#2 Lai Lai Dumpling House Houston, TX
Lai Lai is as "hole in the wall" as it gets. In fact, I'm guessing there are actual, man-made holes in walls much bigger than Lai Lai. It's a family-run eatery located in the heart of Houston's new Chinatown...serving the best damn dumplings you've ever eaten. I get teary-eyed just thinking about those pockets of heaven. Go with an order of pork fried and steamed beef. The fried ones are about three inches long, with a perfect crispy outside, and a delicious filling. Sara's favorites are the steamed beef. I just can't get over the tastiness...when you look at the filling, there just doesn't seem to be much going on there. But there is...oh, there is. Yes, the dumplings are phenomenal, but so is the rest of the food. We always get an order of green beans. I know that doesn't sound sexy, but you've never had better. I could eat the entire over-sized platter. I'm guessing the sweet people at Lai Lai flash fry them, followed by a quick saute with garlic. How they get plain ol' green beans tasting so good is beyond me. An order of lo mien and sesame chicken is usually in the mix. Very solid. The menu is somewhat limited, but this doesn't matter. What they do, they do well...the trademark of any good restaurant. Lai Lai even does off-menu-items like Crispy Shrimp...and you can always count on the waiter bringing over something to try (which is on the house). We always over-order...one of my favorite past times is gorging myself on leftovers. Plus, Lai Lai isn't exactly around the corner for me...which is the only downfall of the place. It's also cash only. Lai Lai has somewhat of a cult, underground following. Consider yourself part of the club.