100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 71, Bucatini Amatriciana at Paulie's

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Photo from Foodspotting
I could eat this every day and be deliriously happy about it.
Once again, Kaitlin Steinberg is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes as we work our way toward our annual Menu of Menus® issue and culinary extravaganza. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most delicious, most creative and, of course, most indicative of our ever-changing food scene. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that are uniquely Houstonian.

Every time I order this dish over the phone to go, I get the same question.

"Have you had this before?"

Employees at Paulie's have to ask everyone if they've tried the bucatini amatriciana in the past, because those who are new to the dish might be in for a surprise once they taste it. It's very, very spicy.

Amatriciana is a simple, classic Italian dish, and one that I crave pretty much constantly thanks to the strong flavors and near overwhelming amount of garlic in the sauce. This is not the sort of thing you want to eat before you make out with someone.

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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 72, Shorty Mac at H-Town StrEATs

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Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
The Shorty Mac, in all its glory.
Once again, Kaitlin Steinberg is eating her way through Houston and counting down her
100 favorite dishes as we work our way toward our annual Menu of Menus® issue and culinary extravaganza. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most delicious, most creative and, of course, most indicative of our ever-changing food scene. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that are uniquely Houstonian.

Well, it was bound to happen.

I've finally found a dish so awesome I had to include it on this year's list, even though it already occupies a space on the 2013-2014 list of 100 favorite dishes. I, and those who have composed top 100 lists before me, try to keep each year fresh, picking a new crop of eats to inspire Houstonians.

But this...this is something I crave, something I'll drive across town to hunt down, something I'll order for dinner even if I've already eaten (which usually does not turn out well for me).

It's H-Town StrEATs's Shorty Mac sandwich, and it's an obsession.


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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 73, Hog & Hominy Poutine at Underbelly

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Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
You can still see the steam rising off the Texan-style poutine.
Once again, Kaitlin Steinberg is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes as we work our way toward our annual Menu of Menus® issue and culinary extravaganza. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most delicious, most creative and, of course, most indicative of our ever-changing food scene. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that are uniquely Houstonian.

As a food writer, I hear a lot of talk about what people feel are overrated restaurants in Houston. I hear all the griping about places being passé or not as amazing as local and national media make them out to be, opinions that I sometimes feel are based on the hipster if-everyone-thinks-it's-cool-it's-no-longer-cool mentality. The primary Houston restaurant that I feel falls victim to that unfortunate stance is Underbelly.

Possibly due in part to all the national attention it's received, people love to bash on Underbelly, saying it's derivative of small, ethnic restaurants in town (which is kind of the point) and that it's hit or miss. While not every single dish I've ever had at Underbelly has resulted in a life-changing moment of culinary bliss, I must say this: The quintessential Houston restaurant has still got it.

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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 74, The Couch Potato Cookie at Fluff Bake Bar

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Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
It may look simple, but there's a whole lot going on in this cookie.
Once again, Kaitlin Steinberg is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes as we work our way toward our annual Menu of Menus® issue and culinary extravaganza. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most delicious, most creative and, of course, most indicative of our ever-changing food scene. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that are uniquely Houstonian.

Though pastry chef Rebecca Masson doesn't have a storefront--yet--her goodies are available at spots all over town. From Southside Espresso to Revival Market to Max's Wine Dive, Fluff Bake Bar's cookies, Cup|Cakes and macarons sure are treats when you stumble across them (or, as I do, seek them out) from area coffee shops and eateries.

One of the more unusual offerings on a menu of old school treats like hobnobs, fluffernutters and moon pies is an invention Masson calls the "Couch Potato." I recently brought some of these cookies to the office (mostly for me), and I attempted to share them with my coworkers. When I explained the ingredients to them, most turned up their noses.

"Potato chips...? In a cookie...?"

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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 75, Fried Chicken Ballotine for Two at Provisions

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Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
Apologies for the photo quality. You don't need good light to know when food is great though.
Once again, Kaitlin Steinberg is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes as we work our way toward our annual Menu of Menus® issue and culinary extravaganza. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most delicious, most creative and, of course, most indicative of our ever-changing food scene. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that are uniquely Houstonian.

I know it's anti-Texan, anti-American and possibly blasphemous to say, but here goes: I don't really like fried chicken. I was raised by a health food-obsessed mother who practically banned fried food from our home, and I never really developed a taste for it. I also have a thing about chewing meat off a bone.

Most food writers have some weird quirks, but I daresay mine is one of the weirdest and most problematic. An aversion to chewing meat off bones eliminates fried chicken, chicken wings, ribs and all manner of other meats from my regular diet. I'll try anything, of course, but I'm less likely to enjoy it when I have to pick my food up and gnaw it off the bone. Again, I know. It's weird.

