Best Margaritas
Photo by Carla Soriano

Another year, another crown for The Pastry War, where the selection of tequila is wide, the price is right (especially during the $5 margarita happy hour) and the margaritas are always deliciously boozy. It's hard enough to choose between frozen or on the rocks when it comes to the perfectly sweet and tart house margarita, but visitors should make sure to save room to sample the mango and chamoy version or the spicy habanero and serrano margarita.

Cloud 10 Creamery
Courtesy of Cloud 10 Creamery

If only every ice cream place in town dedicated as much time to its ice cream sundaes as Cloud 10 does to its ever-changing seasonal sundaes — the spring sundae, for instance, features strawberry ice cream with banana jam, banana chips, housemade whipped cream, black tea cream, toast crumble and strawberry crunchies. Still, the classic Cloud 10 sundae is hard to beat, with a combination of jam and chocolate magic shell, sprinkled Nutella dust and a topping of bruléed banana. You get to choose the flavors in your sundae, and you can choose anything from sarsaparilla-anise to cilantro ice cream with roasted pineapple, which makes for the best sundae experience in town.

Local Foods

This locally sourced and seasonally focused sandwich, salad and soup shop has blossomed into a successful chain purveying more-traditional sandwiches alongside vegetarian-friendly offerings like a vegan "meat"ball sandwich made from mushrooms and pecans, a taco salad with convincing and flavorful vegan taco "meat," and a creative vegan Caesar salad complete with cashew cheese. Whether you're a 24/7 vegetarian or just out for a meatless Monday meal, Local Foods is a great bet for vegetarian food that's so delicious, you'll forget you're eating plant-based at all.

Best Bloody Mary
Photo courtesy of State Fare

If you thought one Bloody Mary was thirst-quenching, try sipping on a flight of them at this Southern charmer from Cherry Pie Hospitality. Dreamed up by tincture queen and beverage director Laurie Harvey, the flight offers petite tastes of four varieties. Start with the delectable house Bloody, rocking vodka, a garnish of candied bacon and house-pickled green beans, and made either classic or spicy (hint: go spicy); move on to the tequila-infused Bloody Maria, bright and zippy with pickly onion, lime and jalapeño; next, it's a gin-kissed Red Snapper, adorned with pickled onion and olive; and finally, a Michelada combines an in-house spiced michelada mix with beer, lime wedge and a salted rim.

Be ready to get messy, since Cajun Kitchen takes your average mudbug and ups the ante by doing things Viet-Cajun style. Here, that means the seasoned boil is finished in a wok with finger-licking sauces and spices. Choose your preferred spice level (from mild to cray cray) and your flavor. There's the classic spice-laden Cajun, the buttery garlic blend, and a rich, slightly sweet and fragrant Thai basil. The Kitchen Special is a particularly addicting blend featuring citrus, onion, scallion, butter and garlic. Those looking to loosen a few belt buckles should go for the "fatass" combo — a swoon-worthy spread of crawfish, snow crab legs, prawns, nibs of corn and potato, and, if you're really feeling bold, hunks of sausage.

The Pass
Photo by Troy Fields

There are only a handful of restaurants in Houston that offer tasting menus, but few like The Pass, the fine-dining side of The Pass & Provisions, which has been the quintessence of the progressive American genre from the get go. Beyond a menu offering five courses with the option to supplement three more, what sets this restaurant apart from others is its open-kitchen format, which functions not only as a stagelike spotlight where diners can view the plating, but also as the springboard from which chefs Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan will actually serve their cuisine directly at your table. Dishes are generally whimsical and creative, with gorgeous presentation and an element of surprise, like the belly three-ways, in which lamb belly, pork belly and tuna belly are presented on individual hot rocks that sizzle. The menu changes quarterly, and service is impeccable, so it's possible to visit often and still be wowed.

Best Desserts
Photo by Mai Pham

World-renowned for the patisserie that was first introduced at its London location, Yauatcha brought to Houston a signature bakery that does not disappoint. Priced at $12 each, every dessert composition comprises a beautifully constructed cake served with a quenelle of house-made ice cream or sorbet. Shaped like a red rose, the award-winning raspberry délice, chocolate and raspberry cake served with lychee sorbet, is exquisite. Meanwhile, an effortless fusion of pineapple and passion fruit can be found in the Tropical Dome, served with coconut ice cream. There are six pastries on rotation at any given time, each one graceful and beautiful in design — miniature works of art that are currently without equal in Houston.

Part vegetarian market, part banh mi shop and part fast-casual restaurant, Duy's Sandwiches is a humble, family-run hole-in-the-wall on the side of a strip mall at Wilcrest and Bellaire, where it easily goes unnoticed. But step into this hidden gem, and you'll find wholesome, healthy, affordable cuisine (most everything is in the $5 to $8 range), as well as fabulous vegan banh mi. The banh mi, just $3.25 each, are fantastic. Oblong rolls of crisped French bread are filled to the brim with cucumber, pickled carrot and daikon, cilantro, and jalapeño, and a choice of faux meat filling. The popular No. 1 special is filled with a Vietnamese sausage made of corn, soy and peas that tastes as if it could be real meat (it's vegan). Other things to try include the vegan curry and the noodle soups, which include pho and bun rieu. There are also small containers of freshly prepared takeout dishes such as fried tofu and sautéed vegetables for just $5. Cash only and totally worth it.

Fung's Kitchen

Did you know that someone has to be trained in order to carve a Peking duck? At Fung's Kitchen, master Chinese chef Hoi Fung makes sure that all kitchen staff are trained in this culinary art. So whether he's serving a thousand revelers at a banquet, or a party of two, no matter when you want to order it, the Peking duck comes out perfect. The duck skin is roasted in a special oven until the fat is completely rendered, the skin is extra crispy, and the color is a burnished, glistening, orange brown. Served in a large round platter, the duck is carefully assembled on the plate with the skin laid out mouthwateringly on top. Fung's offers the option of ordering the duck with thin pancakes or steamed buns, so take your pick and enjoy: Pick up a bun or pancake, smear some hoisin duck sauce over it, and add some thinly cut chives and a helping of duck. Mmm, delicious.

Not only does this très chic cafe overlook the charming Discovery Green, it also is home to a traditional French crêperie, offering flawlessly executed, just-thin-enough crêpes via a walk-up window for park-goers on the go. If you prefer a more formal experience (paired with some wine, perhaps?), head to the authentic brasserie inside. Either way, you can indulge in the Parisian-style crêpes stuffed with the salée (salty) smoked salmon and crème fraîche, Gulf seafood and saffron velouté, and pork belly with caramelized onions and Gruyère; or the sucrée (sweet) — from house berry preserves and vanilla Chantilly to the classic banana and Nutella.

Best Of Houston®

Best Of