Argentinian Treats at Manena's Pastry Shop & Deli

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Photo by Randall Hollomon
Manena's Pastry Shop & Deli serves some of the best Argentinian sweets and treats in Houston.
Sometimes the best food can be found in a tiny, unassuming establishment. Granted, sometimes those locations are abandoned because the food is absolutely dreadful, but this is not the case at Manena's Pastry Shop and Deli on Westheimer outside Beltway 8.

After hearing that the cookies at Manena's were scrumptious, I decided to look into this Argentinian pastry shop. Once I read the menu, I knew I had to visit. Manena's serves an array of sweet and savory pastries (facturas), desserts (postres), empanadas filled with meats, cheese and vegetables, as well as sandwiches served on French baguettes.

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The Rodeo Is Over, But You Can Still Get Deep-Fried Oreos

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Photo by Brooke Viggiano
You don't need to go to the rodeo for these deep-fried treats.
I miss the rodeo. I miss cowboys in bolo ties, mutton bustin' and bull riding, live music and two stepping...the list goes on. But perhaps most of all, I miss the unspoken understanding that everything at the rodeo -- and I mean everything -- is to be deep-fried and or/covered in bacon.

I was traveling for most of the season this year, so I didn't even get a chance to indulge in my favorite rodeo "dessert", deep-fried Oreos. So you can imagine my delight when I found them on the menu at Saint Dane's Bar & Grille.


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House of Pies on Kirby is Back, and We Love it More Than Ever W/ Video

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Photo courtesy House of Pies
Welcome home, indeed.
A few glorious weeks ago, House of Pies on Kirby reopened after a fire shuttered the beloved landmark back in November, just a few weeks before Thanksgiving. Initially, the popular pie place promised to be back in business in time for the pie-centric holiday, but unfortunately, the repairs and ultimately, a total face lift of the old restaurant took a little longer than the owners anticipated.

I am sad no more, though, for House of Pies, in all its greasy spoon glory, is back in business, and I must say, it looks fabulous. There's new iridescent tile work, a brighter and less dingy main dining room and a lovely patio overlooking Kirby Drive for those who want to soak up some exhaust fumes with their Bayou Goo.

One thing hasn't changed, though: The pie. The phenomenal, perfect pie.

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The Five Best Hidden Restaurant Gems in Chinatown in Houston

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Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
Can you guess where this little spot is? Hint: It's No. 5 on the list!
I spend a lot of time in Chinatown. Between shopping for squid fryers at Japanese import store Fit, getting foot reflexology at Lucky Feet and eating my way through hundreds of restaurants, I could pretty much never leave if I didn't have to, you know, go to work and feed my cat and whatnot.

Whilst roaming Bellaire Boulevard, I'm constantly surprised to see a new hole-in-the-wall restaurant I've never before noticed, the meaning behind its Chinese characters a complete mystery to me. There is so much to see and do and so many places to eat that it would take years to visit them all.

Fortunately, I know people who've been hitting up these small joints in Chinatown long before I moved here last July. I've managed to find several places on my own, and with the help of my intrepid foodie friends, we've compiled quite the list of places not-to-be missed.

Here's where you should be eating in Chinatown that you probably aren't.

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10 Best Reasons to Visit Down House

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Photo by Troy Fields
Welcome to Down House, the best Heights neighborhood spot.
Down House was named our 2013 Best Neighborhood Spot in the Heights for Best of Houston. There's no denying that this establishment from Joey Treadway and Chris Cusack has become popular among many Houstonians, especially Heights residents, despite its rocky start.

In 2011, Katharine Shilcutt reviewed Down House, and wasn't quite sure what the restaurant was going for when it opened; it offered coffee, cocktails and meals throughout the day, and seemed to have too much going on at the same time, causing it to have sloppy and inconsistent service.

But now, Down House has come into its own. It still offers an incredible cocktail and coffee program, and dishes up tasty food. If you have yet to visit Down House, please reconsider. And check out these ten reasons to stop by for a cup of coffee, a cocktail during happy hour or for a casual weeknight dinner.

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Tasty Tuesdays: The Alternative to Eating at Your Desk

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Karen Ehlert
Tasty Tuesday Takes Over Uptown
When I'm not writing, reading or day dreaming about food, I have a corporate job and my weekday lunches mostly consist of a sandwich, leftovers or a frozen meal quickly nuked and eaten hurriedly at my desk. Working in the Galleria area makes it all the more difficult to take some time for lunch as it takes nearly half an hour to get anywhere in the traffic.

