Houston’s diverse restaurant scene — from African cuisine to wine bars

The smoky ribs and planks of beef are good, but cross genres and try the fajita-style deboned chicken complete with pinto beans, pico, cheese, sour cream and tortillas. Floyd’s Cajun Seafood & Texas Steakhouse: 20760 Gulf Freeway in Webster, 281-332-7474; 1300 Broadway in Pearland, 281-993-8385; 16549 Southwest Freeway in Sugar Land, 281-240-3474. $$ You’d be hard pressed to find better fried fare, including cornmeal-crusted oysters, house-made super-thin onion rings and flavorful catfish. Little Daddy’s Gumbo Bar:1615 W. FM 646 in League City, 281-524-8626. $$ Terrific restaurant specializes in steaming pots of mussels, clams and shrimp, as well as gumbo. Large menu offers generous portions of fried, grilled and Cajun specialties. Ragin’ Cajun:4302 Richmond, 713-623-6321; 9600 Westheimer, 832-251-7171; 16100 Kensington Dr. in Sugar Land, 281-277-0704. $$ The Mandola family’s raucus restaurants serve up well-seasoned and generous portions of crawfish, boudin and etouffe. Schilleci’s New Orleans Kitchen: 9595 Six Pines in the Woodlands, 281-419-4242. $$ This family run restaurant is turning out terrific Cajun/creole fare and, arguably, the best bread pudding in town. Reggae Hut: 4814 Almeda, 713-520-7171. $$ Dig into the spicy Jerk Chicken and sip on a cool Ting at this colorful cafe. Tommy Bahama’s Tropical Cafe: 9595 Six Pines in the Woodlands, 281-292-8669. $$-$$$ Casual yet upscale dining room adjacent to the clothing store. FuFu Cafe: 9889 Bellaire, 713-981-8818. $ If you are a connoisseur of sturdy dumplings in the northern style, or spicy dishes atingle with the numbing, distinctive warmth of Szechuan peppercorns, this is your diner. Half-shell oysters steamed in black-bean sauce, cloud-light eggplant fritters and sautéed snow-pea shoots are benchmark dishes. Rattan Pan-Asian Bistro: 1396 Eldridge Parkway, 281-556-9888. $$ This handsome, contemporary addition to the far west Houston scene features a sleek Italian Enomatic wine-dispensing system that delivers wines (by the glass or the taste) in impeccable condition. Amazon Grill: 5114 Kirby, 713-522-5888. $$ Michael Cordua’s casual counter-service restaurant is a magnet for folks who want to try Cordua’s food but can’t (or won’t) pony up for the pricey Americas and Churrascos. Americas: 2040 W. Gray, 832-200-1492; 21 Waterway in The Woodlands, 281-367-1492. $$$-$$$$ Michael Cordua’s premier restaurants are distinguished for their eye-popping décor, impressive food presentations and gracious, eager-to-please service. Latin Bites: 5709 Woodway, 713-229-8369.$$$ This restaurant helmed by Roberto Castro offers a sophisticated take on Peruvian fare, including gorgeous plates of tiradito (raw fish plates) and ceviche. Tradicao: 12000 Southwest Freeway, 713-339-1122; 201 W. Bay Area Blvd. in Webster, 281-557-9999. $$$-$$$$ At this homegrown, family-owned, all-you-can-eat steakhouse, long skewers of grilled meats are paraded around the dining room. […] dishes such as roasted oysters, duck sausage and barbecue crawfish shortcakes remind that Houston and New Orleans share much more than I-10. Daily specials can thrill, from sheep-cheese ravioli in a purée of minted peas to bold, house-made head cheese set against tart heirloom potato salad. The neo-Gothic setting, in a revamped church, amuses – except on a crowded night when closely packed tables make the main room loud and claustrophobic. Robert Del Grande’s dramatic dining room and his upscale comfort fare – roasted pheasant, braised rabbit, rack of lamb – are just the ticket. Friendly service, a well-priced wine list and an attractive dining room also impress. Kris Bistro: 7070 Allensby, 713-358-5079. $$-$$$ Located in Culinary Institute LeNotre, executive Chef Kris Jakob’s modern, art-filled bistro features a staff of experienced chefs and senior culinary students. For his guests, he commands an army of servers that is so unobtrusive the dining room feels relaxed even on a hectic evening. Charivari: 2521 Bagby, 713-521-7231. $$$ This intimate (some might say stuffy) dining room tucked into tiny Midtown strip center is overseen by Transylvanian chef-owner Johan Schuster and his German-born wife. Large portion sizes make the prices fair and the outside patio is nice for people watching. Find the nearest location at becksprime.com. $-$$ Freshly grilled burgers, nicely charred hot dogs, hand-cut, skin-on fries and crazy good shakes are all you need to know about this small Houston-born chain. The Burger Guys: 706 Main, 713-223-4897; 12225 Westheimer, 281-497-4897. $-$$ Gourmet sandwiches featuring produce and meats supplied by local producers make this burger joint a culinary gem. The excellent bar food (oh, glorious Frito Pie), fair drink prices and laid-back spirit make the Heights and Midtown locations favorites on game days. Shri Balaji Bhavan: 5655 Hillcroft, 713-783-1126. $-$$ Excellent house-made breads and fiery vegetarian fare are served in generous portions at this spotless restaurant. Coppa: 5555 Washington, 713-426-4260. $$-$$$ Chef Brandi Key puts her brick oven to good use with a selection of intriguing pizzas such as potato with leeks and salsa verde, as well pastas and expertly grilled meats. Mancuso’s Italian Table: 2231 S. Voss, 713-953-9090. $$ Neighborhood Italian spot offers wood-fired pizzas, pastas and steaks in a grown-up setting. Uchi: 904 Westheimer, 713-522-4808. $$-$$$$ This Austin transplant from James Beard Award-winning Tyson Cole turns out inspired sushi and sashimi that