Bangkok Inn
Taryn Walker
The last time we went out for pizza, we rang up a $30 tab splurging on four toppings. The price of cheap eats is going up, except, that is, at Bangkok Inn. Nearly everything on the menu is $6.95, and their curries--from mild yellow to spicy hot red panang--are some of the best we've had. How do they do it? Well, let's just say they didn't break the bank on decor, which hasn't changed in the decade we've been going to this East Dallas mainstay. The lighting is bright, direct, and sort of weird, which sets a certain mood: cheap and good.

Milkbar
Maybe this place sounds like a happy hour hovel for the Pokmon set, a spot where udders serve as taps. But Milkbar is a take on the watering hole in A Clockwork Orange, which is why it has fake fir banquettes (they cause nasty hairballs), zebra-striped walls (they cause more dizziness than tequila shots), and mannequin limbs (they make terrible buffalo wings). So skip the interior and head straight for the roof, where you'll find the most imaginative rooftop patio in Dallas, with potted trees, a stone fountain, and ottomans for lounging around. Just don't spill your milk on the fabric.
This thin-air refuge of exceptional cuisine is perched on the 38th floor of the skyscraping Adam's Mark tower. Here, it's easy to mingle among the shimmering mirrored and green luminescence of Dallas' skyline--a welcome respite from the Cheesecake Factory gothic-inspired architecture in Plano, which you can also see from this perch. Peering through the Chaparral Club's expansive floor-to-ceiling windows is heart-pounding, especially when you aim your telescope at the non-reflective windows.
We'll give you the onion rings at Sonny Bryan's. We'll spot you the cole slaw at Solly's. We'll even throw in the beef at Red Hot & Blue. But put them together and what do you get? A helluva lot of driving around. Make one trip to North Main Bar-B-Q, the belt-busting, rib-hugging, reflux-inducing pride of Euless. For a 10 spot (tax included), you get tasty ribs, chicken, pulled pork, beef (sliced and diced), slaw, potato salad, beans, etc. Go back for seconds if you have a mind to, thirds if you're downright suicidal. The place, which has a colorful history (started by some hungry auto mechanics who couldn't wait to go home for supper), is only open weekends. Of course, you can eat enough to keep you satisfied the entire week.

The cuisine at this bowling alley-sized Indian dining room is lush, colorful, and laced with clean flavors. Virtually everything, from the spinach pakora (batter-fried spinach leaves) to the shrimp birani (shrimp with basmati rice) to the chutneys is brisk and tasty. Plus a huge TV screen surrounded by assorted monitors beams in programming from India: a cornucopia of televised entertainment such as action chase scenes featuring steam locomotives and grizzled criminals who sing and dance. Must be the lentils.

Bread Winners Cafe and Bakery
Even if you just order a cup of coffee, you can enjoy the lovely indoor flora and open ceiling at this place. The room is just the right size, with seating for about 25. A table for two in the corner can be quite a romantic affair.

Texas De Brazil
It's a hideously decadent thing, and so delicious you can skip the prolific and endless skewers of red meat plus some paler varieties served here. A sprawling black marble bar in front of this restaurant's Brazilian grills contains some of the freshest, most sumptuous spreads of leafy, seedy, and rooty food in Dallas. Big bowls of fresh salads. Tabbouleh. Hearts of palm. Bright, juicy tomato slices. Supple artichoke hearts stuffed with tuna salad. Asparagus. Mushrooms. Even those vegetables that as children we would scrape from our plates and hide in the potted African violets take on new luster here. Brussels sprouts, for instance. Meat even creeps in. On an island in front of the salad bar is a hunk of prosciutto that sits behind cutting boards blanketed with thin slices of the stuff, along with a little salami. It's not entirely healthy, but at least the cholesterol won't leak from your tear ducts as it does after filling up on the glistening meat impaled on those skewers.

Are you looking for a briny sweetness from your mussels, as our food critic always does? Or is that a sweet brininess? Your sacred seafood quest has ended. Daddy Jack's in Deep Ellum serves these mollusks up right. Besides being tender and, yes, chewy, each little fella is coated in a tangy garlic-tomato sauce. When this appetizer is placed on a generous slice of sourdough bread, you can make a meal of it, unless you are forced to share with others, which makes eating alone an attractive alternative.

Abacus
If chef Kent Rathbun's brilliantly orchestrated Abacus is anything, it's fancy. Its rich elaborateness is accomplished in thoroughly fresh ways, both on the plate and in the dining room. The food is complex with lots of influences meticulously merged in a loud, well-creased ascot sort of way. The dcor is...well, it's a futuristic rendering of poshness. The interior is filled with dramatic angles, jarring plunges, and hard surfaces softened by sloping ceiling soffits and rounded points. It's rich with deep, bright reds and dark wood and lighting that add delicate sparkle. If the Starship Enterprise were retrofitted in red velvet and paneling, Bones wore a corset, and Kirk was called madame instead of captain, the bridge would look like Abacus. Warp speed.

The pasta is firm and tender. The sauce is tangy and rich. The meatball, shaped like a downed sparrow, is bulging with flavor. When you eat it your face gets messy, as messy as it does when you spill too much Chianti down your throat.

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