And while there are a number of great restaurants in that area, you don't always have the time to sit down and enjoy a meal. But sometimes, just sometimes -- it's neccesary to take a minute and breathe.

On just one of those days it happened to be a Tasty Tuesday. The second Tuesday of each month, at 1990 Post Oak Boulevard, about a dozen of Houston's food trucks line up along their expansive driveway and offer a respite from cold sandwiches and fast food.


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We've Narrowed Down the Most Underrated Pizza...Vote Now!

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Photo by Leonel Nerio
The pizzas at Pizaro's are amazing and definitely not underrated. Check out the poll to see which are!
Last week, we talked pizza. No, Houston isn't generally recognized as a great pizza city like New York or Chicago, but your responses to our query about the most underrated pies in town reminded me of just how many pizza joints we have here. You even alerted me to some spots where I can get deep dish--a style I've been craving since I moved here from the Midwest (home of mediocre thin crust, but pretty good Chicago-style).

As usual, the votes were all over the place. Some of you love the convenience of delivery, while others go gaga over unusual toppings like crawfish and tandoori paneer. Some of you like wood-fired pies with thin crust, while others prefer thick, doughy pizzas or deep dish stuffed with toppings.

Thankfully, no one mentioned stuffed crust or breakfast pizza. Those are best left back in the '90s where they belong.

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Recap: The 2nd Annual Big Taste of Houston

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Photo by Mai Pham
Uchi Houston took home the grand prize for presentation and best dish overall at Big Taste of Houston. Pictured here, "Machi cure."

"This is such a great event -- so many of Houston's best chefs all in one place!" said Matthew Lovelace, a sous chef at Osteria Mazzantini, as he offered me a sample of their Blackhill Meats lamb meatball and chicken liver mousse. His was one of the first booths I encountered at the 2nd Annual Big Taste of Houston this weekend at The Corinthian, a premier food event and charity fundraiser for the Houston chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Indeed, though the inaugural event last year was fantastic, the lineup of chefs and restaurants this year was quite amazing. "I felt like the entrants this year were much stronger than last year," said celebrity judge and blogger Adam Goldberg (Twitter: @LifeWorthEating). For the second year in a row, Goldberg had flown in from New York City to take part in the event, live-tweeting each dish (check out his awesome Twitter feed!) as it was presented at the judge's table for all the world to see.

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Adam Goldberg Returns as Judge for Big Taste of Houston

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Photo by PinqShueDesigns
From left : BBBS Houston President Ron Hadley, John Sikhattana of Straits Asian Bistro (last year's winner), Adam Goldberg and KPRC's Rachel McNeill

On April 13, the second annual Big Taste of Houston benefiting Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Houston will take place at The Corinthian downtown. The annual food extravaganza will feature live music, dancing, free-flowing alcohol and tasting samples from more than 20 of Houston's best restaurants.

Last year's event was a such a success that the title sponsor, Audi Central Houston, donated an Audi Q5 (valued at more than $40,000) to be raffled off in support of this year's fundraising efforts. Raffle tickets are still available for purchase on the BBBS website, and will be available for sale until the raffle is drawn at 6:30 p.m. on the night of the event.

Additionally, for the second year in a row, the event is bringing back Adam Goldberg, author of the wildly popular blog A Life Worth Eating, as one of its celebrity judges. Master Chef 2012 winner Christine Ha; Greg Morago, food editor of the Houston Chronicle; and Courtney Bond, associate editor of Texas Monthly, round out the judges' panel.

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Churrascos Reintroduces Diners to Classic Cocktails With a South American Twist

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Photo by Troy Fields
The bar at the newest Churrascos is lit in shades of red and yellow.
In this week's cafe review, you can read all about the magnificent meat and tantalizing tres leches at the newest Churrascos restaurant at Gateway Memorial City. However, there's something else about Churrascos--and, indeed, all the Cordúa restaurants--that should not be overlooked: The drinks.

Back in March 2013, James Watkins joined the Cordúa restaurant group as sommelier and beverage director. Since then, he's overhauled the wine list and created a number of classic but uniquely Cordúa cocktails that have been wowing diners. Don't go to Churrascos or Américas expecting to fill up on steak and plantain chips alone. Sample some spirits or drink some wine, and I daresay you'll find the booze just as impressive as that classic grilled steak.

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