Where Tom went:

Bar

Anvil Bar & Refuge

The drinks list at Houston’s acclaimed craft-cocktail bar steers customers to their preferences with categories including “Herbal & Spirituous,” “Bitter & Bold” and “Odds & Ends.” The last features a Prairie Oyster: mezcal, hot sauce and a raw egg yolk are said to be a hangover cure.

1424 Westheimer Rd., Suite B

713-523-1622

www.anvilhouston.com

Restaurant

Cajun Kitchen

Time your visit to coincide with the local crawfish season (typically March through June) to experience a local custom: a seafood boil bridging Louisiana and Vietnam. Ask for the "Thai basil" boil and you also taste tamarind, lemon grass and fish sauce in the elixir of garlic butter and Cajun seasonings. The best way to eat the spicy mudbugs, advises local food expert Robb Walsh, is to “grip, rip, unzip and dip.”

6938 Wilcrest Dr., Suite E

281-495-8881

Restaurant

Caracol

The focus is on fresh seafood — conch ceviche sparked with ginger and jalapeño, elegant seared tuna tacos, wood-grilled red vermilion — at this arty Mexican oasis from one of Houston’s veteran chefs, Hugo Ortega. The Greatest Margarita Ever Sold costs $29 and lives up to the hyperbole.

2200 Post Oak Blvd., Suite 160

713-622-9996

caracol.net

Ice Cream

Cloud 10 Creamery

“It takes three days to make our ice cream,” says a proud scooper, who also turns out to be a sous-chef at what might be Houston’s best dispenser of the frozen house specialty. Explore the uncommon in this friendly blue-and-white retreat: ice cream flavored with toasted oats and persimmon, maybe, or sorbet based on butternut squash and rosemary.

5216 Morningside Dr.

713-434-6129

www.cloud10creamery.com

Restaurant

Coltivare

“This is where I come on my day off,” says Alison Cook, the veteran restaurant critic of the Houston Chronicle. The drinks are fab (try the world-class gin and tonic) and so are the pastas and pizzas, their crusts the texture of foccacia. The garden out back, a nice place to hang if you’re waiting for a table, provides the kitchen with fresh herbs, blackberries and radishes.

3320 White Oak Dr.

713-637-4095

coltivarehouston.com

Cafe

Common Bond Cafe & Bakery

Among Houston’s top stops for bread — Texas-size croissants, sugar-sprinkled brioche — Common Bond does well by desserts, too. Dressed with milk bottles, the light-filled industrial cafe is the perfect place to pause for a lemon-lavender macaron and espresso.

1706 Westheimer Rd.

713-529-3535

wearecommonbond.com

Restaurant

Cuchara

Its open kitchen benefits from an all-female crew recruited from around Mexico; the witty murals come by way of the owner’s artist-sister. Drop by on a Sunday for brunch, when a trio of musicians complements the meal. Among the lures are fresh guacamole garnished with fried grasshoppers, pork tamal swaddled in a banana leaf, and crisp tortilla triangles under a blanket of white cheese fired up with serranos: chilaquiles for the memory book.

214 Fairview St.

713-942-0000

cuchararestaurant.com

Bakery

Eck Bakery

Ultra-flaky and super-silken, the signature custard-filled Chinese pastry costs a buck, tastes like a million and delivers on the promise of the otherwise humble bakery’s initials, which stand for Egg Creme King.

6918 Wilcrest Dr., Suite A

281-933-6808

Restaurant

El Real

Outside, a giant neon-lit marquee calls attention to one of the area’s best Tex-Mex sources; inside, diners find beef fajitas, puffy shrimp tacos and cheese enchiladas draped with chili con carne in a vast dining hall that screens Westerns on the wall, a nod to the location’s past as a cinema. Yes, there’s lard in the refried beans, and they’re awesome.

