Beef noodle soup at Pho Binh

Critic Alison Cook calls the pho at Pho Binh among the best she’s ever had. And who are we to disagree? The super clear, cinnamon- and anise-tinged broth is near perfection. I’m a fan of the meatballs, but my best pho buddy thinks the brisket is best. Time for you to decide. 2021 Mangum, 713-686-6408.

Old-Fashioned Chili Con Carne 
at Molina’s Cantina

Sure you can have it atop a beefy burrito or those gooey rich cheese enchiladas, but perhaps the best way to enjoy Molina’s oh-so-traditional chili is alone in a bowl. Topped with a mild cheese and eye-burning chopped onions, it’s been comfort fare for Houstonians for 70 years. 7901 Westheimer, 713-782-0861; 4720 Washington, 713-862-0013.

Oysters Louisianne 
at Mardi Gras Grill

You might be tempted to snarf up one of the bobbing oysters as soon as the dish hits the table. And you’d be wrong. This dish comes out scalding hot. Count to 10 and then use some of the French bread to sop up a bite of the fragrant broth, a combination of white wine and a generous amount of garlic and butter. 1200 Durham, 713-864-5600.

Beef noodle soup at Pho Binh: Eric KayneBeef noodle soup at Pho Binh: Eric Kayne

Fisherman’s Pie at the Red Lion Pub

I annually celebrate the year’s first truly cold day with this creamy, tarragon-flecked dish. The chef uses cod in this interesting take on the traditional shepherd’s pie. It also should be noted that it comes topped with cheese. Who says that cheese and fish can’t play well together? 2316 S. Shepherd, 713-782-3030.

Chicken pot pie at the Queen Vic

Chilly days call for rustic fare. Luckily, Thursdays are pot pie day at this buzzy British

Indian pub on the edge of River Oaks. There’s a choice of veggies alone, chicken (with wild mushrooms) and seafood (Queen Vic uses smoked haddock). All are almost too pretty to eat. Almost. 2712 Richmond, 281-533-0022.

Gumbo at Danton’s Gulf Coast Kitchen

You’d be hard pressed to find a better version of gumbo outside of Louisiana. The kitchen serves two versions: chicken and sausage and a seafood one. Both feature a roux that is as deeply flavored as it is dark. A cup of gumbo and a happy hour serving of fried catfish. That’s winter-weather comfort, Cajun-style. 4611 Montrose, 713-807-8883.

Shrimp Creole Pie 
at Goode Co. Seafood

Speaking of a rich roux … That’s the flavor secret of these dynamite empanadas. It comes spilling out like lava and is just as hot. These finely fried jewels are available as an appetizer, but one comes complimentary with most entrees. Be sure to ask. 10211 Katy Freeway, 713-464-7933; 2621 Westpark, 713-523-7154.

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