While you can't exactly dine in the garden, you can certainly dine next to it and still enjoy its utilitarian beauty. Get there early or expect to wait. True story: We waited for an hour on a cold Saturday night in January and still thought the food made it totally worthwhile. Chef Ryan Pera recently won Food & Wine magazine's The People's Best New Chef honor for the Southwest region.
18. Hubcap Grill, 1133 West 19th
When the weather is nice, Houstonians flock to Hubcap Grill's Heights location by the dozens. The place is more patio and backyard than building anyway. Although wait times for the nationally acclaimed burgers grow as more people show up, it's just not a problem to hang out on the picnic benches and enjoy a cold brew in the interim. Good things are worth waiting for. Check the Hubcap Grill Twitter feed before you go. Owner Ricky Craig is good about posting if there's a long wait.
17. El Real Tex-Mex, 1201 Westheimer
It's not that it's fancy — quite the opposite — but whenever there's a festival or parade on Westheimer, this is the coveted spot from which to watch the world go by — or the parade, as the case may be. Besides, crunchy, layered enchiladas and margaritas are best consumed in the open air anyway. If it starts getting too warm, cool off by meandering upstairs to take a look at the museum of Tex-Mex restaurant history curated by co-owner, cookbook author and former Houston Press restaurant critic Robb Walsh.