100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 81, Daughter-in-Law Burger at Natachee's Supper 'n Punch

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Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
Even carnivores will dig this hearty burger.
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.

Whenever you order a veggie burger at a restaurant for the first time, there's always the risk that the patty will be a dry, dense hockey puck of a thing, devoid of flavor save for a sort of grainy cardboard essence.

This is not the case at Natachee's Supper 'n Punch, where the Daughter-in-Law burger features a meat-free patty made with black beans, corn, bell peppers and oats. It's all that a veggie burger could ever aspire to be--rich, flavorful and just as satisfying (if not more so) than a traditional beef burger.

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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 82, Chiles en Nogada Tradicionales at Pico's Mex-Mex

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Photo courtesy Marcy de Luna
Celebrate Mexico's independence day a little early with this classic patriotic 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.

If there's one dish that best exemplifies Mexican pride, it's probably chiles en nogada. The dish was invented in Puebla to celebrate Mexico's independence day on September 16, and since then it's become a popular dish in the United States as well, in part because it's so unique.

It contains three primary elements representative of the colors of the Mexican flag: Green poblano peppers, red pomegranate seeds and a white walnut sauce. The peppers are traditionally stuffed with picadillo, a mixture of shredded pork with spices and fruit, and the walnut sauce is thickened with heavy cream and queso anejo. It's alternately soothing and decadent and brimming with historical significance.

At Pico's Mex-Mex, the interior Mexican restaurant that recently moved from Bellaire just outside the Loop to Upper Kirby, chef Arnaldo Richards does chiles en nogada tradicionales the right way--with a little spice and a lot of soul.

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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 83: Porkobuco at Brooklyn Athletic Club

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Photo by Troy Fields
It's more than enough food for one person, but you won't want to share.
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 porkobuco arrived juicy and steaming, earthy notes of mushrooms and bacon wafting across the room in its wake."

That was my first encounter with the porkobuco at Brooklyn Athletic Club in my first-ever review for the Houston Press. Now, a year after I initially wrote about it, it's still one of my favorite dishes.

I'm a sucker for anything pork--bacon, ham, chicarrones, pork belly, etc.--but a pork shank rarely fails to wow me. I'm always impressed by the giant bone-in cut of meat, far more than I could ever eat on my own, but so decadent that I'm willing to try. At Brooklyn Athletic Club, the riff on a pork shank cooked in the style of ossobuco is truly a masterpiece.

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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 84, Chai Pie at Pondicheri

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Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
Decadent chai pie at Pondicheri.
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 morning, without fail, I have a cup of chai tea. Sometimes I have more than a cup. Sometimes it's a veritable pot's worth of tea, but always hot and always chai.

As a child, I was enamored with the chai latte at Starbucks before I worked a brief stint at the coffee shop and found the tea isn't made with tea at all, but sugary syrup mixed with steamed milk. Since then, I've enjoyed my chai tea black, strong and bitter. I can't start a day without it.

I was intrigued, then, the first time I saw the "Chai Pie" on the menu at Pondicheri. Could it be my favorite morning pick-me-up has been transformed into an evening treat?

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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 85, Tacos at Taqueria Maya Quiché

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Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
You can't go wrong with any of that tacos at this Latin American taco truck.
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.

They say the first step is admitting you have a problem.

Well, friends, I have a problem. A taco problem. More specifically, a taco truck problem.

You see, I can't stop eating at taco trucks. I pull over any time I see a new one I haven't tried. I seek them out in the far corners of Houston. I compare barbacoa from one truck to the next and rejoice at the prospect of ridiculously hot homemade salsa. I'm sort of obsessed.

I recently discovered a taco truck that pulls out outside of the Midtown rooftop bar Proof several nights a week (Never mind what I was doing at Proof. It was a social experiment. I was forced. Someone dragged me.), and judging by the crowd at the bar, I expected the tacos to be the culinary equivalent of a well vodka soda with a splash of cranberry.


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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 86, S'mores at 13 Celsius

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Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
Just like camping, only much classier. Glamping.
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.

