HTX Good Eats 2013
Houston's Best Cookies

Houston's Best Cookies: High-end restaurants, hot bars, humble coffee shops & even a chain make the Top 10

Houston's Best Cookies: Restaurants, hot bars, humble shops in Top 10

Black Hole Coffee Shop peanut butter cookies
Black Hole Coffee Shop's cookie selection changes frequently, but they're always good. Black Hole Coffee Shop/Facebook
RDG + Bar Annie rich chocolate chip cookies with powdered sugar
Joel Luks says that RDG + Bar Annie's rich chocolate chip cookies with powdered sugar are the best in the city.  Photo by Daniel Barrett
Michael's Cookie Jar bright icing sugar cookies
At Michael's Cookie Jar, the decorated cookies are the star of the show.  Michael's Cookie Jar/Google
Fluff Bake Bar sandwich cookies
Fluff Bake Bar's signature fluffer nutters are about as good as cookies get. Fluff Bake Bar/Google
Grand Lux chocolate chip pecan cookies
Grand Lux Cafe's sells its chocolate chip pecan cookies by the dozen. Perfect for taking back to the office after lunch. Photo by Jenifer Tedesco
Three Brothers Bakery gingerbread cookies with sprinkles on a plate
Can't go wrong with a gingerbread man at Three Brothers Bakery. Three Brothers Bakery/Facebook
Chocolate chip cookies at Tiny Boxwoods
Tiny Boxwoods makes perfect chocolate chip cookies. Pinterest.com
Paulie's chocolate chip cookies with chocolate drizzle
Try Paulie's chocolate chip cookies at the OKRA Charity Saloon, where they're baked to order.  Paulie's/Google
cookies, Pondicheri, chocolate oatmeal chili cookies
Sweet, spicy, crunchy: Pondicheri's chocolate oatmeal chili cookies work on all levels. Pondicheri/Facebook
Black Hole Coffee Shop peanut butter cookies
RDG + Bar Annie rich chocolate chip cookies with powdered sugar
Michael's Cookie Jar bright icing sugar cookies
Fluff Bake Bar sandwich cookies
Grand Lux chocolate chip pecan cookies
Three Brothers Bakery gingerbread cookies with sprinkles on a plate
Chocolate chip cookies at Tiny Boxwoods
Paulie's chocolate chip cookies with chocolate drizzle
cookies, Pondicheri, chocolate oatmeal chili cookies

With the holiday season rapidly approaching (or arrived, depending on one's feelings about Halloween), the time has come to consider cookies. After all, cookie baskets are a popular gift, and nostalgia fuels certain seasonal cookie cravings.

But to be worth the calories, the cookies must deliver some combination of flavor or technique that transcends what one can bake at home. Or can prevail upon one's talented, home-baker sister to prepare.

 Corn chips in a cookie? Yes, please. That extra little crunch helps raise a cookie from ho-hum to oh wow.   

What sets a cookie apart? Well, balanced flavors are critical: Sweetness without any salt to balance it out simply won't do. Bakers also earn bonus points for elaborate decorations and inventive ingredients.

Corn chips in a cookie? Yes, please. That extra little crunch helps raise a cookie from ho-hum to oh wow. 

Generally, CultureMap's food lists aren't ranked. After all, isn't it sufficient for a restaurant to earn the distinction of being in the Top 10 without having to quibble over what makes six better than eight?

In this case, the first entry is my pick for Houston's best cookies. Consider everyone else tied for second.

As always, post compliments or complaints in the comments. I'm always looking for suggestions of new cookies to try. For anyone wondering about Barnaby's omission, when they're right, they're great. But recent visits have been so-so: Too crispy, not soft enough. Also, the brownie is the best dessert on that menu.

Paulie's

In what I considered at the time to be the ultimate romantic gesture, I brought two of Paulie's elaborately decorated shortbread cookies to a woman's house one evening. When she told me she couldn't stand the not too sweet, colorful cookies that balance a firm texture with a soft interior, I knew things weren't going to work out between us.

Can't appreciate cookies that have their own Instagram? Clearly, our world views are too different for us to ever be compatible. 

