100 Favorite Dishes: No. 99, Mixta Pizza at Friends Pizzeria

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This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.

Houston does not want for pizzerias, although it would be fair to say that Houston does want for good pizzerias. It also wants for a more diverse assortment of Brazilian restaurants than just churrascarias. Friends Pizzeria is managing to fill both voids right now.

Unlike Midtown's Piola -- which has its own Brazilian flare and which I also like very much -- Friends Pizzeria is decidedly casual and charmingly down-market. Area residents flow in and out to grab to-go orders, the delivery driver spins like a top as he grabs pizzas and dashes back out the door, and people chow down on Brazilian X-Tudo burgers along with their pizzas.

But although the burgers are good, it's the pizzas that are ultimately more beguiling. The low-gluten crust means a pleasantly soft, non-chewy texture that tastes more like pita or naan bread, while the de-emphasized tomato sauce and cheese means that more focus is on the toppings.

In the case of the Mixta pizza, that's a very good thing. The fresh vegetables -- tomatoes, onions, black olives, corn and green peppers among them -- are sweetly snappy, an ideal counterbalance to the plump drops of catupiry cheese that are scattered throughout. The salty, creamy cheese would be too much if the entire pizza were covered with it, but the ratio on the Mixta strikes an excellent balance that had me talking about both Friends and its pizza for days on end.

The list so far:

No. 100: Dumplings at Heights Asian Cafe

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