Best of Dallas®

Best Of 2007

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Best Of :: Food & Drink

Best Italian Restaurant

There's a joke among Dallas' culinary gentry that the best place for decent Italian is York Street, Sharon Hage's jewel where only the holy spirit of Tuscan cookery haunts her menu. That's why Riccardi's is such a surprise. It not only serves distinctive cuisine from owner Gaetano Riccardi's hometown of Avellino (near Naples), it bottles three of its own wines from the province of Avellino: a Greco di Tufo (white); the oldest variety of Avellino, the nutty and fruit forward Fiano di Avellino (white); and the rich and earthy Riccardi Taurasi, a red wine made from the Aglianico grape that is flush with food-friendly sharpness that unravels layers of balanced complexity. The menu includes spectacularly executed crimson sheers of carpaccio strewn with capers, and a creamy risotto mare blooming with plump shrimp, sweet lobster and tender calamari rings. It also has the unexpected, like the sausage- and pistachio-stuffed quail in a rich brandy sauce. Savor this in understated elegance that pools crisp contemporary edges with smooth traditional slopes and curves expressed in frescos, columns and wrought iron loops.

Best Appetizer
Crab

Ultimately, the purpose of an appetizer is to whet, to arouse, to salivate. It's to kick-start the innards and make them receptive to the more weighty compositions to follow. Mansion Chef John Tesar's crab "scampi style" does this. Six ounces of king crab leg meat is torn from the shell in ropes, flecked with parsley and set in a pool of Riesling butter sauce with touches of garlic and shallot. Riesling creeps to the forefront, launching a fascinating interplay of focused minerality and torrents of fruity acid that seem to reach around the crab's sweet buttery richness, targeting the minerals a few layers deep in the soul of the meat. Here, bitterness kisses the front of the mouth before the butter slides the crab's rich sweetness across the palate. Then the acids clear away a little of that, and it becomes almost floral. All of this is framed in a steely mineral component that is strong in the wine but subtler in the crab. Hence, the complex flavors of the crab instantly become understandable. This is a laser beam of a dish. It is visceral. It has gobs of charisma. It is pure mouth joy.

2821 Turtle Creek Blvd, Dallas, 75219
MAP
214-443-4747
Best Back Room
Jimmy's Food Store

You know Jimmy's sausage and meatballs (and mortadella and prosciutto) are the stuff of legend, forcing chefs and gastronomes (why does foodie sound like a term for someone with a sippy-cup fetish?) alike to knuckle under its culinary weight in devoted reverence. You also know the wine selection is the best ever brought forth from the entirety of the boot, flowing from Veneto, Compania, Tuscany, Piedmont, Friuli, Sicily, Sardinia, Trentino Alto Adige, Basilicata, Umbria and Marche. Jimmy's even stocks the wines from Avellino bottled by Riccardi's Italian Dining owners Anita and Gaetano Ricardi. But what you may not know is that Jimmy's now has a back room—borne of reconstruction after the devastating 2004 fire that nearly destroyed its circa 1920s building—where wine dinners and wine flights will be launched and indulged and disabused, some hosted by Italian wine experts such as Andrea Cecchi of the Chianti producer Cecchi. More to follow. More to flow. Much to love.

4901 Bryan St., Dallas, 75206
MAP
214-823-6180
Best Back-From-the-Dead Burger
John's Cafe
Taryn Walker

For a third of a century John's Café on Greenville Avenue was one of those chipped mug of coffee places you could go on a Sunday morning and get your feet planted squarely back on planet Earth for the week to come. Then two years ago they deep-sixed it for a bank. Story of our life. But now John's is back from the grave, this time deeper on Greenville, almost at the corner of Ross, and many of the old familiar faces are gathering again for coffee, Greek salad and one of the best big burgers in town. The new location hits it just right, clean and plain, lean and mean—the way Old East Dallas likes it.

1733 Greenville Ave., Dallas, 75206
MAP
214-874-0800
Best Bar Food
Old Monk

There are plenty of bars where you can grab a decent bite in Dallas—Lee Harvey's, the Meridian Room and the Lakewood Landing all come to mind—but the Old Monk is the only one we frequent even when we're not drinking. From the sizable burgers to the awesome fish and chips, everything on the menu is tasty, and it's all better with a side of the best skinny fries in town. And don't forget your vegetarian friends, who'll surely love the renowned (in our world at least) vegetarian Reuben. You'll find us on the large patio, a must in our book since most of Dallas' bar scene still hasn't come around to the idea that food tastes a lot better when it's not accompanied by the smell of cigarettes.

2847 Henderson Ave., Dallas, 75206
MAP
214-821-1880
Best Barbecue
Original Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse

Years ago Sonny Bryan's got rolled out into 10 different Dallas-area locations, and they're all great, but the original on Inwood is proof that part of the barbecue is the shack. Since 1910—that's when Sonny Bryan started peddling his incomparable ribs and brisket from a tumbledown dive near Parkland Hospital—a whole lot of smoke and flavor must have gotten rubbed into the joint's well-worn benches and little school desks. It helps that you can see people back behind the counter pulling those big racks of ribs out of the smoker: You know for sure it's not coming down here quick-frozen from New Jersey. This is real-deal Dallas, the old-fashioned way, and every bite a treat for sure.

2202 Inwood Rd., Dallas, 75235
MAP
214-357-7120
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Best Italian Restaurant: Riccardi's Italian Dining & Lounge

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