The Original OKRA Charity Saloon

Paul Petronella's contribution to the downtown Houston bar that donates its monthly profits to charity consists of the well-crafted food menu. In addition to a selection of panini, the offerings include baked-to-order chocolate chip cookies.

They come out almost too hot to touch with crispy edges and a gooey middle. The kitchen stays open until 1 a.m. on the weekends. Perfect for satisfying a sudden need after a couple drinks.

Fluff Bake Bar

Sure, pastry chef Rebecca Masson lacks a dedicated storefront to distribute her wares, but that just means there are more places to find her tempting treats. The best selection is at Revival Market, but she pretty much has all of Montrose on lockdown.

At Revival, the lemon-flavored black and white cookies are an excellent version of the deli staple, or head to the Eatsie Boys to pick up the couch potato with its great blend of sweet, crunchy and salty. 

Michael's Cookie Jar

This bakery may be hidden away in the far corner of a strip center near West U, but plenty of people have found it. Michael's elaborately decorated cookie platters have become a staple of wedding showers, baby namings and other occasions when people want an easy, quick-service alternative to slicing cake.

The decorated cookies are the shop's specialty, but classics like chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin are well executed, too. 

Pondicheri

When restaurant menus start to seem too similar, Pondicheri provides a refreshing alternative. The menu takes Indian dishes and gives them subtle twists to appeal to a broader audience while still maintaining their essential qualities.

Consider the signature chocolate oatmeal chili that combines a sweet, spicy and crunchy in a way that demands buying them two at a time. When I stopped by to purchase a refresher cookie for this article, I found they were sold out.

On a Monday. In the middle of the afternoon. That's a good cookie. 

Tiny Boxwood's

For the most part, this spot for ladies who lunch is too twee for me, but I'm always happy when someone who actually likes Tiny Boxwood's brings me one of the restaurant's chocolate chip cookies. I can't think of a better one. They're incredibly moist, probably from a ton of butter. Also, totally loaded with chocolate chips.

Sure, they're not health food, but who cares? They're fantastic. 

Grand Lux Cafe

Generally, chains, especially national chains, don't have a place on lists like this. After all, there are plenty of excellent, homegrown examples in every culinary genre. And yet, the baked to order cookies at Grand Lux are so outstanding that they deserve notice.

 In a world of cookies that cost $2 or more, Grand Lux's box of a dozen for under $10 represents a solid value. 

In a world of cookies that cost $2 each or more, Grand Lux's box of a dozen for under $10 represents a solid value. Also, that's enough to share. Bringing them back to the office after lunch is a guaranteed way to make friends. Just don't eat them all in the car. 

Boomtown Coffee

Looking for a cookie that is healthy — or at least appears to be so? Boomtown delivers with a daily breakfast cookie.

The recipe can vary a bit, but there's usually oatmeal, some sort of grain and nuts. They're never sweet but always crunchy and intriguing. Totally balances out whatever calories are in that mocha, right? 

Black Hole Coffee House

Although it's become more of a for-profit study hall than a neighborhood coffee shop, Black Hole offers an intriguing selection of pastries, including some spot-on cookies. Sure, sitting inside and talking runs one a slight risk of getting shushed by laptop-toting students, but there's always the patio or taking the cookies to go.

The selection changes regularly, but all of the options are solid. Late night hours and the ability to pair a cookie with beer or wine enhance Black Hole's appeal. 

Three Brothers Bakery

Every time I compile these lists, I include one entry that's more personal favorite than necessarily best. This time, it's Three Brothers. I've been eating them pretty much my entire life and can't imagine not enjoying the chocolate-dipped lady fingers or tri-colored swirls.

Most of them are dairy-free to facilitate consumption by observant Jews who can't eat anything that contains milk or butter immediately after a meaty entree. For people raised on traditional French pastries, they may seem dry, but the crumbly texture only enhances their appeal. 

Honorable Mention

RDG + Bar Annie

CultureMap's young professional ambassador and events guru Joel Luks demanded that RDG be included on this list. After hearing him rave about the restaurant's rich chocolate cookies with powdered sugar, my life feels poorer for not having tried them.

If for no other reason than to keep peace in the office, the cookies are on the list. When ordering, demand that bar manager Chris Frankel prepare a cocktail to pair with them.