Photo by Troy Fields

When you go for tapas, you're looking for an evening filled with small plates to share, preferably with a pitcher of sangria or a cold beer to wash it down. That's exactly what you find at Oporto Fooding House in Midtown, which does Portuguese tapas, or petiscos, so authentically well that it feels like you're in a cafe in Lisbon. Croquetas de bacalhau (salted cod and potato croquettes served with piri piri sauce) are magnificently crispy on the outside and bursting with flavor. A simple plate of batata (smashed fingerlings with tomato chutney and aioli) is impossible to stop eating, as are the camarões piri-piri (gulf shrimp with garlic and piri piri pepper) or the unforgettably stunning polvo com batatas (wood-grilled octopus over shaak potatoes). The menu is vast, so try to control yourself (four to five plates is plenty for two), and don't worry if you can't try everything, because you'll be back.

The salted chocolate chunk cookie at this funky bake shop is a thing of beauty. Crowned with delicate flakes of fleur de sel, speckled with Valrhona chocolate and toasted until golden brown, the fat, stubby cookies strike that perfect balance between being rich, sweet, chocolaty, buttery and salty. Pair them with a piping hot coffee or, screw it, a glass of red wine. Bonus tip: Head to the bakery early to snag one of its Yesterday's Treats boxes; $10 will get you a mystery box stacked with leftover sweets and pastries from the day before (maybe the cookies will be in there).

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.


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.

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

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