Our Favorite Dallas Dishes of 2012

So much food, so little time

Brisket Enchiladas at ME Lounge

The whole plate is heaped with crunchy fresh lettuce and cotija cheese. Beneath the greens two brisket enchiladas lie under a blanket of dark, mildly spicy mole and fried potatoes. Carrots and onions round out a plate that sticks to your ribs. Make sure you take it easy on the chips and salsa while you wait, or you'll never be able to finish this dish.

Smoked Salmon Potato Skins at Nova

Grilled Whole Bronzini at Tei Tei Robata
Catherine Downes
Grilled Whole Bronzini at Tei Tei Robata
Arepas at Zaguan Latin Cafe
Catherine Downes
Arepas at Zaguan Latin Cafe

Potato skins are usually a snooze. Most restaurants fill dried-out hulls with oily cheddar, flecks of bacon and green onion slices. Not so at Nova, where smoked salmon as a topping could be innovation enough to break this tired bar snack out of its mold, but that's just the start. The lightly smoked fish plays nicely with the crunchy, salty bacon but it's the crème fraîche, lightly spiked with horseradish, that pushes this dish deeply into must-eat territory.

Fried Chicken Sandwich at Union Bear

This may be Dallas' best fried chicken sandwich. The bread is light and fluffy and sports a fresh brand of hatch marks from the grill. The chicken itself is tender, hyper-juicy and has a thick, crunchy crust. But I think it's the pickled slaw and spicy mayo that make this sandwich so persuasive. Every time I write about it, I'm inclined to go get another.

Tom Kha Gai at Bambu

The soup is clouded with coconut milk, but still as bright as lemon tea, and loaded with tender shreds of chicken breast and the occasional straw mushroom that bursts in your mouth when you bite. Bambu may be a bit of a drive — the restaurant is buried in the back of a Richardson strip mall — but this soup is more than worth it.

Crispy Duck at Bangkok City

Subtle flavors and textures made this dish one of my favorites. The duck skin is so crisp it stands up to the sweet brown sauce it swims in, and reminds me of the skin on Southern fried chicken. The crispy basil leaves were so aromatic they scented the entire dining room.

The Cubano at International Bakery Cuban Dulceria

I took my first bite, and tried to figure out why Rita and Sara Vasquez, the owners of International Bakery Cuban Dulceria in Carrollton, would neglect mustard from their otherwise very traditional Cubano sandwich. I was told it hid the flavors of the mojo-marinated pork, roasted till it falls apart into strings. No matter. All you have to do is ask for mustard and you'll get it. And mustard or no mustard, this is without a doubt the best Cubano you can buy in the area. They bake the bread right there. It's soft as a cloud and the hot press toasts the exterior into a thin eggshell of crisp crust that snaps when you bite it.

Coffee and Doughnuts at Rosemont

Remember that paper bag of over-sugared mini doughnuts you bought from the grocery store? Forget them. Rosemont has a refreshing take on the tiny cake grenades that are more moist and flavorful than what you're used to. And remember the last time you had a cappuccino topped with a dash of cinnamon from a shaker bottle last filled months ago? Not here. A fresh stick is grated right over the top of each cup. Expect the real deal from now on.

Chile Relleno at Avila's

Breaded, eggy, fried versions often eat like a wet sock after they swim in a soupy sauce, so the folks at Avila's were right to keep this poblano pepper naked. Stuffing it to the hilt with tender shredded brisket wasn't a bad idea either. Add a restrained blanket of melted cheese, a fresh salsa with crunchy onions and peppers, and a side of hot sauce that packs a respectable punch and you have one of the better Tex-Mex plates in Dallas.

Large Tabouleh at Ali Baba

Leave it to Ali Baba to deliver a Texas-sized portion of parsley salad. I might make a dig at the place for the over-the-top serving, but the tablouleh is nearly perfect. You can smell the lemon juice wafting up from the bowl as they bring it to the table and it's full of coarsely chopped parsley you really have to chew on. The cracked wheat isn't overwhelming and the whole thing tastes like summer.

The Nooner at Jonathon's Oak Cliff

Jonathon Erdeljac's gut grenade is almost a parody, it's so overloaded with farm animals. Topped with American and Swiss cheese, mayo, an egg, tomato slices, ham, bacon and shame, this burger is the pinnacle of over-indulgence.

Kimchee French Fries at sSahm Food Truck

Kimchee fries: They should be spicy, fermented cabbage and french fries right? It's so much more. The fries are hand cut, the kimchee is caramelized, and the whole mess is topped with Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese, cilantro, onions and spicy mayo. Oh, and why not? Let's throw in some spicy bulgolgi too. Order yours with a smock and a shovel; you'll need both.

Just About Any Burger at Off-Site Kitchen

Burgers are the everyman's food we can't put down, and our ravenous quest for bovinity has spurred the opening of countless burger chains. The thing is, burgers aren't good for us, which is one of the reasons why I'm so smitten with the offering at Off-Site Kitchen. (The other is they rock.) The burgers here are diminutive, yet still filling. They're juicy and flavorful, but leave me with a sense of well-being instead of shame and guilt.

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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.