Nothing like camping to make you long for a marshmallow roasting over an open flame and a few graham crackers and pieces of chocolate to go along with it.

Strangely, I also get that craving while downing a glass of bubbly rosé at 13 Celsius. The wine bar is one of a handful of places in town (along with Brooklyn Athletic Club, Amazon Grill and the Four Seasons) that offers roast-your-own-s'mores right at the bar. While BAC and the Four Seasons only bust out the marshmallows during the winter, Amazon Grill and 13 Celsius offer the dish all year round.

But what sets 13 Celsius's s'mores apart isn't the great wine that goes with it (though that certainly helps). It's the array of ingredients included on the festive tray.

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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 87, Calamari at Lillo & Ella

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Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
Re-think calamari at Lillo & Ella.
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 it's only been open a few months, Lillo & Ella is already drawing a crowd to the space that was formerly El Gran Malo in the Heights. The colorful building is now a "Pan-Asian" bistro of sorts featuring the same thoughtful food that made a name for chef Kevin Naderi at his other restaurant, Roost.

Because I love Roost so much, I was reluctant to go to Lillo & Ella for fear that I wouldn't enjoy it as much as Roost. The two places are so different, though, that they're hard to compare. Roost is small, dim and intimate, serving creative riffs on classic comfort foods. Lillo & Ella is bright and airy and focused on the type of Asian food that Naderi likes to eat, having grown up with a wealth of Asian cuisine here in Houston.

The dish that, to me, most clearly straddles the divide between Roost and Lillo & Ella is the calamari--a traditional dish with a unique Asian flair.

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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 88, Pulled Pork Nachos at Way Good Food Truck

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Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
These nachos are not finger food.
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.

Since 1928, West Alabama Ice House has been serving cold beer and southern hospitality to neighborhood folks, bikers, dogs, college students and everyone in between. It's changed a lot since it first opened 86 years ago, but one thing has remained constant: The lack of a kitchen. The ice house has never served food, so it's been up to a rotating lineup of taco trucks and, more recently, Papou Jerry's Gyro Truck, to feed the beer-soaked crowds.

There's a bit of a rivalry going on between Tacos Tierra Caliente across the street and whatever more modern (gourmet, if you will) truck has been parked directly in front of the ice house. If you want tacos, go to Tacos Tierra Caliente, because they're some of the best old-school tacos in town. If you want nachos, though, or risotto balls or hummus and pita chips, the new Way Good Food Truck now parked on the ice house property is the way to go.

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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 89, Garden Sammie at Local Foods

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Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
That's one colorful sandwich.
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.

Local Foods makes some of the best sandwiches in Houston. They're diverse--everything from egg salad and roast beef to smoked salmon and falafel. They're interesting, featuring such ingredients as pineapple chips, onion jam and olive crumble. They're filling--that pork torta or crunchy chicken sandwich is enough for two meals. And they're local, or at least they try really hard to be. Many of the ingredients used in the food come from nearby farms and ranches.

Most people will tell you that when dining at the new local foods in Upper Kirby, the sandwich to order is the crunchy chicken. It's packed with poultry and served on a crusty pretzel bun with crisp pickles and mixed nuts in between adding texture. It's a great sandwich. But it's not my favorite. My favorite is the garden sammie.

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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 90, Barbecued Salmon Salad at Brooks Family BBQ

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Photo by Troy Fields
Barbecued salmon on a bed of field greens and strawberries is a unique option at an otherwise beef-heavy restaurant.
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 eat a lot of unhealthy (but delicious) food for this job. I don't turn anything down, and sometimes when I tell myself to just take a few bites of something, a few bites turn into whoops-I-just-finished-that-whole-plate-of-pasta. Because of this occupational hazard, I'm always on the lookout for meals that are both tasty and waistline-friendly.

I found that at Brooks Family BBQ, where the salmon salad is so rich and succulent, I don't feel like I'm denying myself or overindulging when I eat the entire thing. Unless I eat the thick, buttery slices of jalapeño cheese toast that come with it. But I can't let that go to waste...

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