Rest of the Best 2014: Houston's Top 10 Patios

Photo courtesy Brenner's on the Bayou
Bayou view? Check. Comfy seating? Check. Great drinks? Check.

With unusually cool and sunny April weather, who can resist lunching on a patio and soaking up some sun? This time of year, it's usually getting too hot to bear, but we've been incredibly lucky to have had sunshine and cooler temperatures the past few weeks.

For me, better weather means lunch under the shade of an umbrella, dinner under the stars and possibly some bocce and stiff drinks at one of these spots, which feature the ten best patios in the city.

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Top 10 Easter Candies for Your Basket

Categories: Sweets, Top 10

Photo by Asti21
Those better not be hollow.
The grocery stores are PACKED with Easter candies, and there's a lot to choose from. You don't want to make a poor decision when buying some of the worst candies, like Easter candy corn. Seriously? That's disgusting.

Kaitlin Steinberg created her list of the worst Easter candies, and I have made my list of the best Easter candies. Make the most scrumptious and tasty Easter basket you possibly can this year by loading it with these items. Your kids (and you) will thank you.

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Top 10 Worst Easter Candies

Photo by Terren
Yes, Peeps are on the list, but they aren't number one...
It's that glorious time of year once again. Spring has sprung, we're turning on our air conditioners, and an entire aisle of the grocery store is devoted to sugar-coated, pastel-colored Easter things. If you're a parent, you'll likely be heading to said aisle sometime soon to stock up on candy to place in your children's baskets. If you're me, you'll be heading there the day after Easter to get everything at half price.

Either way, you need some guidance.

Too often as a child (and even now) I found my stock of Easter goodies marred by a few rotten eggs, so to speak. A few items that never should have made it past beta testing in the candy factory. A few too many marshmallow-esque creations.

So regardless of whom you're buying Easter candy for this year, please consider the multitude of options out there. And don't buy any of this crap.

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Top 10 Oatmeal Cookies in Houston

Categories: Sweets, Top 10

Photos by Molly Dunn
Tiff's Treats makes some of the softest oatmeal cookies around.
While some kids sulked at the sight of an oatmeal cookie in their lunchbox, I rejoiced. I love the chewiness that oats add to a cookie, and can't get enough of it.

Oatmeal cookies are comforting, sweet and simply a joy to eat. Brown sugar and butter hold together the flour and tender oats to create a texturally complex cookie. Classic recipes stick with raisins, while others think outside of the box and throw in a multitude of ingredients, like nuts, chocolate chips, dried fruit, coconut and even crushed cereal. Here in Houston we can find cookies just about everywhere we go. So, to help you find the tastiest oatmeal cookies, here are ten you MUST try.

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Crawfish Season Is Off to a Slow Start, But Here's Where to Get Your Mudbugs

Photo courtesy LA Crawfish
I'll take ten pounds, please. Yes, all for me.
"The only thing better than a crawfish dinner is five crawfish dinners."

Coach Red Beaulieu, The Waterboy

Ain't that the truth? It's time to eat up, because crawfish season is upon us once again ... well, sort of.

Gulf coast crawfish season typically begins in early to mid-March, but this year has seen a small crawfish harvest due to an unseasonably cold winter and icy snaps that hit the gulf unusually late in the year.

"The one thing you should know about crawfish is they're very temperature-sensitive," says Stephen Minvielle, director at the Louisiana Crawfish Research & Promtion Board. "We don't have a lot of history on ice storms like we've had this year to compare it to. Was it a permanent negative effect? Probably not. But it's unknown."

Minvielle says that by this time of year, he's used to hauling in anywhere from 12 (on a poor day) to 22 sacks of crawfish from his operation, but his best haul so far has been 11 sacks of mudbugs.

"Fifty-eight to 65 degrees is the most wonderful temperature for crawfish," Minvielle says. "Since we had a long winter, that growth period that we usually have wasn't there. We're about 30-to-40 days behind."

Still, many restaurants here in Houston are receiving live crawfish from Louisiana and nearby farms, and while prices are high now, many spots expect the cost per pound to continue to decrease into April. You probably won't see the best crawfish of your life this year, but you can still get some good mudbugs at these places.

And remember: "When the hurricane season starts, crawfish season ends," says Minvielle, referencing the official June 1 start date of hurricane season, when warm currents begin to invade the gulf. Get 'em soon!

