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Top 5: Restaurants You May Not Know

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Houston has an endless amount of restaurants--some popular, some trendy, some bad, and some just average. I love finding great places that not many people know about or ones that just don't get much attention. These are my Top 5: Restaurants You May Not Know.

5. El Hidalguense

Vieng Thai on Long Point is super-popular, but have you ever checked out the restaurant just down the way? It's called El Hidalguense, and many moons ago, it won a Houston Press award for Best Cabrito. You know what else is the best there? The charro beans. Ask for the biggest bowl they've got, let them charge you whatever they'd like, and then commence to devouring. I also love the tortas. El Hidalguense is a great lunch spot, but don't choose this place for the aesthetics. It's all about the food.

4. Red Balloon Cafe (4410 Westway Park Boulevard, Suite 300)

Head west, my friends, and when you get to the Red Balloon Cafe, stop and eat. You'll be glad you did. This cafe is a real gem, especially for lunch lovers in the area. All the American cuisine standards show up on the menu -- burgers, salads and sandwiches. Red Balloon does a variety of chicken breast sandwiches. I've had the fried one, and it's excellent. You'll also find a wonderful outdoor patio shaded by big oak trees --perfect for this time of year in Houston.

3. Sarita's Taqueria (10305 Bauman Road)

Never heard of Sarita's Taqueria? You wouldn't be alone. But you are missing some of the best breakfast tacos in the city. The interior isn't much to look at, but who cares? Just walk in, make a few simple choices from their glorious steam table, and go on your merry way. All the classics are there, and although Sarita's version of the breakfast taco is on the smallish side, you won't be disappointed with taste.

2. China Doll Restaurant

Save me the speech, authentic Chinese food enthusiasts. I could give a rat's ass about what constitutes authentic or not. What I care about is taste, and China Doll brings it in that department. The food is inexpensive, the portions are plentiful, and the flavor is outstanding. The eggs rolls and fried rice are amazing. Don't even get me started on the pork egg foo young. It's the best in Houston.

1. Esther's Cajun and Soul Food (5204 Yale)

I am constantly hyping this place up to friends. And I always get the same reaction--where, who? It's on Yale, close to Tidwell. Choose from a variety of soul food classics from the steam table. Just please make sure to get some sweet potatoes. I've yet to find better. Check out the cabbage, macaroni and cheese, and cornbread as well. Finally, make sure you meet Esther. She's as nice as the food is good.

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