Joyce's is a rarity: a high-end restaurant with great Cajun food. There's lots of grilled fish and a couple of steaks on the menu, but the Louisiana cuisine is the real attraction. The awesome shrimp poor boy is made with shrimp that have been butterflied and dipped in a spicy batter before being deep-fried and dressed on a crusty roll. The gumbo is made with an inky dark roux and lots of seafood. And the New Orleans-style barbecued shrimp come swimming in the richest butter sauce you've ever tasted -- with lots of French bread on the side for dipping. The restaurant was formerly known as Joyce's Oyster Resort. They changed the name because too many people assumed oysters were all they served. Luckily, they still dish up the same oyster stew, oysters Rockefeller, and oysters on the half shell as well as a serious fried oyster platter.

Byzantio Cafe Ilias Giannakopoulos gutted his house on West Gray to make room for the European flourishes omnipresent in this hip new cafe, where he and partner Dora Manolopoulos keep the Greek tradition of hospitality alive day after day. Inside you'll find a smorgasbord of Hellenic delights: stuffed grape leaves, fresh olives, sliced meats and feta, feta, feta. But it ain't the food that makes Byzantio the best new cafe; it's the atmosphere, where wood meets stone meets some random Greek guy yelling about something. Welcome to Europe in the middle of the Montrose. The place changes faces once the sun goes down; the music starts pumping, and maybe, just maybe, the patrons start dancing on the bar. Hey, it's a Greek thing.

Neon beer signs glow brightly in the cool darkness. The taco and tostada are made of old-fashioned ground beef with a minimum of seasonings and a maximum of chopped iceberg. The tamale and rice and beans are served swimming in chili gravy. Larry's seems indistinguishable from dozens of other vintage Tex-Mex joints -- until you dig into the cheese enchiladas. Then, while you're working away on the rolled tortillas, a miracle takes place on the plate. Viscous yellow cheese sauce oozes into dark brown chili gravy in yellow and brown swirls, creating a delicious masterpiece of half melted cheese and half tangy enchilada sauce. This goop that's left on your plate after you finish the enchiladas may be the crowning glory of old-time Tex-Mex. Pass the tortillas, please.

Like fresh fish? Pick out a ling cod swimming in one of the aquariums up front and Fung's Kitchen will rush it to the stove, steam it and serve it up in a minimalist soy and ginger sauce for you. It is the purest fish flavor you will ever taste. But if fish isn't your favorite, don't worry -- you're bound to find something you like on this 400-item menu. The tofu dishes are especially good. Chef and owner Hoi Fung is originally from Hong Kong and comes from a family that has produced many famous chefs. When the daughter of the emperor of Japan visited Houston a few years ago, this is where she and her husband came to eat.

Best Neighborhood Spot in Montrose

Cafe Brasil The perfect microcosm of Montrose, Cafe Brasil does it all. It has great ambience, a lively, diverse crowd and surprisingly good food. The scones, baked on-site every morning, are miracles of flaky, buttery deliciousness. It's one of the few places in town where you can order an inexpensive, top-notch salad, and the beer flows as freely as the coffee. Housed in an old brick storefront with vintage windows, Brasil hosts wooden tables brimming with professors, chat groups and mysterious, bearded bohemians. The lime-green walls, leafy patio and chic blue tile-work of the bar give the place a classy, vaguely Latin American feel. On certain nights, Brasil even screens classic and foreign films. But don't let the cosmopolitan trappings fool you: One taste of the eggs and crawfish étouffée, and you'll agree this popular hangout is a Bayou City classic.

This cozy little restaurant a few blocks from Our Lady of Czestochowa, the Polish Catholic church, is the place to catch up on the doings of the Eastern European community over blintzes and tea. Be prepared for a long wait if you arrive during the post-church scene on Sunday afternoon. The homemade ruskie pierogi are the thing to order here. Perfect pierogi should be puffy pillows about the size of Chinese dumplings; the dough should be rolled very thin with a tiny crimp so that the area of double thickness doesn't get too chewy. And by these difficult standards, Janina's ruskie pierogi are hard to beat. There are also fluffy potato pancakes covered with goulash on Janina's menu, along with other examples of Polish home cooking at its finest.

Eydie Prior's parents opened Lankford as a grocery in 1939. After a while, Eydie took over and started serving food. It was well received, so in 1977 she decided to turn the place into a restaurant. Since then, generations of regulars have filled the rickety joint to the gills nearly every day. Anyone who's ever heard of Lankford will ask if you've had the thick-'n'-juicy hand-packed burgers. Those more in the know will suggest the enchilada special. These are some of the best cheesy, beefy enchiladas in the downtown area, with a hearty mix of chili powder and cumin in the chile con queso topping. A half order will leave most bellies plenty full. Chicken-and-dumplings aficionados should be sure to pencil in that special as well. There's nothing this place can't do well.

Da Marco You'll get the best pizza and pasta dishes in the city at this intimate and unassuming little Montrose restaurant. And you'll also find cutting-edge fare such as tuna tartare salad and an appetizer of cold lamb's-tongue slices served with the Tuscan mustard-brined fruits known as mostarda. Some of the unusual varieties of fish, such as the branzino (Italian sea bass) are jet-flown in from Italy. Chef Marco Wiles strives to offer Houstonians the same kind of new Italian cuisine that Food Network boy wonder Mario Batali serves at Babbo, one of New York's favorite restaurants. The wine list is just as innovative as the food, with lots of crisp Proseccos and unusual Piedmont reds. Daily specials take advantage of local seasonal ingredients, such as the fresh fig compote with gelato. And the service is exceptionally well informed, attentive and cordial -- unless you ask for spaghetti and meatballs.

Why would a Salvadoran restaurant choose a name like Super La Mexicana? Well, it didn't really. This part-convenience store part-luncheonette already had that name when the current proprietors bought it. The new owners decided it was too expensive to change the signage, so they just changed the menu instead. Now the fare mixes Mexican and Salvadoran items. The dishes from both countries are fantastic. Of the Salvadoran specialties, the pupusas with cortido, big chunky Salvadoran tamales (available only on weekends) and deep-fried plantains served with creamy refried beans and sour cream are outstanding. Of the Mexican offerings, you'll like the hearty homemade soups: menudo, posole, caldo de camarones with carrots and vegetables, caldo de rez with big hunks of beef, and chicken soup with rice. When they ask you if you want flour or corn tortillas, tell them you want the thick, handmade Salvadoran corn ones. You'll get respect from the staff for making the right choice, and your mouth will thank you for filling it with such goodness.

Look for the little red house in the crusty Third Ward neighborhood east of the George R. Brown Convention Center. You have to pass through a screened-in porch with a dilapidated sofa and a pile of broken chairs to reach the entrance proper. Inside, there's a cozy little dining room with 12 mismatched tables, an awesome jukebox and a television that's perpetually tuned to a soap opera. The brisket here has a tasty black char on top, but the inside is slick with juice and as tender as the white bread served on the side. The buttery beef comes anointed with dark brown sauce, and if you order "in and out," you'll get plenty of black outside pieces along with the inside cuts. This is not the kind of fanned array of picture-perfect brisket slices that wins barbecue cook-offs. This is a hot and greasy, falling-apart mess o' meat East Texas-style, but it eats better than any other brisket in the city.

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