Killen's BBQ
Danton’s Gulf Coast Seafood Kitchen
Julie Soefer Photography
Karen Man
Flickr/T. Tseng
Brooke Viggiano
Julie Soefer Photography
Flickr/Jim Porter
Mongoose Versus Cobra
Alex Gregg
Flickr/Ted Viens
Petrol Station
The Pastry War
Grand Prize Bar
Molina's Cantina
Phoenicia Specialty Foods 
Molina's Cantina
Mike Cortez
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1. Oxheart 1302 Nance St, Houston, TX 77002

North of Downtown Houston sits Oxheart, a fine dining establishment that is luxurious in the simplicity of its American, seasonally dependent fare. Two menus are offered nightly and change frequently, never ceasing to flash ingredients you’ve never tasted (or, more often than not, heard of), but are confident will be absolutely divine, like vadouvan spices, muskmelon sorbet, mung bean pancakes, and alliums. Presentation of each dish is inspired from colors and shapes you can find in nature, an ethos also echoed in the simple preparation of ingredients – spiced, pickled, or left altogether raw. Décor is similarly lo-fi: wooden tables were crafted by a neighborhood carpenter and come fit with hideaway drawers that reveal the lot of silverware you’ll need for the meal, and in place of an esoteric art collection, walls are adorned with spray-paint graphics, the mark of a local graffiti artist.

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2. Danton's Gulf Coast Seafood Kitchen 4611 Montrose , Houston, TX 77006

Occupying the bottom floor of Montrose's Chelsea Market, Danton's Gulf Coast Seafood Kitchen is a timeless 200-seat seafood restaurant with both a dining room and a separate oyster bar. You won't find any fast-fleeing trends in the atmosphere or the food here, just a constant after-work dinner rush and a menu full of Southern favorites. Big groups can usually be found around a platter of fresh-shucked oysters, and temptation for grilled fish or steak rarely bows out.

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3. The Pass & Provisions 807 Taft St, Houston, TX 77019

Two-faced in the best way possible, The Pass & Provisions in Montrose offer you a choice between a more refined experience, or a more relaxed one. The Pass will serve you polished five- or eight-course tasting menus over a white table cloth, or Provisions will provide hearty pizzas, pastas, and shared bistro plates in more rustic surroundings. Some serious cocktail and wine programs push the two restaurants to the next level of insanity, as does Julia Child’s Muppet voice playing on repeat in the unisex bathroom.

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4. Killen's Steakhouse 6425 W Broadway St, Pearland, TX 77581

Chef Ronnie Killen's Houston steakhouse pairs so-tender-it-falls-off-the-bone Allen Brothers USDA prime beef with sides like corn risotto and jalapeno fontina cheese. If you feel like going slightly lighter on the arteries (in preparation for dessert), opt for the crisp greens salad with walnuts, blue cheese, red onion, and apples or the delicate grilled branzino. Killen’s will end your meal off sweetly with a chocolate tart made with caramelized gingerbread crème, raspberry jelly, and toasted meringue or a caramel half-apple with mousse and maple cinnamon sponge cake. The interior of Killen’s offers, in typical steakhouse fashion, an open layout with plenty of room for white tablecloth-wreathed four-tops, which will certainly not stay white for long as you devour your dishes.

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5. Killen's BBQ 3613 Broadway St, Pearland, TX 77581

Killen's BBQ is a Pearland brick-and-mortar barbecue joint born from the success of Chef Ronnie Killen's immensely popular pop-up. It delivers mouth-watering Texas-style barbecue like slabs of smoked brisket, pulled pork, and homemade sausages. Killen trained at Le Cordon Bleu and his Texas classics far exceed the Lone Star state's standards of size and taste. Be sure to desserts like banana pudding, carrot cake, and buttermilk pie.

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6. Laredo Taqueria 915 Snover St, Houston, TX 77007

This bright orange shack is hard to miss -- right off of Washington Ave with a line out the door as a result of their seriously delicious breakfast and lunch tacos -- get in line and prepare for some fluffy, handmade tortillas stuffed with chorizo, barbacoa, and chicharrones.

