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5 Classics that Still Cook

We tasted and tippled at the most talked-about hot spots, and called on the classics to see just what's cooking now in what has become the nation's most dynamic and highly touted food town. After trying the trendy dishes -- ramen or Brussels sprouts, anyone? -- and checking in with our favorite veteran chefs, here's our must-try menu of what's new and what's next from Houston's coolest kitchens. Pull up a seat, grab a plate and dig in -- and, by all means, save room for dessert!

1. Brennan's

Brennan's has proved in can withstand everything from hurricanes to fires. Just as formidable as its building -- an elegant place with a grand dining room with brick patio out back --  is the menu of Creole gems both classic and innovative. Chef Danny Trace offers starters like barbecued shrimp shortcake, with shellfish in a tangy sauce over biscuits, and an entree of duck breast sauced with bourbon and a side of dirty rice.

2. Da Marco

The booming Lower Westheimer strip of foodie heaven has changed dramatically in recent years, but still going strong is chef-owner Marco Wiles' longstanding Da Marco, an upscale-Italian stalwart. And why wouldn't it be, with Chianti-braised short ribs and butter-soft veal chops, served up by old-school pro waiters in white jackets? Plus, Da Marco's extensive, Italian-focused wine list flaunts more than 200 selections.

3. Arturo's

Uptown Park staple Arturo's uptown Italiano keeps the tasty, no-nonsense Italian classics coming, in an elegant dining space that wraps around a festive bar -- and on the sprawling front patio. Hits include old-school starters of bruschetta and fried calamari with marinara, as well as people-leasing pastas. Grilled pork chops get a blackberry glaze and a side of polenta, and, for dessert, the flourless chocolate walnut cake comes a la mode. Grazie!

4. RDG + Bar Annie

Chef Robert Del Grande, godfather of Southwestern cuisine, has been a star of Houston dining for decades, having in recent years traded his Cafe Annie for the modernized RDG + Bar Annie. The gourmet takes on nachos and burgers are renowned. Branzino comes with "red chile crabmeat" and a salad of shaved fennel, while coffee-roasted filet mignon boasts a side of bacon-and-chive cheesy mashed potatoes.

5. Mark's

Foodies have swarmed Mark's American Cuisine since chef Mark Cox, formerly of Tony's went solo 16 years ago. The soaring space in which the chef serves richly conceived, seasonally inspired and, perhaps not coincidentally, diving dinner staples like veal tenderloin with cider-glazed veal short ribs was originally a church. Dessert highlights include bread pudding with white-chocolate-spiked Grand Marnier sauce.

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