Rest of the Best 2013: Top Ten Drive-Throughs in Houston

Our 2013 Best of Houston® winners have been announced, but in many cases, picking the best item in any category was no easy task. In order to show off all the culinary greatness Houston has to offer, we're rounding up the "rest of the best" in some of our favorite categories during the next several months. Bon appétit!

Here in Houston, it's usually really damn hot. Except for recently, when it's been too cold to move, and all we want to do is sit in our cars with our heaters on and let someone hand us food through a little window. OK, we want people to do that when it's hot, too. And when the weather is nice.

Look, we don't need a reason to sit in our cars like lazy bums. Drive-throughs are one of the best inventions ever. They save you the trouble of having to walk, except from your door to your car and back. They allow you to avoid human interaction by dealing mostly with a metal box from which a disembodied voice emanates. They make it okay to order a dozen tortillas and an extra large queso at 2 a.m. away from the prying eyes of the public.

And in our fair city, you can get just about any kind of food you want from a drive-through. That's a reason to hop in the car and celebrate.

10. Sonic It's a classic. Founded in Oklahoma in 1953, Sonic's recipes may have changed over the years, but the great drive-up service hasn't. Roller skates aren't a job requirement, but at select locations you can still find servers who will deliver food to your wheels on their wheels. And don't forget happy hour from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., when all drinks and slushes are half-price. That means you can get a giant Berry Lime slush for just over a dollar.

9. Becks Prime I'm fortunate enough to live right down the street from the original Becks Prime, which means I can get a healthy and pretty darn good Ahi tuna burger, veggie burger or fresh Mediterranean salad from the comfort of my vehicle in less than ten minutes. Of course, I don't get those things. I get Becks Prime's awesome milkshakes and house-ground Angus beef burgers, cause those are the really tasty treats!

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8. Taco Cabana/Tornado Taco Taco Cabana gets points for being everywhere and for its fresh salsa and tortillas. Tornado Taco gets points for keeping our buddies out in the Missouri City/Sugarland area full of hearty breakfast tacos and Tex-Mex lunch items like the Mexican Sandwich "Torta" with barbacoa. Both have indoor seating, but the drive-throughs are more efficient, so you don't even have to think about whether to put on pants when you're headed that way.

7. James Coney Island Yes, we know, it's now called JCI Grille. It confuses us, too. But that doesn't make the hot dogs at James Coney Island JCI Grille any less awesome. The original hot dog stand opened in 1923, and the menu now includes burgers, sandwiches, salads and ice cream, in addition to the gourmet hot dogs created by local chefs. And these days, there's even a JCI app, adding a whole other level of convenience to an already convenient and tasty place.

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6. Ritter's Frozen Custard People may be more familiar with Freddy's Frozen Custard or Connie's Frozen Custard, but Ritter's Frozen Custard in Katy takes the cake. Or ice cream. Whatever. Point is, Ritter's has an extensive menu full of various custards, toppings, milkshakes and handmade waffle cones. The custard is made fresh at each location every day, and if you're feeling truly adventurous, you can get a custard cake. Not sure if they pass those through the drive-though window, but it's worth a try, cause they're cool, creamy and delicious.

5. Salata Our initial encounter with Salata's drive-thru may have been problematic, but the local chain has since worked out the kinks in its few stand-alone businesses, and drive-through salads are a go! Currently, the Salata in Westchase is the sole Houston location with a drive-up window (and you do still have to order in advance), but the concept of a healthy and flavorful fast food meal is continuing to take off, which means more salad drive-throughs in our future.

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4. Mytiburger The beloved burger shop closed for a while in 2012, but a devoted fan took over in 2013 and brought it back from the dead. New owner Shawn Salyers continues to serve the same burgers that made Mytiburger popular when it opened, way back in 1967. The classic roadside burgers fly in the face of gourmet burgers topped with foie gras or bacon chutney, which are all the rage in Houston these days. Instead, they're just good, old-fashioned hamburgers cooked to order and prepared with care whether you're inside the quaint spot or waiting outside in your car.

3. Whataburger It's open 24 hours. The drive-through is fast. It's cheap. The milkshakes taste like they're made with real ice cream, even though I know they're not. The burgers are thin and crispy on the outside. Some of them come thick (and hearty) and topped with A1 sauce. For breakfast, there's the ever-wonderful honey butter chicken biscuit or the B.O.B.® Whataburger is fast, cheap, consistent, tasty and ours. You're welcome, rest of the country.

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2. W Grill Three words: Drive-thru margaritas. It shouldn't be legal, but somehow it is (because this is Texas, folks). While the 11 varieties of margaritas and mixed drinks run a little on the sweet side, they certainly don't skimp on the booze, and you can add an extra shot for only $1. The drive-through "seals" the margaritas in a plastic bag, making them -- technically -- closed containers. The rest of the food, like the salmon BLT or the fish tacos, is pretty great for drive-through cuisine, but the margaritas are what make W Grill really shine.

1. El Rey Taqueria El Rey is not your typical fast-food joint. Sure, the food comes out fast, but what we have here is a full-fledged Mexican-Cuban restaurant. Where else can you pick up a succulent, golden-skinned rotisserie chicken and plantains, complete with Mexican rice and pork-laced charro beans, at a drive-through window? Or a steak and eggs breakfast with caramelized onions and perfectly fried eggs? Or a grilled chicken salad with fresh mangos, pico de gallo, avocado and spicy cilantro dressing? Or tres leches and flan? Not to mention, they do breakfast. Drive-through Cuban coffee, anyone? I rest my case.

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