Felix An easel and a poster board have been set up in the lobby of Felix Mexican Restaurant at Westheimer and Montrose. Polaroids of loyal customers and their families are tacked up on the board, and each is accompanied by a caption that tells how many years they have been coming to the restaurant, which opened in 1948. Quite a few Felix regulars have been eating there for 55 years. Some are fourth-generation fans. And while the price of the Mexican Dinner has gone up a bit from the 50 cents they charged in 1948, the flavors are the same. The chile con queso still tastes fabulous -- until it cools off and clots up. The awful spaghetti with chili gravy is still on the menu. And the combination plates, the enchiladas, and the chicken taco salad are just as wonderful as ever. So is the incredible 1940s Tex-Mex ambience.

The two-plate Mexico City dinner at Molina's is a classic of the genre. The salad plate includes a beef taco, a bean tostada, a puffy tortilla with queso and a guacamole salad. And on the hot plate, there are gooey cheese enchiladas in chili gravy with onions, a tamale with chili con carne, and rice and beans. A pecan praline is included with dinner, just like in the good old days. But if you think the Mexico City dinner has something to do with the Mexican capital, guess again. The name refers to the Mexico City Restaurant, a once-popular Tex-Mex joint on South Main that the Molina family purchased in 1940. "Restaurants were run by families then. Mom cooked, Dad waited tables, I washed dishes," remembers Raul Jr. of the early years. The Molina's Mexican Restaurant operation is now run by the third generation of the Molina family, including Raul the third.
The martini is icy, the club chair is plush, and Frank Sinatra is crooning on the sound system in the cushy lounge at Vic & Anthony's, the opulent new steak house across the street from Minute Maid Park. On the back wall of the bar is a small black-and-white photo of a smiling Old Blue Eyes posing with owner Tilman Fertitta's cousin Anthony. It's a nice touch. What a joy to have a steak house with a Houston atmosphere. The Morton's chain builds shopping center clones of their original Chicago steak house; Capital Grille builds imitations of their Washington, D.C., operation; and Palm apes a chop house on Second Avenue in New York. At Vic & Anthony's, the exterior architecture matches that of Union Station and the baseball park down the street, and the interior is decorated with old photos documenting the history of downtown Houston and Fertitta's colorful Italian family. What a difference a little local pride makes.

Heading west on 610 from Reliant Stadium, you'll see J&J's "fresh seafood" sign poking up over the elevated section of the highway. Unfortunately, by the time you see the sign, it's too late to get off at the Stella Link exit, where this classic "you buy it, we fry it" fish market is located. But the Gulf Coast-style fish and chips are certainly worth a U-turn. No frozen fillets here. Order a fried fish dinner and not only will you get your choice of redfish, trout or drum, but you'll also be able to help them pick out the fresh fish from the seafood case and watch them clean it. And along with your fish and chips, you can choose from a wide selection of extras, including perfect fried oysters, huge fried shrimp, hush puppies, fried okra, onion rings, egg rolls, clam strips and fried mushrooms. One big piece of fried fish with french fries and three shrimp will cost you a whopping $4.29. Bet you're glad you made that U-turn now.
Mai's The bars have closed, and the munchies have your stomach growling -- roaring -- for something more than just a burger from a drive-thru window. Although late-night dining used to be an oxymoron in Houston, now there are a bunch of spots in the downtown area. Judging by its loyal and lively wee-hours crowd, unpretentious Mai's seems to be a favorite for bleary-eyed party animals. On the southern end of downtown, Mai's stays open until 3:30 a.m. on weekends and 3 a.m. on weekdays, serving Asian fare such as soft spring rolls, light choose-your-own-topping vermicelli and savory stir-fry vegetables with noodles. You'll dine among folks in dinner jackets, jeans and tattoos, and just about everything in between.

Reid's Bar-B-Que Eddie Reid opened this place with her husband, James Reid, in 1968. James passed away nine years ago, and now Eddie runs the establishment with her son, James, who learned to cook at his father's side. The brisket and ribs are smoked in the classic East Texas African-American style, so the meats are very moist and extremely tender, with a huge smoky aroma. In keeping with the style, everything is drenched in a sauce that's too sweet for some palates. Ask for yours on the side. The mashed potato salad is homemade and seasoned with a little pickle juice, and the pinto beans are served plain. If you order a brisket sandwich, what you get is a generous pile of falling-apart beef and a couple of slices of white bread. Pickles and onions are 50 cents extra. You assemble your own sandwiches when you get home -- that way they

don't get all soggy.

Legend has it that the word bistro comes from a Russian word for "quick," or "hurry up!" How fitting that one of the best restaurants in the Theater District should be a bistro, since speedy service is exactly what theatergoers are looking for. The menu at Papillon features lots of dishes that French bistros have made famous (steak frites, roasted chicken and mussels in broth). But few restaurants that call themselves bistros reach for the stars with ambitious dishes like Papillon's duck breast with foie gras. The decor is dramatic, too. Located in the Hogg Building, around the corner from the Alley Theatre, the restaurant gains instant character from the space. Exposed ductwork and raw brick walls are softened by refinished wood floors and green and purple chiffon drapes -- it feels like a dressy dinner party held in a warehouse.
Some say Turkish food is the mother of all Middle Eastern cuisines. The overloaded mezeler plate at Empire Turkish Grill proves the point. The dish includes foods from many different regions, few of which lie within present-day Turkey. But it was the Turkish sultans who first brought Asian eggplant and okra, Persian spinach and caviar, Arabic hummus and tabbouleh, and all the delicacies of the Ottoman Empire together on the same table in cosmopolitan Constantinople. Empire Turkish Grill follows in their footsteps. Along with the incredible selection of appetizers and hot-out-of-the-oven flatbreads, the restaurant boasts tangy kebabs and succulent marinated lamb. Most of the kebabs are also available in the form of a "yogurt grill," in which seasoned bread cubes are covered with yogurt and then the kebab meat is placed on top. The iskender kebab is the best of the bunch. Wine aficionados will love this place for its free corkage policy.

Kahn's Deli Don't plan to get a table -- there are only a couple, and they're always full. But Kahn's Deli is a tiny sandwich counter with a whole lot of history. Here, Michael Kahn carries on the New York deli tradition that his father, Alfred Kahn, first introduced to Houston. Alfred Kahn's original deli was located in Rice Village just a few blocks away from its current incarnation. And his legacy lives on in such favorite combos as the roast beef, turkey and cheese with Russian dressing. The corned beef, pastrami and chopped liver are also top-quality, as are the half sour pickles. Regulars are addicted to the enormous homemade brownies, which are moist, dense and baked fresh every day. But the No. 1 seller at Kahn's deli is the oversize Reuben, which sells for $7.50 and easily feeds two.

This Brazilian meat eater's paradise includes a 40-foot all-you-can-eat salad buffet with such exotic fare as quail eggs, crab salad and feijoada, a mixture of black beans and rice along with thinly sliced meats and collard greens. Choose only the salad bar for $17.99 or go for the complete buffet for $24.95, which also includes 17 kinds of meat and seafood, from bacon-wrapped chicken to beef tenderloin, ham, chicken hearts and linguiça, a Portuguese sausage, all served by gauchos wielding three-foot skewers of the meats prepared in the churrasco fashion. These beloved carriers of carne continuously bring on the meat until you can take no more. Wash it all down with a caipirinha, the national drink of Brazil, made with fresh-squeezed lime juice and rum.

Best Of Houston®