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The Top 10 Restaurants in the Heights

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Creating a top ten list for the Heights is an intimidating process. At a basic level, it's difficult to even define the Heights. And with so many great restaurants to choose from, we've had to leave out popular spots Teotihuacan, Vietnam Restaurant, and Onion Creek for - well -- better places. Below are our ten favorite spots in the 'hood. And while we chose strictly based on how much we enjoy the food, the list reflects a nice range of cuisines and price levels. Enjoy!

10. Textile

Textile has the promise to be on a Top 10 list for all of Houston, but hasn't yet reached its potential. Savory dishes are often overshadowed by the exceptional desserts set forth by pastry chef (and James Beard nominee) Plinio Sandalio. But owner Scott Tycer recently brought in rising star Ryan Hildebrand to shake things up as the restaurant's new chef. We're excited to see what fireworks the move brings.

9. Carter & Cooley

This endearing little deli on 19th Ave. has been a Houston spectacular for twenty years. Why? The outgoing staff claims that they craft every sandwich "as though it were the only sandwich we were going to make." And it's true: Sandwiches are large, packed with fresh-sliced meat and toppings, and served on thick slices of soft bread. Makes for a perfectly dreamy lunch.

8. Chilosos Taco House

You'll find the neighborhood's best breakfast tacos at Chiloso's on 20th. Watch as they make their deliciously thick tortillas from scratch on the front counter as you order. Bacon, egg, and cheese rules the roost, but if chicken's your thing, try pollo a la Mexicana in your tacos. It's tender roasted and topped with a slight bit of spicy red sauce. Delish.

7. Shade

Housed in a lovely, open space on 19th Avenue, Shade is one of our favorite Sunday brunches in town. Egg dishes shine, as does the buttermilk fried chicken -- but you'll truly find outstanding dishes here any day of the week. And while the salads and fish dishes are nice, we'll always love the soup trio, a small serving of the restaurant's three soups of the day.

6. Barbecue Inn

Don't let the name fool you. You should *not* order barbecue at The Barbecue Inn. No, sir. Instead, try the city's best fried shrimp -- jumbo, fresh, juicy shrimp nicely battered and deep-fried, served with homemade tartar sauce. Fried chicken, too, is one for the record books, served piping-hot alongside gloriously crispy French fries and a single leaf of kale posing as a cooked vegetable.

5. Guadalajara Bakery and Tacos

It may look a bit seedy from the outside, but Guadalajara Bakery on Washington makes a mean-and-pristine taco, served steaming hot in a fresh, housemade tortilla. The chicharrones are our favorite, beautifully spongy and with a kick of spice, but the barbacoa, too, is off the charts. The green sauce? We could eat it with a spoon. Rumor has it that the proprietress turned down a $10k offer to give up the sauce's secret recipe.

4. Branch Water Tavern

New and notable, Branch Water Tavern on Shepherd is already making waves with its delicious chicken fried oysters, creative fish and meat preparations, and outstanding lineup of bourbons and wine. We love the food, we love the drinks, we love the atmosphere. The only thing we don't love is the parking situation -- its teensy lot necessitates valet. Poochie.

3. Asia Market

What was once a Stop 'N Go is now one of the most deliciously authentic Thai spots in town. We're almost sad to bring this one up, as it has lately become so popular that open parking spots are rare -- and tables even more so. We'll always love Asia Market for its green papaya salad, pork and beef glass noodles, and outstanding pad kee mao, but the pad see ew remains our number one.

2. Stella Sola

The new Texas-Tuscan offering from Bryan Caswell, Stella Sola has set our carnivorous hearts on fire. Vegetarians, beware: Its recent suckling pig offering has won rave reviews, as has the house-cured charcuterie plate. The boys in back, led by James Beard nominee Justin Basye, are just now starting to run on all cylinders, making this one of our favorites in Houston, not just in the Heights.

1. Catalan

Chris Shepherd runs a tight ship at Catalan, showcasing the season's finest ingredients in creatively outstanding ways: pork belly, crabmeat croquettes, redneck mac-and-cheese, and bone marrow. You'll find the most inspired dishes on the Chef's Playground, an area of the menu that houses the chef's best, like barbecued head-on shrimp and housemade corned beef. P.S. You can add foie gras to anything; it says so right on the menu. [Swoon]

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