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.

This is the place for home-style Cuban food. The restaurant could never be considered fancy, but the food, that's another story. The mariquitas con mojo make a great starter. Thin plantain chips are covered with an onion, garlic, olive oil and lime sauce that will have your taste buds singing. Entrées include many classic Cuban dishes like ropa vieja, vaca frita, picadillo and arroz con pollo, but accolades go to the masas de puerco fritas, which are large chunks of fried pork -- crispy on the outside yet moist and tender on the inside. All of the main courses come with the classic black beans and brilliantly white rice as well as ripe plantains known as maduros, which add an interesting sweetness to everything they touch.

Becks Prime If you really want your burger your way -- say, mooing on the inside, black on the outside -- this is your place. Huge juicy beef patties -- made with a half-pound of mesquite-grilled, ground chuck -- as well as fresh toppings make this one of the best burgers in town. Thick fries and forget-the-diet milk shakes complete the experience. Pricey, yes, and don't expect to drive through too quickly. The folks at Becks Prime may think they're a fast-food place, but the meals are mouthwatering, and that takes a little time. Feel like being healthy? The grilled chicken sandwiches are great. And where else can you grab a steak or swordfish sandwich without getting out of your car?

Alfred's in the Village was once Houston's favorite New York Jewish deli -- legendary for its overstuffed sandwiches, kosher-style pickles and box lunches. Today, Alfred Kahn's son, Michael Kahn, carries on the tradition at Kahn's Deli in Rice Village, not far from his father's original location. The walls are decorated with old photos of Alfred and Houston celebrities of yore along with dozens of write-ups from newspapers and magazines. There are a couple of places to sit, but Kahn's business is primarily takeout. The tiny walk-up sandwich counter serves a spectacular oversize Reuben that sells for $7.50 and is best approached with a knife and fork. Other popular sandwich combinations include roast beef, turkey and cheese with Russian dressing. But for the deli purists, there are also plain sandwiches, including corned beef, pastrami and chopped liver, not to mention the excellent half-sour pickles.

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Captain Benny's Half Shell Oyster Bar This small tugboat-shaped eatery, nestled almost out of sight off South Main, is a happy docking place for a diverse array of diners with a lust for crustaceans and other fare from la mer. Folks know that if it's fried or on the half-shell, it's fresh. And just a glance at the clientele proves there's a seafood fan in all of us: A diverse group of patrons converges here. You'll find folks in Sunday-go-to-meetin' duds, business suits, punk dos and tattoos, all united by their love for Captain Benny's seafood. And the management recently added broiled entrées to the lineup, so health-minded customers have been showing up in their gym clothes, too.

The brick floor, wood-paneled walls, fake hanging plants and stained-glass light fixtures hanging over every table make the dining room look like an expanded breakfast nook. Friends and neighbors gather here to linger over lunch and watch sports on the weekends. The easygoing atmosphere and friendly staff make Pearl's our favorite soul food joint. The huge portions of seemingly homemade food make you feel like a guest at Sunday dinner. The ribs are lightly smoked and tender, the yams are steamed and sweet, the black-eyed peas are reduced to a pleasant mush. But the okra is the standout. Tomato and corn add a complimentary backdrop of colors, textures and tastes to the star-shaped slices. It's Pearl's no. 1 seller -- and probably the best okra you'll ever have.

On the weekend, Kim Son's carts carry an average of 70 dim sum items. Don't miss the velvety eggplant stuffed with shrimp paste, mushroom-capped meatballs, Chinese broccoli, golden-fried turnip cakes, slurpy rice noodle rolls, cylinders of shrimp paste wrapped in seaweed and deep-fried in tempura batter, pork dumplings with quail eggs inside, or the sweet taro roll covered with almonds. But wait, you say, dim sum is Chinese, so how could the best dim sum in Houston be served at a Vietnamese restaurant? "I was born here in the States, but like the owners of Kim Son, my family is Chinese-Vietnamese," explains Andy Troung, the manager of the Stafford location. "Chinese people ate dim sum all the time in Vietnam. So eating dim sum in a Vietnamese restaurant in Houston makes perfect sense to Chinese-Vietnamese-Americans like me."

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