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."

Mykonos Island Restaurant Forget the freezer. At Mykonos, every day is a shopping day for fish, shrimp and snapper, so the seafood is never more than 24 hours old. The baklava and custard are made every morning, too. The Greek sampler plate comes so heavily laden with Mediterranean favorites like meatballs, stuffed grape leaves and spinach-and-cheese pies that two folks can fill up without moving on to the entrées. But who would want to do that? The menu's star, by far, is the butterfly snapper, an oh-so-moist boned fish charcoal-grilled with olive oil, lemon juice and oregano. It will have you shouting "Opa!" the minute you taste it.

Palm on Westheimer (the cognoscenti don't say "the") has a lot of special memories for Houstonians. When it opened in 1977, it epitomized the "anything goes" spirit of the oil boom. And it's still a boisterous joint with big steaks, big Bordeaux and few inhibitions. The Houston restaurant's walls are covered in caricatures, just like the Manhattan original, and it's fun to see how many faces you know. The New York chop house opened on Second Avenue in 1926. Legend has it that the name was a complete accident. Palm was supposed to be named Parma, but the name was changed by a bureaucrat who couldn't understand the owners' thick Italian accents. Palm's USDA Prime New York strip is perhaps the tastiest steak in town; dark brown, its edges hard and crispy, pink and dry along the sides, turning juicier and redder toward the middle. It's chewier than a filet or rib eye, but the flavor is worth it.

Resist the temptation to ask for a knife and fork. When you eat Ethiopian-style, the spongy flatbread called injera serves as both your plate and your eating utensil. You pull off a chunk of bread and wrap it around the food, turning everything into an injera taco. There's even Ethiopian salsa, not that you need it -- the food at Blue Nile is all incredibly hot. Green beans, potatoes and carrots in a spicy sauce are a favorite vegetable combination, as are the lentil stews. Other standouts include the lamb cubes with onions and peppers and a lamb in a turmeric-heavy sauce. It's easy to share dishes here. All of your orders are combined on one big platter set in the middle of the table and everybody digs in. The atmosphere is pleasantly unusual. Try the Ethiopian honey wine.

Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse Nearly two inches thick, the USDA Prime New York strips here strike a perfect balance between flavor and tenderness. The three-pound Maine lobster, which comes split and shelled with a bowl of drawn butter sitting atop a candle-heated warmer, is spectacular. The salads are huge and bargain-priced. And while the wines aren't cheap, the newly revamped list features hard-to-get cult classics such as Beaux Frères -- probably the best Pinot Noir made in America. Vic & Anthony's exterior architecture matches that of Union Station and the nearby ballpark, and its interior is decorated with old black-and-white photos documenting the history of downtown. Palm, Smith & Wollensky, The Capital Grille and Morton's of Chicago are all clones of originals in other cities. It's nice to finally have a steak house that Houston can call its own.

Chef Kubo (short for Hajime Kubokawa) made this the best sushi bar in Houston. But Kubo doesn't work here anymore. Luckily, Hori (short for Manubu Horiuchi), the new head chef at Kubo's and Kubokawa's former second-in-command, is extremely talented in his own right. If you have any doubts, sit at the sushi bar and order chirashi, which the menu describes as eight kinds of sashimi over sushi rice. And don't miss the cold draft sake -- they have one of the best selections of premium sake in the city. Kubo's isn't easy to find; it's on the second floor of a giant concrete parking structure in the Village across Morningside from The Ginger Man. Look for a little sign on the ground floor that indicates the way to the stairwell. Kubo's shares the mezzanine with Two Rows and Bayou City Crawfish Café.

Capital Grille is the perfect place for you, if: a) you are male, b) you like a clubby atmosphere, c) you like your meat well hung, and d) you're spending $100 of someone else's money. Start out with the Grille's steak tartare ($9.95), which is the best there is. Skip the soup or salad and head straight for the dry-aged, 24-ounce, bone-in porterhouse ($32.95). Dry-aged means that the steak was cut from a loin that was hung in a climate-controlled room for a minimum of 21 days -- that's what gives the meat its unmistakable taste and high price tag. The must-have sides are cottage fries and onion strings ($5.25), creamed spinach ($5.25) and roasted mushrooms ($7.95). The sides are meant to be shared, but no one will mind if they tend to gather on your side of the table. Wash it all down with any of the wines on the outstanding list, which boasts close to 400 choices. Follow this up with the Berries Capital Grille infused with a dash of your favorite liqueur ($9.95), and an espresso. A C-note is easy to drop.

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