1201 Westheimer Rd.

713-524-1201

elrealtexmex.com

Bakery

Fluff Bake Bar

Forget cupcakes. Fluff Bake Bar would rather you eat slices of cake, fetchingly served in clear cups. One of several flavors, Veruca Salt presents devil’s food cake with salted caramel buttercream and pretzel crunch. On display: flaky croissants, rhubarb kouign-amann and Couch Potato cookies crisp with potato chips and cornflakes. A plus behind the fragrant cafe with its pink neon “sugar” sign: a courtyard for nice weather.

314 Gray St.

713-522-1900

fluffbakebar.com

Restaurant

Foreign Correspondents

New to the scene and a promising work in progress, Foreign Correspondents looks to northern Thailand for inspiration. For your consideration: spicy blue crabs, water buffalo laap, pumpkin and pork tossed with scrambled egg, and garlic oil rice tinted with blood. The last dish, served in a banana leaf, goes down like boudin noir.

4721 N. Main St., Suite A

713-864-8424

treadsack.com/foreigncorrespondents

Restaurant

Fu Fu Cafe

Soup dumplings help fill the tables in this spartan, no-nonsense Chinatown storefront.

9889 Bellaire Blvd., Suite 105

713-981-8818

Restaurant

Gatlin’s BBQ

Some words of advice as you’re perusing the menu while waiting in the inevitable line: brisket, ribs, dirty rice. They’re among the stars of Gatlin’s open kitchen — not counting the cheerful family members who cook and serve some of the best barbecue in the city.

3510 Ella Blvd.

713-869-4227

www.gatlinsbbq.com

Restaurant

Helen Greek Food and Wine

A rare and respectable taste of Greece in the city, this narrow taverna in the neighborhood of Rice Village features an all-Greek wine list and such novelties as dolmades bound in collard greens, and feta-brined roast chicken.

2429 Rice Blvd.

832-831-7133

helengreekfoodandwine.com

Market

Hong Kong Food Market

Whatever you need to cook an Asian meal — a wok the size of a tub, barbecued ducks, featherback fish — this monster market inside the Hong Kong City Mall is apt to stock it. The produce section is especially impressive; amid the greens are banana flowers and winged beans.

11205 Bellaire Blvd.

281-575-7886

Bar

Julep

A star among bars, Julep pays homage to Southern classics, including the Sazerac and Vieux Carré, in both its handsome pewter-colored lounge and an exterior gravel patio set off with fire pits. Go for the cognac-fueled Georgia mint julep.

1919 Washington Ave.

713-869-4383

www.julephouston.com

Restaurant

Killen’s Barbecue

The biggest asset at one of the premiere barbecue joints in the country is a professional chef, Ronnie Killen, whose exacting standards apply not just to high-quality meats — the bone-in pork belly is peerless — but to the sides and desserts as well. Weekend lines are made easier with (yes!) free beer.

3613 E. Broadway St., Pearland

281-485-2272

www.killensbarbecue.com

Restaurant

Kitchen 713

Don’t be fooled by the modest facade in an industrial stretch of Houston’s East End. Co-chefs Ross Coleman and James Haywood excel at fusing diverse accents in their cooking. Braised turkey necks nestled in lettuce wraps get a lift from their teasing nuoc cham, and what appears to be a routine grilled cheese sandwich comes with a surprise between slices of sourdough: oxtail “marmalade” and pickled collards. P.S. The jerk chicken rocks, too.

4515 Canal St.

713-239-2498

kitchen713.com

Restaurant

Nam Giao

On the menu: the refined cooking of Hue in central Vietnam. Seek out saucers of steamed rice-flour pancakes, brightened with minced shrimp and carrots, and baby clam salad, lavished with toasted sesame seeds, fried shallots and pungent cilantro. The yellow dining room is modest; the kitchen has you seeing stars.

6938 Wilcrest Dr., Suite C

281-568-4888

Restaurant

Oxheart

Hard to define but easy to enjoy, chef Justin Yu’s vegetable-focused cooking embraces crisp mung bean pancakes stuffed with mustard greens, and guinea hen staged with crushed peanuts and glossy collards. Fine dining as defined in the intimate 30-seat restaurant translates to bread as its own course and locally made knives, presented in a cigar box.