Fortunately, Provisions has created a dish seemingly tailored to convince people like me that fried chicken in our friend.

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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 76, Parrillada Platter at Tinto Grill

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Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
Smoky, juicy and incredibly reasonably priced!
Once again, Kaitlin Steinberg is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes as we work our way toward our annual Menu of Menus® issue and culinary extravaganza. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most delicious, most creative and, of course, most indicative of our ever-changing food scene. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that are uniquely Houstonian.

First there was Pampa Grill in Spring Branch, known for its juicy, sizzling parrillada platters filled with all sorts of meat and bright green, peppery chimichurri sauce.

But something happened that led to a rift between the owners of Pampa Grill, and they parted ways. Some remained with the Argentinian restaurant, while others moved down the street a few blocks and opened their own incarnation, Tinto Grill, a small, homey space that smells of grilled meat and garlic. I happened upon it during a tour of the Spring Branch area, looking for new restaurants and was drawn in by the smells.

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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 77, Spaghetti Carbonara at Coppa Osteria

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Photo by Mai Pham
Coppa's carbonara is a unique take on the classic dish.
Once again, Kaitlin Steinberg is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes as we work our way toward our annual Menu of Menus® issue and culinary extravaganza. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most delicious, most creative and, of course, most indicative of our ever-changing food scene. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that are uniquely Houstonian.

For a long time, I would argue with people about carbonara. I would tell anyone who would listen that there is only one way to do carbonara is with guanciale, a whole egg, Parmesan and black pepper. That's it. Only those four things, mixed together in perfect harmony with slightly al dente spaghetti.

Keep your peas, your mushrooms, your cream and your bacon out of it.

But then...well...then I had the spaghetti carbonara at Coppa Osteria and I started to change my tune.

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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 78, The Outdoorsman at Pi Pizza Truck

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Photo by Barbra Riley
Venison and cherries together make for the perfect bite.
Once again, Kaitlin Steinberg is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes as we work our way toward our annual Menu of Menus® issue and culinary extravaganza. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most delicious, most creative and, of course, most indicative of our ever-changing food scene. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that are uniquely Houstonian.

While I am, in many ways, a burger purist, that attitude in no way applies to my pizza. With pizza, I consider the dough and cheese my canvas, and the more outrageous ingredients I can pile on top, the better.

That's why I'm always excited to see what Anthony Calleo at Pi Pizza Truck is dreaming up. There's the 420 slice (yes, that 420) topped with Frito pie and barbecue sauce. There's the Drunken Peach with peaches and blueberries soaked in whiskey as well as habañeros and goat cheese. There's the Herbivoracias with arugala, almonds, lemon zest, roasted garlic and a drizzle of chili oil.

And then there's my favorite: The Outdoorsman.

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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 79, Campechana de Mariscos at Goode Co. Seafood

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Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
It's not the most visually appealing, but it's addictive.
Once again, Kaitlin Steinberg is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes as we work our way toward our annual Menu of Menus® issue and culinary extravaganza. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most delicious, most creative and, of course, most indicative of our ever-changing food scene. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that are uniquely Houstonian.

Say what you will about the local chain of Goode Company restaurants--the reason they've lasted so long and seen so much success is the quality and consistency of their food.

I know many people who love to hate on good ol' Goode Co., because even though it started as a small barbecue joint, Houstonians now equate it with "the man." It's true, some barbecue quality does seem to have been lost over the years (or maybe nothing quite stacks up against Killen's), but I still swear by the simple, fresh dishes at Goode Co. Seafood.

And I love eating in a railcar.

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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 80, Whole Fried Fish at Churrascos

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Photo courtesy Churrascos
Order the whole market fish deep fried in a cornmeal batter for a taste of Nicaragua.
Once again, Kaitlin Steinberg is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes as we work our way toward our annual Menu of Menus® issue and culinary extravaganza. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most delicious, most creative and, of course, most indicative of our ever-changing food scene. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that are uniquely Houstonian.

The first time I wrote about this dish, a friend told me it sounded good, but looked really unappetizing. In the photo I used (taken by another friend at dinner), the fish is flayed open so the batter coats as much meat as possible before the whole thing is deef fried. Batter covers the eyes of the fish, but they're still slightly visible beneath the crunchy crust, and small teeth jut out of the open mouth. It somewhat resembles the fossilized remains of an ancient sea monster.

I thought it looked delicious because I love all things plucked out of the ocean and fried, but I could see my friend's point. It's a little scary. I implore you, though: Look past the gnarly fish face, and you'll likely fall in love with Michael and David Cordúa's whole fried fish, a recent addition to the menu at all Churrascos locations.

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