Café Istanbul
The entire staff is from Turkey, and Turks not only know food, they have atmosphere nailed. Unique and authentic hookahs, rugs, and wine bottles adorn the walls and shelves. There is a library feel to this place in that everything feels so well-placed and so...cultural. They have a belly dancer who entertains while you eat, and scares the hell out of your children...especially your pubescent male ones.
Tramontana
It comes paired with potato-crusted calamari. But in this case the dunking medium is better than what's dunked. The dip is robust, rich, and lively with smoothness rippled by big chunks of blanched tomato. It's so racy, you could make lingerie out of it.

Chow Thai Pacific Rim
There's a curvaceous bar with a top made of stained concrete. The sector containing the bar is separated from the dining area by a screen made of chain mail, which kind of makes you wonder what the staff does with the cutlery when the barflies get riled. Chow Thai Pacific Rim also has a natty little entrance chamber, a kind of acclimation zone to help your body transition from the stylized asphalt strip-mall wasteland into this fusion fashion. Chow Thai Pacific Rim is a mishmash of Asian influences embellished with...God knows what. Slipped in there with the Pacific Rim rolls, ahi tartar, miso soup, and Hoisin-marinated chicken are New American dishes such as grilled lamb chops and frog legs with chilies. What's surprising is the number of thrilling risks they'll take.

This is hands-down the best bowl of lime-seared seafood in Dallas. Scraps of tender, firm octopus, conch, and shrimp are crammed into a margarita glass with key lime, cilantro, diced tomato, papaya, pineapple, and mango. The flavors are prodded with vanilla and a little clump of pickled onion that adds a jagged edge of raciness. It's as sexy as it is satisfying.

The Landmark Restaurant
Want the best pancakes? You'll have to go to a four-star hotel to get them. The 92-seat, award-winning Landmark Restaurant in the Melrose Hotel serves the best stack--tall, fluffy, and never mushy, with indescribably light and aromatic fruit flavors. To those further inclined, check out the restaurant's breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch, featuring foods from Asia and the Americas.

S&D Oyster Co.
Nothing fancy here, just basic ocean livestock. It's fast, simple, and indelicate. But it's the best fast, simple, and indelicate you'll find. The oysters--at just $6.95 a dozen--are clean and firm. Servers whip up a sauce right at your table with ketchup, horseradish, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, and a squeeze of lemon. If we tried that, we'd end up with a batch of Braveheart special effects. Peel-and-eat shrimp are succulently lush. Broiled fish is extraordinary: fresh, moist, and well seasoned. Plus, they have gumbo and oyster loaf sandwiches. Tip: Mix in a little tartar sauce and Tabasco with that oyster loaf, and you've got a swell hair gel.

The best thing about a wrap is that they are healthy (or so goes the perception). Bread has somehow become the enemy for dieters, and the flour or spinach wrap has taken its place as the vehicle for sandwiches. No one makes wraps as tasty (and, if you like, unhealthy) as Wall Street Deli, which boasts a dozen stores in the metroplex. Some staffers call the wraps "belly-busters," and with good reason. The chicken caesar features meaty chunks of processed fowl cubes resting in a soupy bed of ranch dressing and feta and mozzarella cheeses. A roasted veggie wrap is a healthier, but not smaller, option. Of course, Mexican food has dominated the wrap world for centuries. Fajitas and burritos cornered the gastronomical market until people renamed tortillas "wraps." But why complain? Since when has wrap been limited to one language?

In most places they come out like little gum grommets--or transaxle grease curds. But at Mangia e Bevi, they look like green little scallops (they're drenched in pesto). These potato dumplings are tender, fluffy, and consistent--like a brood of cloud puffs. Plus, they're safe for most dental work.

Dallas Farmers Market
The city keeps meddling with its venerable Farmers Market, trying to figure out ways to fix something that ain't broke, but those trusty farmers from East Texas and South Texas and Oklahoma just keep on truckin' in, bringing those great tomatoes, fresh-shelled pintos, pattypan squash, peaches, and watermelon. Shop there often enough, and you'll get good at picking out the choicest stuff. Prices are often good to great. You may forget what vegetables ripened under a chemical spray in the refrigerated trailer of an 18-wheeler taste like.

As if to prove all the skeptics wrong, Dallas-based Internet food retailer Grocerworks.com apparently insists on making sure its customers get produce from the Web as high-quality as if they squeezed the little peaches and plums themselves at the store. The first time you place an order with Groceryworks.com, you get a bag of produce gratis. And after that they only deliver fresh, plump, and ripe vegetables and fruits. Go ahead, try it, the delivery staff won't even accept gratuities. "We aren't allowed to accept tips," they'll explain. "Our company doesn't want buying from us to cost any more than the grocery store."

This restaurant serves inspired saj (a thin, flaky tortilla-like bread), smooth hummus, refreshing tabbouleh, and tangy labni. Plus there's the "tent room," where you can sit on a low couch and stuff yourself with kabobs or maybe some sauted lambs brains. Think about that.

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