1302 Nance St.

832-830-8592

oxhearthouston.com

Restaurant

Pho Dien 1

Discerning locals think of this dining room, set off with wavy overhead panels, as the area’s finest source for Vietnam’s classic beef noodle soup. The broth alone, clear as consomme, speaks to a kitchen that knows what it’s doing.

10623 Bellaire Blvd., Suite C198

832-328-1866

phodienhouston.webs.com

Restaurant

Pho Dien 2

Discerning locals think of this dining room, set off with wavy overhead panels, as the area’s finest source for Vietnam’s classic beef noodle soup. The broth alone, clear as consomme, speaks to a kitchen that knows what it’s doing.

11830 Bellaire Blvd., Suite C

281-495-9600

phodienhouston.webs.com

Market

Phoenicia Specialty Foods (Westheimer Market)

What began as a deli in 1983 has grown into multiple stores offering 15,000 items from 50 countries. Whether you’re looking for Marmite from Down Under, cherry jam from Turkey or ceramics from Poland, they’re here. The gleaming Downtown location is the newest. If your timing is right, you can watch freshly baked pita bread emerge from what resembles a roller coaster.

12141 Westheimer Rd.

281-558-8225

www.phoeniciafoods.com

Market

Phoenicia Specialty Foods (Downtown Market)

What began as a deli in 1983 has grown into multiple stores offering 15,000 items from 50 countries. Whether you’re looking for Marmite from Down Under, cherry jam from Turkey or ceramics from Poland, they’re here. The gleaming Downtown location is the newest. If your timing is right, you can watch freshly baked pita bread emerge from what resembles a roller coaster.

1001 Austin St.

832-360-2222

www.phoeniciafoods.com

Cafe

Pondicheri Bake Lab

Sibling to the ground-floor Pondicheri, an all-day dining room popular for its Indian street food and thali sampler platters, Bake Lab is a colorful second-floor cafe stocked with bulk spices and ghee pots on the shelves and jaggery dressing and enticing salads in the display cases. Draws include sunny Parsi eggs, doughnuts that taste like gulab jamun and sandwiches stuffed with Goan sausage.

2800 Kirby Dr., Suite B240

713-522-2012

www.pondichericafe.com

Market

Revival Market

The mission of the market, which also features a small cafe, is to source everything from within 150 miles of the city. Pasture-raised heritage breed pork goes into the house-made charcuterie; beans from four local purveyors fuel the coffee bar. Quail? Verjus? Apple pie? The gang’s all here.

550 Heights Blvd.

713-880-8463

revivalmarket.com

Restaurant

Tacos Tierra Caliente

Follow the lead of insiders by ordering some (dynamite) pork or beef tacos from this taqueria on wheels, whose salsas are as good as the meats, then eating them across the street on a picnic table with a beer you buy from the roof over your head, the West Alabama Ice House.

1919 W. Alabama St.

713-584-9359

Restaurant

Underbelly

Honored last year as Best Chef: Southwest by the James Beard Foundation, chef-owner Chris Shepherd weaves into his cooking the many diverse cultures that make Houston such an exciting place to eat. The result: toast decked out with lardo, honey and chilies (the combination works), and Korean braised goat with pleasantly chewy dumplings freckled with benne seeds. Nice touch with the bill: Brochures listing the chef’s favorite eateries around town.

1100 Westheimer Rd.

713-528-9800

www.underbellyhouston.com

Market

Urban Harvest Farmers Markets (Eastside Farmers Market, Saturdays)

Food fans flock to the Eastside Farmers Market on Saturday, where the finds include Egyptian breakfast (from Oddball Eats), peach barbecue sauce (from Underbelly restaurant), Texas wine (from Moravia Vineyard & Winery) and Mexican marigold mint (from Plant It Forward Farms).

3000 Richmond Ave.

713-880-5540

urbanharvest.org