Bovine & Barley
Harwood Grill
Julie Soefer Photography
Sud Italia
Ula's Mexican Restaurant & Cantina
The Republic Smokehouse Saloon
Hugs & Donuts
Revival Market
PESKA Seafood Culture'
Pizaro’s Pizzeria
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1. Bovine & Barley 416 Main St, Houston, TX 77002

This cool-kid's craft brewpub is famous for their ginormous HTX marquee letters and forty-two taps of barley. The spacious room is a nice change from other downtown Houston bars where you’re used to being packed like sardines. A projector wall gives this hotspot the edge for catching a game, and the fantastic food deals on their meat-centric menu will fill you up without breaking the bank.

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2. Harwood Grill 2300 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77098

With a mission of bringing good food and good service, the resto’s menu is both approachable and unapologetically meat-heavy. High-quality Akaushi beef comes in many forms, for instance, in a jumbo meatball appetizer; pulled over pappardelle pasta; or as a massive, Béarnaise-coated porterhouse cut. And that's just three of them.

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3. Jackson Street BBQ 209 Jackson St, Houston, TX 77002

Two homegrown chefs— Bryan Caswell of Reef & Little Big’s and Greg Gatlin of the highly revered Gatlin’s Barbecue— teamed up to create this steakhouse that serves great Southern-inspired fare day-in and day-out. Head over for a range of masterfully smoked briskets, ribs, sausages, and yardbird with swoon-worthy sides like fried mac and dirty rice.

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4. Añejo 1180 Uptown Park Blvd Ste 1, Houston, TX 77056

At Añejo, a sophisticated dining space with damask walls that trade abstruse designs for skulls, makes way for elegant and vibrant flavors in the form of cotija-topped broiled Gulf oysters, chorizo-stuffed Texas quail, and wood-fired prime filet with cilantro butter. If it’s simpler Tex-Mex you enjoy, you need not worry -- you’ll find Mexican street corn, quesadillas, and sizzling fajitas at Añejo as well. And, of course, no swanky Mexican meal is complete without a spectacular cocktail -- quench your thirst with an Añejo Margarita, a Morning Smoke, or a Piscoloma before heading out.

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5. Sud Italia Ristorante 2347 University Blvd, Houston, TX 77005

This cozy neighborhood resto dishes out Coastal Southern Italian foodstuffs that are as addicting as they are pretty. Start with saffron-kissed arancini or smoked salmon affumicato before moving onto the regionally inspired big guns -- think squid-ink lobster pasta, fresh zuppa di mare, and crispy, bone-in veal chop.

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6. BuffBurger 1014 Wirt Rd, Houston, TX 77055

With a focus on local, all-natural and sustainable ingredients and from-scratch condiments, this burger joint is all kinds of fresh. Get there for craft taps and "in the Buff" meatstuffs like the aioli-, onion-, and raclette-loaded Truffle burger. There’s also Buffdogs, green & noodle salads, and sides like edamame, house fries, and Texas chili.

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7. Bollo Woodfired Pizza 2202A W Alabama, Houston, TX 77098

This Upper Kirby pizza joint from the owner of the more casual Pepperoni’s chain features Italian small plates and entrees along with pies cooked from an authentic VPN-certified wood-fired oven and made from imported "double zero" flour. Get them topped with everything from creamy buffalo mozz to Texas Wagyu beef. Sip on house cocktails or choose from a carefully curated wine list to pair with your Italian fare.

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8. Ula's Mexican Restaurant & Cantina 5555 Washington Ave Ste A, Houston, TX 77007

These dudes have the benchmarks down: spicy fresh salsa delivered warm, thick nutty chips that hit the table hot, great guac, and knock-your-socks off frozen ‘ritas. Save a little room for the ridiculously tender chicken tacos al carbon rolled in house made flour tortillas, or the beefy smoke-tinged skirt steak tacos. Come back for hella good Mexican smoked ribs!

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9. Graffiti's at Union St 2003 Union St, Houston, TX 77007

With nine outrageous "burger steaks" freshly ground with chuck, brisket, and short rib, burger-holics should most definitely add this fast-casual haunt to their burger bucket list. The substantial patties come loaded with everything from baked mac & cheese to house pickles and bacon chunks. But you may want to make a few trips so you can try the other offerings, including a Texas-sized CFS and peanut butter shake.

