Our Favorite Dallas Dishes of 2012

So much food, so little time

Dan-Dan Noodles at Royal China

The Dan-Dan noodles here are a must-order. I prefer the Lanzhou version: The long, thin noodles are easier to wrangle with chopsticks. Served cold, the noodles balance sweet with a spicy heat heightened with the spark of Sichuan peppercorns. Sprouts add freshness and crunch. So, so good.

Roast Chicken at Bolsa

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

Jeff Harris' dish solved a cooking conundrum I've wrestled with as a home cook over and over again. If the flesh of a cooked chicken is moist enough, the skin that surrounds it often becomes soggy by the time it gets to your table. Crisp skin at the table, on the other hand, tends to be a harbinger of dry meat. Harris' chicken was so juicy it wept and the skin was so crisp it broke like glass. The plate made me smile and lifted my mood.

Ramen at Tei-An

The broth is a perfect savory soup based on pork bones that's adorned with seaweed, green onions and bamboo shoots. Each is carefully added to the bowl so it looks as good as it tastes.

Scotch Egg at Central 214

Graham Dodds' version of the British bar snack is everything most versions aren't. The breading is so crunchy it reminds me of excellent falafel. The coarsely ground sausage packs serious flavor and encases a perfectly cooked hard-boiled egg. Finished with a small dusting of sea salt and a tangle of lemon-kissed greens, Central 214's version is a serious upgrade in Scotch egg cookery.

White Clam Pizza at Nonna

A New Haven fan would not be pleased. There's not enough garlic, not enough oil and what's with this funny, runny sauce on my pizza? We're not in Connecticut, though, we're in Dallas. Julian Barsotti was on a quest to pay tribute to one of America's classic pies, but he couldn't help but to tweak things a little at his Highland Park Italian restaurant Nonna. And while the "clam pizza" on the menu borrows elements from the Northeastern classic, it's decidedly a whole new beast. Barsotti steams the clams in a mixture of sweet onions, wine and olive oil, removing the clams as they pop and then reducing the liquor they yield into a thick sauce he fattens with a little cream. When you order a clam pizza, the cooks fold the reserved chopped clams back into the creamy sauce along with some fresh herbs and a healthy pinch of red pepper flakes and pecorino cheese. The results are a compelling topping for a chewy, slightly blistered crust.

Pork Banh Mi at Nammi

You could drive all the way out to Richardson and buy an authentic banh mi, but it will cost you three or four bucks for the sandwich and twice that for gas. Why not let Nammi do the driving for you instead? For $7, they throw together a massive handcrafted number that should be considered one of Dallas' greatest sandwiches. All you have to do is find out where in Dallas they've parked when your craving strikes. The pork version packs the most flavor. The meat is marinated and then cooked each morning before the Nammi folks heap it into each baguette to order. Pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro, a few jalapeño slices and a healthy slather of mayonnaise complete what is a really well-balanced sandwich.

Fried Bologna Sandwich at Maple and Motor

Maple and Motor gets a lot of attention for its burgers, but it's the ultra-humble sandwich fashioned from bad deli meat that really strikes a chord with me. I'm talking bologna. Except that the bologna isn't cold here, it's sliced thick and grilled hot. Little nicks cut into the perimeter of the slice keep it from curling up. The slice lies flat when it cooks and develops a deep, rich crust across the exterior, while hundreds of burgers searing nearby lend their fatty flavor. It's a humble sandwich for sure, but lettuce and a tomato slice freshen things up a touch.

Sloppy Taco at Off-Site Kitchen

The crunchy taco shell invokes the taco dinners your mother used to make for weeknight meals. The sweet barbecue-sauce-soaked meat recalls the Sloppy Joe meals that probably graced your childhood table too. Pick the taco up and you'll even feel like a little kid: The shell is wider than your head. Grab a few hundred napkins or you'll look like a toddler when you're finished eating.

Dolmas at Pera Turkish Kitchen

Dolmas get a bad name because so many premade versions are passed off as food at Middle Eastern restaurants. At Pera Turkish Kitchen, the grape leaves are rolled by hand in the kitchen and stuffed with rice, pine nuts, currants and onions. The dolmas have a nice texture that really gives you something to chew on.

Sampler Plate with Samoon at Judi Bakery

Judi Restaurant and Bakery turns out a football-shaped Iraqi samoon that is almost good enough to feature on its own as a favorite dish, but when it's paired with their veggie sampler plate, the chewy, fresh-baked loaves are no-brainers for anyone's list. Tabouleh, hummus in multiple varieties, baba ganoush, cucumber and yogurt salad, and other dips get plated up with olives, pickles and dolmas that make for a compelling meal.

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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.