Goode Co. Texas Seafood Come crawfish season, this fixture on the Houston dining scene is packed with cravers awaiting bright red piles of mudbugs. It's no wonder: Goode Co.'s homemade fresh Creole seasoning of garlic, onions, celery and dried chiles is hot and flavorful. And these crawfish are big enough to win a fight. They're served with homemade smoked sausage, boiler onions and -- this is important -- corn and potatoes that have been boiled with the crawfish (not separately, the way many other establishments prepare them).

Edloe St. Deli This club sandwich is the best because it's the plain-Jane real deal. And you can only find it inside the ever-so-quaint, breakfast- and lunch-only Edloe St. Deli in West U. Served up with a fruit bowl or an onion-y scoop of creamy potato salad, the traditional double-decker sandwich at the Edloe is served on fresh and chewy egg bread, very lightly toasted. It's nothing fancy -- just tender turkey slices, extra-crunchy bacon, Monterey Jack, thick mayo, juicy tomato slices and frilly green lettuce leaves. This is a comfort-food junkie's ideal lunch.

One of the last of Houston's old-time tamale men was an American Indian named Walter Berryhill. Dressed in a white jacket and top hat, Berryhill sold tamales from his pushcart in River Oaks. He rigged the cart with a propane burner in order to comply with health department regulations and kept selling tamales long after most tamale men had disappeared. Berryhill's tamale cart is now chained to a pole at the corner of Westheimer and Revere in front of Berryhill Hot Tamales. The tiny restaurant sells five kinds of tamales based on Walter Berryhill's recipes: beef, pork, chicken, bean and spinach. These unique East Texas tamales are made with cornmeal, and they have a Southern corn-bread stuffing flavor and a satisfying heaviness. The bean and spinach tamales are both vegetarian, made without any lard. The beef, pork and chicken tamales have lots of meat, and Berryhill's chili gravy is served on the side.

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar These ain't your Jack in the Box fried rings. Fleming's stacks a towering plate about six inches high with fresh, thick slices of white onions fried lightly so they're crispy on the outside and juicy inside. The golden batter -- made from Japanese bread crumbs, garlic, salt, pepper and parsley -- offsets the sweetness of these choice onions. A chipotle mayonnaise dipping sauce adds a tasty zip to the rings, which are so big you'll need a knife and fork to eat them -- or you could just wear them as a bracelet. At $6.95, they could be a meal on their own, so order these rings as an appetizer only if you've got a big appetite or several friends with you.

Barbecue Inn The batter-fried steak at this fabulous old Houston dining institution features the crunchiest crust and juiciest meat combination imaginable. The bright white cream gravy might be a tad sweet for some. It's that old-fashioned variety that tastes like it was made with evaporated milk. The standard order comes with two chicken-fried steak patties, a salad and your choice of hand-cut fries or a baked potato with sour cream, cheddar, chives and bacon bits, served from a spinning stainless-steel carousel. The fried shrimp and fried chicken are also incredible. For a Barbecue Inn surf and turf, ask for a half-order of fried shrimp with a single chicken-fried steak patty on the side. Get a bottle of Tabasco and some extra horseradish to spice up the bland cocktail sauce.

First, you need to take into account the logistics of eating while driving. For the record, a car with a standard transmission is not the most desirable drive-thru vehicle, unless you have someone in the passenger seat to help out. Shifting gears complicates unwrapping and eating your dinner, and may even offset the benefit of efficient drive-thru food -- that is, food with a low soilage quotient. Okay, we made up that term, but we mean food that isn't likely to land on your lap, your tie, your blouse or your passenger (gotta watch those turns!). For years, the most efficient car food was the burger (and if you ever find yourself in Manvel, do not pass up the little shack with the orange roof that is Dilly Burger), but we have found a delicious Mexican twist to the meat-between-bread concept. The chicken torta from Taqueria Fiesta Guadalajara is held together with just the right combination of lettuce, tomato, guacamole, chicken and crema (glorious crema!). The fresh bolillos put a sesame-seed bun to shame. Taqueria Fiesta Guadalajara has been open just five short months, and there's no menu board or speakers to cut in and out while you place your order. You drive up to the window, a beautiful young woman hands you a menu, and you make your selection. The food is made to order and piping hot. The licuado de plátano hits the spot as you drive off -- searching the radio dial for some Tejano dinner music.
Nundini Food Store At Nundini Food Store, $1.50 will get you a scoop of real Italian gelato. Gelato has less air churned into it than ice cream, so it's creamier and a whole lot denser. It also stays cold longer and doesn't melt as quickly as its U.S. cousin. At Nundini, it's hard to recommend one flavor over another, since they change every week. But if you come across zuppa inglese (English soup), try it: Made with vanilla gelato and brandy-soaked pieces of cake, it isn't available anywhere else in Houston. Traditional flavors include nocciola (hazelnut) and that all-time Italian favorite, the soft green-colored pistachio gelato. Its subtle, nutty spice goes down oh-so-easily.

Cotton Exchange Bar We like toasting our balmy weather with a light beer in a cheap koozie. But sometimes we feel more genteel, and that's when we head to the Cotton Exchange Bar for a mint julep. A true speakeasy marked only by the "808" on a black awning, the bar/lounge is housed in the historic building of the same name, a once-bustling center of trade and commerce in 1890s Houston. The Exchange's julep harks back to those older days, when sweaty businessmen would simmer down over the minty, icy bourbon cooler. Watching its creation is a lesson in bar science: Bartenders here muddle huge mint leaves and then add crushed ice and Maker's Mark bourbon to a silver cup. (The silver creates a chemical reaction with the whiskey, igniting a one-of-a-kind flavor.) Sip from the icy, frosty silver tumbler and you're suddenly more relaxed, more refined, more...Southern. All that's missing is the seersucker.

Pezcalato Peruvian Restaurant If you think ceviche means rubbery chunks of mystery fish in a lime juice marinade, Pezcalato is going to spoil you. When you order ceviche at this mom-and-pop Peruvian restaurant on Richmond, you have to specify your fish. There's grouper or snapper ceviche ($14 a plate) or tilapia or catfish ceviche ($12 a plate). The fish tastes like it's been tenderized; it literally melts in your mouth. Every order comes with plenty of mixto, a delectable mélange of tender octopus, squid and mussels in a lime juice marinade. The seafood is covered with flecks of fresh cilantro ground so finely it resembles a pesto, and it comes to the table South American-style with a slice of cold, cooked sweet potato and a little round of corn on the cob. When you're done with the ceviche, drink the marinade. Called tiger's milk in South America, it's said to be a hangover cure.

After five years of satisfying customers with his famous black-pepper crabs ($11.95), Kim Son owner Tan La became concerned that the restaurant's most spectacular menu item was becoming passé. So he sent his mother back to Vietnam to find another crab recipe. She returned with one for tamarind crabs ($11.95), a dish introduced last year that marries Kim Son's plump, succulent crabs with a sweet and tart sauce rendered from the fuzzy, knobby tamarind bean. The crabs are stir-fried in the oh-so-sticky sauce and served up, usually four to a platter. No matter how many extra napkins they provide, it's not enough. You don't want to miss any of the sweet meat tucked strategically inside the crustacean, but the sauce itself is so good you may find yourself licking the shells -- and your fingers, again and again. After a meal of these, you'll find yourself wishing Kim Son had just one more thing: a shower.

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