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10. The Republic Smokehouse & Saloon 1910 Bagby St Ste 100, Houston, TX 77002

Modern Texas barbecue -- think braised and smoked veal shank, BBQ brisket avocado, and brontosaurus beef short ribs -- has a home in the party-centric Midtown thanks to the group behind Hearsay Gastro Lounge and Mr. Peeples. Complete with an in-house pitmaster, a full food and bev menu, and 30 flatscreens, this sports bar-smokehouse hybrid puts an upscale spin on things like game-watching, dancing to live bands, and brunch.

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11. The Commoner and The Boulevardier 410 Main St, Houston, TX 77002

This is a dual bar -- consisting of a laid-back bar on the first floor and an intimate, swanky lounge on the top. Partygoers can pick their poison -- hit The Commoner to imbibe in local brews and boozy libations over a game of darts, or head upstairs to The Boulevardier for a posh night of bottle service and fancified cocktails.

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12. Hugs & Donuts 1901 N Shepherd Dr Ste 4, Houston, TX 77008

Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, the owners of popular food truck H-town StrEATs opened a brick-and-mortar donut and kolache shop. Gorge yourself on freshly baked gourmet goodness, including (but not limited to) options like lemon-curd filled lemon meringue pie donuts and Gatlin’s BBQ brisket kolaches.

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13. Revival Market 550 Heights Blvd, Houston, TX 77007

This craft butcher shop and cafe in The Heights offers breakfast, lunch and full-service dinner in addition to its in-house charcuterie program. Revival prides itself on preparing sustainable, thoughtfully grown food, from butchered meats to bottled jams, pickled vegetables and condiments. The butcher case offers beef, pork, chicken, lamb, and seasonal game (all cut and ground to your specifications), while the café serves house-made bagels, kolaches, salads, soups, and sandwiches. With plenty of seating in the open, industrial-chic space, you’ll be able to enjoy your bites in a friendly, relaxing atmosphere.

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14. Mala Sichuan Bistro 9348 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77036

Inner-loopers can also get their fill of authentic, Szechuan-style Chinese thanks to the second location of this Chinatown cult classic. Prepare yourself (and your mouth) for tongue-scorching, intense flavors in the form of water-boiled beef and pot-roasted fish, all swimming with chiles and Sichuan peppercorns. Our advice: bring friends and get adventurous.

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15. PESKA Seafood Culture 1700 Post Oak Blvd Ste 190, Houston, TX 77056

After opening two successful restaurants in Mexico, sibling owners Maite and Diego set their sights on Houston. This aquatic-themed eatery and seafood market is serving up fresh, Mexican-inspired in Galleria. Peska also has an impressive raw bar and a hired “seafood sommelier” who will assist you in picking a fresh catch to fit your tastes.

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16. Spare Key 2416 Brazos St Ste C, Houston, TX 77006

This hidden, tasteful bar has just five classics and five house cocktails on its rotating menu. But with powerhouse beverage guy Chris Frankel behind the operations, those 10 cocktails are sure to be mighty fine. Take the staircase inside sibling resto Cook & Collins to get to the second-story, where you’ll find refreshingly bold libations and an easy-going crowd.

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17. Pizaro's Pizza Napoletana 1000 W Gray St, Houston, TX 77019

The second location of Houston’s best pizza joint slings hot and blistered Neapolitan-style pies inside the Loop. This Montrose branch has the same casual charm of the first (counter ordering, BYOB service), but it also has an 80-seat dining room, host seating, and two colossal wood-fired ovens. Count on fast service, since the pizzas only take about 90 seconds to crisp in the 900+ degree heat of their oven.

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18. Johnny's Gold Brick 2518 Yale St, Houston, TX 77008

Johnny’s Gold Brick is the golden mean between dive bar and sophisticated cocktail lounge, trading luxe décor for ivory booths, chartreuse walls, and wooden accents. What Johnny’s Gold Brick lacks in pretension it makes up for with a stellar beverage program that combines stripped-down, classic cocktails with eccentric libations found on a rotating monthly specials list. Perennial beverages include Moscow Mules, Gimlets, and a frozen margarita that comes with a float of Big Red, the gold standard of bubblegum-flavored sodas.