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.

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.


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

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.

Troy Fields
Tout Suite

When people want to "taste the rainbow," instead of opening a bag of Skittles they should head to Tout Suite. Upon entering this cafe, you're greeted by a long glass case filled with hundreds of French-style macarons in dozens of hues. The colors, of course, are a hint to the cookies' flavors. There's pale green pistachio, pink strawberry and the blue, of course, is blueberry. Some of the best flavors are the most unusual, like the crème brûlée with seared sugar on top. The least expensive day to buy is Monday, when one macaron is free with every three purchased. Otherwise, these light-as-air treats are $2 a pop.

Troy Fields

Chef Adison Lee of KUU cares deeply about the quality of his guests' experiences, and it shows in his food. This is a restaurant where it's well worth paying for omakase, the chef's choice tasting menu. It's a parade of one kind of delicate nigiri after another, each with an accent that makes it seem garnished by a tiny gem, whether it's a dash of smoked sea salt or a hint of key lime zest. Cooked dishes are just as eye-opening, like the unlikely but entirely complementary pairing of Texas Kobe beef with seared unagi (eel), or the soul-satisfying miso black cod with carrot purée.


Photo by Molly Dunn

Fielding's Wood Grill functions well as a neighborhood hangout thanks to supplying many of the dishes that people most crave: burgers, fries and milkshakes. It's much more than just a burger joint, though. The bistro options include rotisserie chicken, reasonably priced steaks and inventive sandwiches, such as lamb seasoned with harissa and served with garlic yogurt, spicy chickpeas and pickled red onion. An emphasis on quality ingredients pervades the menu, and the fine cocktail program doesn't hurt one bit.

Despite the lumps and bumps caused by a wrongheaded renaming of Houston's Restaurant to Hillstone then back again, both the Kirby and Westheimer locations have been steadfast gems in our city's dining scene. Among the well-executed dishes are the salads, the best being the seared ahi tuna, which combines rare, ruby-colored slabs of tuna given a perfect sear with sweet golden chunks of mango, creamy avocado and mixed greens. The cilantro-ginger vinaigrette is so good and balanced between tart, spicy and sweet that diners might do well to order extra on the side. There's a reason this has been a standard menu item for more than 20 years.

READERS' CHOICE: Barnaby's Cafe

Quattro, with its lovely views of downtown, has always managed to strike a balance between being a fine hotel restaurant and an Italian restaurant. It does so in a classy, quiet way — no kitschy red-checkered tablecloths or in-your-face Italian folk music blaring overhead. However, when a dish of chef Maurizio Ferrarese's risotto hits the table, diners might very well hear some classic Italian love songs in their heads. The Risotto e Tonno is a gorgeous dish the color of spring green thanks to the additions of asparagus and baby spinach. On top are slices of rare tuna. There's often also a second, seasonal risotto for diners to consider.

Gone are the ramshackle biergarten and shoddy-looking taproom, and in their place lies a sparkling brewery complete with a renovated patio and brand-spanking-new full-service restaurant. With Karbach's monster roster of suds ranging from the dry-hopped Hopadillo to the bright and citrusy Weekend Warrior, it comes as no surprise that the five-year-old brewery is one of the fastest-growing in Texas. Visit the new biergarten for tours and tastings and be sure to stop by the restaurant to share plates of Korean fried chicken, pimento mac and cheese, and Weisse Versa-battered fish and chips.

READERS' CHOICE: Karbach Brewing Company

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