Since opening in 1975, Baba Yega has won a number of "Best Of" awards: best burger, best vegetarian restaurant, and best brunch, to name a few. But in 2011, the Houston Press presented the restaurant with a slightly more interesting award: "Best Place for a He to Be a She." Baba Yega is indeed a favorite hangout for members of the LGBT community, but its cozy, welcoming vibe brings in what the Houston Press describes as "a happy, friendly mix of straight and LGBT couples, groups and families." That might be because the menu offers a bit of something for everyone, from hefty steaks to vegetarian sandwiches to mimosas and bloody marys, which flow freely during Sunday brunch. And, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't love the atmosphere––housed in a converted bungalow, the restaurant also features an award-winning patio lined with century-old oak trees.
Lenny's Sub Shop opened in the suburbs of Memphis in 1998, to bring the joy of philly cheese steaks to a new neighborhood. Over the years, the restaurant expanded to locations in 15 states, but the way Lenny's crew makes the sandwiches has remained the same. They start by taking a customer's order, then slicing the meats and cheeses that form the core of the sandwich. They throw the contents of hot subs on the grill, or pile their cold cuts directly onto their fresh-baked bread. They put about a half-pound of meat into their regular-sized sandwiches, doubling that for the large size, meaning each meal packs enough calories to banish a hearty hunger and also counts as a workout if you carry it around the restaurant enough times.
Loving Hut?s name suits its peaceful mission: to create healthy dishes that benefit the body and show respect for the environment. Using vegan ingredients such as soy-based proteins and fresh vegetables, the chefs at each location create a unique menu of gourmet cuisine that serves as an accessible introduction to a plant-based diet; several of the restaurant's offerings can be made gluten-free as well. Vegan sandwiches and Asian-influenced noodle dishes and appetizers are paired with drinks such as smoothies and teas, each of them more refreshing than getting sprayed in the face with a seltzer bottle.
The icy blue walls that surround patrons at Shri Balaji Bhavan may soothe the mind, but they stand in sharp contrast to the vegetarian restaurant's fiery South Indian fare. Dosas, chaats, madras thali, and puri feature a mix of fresh ingredients and bold spices that enliven palates and heat taste buds with every bite. The authentic seasonings and steaming dishes have certainly impressed Voice Places, who awarded Shri Balaji Bhavan "Best Indian Restaurant" in 2008, 2010, and 2012.
Inside the kitchen at Katy Cajun, bouquets of spices patiently wait their turns, ready to unleash waves of fragrant bayou flavors throughout traditional Cajun eats from seafood gumbo and dirty rice to étouffée replete with crawfish. In addition to serving as a secret ingredient in the dishes themselves, the spices also add complexity to all of the restaurant’s house-made dressings and sauces, including the Louis sauce that appears on po’ boys with oysters or shrimp. From the laid-back comfort of a dining room accented with exposed brick and quaint arched windows, diners discover the flavors for themselves, tearing into Louisiana mainstays including plates of fried catfish and blackened soft shell crab arranged in the shape of Huey Long’s silhouette.
Sitting inside Bombay Pizza Company, owner Viral Patel watched the Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate, waiting alongside family and friends for a mention of his Slumdog pizza, a fusion of Indian and Italian flavors. After the 30-second spot, the restaurant erupted into a standing ovation.
Patel's journey to that moment first began when he quit his job in restaurant management to travel around India learning how to cook. Hoping to one day open a restaurant of his own, Patel returned to the United States and became interested in pizza, buying his own pizza stone and experimenting with new recipes, which fused Indian flavors with the traditionally Italian pies. He opened Bombay Pizza Company with the help of his mother, Sonali, who also inspired the Sonu's Rita pizza, which combines house-made cilantro-mint chutney with a margarita pizza. Soon after the restaurant opened, it was awarded Houston Press's Best Pizza in 2010. In addition to pizza, the menu features Indian street fare such as the kati roll with tandoori chicken and paneer and traditional Italian dishes such as lasagna and chicken parmagiana.
Today, Bombay Pizza Company has two locations, the original in Houston and a second, larger location in Sugar Land. Both eateries feature saffron-hued walls, the soft glow of Thomas Edison–style filament light bulbs, and photos of Bombay residents performing daily activities including washing clothes, fishing, and playing chess. The Sugar Land location also features an outdoor patio, microbrews on tap, and a private dining area.