Best Of :: Food & Drink
Thin-crust Italian-style pizza is asserting its dominance of the Dallas dining scene, with local chains Il Cane Rosso and Olivella's duking it out for supremacy, and late entry Sprezza introducing us to Roman-style pies. Olivella's gets the nod here for its sublimely crisp "metro" pizzas, especially the black truffle, with salty ham, black pepper and truffle oil, and the Dream, a fiesta of chicken, gorgonzola and jalapenos. With Peroni and a good selection of Italian wines by the glass, the Lakewood location's spacious patio will beckon come fall.
There may be no dish more quintessentially Texan than chicken-fried steak. (Oh shut up, Oklahoma.) A great CFS dinner can take you back in time and evoke memories of grandma's home cooking, while a chicken-fried steak breakfast with a couple of eggs and hash browns can help you get back on track after a night of debauchery. Which brings us to the chicken-fried steak at AllGood Cafe, because you can do both. AllGood's CFS is elegant in its simplicity; steak pounded thin, dredged in flour, fried in peanut oil, then given the just-right amount of homemade gravy on top. Get it for breakfast, lunch or dinner, because it's a delicious memory you won't want to forget.
Babe's Chicken Dinner House
This pint-sized Deep Ellum kitchen specializes in more than lamb, but its namesake meat is a great place to start. Peppery lamb pastrami, fork-tender lamb belly and fresh summery lamb bourguignon are the star dishes. The restaurant also has ambition as a French bistro, with superb duck confit, as well as cocktails and desserts far more beguiling than the terse menu descriptions would suggest. Oh, and we love the flame-grilled double cheeseburger with white cheddar, too. And, unlike other big-name new openings struggling to cope with the crowds, On the Lamb seems to improve with every visit.
Hash House A Go Go
Once you've nibbled the buttery chocolate chip pecan cookies from Everett & Elaine, not even Mom's version will suffice. Next time you're at the Dallas Farmers Market, you'll want to pick up a couple of these as well as an assortment of almost-too-pretty-to-eat treats like their soufflé cheesecakes, Texas ginger peach pie and mango sorbet. Not at the market much? Then score one of their coconut-dusted lamingtons at Ascension Coffee or head to Royal Blue Grocery for their double chocolate fudge brownie. With so many tempting options, it's difficult to choose, but take heart — any choice at all will be absolutely perfect.
It's been a big year for the man leading Dallas' Italian restaurant empire. In spring, Julian Barsotti opened Sprezza, crafting a menu of inventive Roman-style pizzas, highly seasonal fresh pasta bowls and the standout squash blossoms in tomato-anchovy sauce. Business at Sprezza has been booming ever since it opened, and justly so, since it treats Italian country cooking with such a sense of fun. Barsotti's first restaurant, the more formal Nonna, took a vacation from serving fresh fish and lobster ravioli to go through a full remodel. Only at the third of Barsotti's landmarks, Carbone's, does it feel like nothing has changed; they're still lavishing unusual care on red-sauce comfort foods like eggplant Parmesan or spaghetti and meatballs. Barsotti, who is shy about the spotlight, now offers Dallas expressions of Italian food as eaten in both the trattorias of Rome and the checkered-tablecloth eateries of New York. In May, he told the Observer that "the whole idea" of Sprezza "was to create something fun and energetic but with no compromise in the seriousness of the food and hospitality." Dallas could use a little more of that thinking.
Brian Luscher, The Grape and Luscher's Red Hots
Sprezza brings true Roman flavor to Dallas, and it turns out to be a cuisine the city badly needed. Fresh-made pastas are prepared with seasonal ingredients, like tortellini alla primavera, capturing the essence of spring, or an unforgettable bowl of fusilli tossed in brandy cream sauce and served with sausage and greens. The pizzas, with crisp crusts, inventive toppings and one-hungry-person sizing, might be even better still. Desserts are not Sprezza's strong suit, which is all the more reason to binge on snacks like the fried squash blossoms, graceful salads and the restaurant's addicting fresh bread. Everything on the affordable wine list is from southern Italy, including Sicily and Sardinia.