is as pretty as the dazzling dining room. Seoul Garden: 9446 Long Point Road, 713-935-9696. $$ Lovely restaurant features fiery soups, delicious seafood pancakes (haemul panjun), stir-fried octopus and marinated Korean barbecue. Find the nearest location at aliciasmexicangrille.com. $$ The grilled beef dishes, vivid salsas and stand-up margaritas make this colorful restaurant one of the best Tex-Mex spots around. El Real: 1201 Westheimer, 713-524-1201. $$ This temple of Tex-Mex was built by Bryan Caswell and Bill Floyd – creators of Reef and Little Bigs – in collaboration with cookbook author and restaurant critic Robb Walsh. Housed in the restored Tower Theater, the restaurant serves vintage fare such as puffy tacos and cheese enchiladas topped with chili gravy. Worth a try: the bright snapper-studded ceviche, grilled octopus and s sopecitos – a trio of little masa pillows stuffed with rabbit, chicharones and duck. Irma’s: 22 N. Chenevert, 713-222-0767. $$ Irma Galvan’s legendary downtown lunch spot is known for her comforting Mexican sauces and stews, her gracious hospitality and her homemade lemonade. Sit down in the tiny dining room and you’re likely to bump elbows with judges, city council members and other movers-and-shakers. Soto’s Cantina: 10609 Grant Road, 281-955-5667. $$ This family-owned Tex-Mex spot on the northside features a cheerful dining room, well-prepared classics such as chiles rellenos, pork tamales in chili gravy and shrimp in a rich chipotle sauce. The kitchen pays attention to the details and turns out sophisticated dishes such roasted cauliflower with miso dressing and bonita flakes. Sparrow Bar & Cookshop: 3701 Travis, 713-524-6922. $$ Chef Monica Pope’s passion for locally grown ingredients and her market-driven menus make a visit an education if not a treat. Triniti: 2815 S. Shepherd, 713-527-9090. $$$-$$$$ A culinary dream team led by executive chef Ryan Hildebrand treats diners to little culinary works of art in this swanky restaurant that has earned national attention for its decor. Bijan Persian Grill: 5922 Hillcroft, 832-242-5959. $$ Shareable plates of vegetable and yogurt dips, kebabs and perfectly cooked rice make this a place to bring a crowd. Crust Pizza Company: 4775 W. Panther Creek in The Woodlands, 281-298-8844; 8000 Research Forest Drive in The Woodlands, 832-585-0999. $$ Family-owned pizza joint keeps it simple: fresh ingredients and high quality meats, wallet-friendly prices on beer and wine and a young, welcoming staff. Danton’s Gulf Coast Kitchen: 4611 Montrose, 713-807-8883. $$-$$$ We love the black and white dining room with its warm wood hues and smartly nostalgic fishing photos. The dining room at the Katy Freeway restaurant feels more upscale, and there’s frequently live music on weekends in the lounge. Tommy’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar: 2555 Bay Area Blvd., 281-480-2221. $$$ With its modern dining room and a well-trained (and warm) staff, this restaurant can deliver a memorable meal. Among the specialties: sautéed crab claws, fried calamari, soft-shell crab and bread pudding. The experience includes attentive service (starting with its crack management team), high-quality ingredients in the hands of a veteran kitchen and a menu of comfort foods that you want to eat. While the steaks are the stars, we remember the featured players most vividly: the appetizer of fried asparagus topped with lump crab; the beef tomato salad with bleu cheese and basil; the dreamy creamy spinach; and, for dessert, a crème brûlée bread pudding that’s a mouth orgy. Steakhouse: 5839 Westheimer, 713-780-7352. $$$$ In a room as dark and plush and gleaming as a vintage railway car, big men partake of big dry-aged steaks that are among the city’s best, along with big-ticket wines that include interesting premium choices by the glass. Beaver’s: 2310 Decatur, 713-864-2328. $$ This idiosyncratic take on an icehouse offers some seriously good meats – smoked sausage, pork ribs and Akaushi beef meatloaf – and plenty of non-carnivore options such as a grapefruit and jicama salad and a creamy tomato-topped mac and cheese. Goode Co. Taqueria: 4902 Kirby, 713-520-9153. $-$$ Trendy restaurants come and go but this Houston icon is still the go-to cafe for comforting Tex-Mex and hefty, mesquite-grilled burgers. Try the assertive wild boar chili, the comely pork chops with sauerkraut or just a perfectly fried egg. Chef owner Toon makes frequent forays from the kitchen to check on guests, and her husband Kru Pong sometimes treats guests to demonstration of martials arts by his students from the neighboring Thai boxing school. Using locally grown, organic produce and skipping the meat, chef Staci Davis offers vegan and vegetarian takes on Texas comfort foods like tamales, flautas and enchiladas. b10 Vietnamese Cafe: 7515 Westheimer, 713-782-7275; 9308 Bellaire, 713-988-7275. $ This small family-operated chain takes its name from its most popular menu item, the b10: a classic grilled pork sandwich. Crawfish & Noodles: 11360 Bellaire, 281-988-8098. $$ One of the city’s burgeoning number of Vietnamese/Cajun combos, this popular restaurant serves up steaming bags of crawfish and crabs, as well as noodle dishes and fried seafood. Huynh: 912 St. Emanuel, 713-224-8964. $-$$ This is home-style Vietnamese cooking at its best, from stunning chargrilled pork soft rolls, to vivid duck salad, to flash-fried chicken with crushed rice, cabbage pickle and a frizzly fried egg.

Source: www.chron.com

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