Our Favorite Dallas Dishes of 2012

So much food, so little time

Most Jamaican restaurants make use of pre-made seasonings (Walkerswood is the most popular) and Island Spot in Carrollton is no different, but a waitress there told me the jarred spice blend is only the start. They add spices and aromatics to hop up the flavor and amp up the heat before letting chicken parts soak in the marinade for days.

Barbacoa Tacos at Restaurant Y Taquería Cristina

The tacos may be greasy as hell, but it's hard to argue against some of their fillings. Lengua and carnitas are woefully bland, but pastor is full of flavor. The barbacoa taco, however, is outstanding, at once beefy, bright and juicy enough that you have to eat it directly over your plate.

Oysters at Rex's Seafood
Catherine Downes
Oysters at Rex's Seafood
Burger from Off-Site Kitchen
Catherine Downes
Burger from Off-Site Kitchen

Jhinga Masala Nizami at Mughlai Fine Indian Cuisine

Sure, the shrimp are tender and plump, and the curry itself is thick and heady, but it's the fresh ginger and herbs the kitchen tosses into the dish at the last second that really round out the dish. The thin matchsticks are cooked only by the residual heat from the sauce, and they explode with spicy, fresh flavor. The herbs do the same. You might want to consider ordering a second naan. You're going to want to mop up every last drop of this dish.

Schwarma at Samar

Order the schwarma sandwich with a very important caveat. Tell your waiter you have no interest in their store-bought, pallid pita. Request your sandwich be made on freshly baked naan and all will be right in the world. Small strips of flavorful hanger steak mingle with tabbouleh so lemony it's almost a sin. All sandwiches should taste this great.

Grilled Pimento Cheese Sandwich at Highland Park Pharmacy

It's a simple sandwich of soft, melted cheddar the cooks griddle on a press that looks just about as old as as the bar stools that line the counter in this drugstore, which first opened in 1923. Who knew grilled cheese could be so punk rock?

Cochinita Pibil at Meso Maya

The pork may not be Berkshire, but it's braised into juicy succulence, and while I wish they used more achiote for pungency and earthiness, vinegar is used so aggressively this dish will almost make you pucker before a smile slowly spreads across your face. Pick up a huge hunk of tender pork and drop it into a handmade tortilla, pressed from freshly ground corn. Top it with a few strands of pickled onions. Take a bite. If it's not hot enough, the smoky habanero sauce served alongside will take you as far as you need to go.

Berkshire Pork Belly with Japanese Plum at Sharaku

Watch as the cook stokes the coals with a bamboo fan before balancing a thin skewer holding two rolled strips of meat cut from the black pig's belly. Inside the pinwheels of pork, a small Japanese plum waits to burst with fruity flavor. The soft morsel is actually quite tart. Acid's the perfect foil for fatty swine, among other things, and here it works perfectly.

Breakfast Burrito at La Victoria

The small counter with a handful of bar stools may be one of the best places in Dallas to drink a warm cup of coffee out of a thick-rimmed mug, and fork and knife a burrito stuffed with eggs, potatoes, cheese and roasted chiles. You must top it with plenty of Vicky's red salsa. The fiery puree pushes a normal breakfast burrito experience into a hangover miracle cure.

Enmoladas at Mesa

A freshly made tortilla is carefully dipped into a hot pan of mole. The sauce softens the tortilla, which the cook folds and dips again before folding the tortilla a second time. Now the tortilla is shaped like a fat slice of pizza, and the cook plates up three of them, tucking a little braised chicken inside each soft corn-laden envelope. Some cotija and micro cilantro finish out the plate. Enjoy. Tex-Mex will never be the same to you.

Arepas at Zaguan Latin Café

Stuffed with your choice of beef and cheese, chicken and cheese, mushrooms and cheese or my personal favorite, reina pepiada (pulled chicken and avocado), the little baby sandwiches pack in big flavor. And if a gut bomb is what you're going for? Just order two.

Oysters at Rex's Seafood

Unlike those served elsewhere in Dallas, the oysters at Rex's Seafood are perfectly consistent. A dozen Wiannos will set you back only $22, but you're better off shelling out an extra four dollars for the East Dennis Bay oysters that blew my mind at lunch. Medium-sized and briny as a salt lick, these oysters need nothing more than a drop or two of lemon juice.

Potato Pancakes at Kuby's

Kuby's doesn't lean heavily on mashed potatoes for its pancakes, but instead use coarsely grated raw potatoes. The tubers are lightly accented with herbs, molded into perfectly round cakes and fried to order. Often, potatoes fried in oil become greasy and heavy, but these are as light as potato cakes can possibly be. The crunchy bits on the exterior explode with subtle, savory flavors.

Wings at Ten Bells Tavern

If you're a Buffalo wing purist, you're not going to like this. At least at first. The wings at Ten Bells Tavern aren't sauced with Frank's Red Hot alone, and that blue cheese dressing is a curveball too. The kitchen calls it blue cheese fondue, which is odd, but they certainly need to call it something other than blue cheese dressing. Go on, taste it. That's Point Reyes that's filling your nostrils with its dank and musky footprint.

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Brian Price
Brian Price

translation: this restaurant paid us alot of money to advertise for them

scott.reitz moderator

@Brian Price You must be high on all that zombie makeup glue. I don't even watch commercials.