Urbano Cafe

Though the neighborhood is still marginal—bars on windows—the restaurant is anything but. This nine-table, reservation-necessary, hot-house-in-summer Italian restaurant offers little in the traditional Little Italy sense. Rather, you can get intricately sauced and locally seasoned gourmet dishes such as the signature spaghetti Bolognese and delicate appetizers such as prosciutto-wrapped fig bruschetta with Texas honeycomb. Lunch is still a deal—the tasty paninis and matchstick fries, a nostalgic residue of Urbano's first incarnation on McKinney Avenue. It doesn't hurt matters that Jimmy's Food Store, a popular purveyor of imported Italian meats and treats, is right next store. The Urbano owner's in-your-face affability creates an intimacy for some, a hardship for those waiting for the tables to be turned. No matter, when your turn comes, it's worth the wait, but make sure to bring your own booze, because that's just the kind of place Urbano is.

Behold, a pouch of tiny mushroom magic (not that kind of magic).
Beth Rankin
Behold, a pouch of tiny mushroom magic (not that kind of magic).

Normally, a big part of why we're out to eat in the first place is that we want someone else to do the work, but Tei Tei's beef on the rock is a do-it-yourself experience that can't be beat. Tei Tei provides six strips of Washu beef—a crossbreed of Black Angus and native Japanese Wagyu—and a ginger soy marinade. You're charged with cooking them over hot rocks to your own specifications, but you'll be glad you're in control because with beef this thin and flavorful, you want to get it just right to maximize the velvety goodness. Need something to munch on while doing all the work? Order some sushi—perhaps the city's best—and thank us later.

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