When a dish that started out as a daily special makes it to the regular menu, it's got to be good. The avocado pasta at Annabelle's is just such a dish. A whole avocado is pitted and stuffed with a delicious, cheesy crawfish mixture. It's then reassembled and rolled in some spicy bread crumbs before being quickly fried and placed in the center of a dish of linguine. Slivers of carrot, zucchini, onion and squash are tossed in a creamy white wine sauce before being added to the pasta. The most fun is biting through the crunchy bread-crumb coating to the velvety smooth avocado and then the seafood filling. If you manage to mix this with the veggies and the linguine, the combination of tastes is extraordinary.
A long, long time ago, Publius Syrus said that to do two things at once is to do neither. Sorry, Pub, but having visited the Flying Saucer Pie Company, we strongly disagree. Since 1967, co-owners Bill Leeson and Marilyn Smith have been doing at least a dozen things at once, each one of them brilliantly. Cherry, coconut cream, pecan, fresh strawberry cream, pumpkin, key lime, chocolate cream...Maybe their loophole is that they do pies and pies alone -- no sandwiches, no tables, no drinks. No matter. On Tuesday through Saturday mornings at 8 a.m., Flying Saucer's legions of loyal customers line up at the modest Garden Oaks-area store to get a whiff of the tantalizing aroma of baking and take home a perfect pie (or two) straight from the oven.
In Latin America, plantains -- raw, mashed or fried -- are what's for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So it's no surprise that they show up all over South American menus in Houston. One of the best uses for the banana's big brother is the plantain chips at Churrascos. Known for its tender steaks and divine tres leches, Churrascos secures its loyal following with bottomless baskets of perfectly cut and lightly fried plantain slices. Throw in the amazing dipping sauce, and it's a good thing the baskets are bottomless.

In their definitive rendition of the oyster poor boy, the humble Main Street dive called Original New Orleans Po' Boy approaches greatness. They start with a toasted skinny roll, a spatula-full of tartar sauce, a bed of lettuce and a couple of tomato slices. Then come the six golden oysters fresh from the fryer. They fit the bread perfectly. If you eat it there, the oysters are still hot and juicy, so they gush into the lettuce, tomatoes and tartar sauce, creating a moist and creamy texture. This is one of those rare sandwiches in which every bite tastes better than the last. Rarer still is the price: $5.14, with tax.

Never thought you'd ever eat anything that had the words "road kill" in its description? Think again. Daniel Wong's Road Kill Pork is good, really good. It's basically the same dish as the restaurant's garlic pork, but with fewer vegetables and more meat. We recommend starting off with some dumplings and an order of Sparkling Chicken (chicken wrapped in aluminum foil with special spices and sauces). Though you'll be tempted, try not to lick the sauce directly off the foil. Hold out for that big dish of road kill. And don't share -- you'll want the whole thing, or at least the leftovers.

Any late-night Inner Looper knows what a taqueria is. But a pupuseria? Ask a Salvadoran and they'll tell you that's where you go to get pupusas. These delicious little treats are thick, soft, corn masa tortillas stuffed with cheese, refried beans, chicharrones (pork cracklings) or any combination thereof. Eaten with cortido, a spicy Salvadoran pickled cabbage-and-carrot side dish (like kimchi with carrots, but let's not get our cultures too crossed), they're tasty, filling and affordable (under $1.50 each). And nobody makes them better than El Pupusodromo. The mural of the El Salvador countryside on the wall and the happy customers speaking in the charming Salvadoran dialect of Spanish (and little else) attest to the fact that this place is keeping it real on this side of the border.

Who in their right mind would go to Romano's and not order the pizza? This shopping center spot is known for its thin, crispy, delicious pies, but if you never try the portobello ravioli, you're denying yourself an insanely indulgent pleasure. The Queens, New York, transplants at Romano's make this daily special from scratch, and you can taste it in the chewy pasta squares, the mild mushroom-ricotta-mozzarella filling and the spicy marinara-cream sauce. When you've successfully chased around the nine or ten puffy pillows with your fork, use the hot buttered garlic bread (included with the meal) to soak up the gobs of tangy sauce. And don't be surprised to find big chunks of sautéed garlic and large strips of fresh basil hidden in its depths. So do yourself a favor and break out of that pizza mold -- you can always have a cheese slice for dessert.

The way we see it, if a Mexican restaurant doesn't make its chips and salsa in its own kitchen every day, then it's not worth your time. There's nothing like dipping one of La Jaliscience's hot, greasy chips into their smoky, spicy, tomato souplike salsa. Served steaming hot -- if someone gets lazy and brings it cold, just ask for a fresh one -- with a bowl of jalapeños, onions, carrots and celery on the side, this salsa eclipses that of all other taquerias in town. Its consistency is different from what most people think salsa is supposed to be. The chunks of tomatoes, onions and peppers are conspicuously absent. But rest assured. They're in there, all mixed up in liquid form and ready to rock your world.
Few Best of Houston categories are as clear-cut as this. Just count the taps. The newly opened Flying Saucer, in the newly renamed St. Germain building (it's known to real Houstonians as the H.S. Kress building), has 85 draft beer taps flowing. If nothing looks good on tap, there are also 130 bottled beers available. A menu divides the draft beers into light, amber and dark. Or you can taste by nationality. If you're in a hurry, for $6.50, a flight of five different draft beers in five-ounce servings expands your beer knowledge more quickly. For hungry beer lovers, there's a menu of sandwiches and light fare. The cavernous, cacophonous 7,500-square-foot beer hall is the Houston branch of a minichain conceived by veteran Dallas trendsetter Shannon Wynne. (In case you were wondering what UFOs have to do with beer, this überbierstube earns the right to its name by displaying hundreds of porcelain collector's plates on the walls and ceiling.)
Finding good sangria at a restaurant is as difficult as predicting summer rain. Don't fool around with commercial, store-bought knockoffs when you can have the real thing made with love by the owners of Otilia's. A former hamburger stand, this family-owned Mexican eatery concocts a sangria that would make Jerry Jeff Walker pick up his guitar and sing it for the millionth time. Making it from scratch each day involves a lot of improvisation. "What recipe?" chuckled the owner. Ingredients aren't measured, just blended by taste for optimum refreshment. Great for hangovers, Saturday-morning garage sales or marathons.

Best Of Houston®