The asparagus and fried oyster salad at BRC Gastropub

Beaver’s

Beaver’s has maintained its relevance since opening in 2007 as a genre-busting modern icehouse–cum–barbecue joint that also welcomes vegetarians by offering consistently creative and, most importantly, consistently great dishes, from its giant chicken-fried steaks to its intriguing smoked tofu with sweet barbecue sauce. The cocktail program here is rightly regarded as one of the city’s finest, but look for clever, non-alcoholic, surprisingly adult “Kit Tails” too. 

Benjy’s

The younger sister to the original Benjy’s in Rice Village is bigger too, with a chic, open, two-story dining room that’s visually and architecturally stunning. Stop staring and peruse the menu instead, where you’ll find chef Mike Potowski’s equally interesting creations such as grilled antelope with chive pesto; Portuguese octopus with charred lemon oil; or a stunning brunch dish of pork brisket, bacon-wrapped pork, Hatch chile sausage, and scrambled eggs, served with hot corn tortillas.

Big Eyed Fish

This Southern-fried seafood joint in an old, converted Sixth Ward house has plenty to offer besides fish, though it’s tough to pass up the chicken-fried snapper. If you do, start with the build-your-own-mac-and-cheese section of the menu and move on from there to the house-made chicken pot pie. The place also offers a smart, short express lunch for the downtown business crowd. 

BRC Gastropub

Calling a dish “over the top” here is a compliment. That’s the way BRC plays the game, and it works: “Big Bad Ass Biscuits” are served at brunch with fried chicken, cream gravy, and bacon jam, while a dish of poutine is topped with barbecued pork belly. You can add foie gras to your mac ‘n’ cheese, and weekly specials bring dishes like a whole Gulf fish steamed in a banana leaf with Hawaiian macaroni salad. The beer selection is impressive, with 64-ounce growlers offering the most bang for your buck.

Laurenzo’s

This new-old-school throwback reminds one of simpler times, when families still got together over Sunday prime rib. Not coincidentally, Laurenzo’s offers one of the best prime ribs in Houston. Owner Domenic Laurenzo—who’s not only the grandson of Mama Ninfa Laurenzo, but has Italian heritage on his family’s Mandola side—also offers Tex-Mex and Italian dishes. Naturally, we like the prime rib quesadillas.

Max’s Wine Dive

Opened in 2006, this restaurant is noteworthy not only as the first of the new wave of upscale spots to take over the Washington Avenue corridor, but as the place that introduced gourmet comfort food to Houston. These days, you can still get Max’s signature fried-chicken-and-champagne combo, but we prefer chef Michael Pellegrino’s fried-oyster nachos and three-fried-egg sandwich with bacon, gruyère, and black truffle aioli.

Molina’s

Sometimes you just need that good, old-fashioned, bright-yellow-cheese-laden Tex-Mex of days gone by. This stalwart, which has barely changed since the original location opened in 1941, is where you get your fix. While the place is rightly famous for its chili con carne, our favorite order is the three-course Mexico City Dinner, which comes with all the standards: beef taco, cheese enchilada, tamale with chile gravy, and much more.

Soma Sushi

We like to refer to Soma Sushi as Kata Robata Jr. The two sushi restaurants share an owner, and Soma chef Gabe Medina shares Kata chef Manabu Horiuchi’s focus on quality. The vibe at Soma is somewhat younger and more casual, making it a natural destination for date nights. We go for Medina’s inventive ramen—the Texas ramen with barbecued pork belly is our favorite—and signature sushi rolls, but you’ll also find Korean options like bo ssam and fun fusion dishes like smoked salmon with chicharrones.

Taqueria Laredo

The trick to skipping the infamously long line at this long-lived taqueria is going during off hours—which, here, means dinnertime. Though menudo, tamales, and other Tex-Mex standbys are on offer here, everyone comes for the inexpensive, delicious tacos, stuffed with everything from spicy beef fajita and juicy barbacoa to noodle-y fideo and vegetarian-friendly nopales.

Three Brothers Bakery

This outpost of the legendary Jewish bakery—now under its fifth generation of family leadership—has the expected hamantaschen, challah, bagels, and marble rye you’d expect, but don’t stop there. Order a famous Pumpecapple Piecake for your next big party, or simply relax in the wonderfully scented shop with a croissant and a cup of coffee.

Urban Eats

Part grab-and-go gourmet market, part restaurant/bistro, this place tries to be many things to many people. Downstairs, the market features bread from Kraftsmen Baking and cheese from the Houston Dairymaids, along with a short coffee menu and free wi-fi. And upstairs, the bistro offers 17 different varieties of sliders and fries.

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