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Houston Experts and Their Dining Standbys of 2011

As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, bloggers, and readers. This year, we asked the group eight questions, from Headline Predictions to Top Newcomers. All will be answered by the time we turn off the lights at the end of the week. Responses are related in no particular order; all are cut, pasted and unedited herein.

Cafe TH. [EHOU]

Name your top restaurant standbys of 2011 -- the restaurants you returned to most.

Greg Morago, food editor for the Houston Chronicle: Despite all the backlash when it first opened about its authenticity and interpretation of Tex-Mex, El Real has become the restaurant I visited the most when I’m not working. The people are nice, the service has always been great and I can’t get enough of the queso, guacamole, enchiladas and the puffy tacos. And those refried beans! To me, El Real is entertaining and really knows how to pour on the lard. Bonus: it’s a cheap date.

Katharine Shilcutt, food critic for the Houston Press: La Guadalupana for migas and menudo, Cafe TH for pho and banh mi bo kho, Fountainview Cafe for pancakes and hashbrowns, El Real for cheese enchiladas, Shiv Sagar for dosai and samosas, Mala Sichuan for everything on the menu, Coppa, ditto.

Robb Walsh, co-owner of El Real Tex-Mex Cafe and former Houston Press food critic: Fung's Kitchen--My toddlers demand dim sum weekly and they like the seaweed salad and sesame balls at Fung's the best.

Christina Uticone, freelance writer, critic for 2 Dine For: Kata Robata, Niko Niko's, Feast. All close to our home, and wonderful in different ways. I love Niko Niko's take-out when I have a hangover!

Bobby Heugel, co-owner of Anvil Bar & Refuge, Underbelly, Blacksmith, The Hay Merchant: Haven, Vieng Thai, London Sizzler.

Chris Shepherd, chef and co-owner of Underbelly: Asia Market, Lucky Pot, Kata Robata, Revival Market, The Rice Box food truck.

Teresa Byrne-Dodge, editor/publisher of My Table Magazine: Mockingbird Bistro, Mai's, Giacomo's, El Real, various food trucks.

Ruthie Miller, freelance food blogger: My heavy rotation includes a lot of small/ethnic places -- Pho Binh trailer, Asia Market, La Guadalupana, and Melange Creperie -- plus Hugo's, Pondicheri, and Giacomo's.

Rebecca Masson, cheftestapant on Top Chef Just Desserts, owner of Fluff Bake Bar: Catalan, but now it's gone. Brasserie 19 is solid. Petrol Station for the damn fine burger. Haven for the comfort. Queen Vic.

Alvin Schultz, home cook, contestant on MasterChef, contributor to Eater Houston: Xuco Xicana- Parties upstairs are the best! Amazing brunch. Pondicheri- What’s not to like? I dream of the samosas and desi fries. El Gran Malo- e’nuf said.

Hannah Siegel-Gardner, freelance food writer, contributor to Eater Houston: Hugos, Guadalupana, Kata Robata, Huynh, Revival Market.

Nishta Mehra, food blogger, Blue Jean Gourmet: Latin Bites, Huynh, Haven, Queen Vic, Shri Balaji when I need my South Indian food fix.

Nikki Metzgar, regular contributor to Eater Houston, freelance food writer: Aladdin, El Rey, Huynh.

Amber Ambrose, editor of Eater Houston: Aladdin Mediterranean for vegetarian meals, Feast for sticky toffee pudding, Hubcap Grill for burgers (of course), Pho Dalat for Vietnamese, Cali Sandwiches for banh mi, El Tiempo for Tex-Mex, D'Amico's for the steam table lunch.

We want to hear your favorite standbys of 2011. Leave them in the comments if you so desire.