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The Top 10 Dishes (Other Than Cheesecake) at The Cheesecake Factory

Photo by bfishadow via flickr
With nearly 200 menu items at The Cheesecake Factory, how can you choose just one?
Opening the menu at The Cheesecake Factory is like opening an encyclopedia. Spiral-bound, it's filled with nearly 200 menu items and 50 types of cheesecake. You'd think a restaurant named after the creamy dessert would have more flavors of cheesecake than entrée options.

As you flip through the monstrosity that is a dining menu, you might find yourself torn between a couple...or five...dishes, leaving your head hurting and your stomach growling. I know I have fallen into this conundrum, and often I resort to asking my waiter or waitress what his or her favorite dish is -- and it's always something different.

So to help you narrow down your dining decision before you dig into the sweet treat you really came for -- cheesecake -- we have provided you with ten of the best dishes on The Cheesecake Factory's menu. Hopefully now you won't have to make a game-time decision when the waiter returns to your table.

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

Categories: Top 10

Photo courtesy Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant
Most underrated hummus in Houston?
Remember last week when we asked you to tell us what you thought were the most underrated restaurants in Houston?

Yeah, well, you gave us a lot of responses. Like, almost too many. And they were all different. No single restaurant received more than five votes. You people are all over the place!

That's okay, though, because it gave me the opportunity to make a handy little poll to further narrow down the choices. I wrote down every single restaurant you suggested in the comments on the blog, on Facebook and via Twitter, then I counted how many times each choice was repeated. Most places were mentioned only once.

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Top 10 Dog-Friendly Restaurants in Houston

Categories: Top 10

Photo by David Miller
Houston is becoming more and more dog-friendly all the time.
Recently, our music blog listed the top ten bars where your dog is welcome, and we thought, hey, why should the bars get all the canine love? Thanks to Paws on Patios, an organization started in 2010 that made it possible for Houston restaurants to get permitting from the city to allow dogs at outdoor tables, more than two dozen restaurants now welcome our canine friends.

And fortunately for those of us who like to enjoy a nice day with our dogs and a delicious meal, there are some truly great Houston eateries with dog-friendly patios. It's no longer just beer joints and the random greasy spoon. These ten places have great food and great spaces in which you and your dog can dine together.

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Eat Your Heart Out: Top Eight Buffets in Houston for the Valentine-less

Categories: Top 10

Photo courtesy Best of Filipiniana
All you can eat Filipino food? Yes, please!
Sometimes Valentine's Day is magical and filled with love, laughter and deep, romantic, meaningful moments with your special someone. And sometimes you're alone, and all you want to do is drown your sorrows in as much food (and wine) as humanly possible. Often, this is accomplished by buying a whole pie, a gallon of ice cream, a large bag of tortilla chips and two jars of salsa, then taking all of these items to bed with a napkin and a horror movie on Netflix.

Or maybe that's just my solution.

But this year, get out amongst the other sad sacks and commiserate over a lengthy Chinese buffet. Or Indian, if that's what you're in the mood for. Or even some good ol' southern cooking, sure to warm an icy disposition.

Whatever your lonely heart desires, you'll find it at one of these (surprisingly good) buffets.

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10 Items to Buy at Hubbell & Hudson Market Before It Closes

Photos by Molly Dunn
Hubbell & Hudson Market is closing March 12.
A few months ago, Hubbell & Hudson Market was hopping with shoppers. The entrance was filled with fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, displays of gorgeous bouquets and shelves of holiday-themed treats. As you walked through the store, you were greeted with samples of artisanal cheeses and meats, fresh-squeezed juices, slices of fluffy bread and everything else in between.

Now, the only way I know how to describe Hubbell & Hudson Market is by saying it is a sad scene. The employees are distraught, unmotivated and have no pep in their step as they once did; the once-overflowing produce section is diminished to practically nothing, and the display counters for cheese and deli meats are almost empty.

"What day are y'all closing?" I asked my cashier. "March 12 is our last day," she responded without even glancing up at me.

It's sad to see Hubbell & Hudson Market close. It's sad to see a once happy-go-lucky specialty grocery store so dim and lifeless.

But, as Hubbell's Market enters its final month of operation, it's time to stock up on the best items you normally cannot find at other stores. Here are my ten picks for the foods and products you should buy before Hubbell & Hudson Market says good-bye forever.

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