BY Andrew Collins
September 15 2009 9:00 AM ET
Literally within the shadows of the hulking George R. Brown Convention Center you’ll find the sensational Grove Restaurant (1611 Lamar St.; 713-337-7321) anchoring the city’s leafy new urban park, Discovery Green. Movers and shakers convene inside this sleek glass-walled restaurant to dine on braised-lamb tamales and wood-grilled salmon. On an unassuming street in up-and-coming Midtown, fabulously talented chef Monica Pope leads the kitchen at T’afia (3701 Travis St.; 713-524-6922). Her “passionately local” menu draws on the Lone Star State’s freshest ingredients, from pistachio-crusted trout to blackberry-peach cobbler.
For stellar regional Mexican fare, head to gay-friendly Hugo’s (1600 Westheimer Rd.; 713-524-7744), which specializes in ceviches and authentic mole sauces. Always packed with scene-making Montrose locals, Empire Café (1732 Westheimer Rd.; 713-528-5282) fits the bill for filling, creative fare throughout the day, from gingerbread waffles to bounteous salads and pastas -- in warm weather, grab a seat on one of the two breezy patios. Wherever you eat your main course, save room for dessert at the sole Houston outpost of the Austin-based cult favorite ice cream parlor Amy’s (3816 Farnham St.; 713-526-2697). The innovative flavors, which rotate regularly, include Mexican vanilla as well as a bourbon-chocolate-walnut that will definitely make your head spin.