The Hay Merchant

Make Tuesdays great again by heading to The Hay Merchant, where the beefy scents begin wafting through the bar starting at 5 p.m. You'll want to get there sooner than later, as these in-demand steaks often sell out. Made with eight ounces of Angus sirloin from 44 Farms, the stunners are aggressively seasoned and sizzled just to your liking, along with in-season veggies and sauce accoutrements. Get it all for an incredibly reasonable $15.50, but bring some extra dough to sip craft suds from beer guru Kevin Floyd's incredible roster of taps.

Don't come to this Rice Village charmer expecting guilty pleasures like deep-fried falafel and greasy shaved lamb. We promise you won't miss those Mediterranean staples once you get a taste of chef William Wright's refreshing take on Greek fare. Start with a greens-and-cheese pie, in which buttery phyllo gets layered with three kinds of funky Greek cheese and finished with micro greens. Entrées include feta-brined and wood-grilled chicken, a stunning charred octopus, and a Black Hills pork build-your-own gyro that you'll likely dream about long after your visit. All these inspired dishes pair flawlessly with wines curated by well-respected sommelier Evan Turner. The list just so happens to be the second-largest all-Hellenic wine list in the country.

READERS' CHOICE: Niko Niko's

BB's Cafe
Photo by Houston Press Staff

It looks like the higher powers have shone down upon us, because last year the already poppin' Montrose location of everyone's favorite Tex-Orleans cafe moved from being open late-night to being open all night. Now you can get Maw-Maw's Gumbo and a bevy of po-boys served on authentic Leidenheimer French bread 24 hours a day. May we also suggest sharing an order of the Tex-Cajun fries, which come absolutely dripping in queso, roast beef and gravy? That'll definitely to put you right to sleep.

READERS' CHOICE: House of Pies

Don't be fooled by the Original Kolache Shoppe's roughshod appearance. This southeast-side mom-and-pop has been keeping Houstonians happy with vintage-style kolache and klobasniky since 1956. The shop recently underwent a bit of an interior makeover, but the simple menu, focus on scratchmade ingredients and cheap-as-hell pricing remain. Get crazy-good Czech classics — like kielbasa and jalapeño or house-baked ham and cheese — wrapped in lightly sweetened dough. Don't forget to nab some plump, sweet pastries stuffed to the brim with poppy seed, lemon, raspberry and cream cheese filling. Whatever you do, make sure to include at least one roast beef croissant, which kind of reminds us of a Hot Pocket, but is way better.

Da Marco
Photo by Houston Press staff

While we all love Italian when it comes to classics like chicken parmigiana and spaghetti and meatballs, a journey through the cuisine should never stop there. Just one meal at Da Marco, the white-tablecloth trattoria from chef Marco Wiles, is all it takes to open your eyes (and mouth) to the country's culinary possibilities. Wiles's attention to sourcing high-quality ingredients (some of which are even flown in straight from Italia) allows dishes like whole-roasted wild branzino and rich pastas with seasonal truffles to sing. With the recent shuttering of stalwarts like the nearby Mark's, we're happy to see this Montrose gem standing strong. It may not be the cheapest Italian meal you can have in town, but it will be the best.

READERS' CHOICE: Carrabba's Italian Grill

Good Dog Houston

Things are looking up for this gourmet frank shop, which announced plans last year for a second location in the old Brick & Spoon spot in Montrose. That means you will soon have double the chance to stuff yourself with crazy-good Texas-made hot dogs and hand-cut fries. Load up a dog simply with house-crafted condiments like sriracha ketchup and short bus mustard, or get stacked with readymade options like the Ol' Zapata, made with bacon, Muenster, caramelized onions and jalapeño relish. An old-fashioned root beer float or refreshing pint of craft beer should help wash it all down.

READERS' CHOICE: Good Dog Houston

Lankford Grocery and Market

When it comes to greasy spoons, most people are looking for a few things: great prices, fast service and deliciously unctuous grub. After 77 years, kitschy Lankford Grocery continues to earn five-star ratings in each of those criteria. Hit the shaded picnic tables to take down colossal breakfast plates and sloppy burgers served with a side of nostalgia. Those sloppy burgers, by the way, may even be bigger than the breakfast plates. Get them stacked with everything from wasabi sauce and pineapple to Frito Pie fixins, then tack on curly fries or a Tex Mix of fried jalapeño and onion strings.

Himalaya Restaurant & Catering
Jeff Balke

If you've been limiting your fried chicken experiences to that of the Southern variety, it's time to switch up your game plan. Himalaya's fried chicken — affectionately known as "HFC" — starts with a brine that's chock-full of spices like garam masala and ginger. After a nice, long soak, the bird is generously dredged in seasoned flour and fried to an absolutely gorgeous golden-brown crisp before being served family-style. The result is Mutt City dining at its finest. You may want to call ahead for this one, as it's not always available and can very well sell out.

Andes Cafe
Photo by Troy Fields

Chef David Guerrero's large menu at Andes Cafe actually covers seven different countries in South America, but the food of Peru is a significant focus. There are close to 20 different Peruvian dishes on the menu, and they go far beyond just Peruvian-style ceviche. For lunch, dive into the sanduche de pavita, a sandwich with oven-roasted slices of spiced turkey, lettuce, aji verde jalapeño sauce, natural jus and salsa criolla. When dinnertime hunger pangs strike, go for the classic lomo saltado, a Peruvian-style stir-fry with beef tenderloin, red bell peppers, onions and tomatoes, all seasoned with red wine vinegar, oyster sauce and soy sauce.

READERS' CHOICE: Andes Cafe

Cane Rosso
Photo by Troy Fields

Cane Rosso's executive chef, Dino Santonicola, is so well-regarded in the pizza world that he's considered a "fiduciary," or someone entrusted to check out other pizzerias by Vera Pizza Napoletana, an organization that trains individuals and certifies restaurants that produce authentic Neapolitan-style pizza. That's likely one reason Houston's first Cane Rosso location, in the Heights, is turning out such beautifully browned, tender-crusted pies. The chain, which started in Dallas, advocates simplicity, an approach that allows ingredients like Italian tomatoes and fresh basil to shine on their own merits. This first Houston location has been so successful that plans for another, in Montrose, swiftly followed.

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