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7. MKT BAR 1001 Austin St, Houston, TX 77010

Live music, pizza, brunch, booze -- there aren't many desirable things in this world that MKT bar doesn't have. Creative takes on American (read: Southern) staples like crispy chicken and waffles, braised lamb tacos, and ground chuck cheeseburgers will have you stuffed, but you'll make the room for a couple drafts from the Lone Star state or a bottle of something sparkling.

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8. Beaver's 2310 Decatur St, Houston, TX 77007

Although this Sixth Ward BBQ spot offers top notch ribs and brisket, it has two main attractions: the first is a smoky queso (made with smoked asadero cheese, green chillis, and pico de gallo), while the second is a bacon omelette biscuit: an expertly crafted cheese omelette stacked with copious amounts of bacon and sausage with a chipotle honey and cream gravy blanket. Other menu items include Southern-style fare like fried pickles, barbacoa empanadas, and creative mac 'n' cheese.

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9. The Pastry War 310 Main St, Houston, TX 77002

Seventeen Mexican beers join vintage tequila on the menu at this cantina, named after the French and Mexican war. While you won't find any pastries, you will find flavored agave spirits and spirits with worms, scorpions, or other insects. Strings of tea lights, colorful stained glass, and vibrant murals line the wood-paneled ceilings and walls and you'll always find a crowd packed around the colorful backlit bar.

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10. The Hay Merchant / Underbelly 1100 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006

A joint venture, The Hay Merchant and Underbelly operate separately but are attached via a butchering room that’s fit to hold a whole hog, a cow, and other large, meat-bearing animals. Hay Merchant, a craft beer bar, boasts 75 draft beers that range in style from cask-conditioned American porters to sour and funky wild ales. Underbelly, the more upscale of the two, is a restaurant and wine bar serving up juicy burgers and meats, like roasted pig’s head and smoked brisket. No matter how adventurous your palate, consider pairing your dish with one of the aged barleywines on tap.

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11. Petrol Station 985 Wakefield Dr, Houston, TX 77018

Petrol Station used to be exactly that: a gas station. Now, this refurbished counter-service spot is dishing up of the tastiest burgers in Houston. You'll also find a fantastic craft beer list that's divided into beginner, intermediate, and expert levels. Once you've made your burger and beer picks (a favorite is The Rancor, a 10-napkin burger topped with cheddar, smoked bacon, and a fried egg), you can enjoy your meal out on the patio.

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12. notsuoH 314 Main St, Houston, TX 77002

This dive bar enforces a slight time-warp aesthetic from the moment you step inside. Separated from the bar next door with a thin wall and red curtain, the decor stays quirky and oddball while the stage hosts everything from poetry slams to live music.

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13. Mongoose Versus Cobra 1011 McGowen St, Houston, TX 77002

40 taps at this wine and craft beer bar make the Midtown spot a definite contender for the after-5pm crowd. While there's no full kitchen in the back, you can fill yourself up on pretzels the size of your head, as well as sauerkraut and bratwurst.

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14. La Carafe 813 Congress St, Houston, TX 77002

Settled inside Houston's oldest building, La Carafe looks as if it's about to fall to pieces on the outside, but is rife wth history on the inside. Miraculously still level and smattered with antiqued photos and mementos, La Carafe's been close to shut down on the basis of broken fire codes many times since the '80s, but its jazz-bumping jukebox, impossible to imitate ambiance, and massive wine selection have kept it alive.

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15. Grand Prize Bar 1010 Banks St, Houston, TX 77006

This grungy two-story bar where Montrose meets the Museum District features rooftop access, a pool table, jukebox tunes and a full bar manned by award-winning mixologists on each floor. Cocktail lists are ever-changing and the kitchen is fully operational, meaning you’ll snack on a pimento grilled cheese with blackened green tomatoes or a chorizo meatball sub between sips of an imaginative beverage like the Five Finger Death Punch with rum, apricot brandy, vanilla, and lavender. Illuminated by glittery rainbow string lights, the space is alternately sophisticated and whimsical.

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16. Anvil Bar & Refuge 1424 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006

This ever-evolving, cool-as-hell industrial Montrose space offers up expertly crafted, spirit-forward cocktails made with house-made sodas, infusions, liqueurs, and even flames. Make your way through the bar’s “100 list,” a refreshed library of classic drinks the barkeeps think everyone should try at least once in their lifetime. Speaking of the bartenders, all of them are highly trained and skilled, and many Anvil alums have gone on to open their own bars.