Image: Amber Ambrose

Inner Loopers may soon start casting their eyes north to this family-friendly neighborhood, where established restaurants and buzzy upstarts are joining the stalwarts. There’s now a little bit of everything in the GOOF.

Aladdin Mediterranean Grill

It was only a matter of time before the popular Montrose restaurant expanded, and in July it opened its second location, off 34th Street and Ella Boulevard. You’ll drool over the creamy hummus, fresh salads, meat dishes like tender lamb shank, and sides, from fragrant saffron rice with peas to addictive cream cheese–filled mashed potato balls.

Gatlin’s BBQ

In 2015 Greg Gatlin moved his uber-popular barbecue joint from a tiny Heights cottage to a 130-seat Oak Forest space befitting his scrumptious ’cue. The tender beef spare ribs are heavenly, as is the hickory-smoked brisket (get moist and lean together). For sides, you can’t go wrong with the dirty rice or the creamy mac ‘n’ cheese.

King Seafood

At this convivial little hangout, the jukebox is always turned up loud, pumping out the merengue and salsa, and the seafood is always fresh. Get the flaky, lightly breaded catfish or the perfectly fried Gulf shrimp, and wash it all down with a michelada or Corona.

Mi Sombrero

With its low ceiling and easygoing vibe, this neighborhood institution, dating back to 1978, makes for the perfect spot for a quick family meal. Inexpensive combination plates include the summer dinner, composed of a cheesy enchilada, a crunchy taco, and two tostadas—one piled high with creamy beans and vegetables, the other doused with tangy queso. Kids will love sides of fries, beans, and even a juicy seared pork chop; there’s free soft-serve, too.

Shepherd Park Draught House

This ultra-cool watering hole is filled with red booths, punk memorabilia, and a host of regulars. The menu of sandwiches and affordable pub grub includes many a winner, but we especially like the well-portioned Shepherd Park Pie, filled with Texas beef and topped with smoked gruyère, and the fried goat cheese ravioli, filled with chèvre and blanketed with a hearty marinara.

Sofrito

One of the best lunch counters in town is tucked between a car wash and a salon. Among the irresistible Latin sandwiches, we cannot get enough of the tripleta, which stuffs smoked brisket, roasted pork, and glazed ham into a Hawaiian sub roll with tangy garlic aioli, acidic ketchup aioli, spicy verde sauce, and a liberal topping of plantain chips. The chile-spiced yuca fries are darn good, too.

The Union Kitchen

Around happy hour, the Ella location of Paul Miller’s local chain fills with area residents enjoying wine and tasty apps, pastas, pizzas, and comfort classics. Standouts include the smoky, tender voodoo balls—jalapeño cheddar–stuffed sausage wrapped in bacon, smoked over pecan wood—and the satisfying, onion-rich meatloaf sandwiched between Texas toast and whipped potatoes.

Petrol Station

You should visit this converted filling station for the beer list alone. There’s a good mix of local and national craft brews, broken up on the menu by the punch they pack. The food is worthy, too, especially the pub burger: succulent Angus, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayonnaise inside a brioche bun (add cheddar). If the peppery hot wings are on offer, get them.

Pho Le

Open since 2016, this family-run establishment is clean and spacious and delivers all the tasty Vietnamese hits. The pho broth is complex, with hints of cinnamon and ginger; we love the buttery rare-beef version, but you can’t go wrong, whatever you order. Another classic, vermicelli with chicken, is especially good here, with al dente noodles, perfectly cooked poultry, and a vinegary, slightly spicy nuoc cham dipping sauce.

Empanada Company

The name says it all. This unpretentious, quick-service spot specializes in empanadas, and they’re terrific. Our favorite varieties are the hearty egg-and-bacon; the lightly spicy, smoky chicken tinga; and the sweet, rich cherry with cream cheese.

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