. The fourth is a riff on caprese with basil-infused vodka and mozzarella. It's really hard to pick a favorite, so go with the flight and have them all.

READERS' CHOICE: Liberty Kitchen & Oyster Bar

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