AllGood Cafe
Nick Rallo
BLTs and grilled-cheese sandwiches are about neck and neck in the "hard to screw up" category, so it probably comes as no surprise that Jena's All Good Cafe does both well. But, as they say, God is in the details. While we'd never equate black peppered bacon, red leaf lettuce and Roma tomatoes with holiness, those ingredients make Jena's BLT as memorable as most other, more complicated sandwiches. And they're served with a pickle and cole slaw, to boot.

In the right hands, a chickpea can be a beautiful thing. In the wrong ones (say, most companies that mash 'em up, toss in some garlic and oil and sell them in tubs at grocery stores), they can be a sticky, bland mess akin to a slightly flavored wallpaper paste. Ali Baba adds just the right amount of garlic, tahini and olive oil, mixes until smooth and almost creamy and serves it in the middle of a plate full of hot, chewy triangles of nan. It's tasty enough for an entire meal without overwhelming the palate, but don't stop there. The other Syrian and Middle Eastern dishes are just as good.

Unlike the sandwiches at the chain store down the street, EuroTex's Little Italy isn't a handful of room-temperature vegetables precariously nestled within bread and drowned in salad dressing. In fact, it doesn't include a wide range of veggies--just tomato, onion and bell pepper--served with warm feta and sliced cheeses between two pieces of grilled, crispy-edged panini bread. How the downtown cafe manages to keep the crumbly feta tucked inside there is a mystery to us. Talk about real sandwich artists.
There are two items noticeably missing from Tex-Mex joint Buster's Burritos: tacky souvenirs from across the border and lumpy, pastelike refried beans. Instead, the setting is minimal, but not sterile or institutional, and the giant burritos, tacos and chimichangas are served with whole black beans sprinkled with a fetalike cheese (they call it a Mexican version of Parmesan) and accompanied by a dollop of pico de gallo. Just like everything at Buster's, the beans are a nice diversion from standard fare.
So what the heck is a lavosh sandwich? Basically, it's a wrap. Lavosh is the Middle Eastern name for the tortilla-like flatbread that Expressions smears with herb cream cheese, fills with fresh vegetables and a pick of meats (bacon, turkey, roast beef or ham) and then folds into a neat packet. It's served with either pasta salad or a bag of chips, which makes for a filling, healthy and economical lunch. If KFC can have wraps, why not the sunny little bakery and deli?
Aside from a quaint, comfortable setting and kind service, Mia's is home to some outstanding homemade flour tortillas. It's one thing to eat good Mexican food. It's another to eat good Mexican food with good tortillas. Ah, gluttony. From the quesadillas to the enchiladas, anything made with the tortillas is outstanding--and hard to resist. Enjoy, eat like a Jenny Craig dropout, then unbuckle that belt button and pray for a paramedic to make a surprise, and overdue, appearance.
Chow Thai
Is the food at this colorful little restaurant, tucked away in the corner of a shopping center, authentic Thai cuisine? Beats us. We've never been further east than Alabama. Whatever it is, Chow Thai's chow is certainly delicious. To avoid embarrassing ourselves--or, through mispronunciation, accidentally insulting our server--we generally just point at the menu and drool. Pla rad pik--say that three times fast--is a favorite: a fried whole red snapper in a basil-chili sauce that is crispy, flaky, sweet and hot. Most dishes can be ordered from mild to scorching. Try the latter, but have plenty of Thai iced tea on hand. When you order something "very spicy" here, they don't hold back.

If cuisine were weaponry, the Germans and the Poles would rule the world, so frightening is their grub. Yet once they ruled it, they'd have to contend with the Irish, a people whose cuisine is the equivalent of an indigestible doomsday bomb. Yet their grub can be civilized. Stumbling around Dallas for more than 10 years, The Tipperary Inn shut down for several months last year to have new pub guts transplanted and a new refined temperament installed. It now features an Irish bar lifted from a Dublin mayor's one-time domicile, a phone booth and stained-glass windows installed in snuggly booths. It even has bookcases with actual books, for those who like to keep track of their intake via gradually collapsing literacy. Plus, The Tipp has an upscale menu, if that is possible in the world of rashers and boxty. The Tipp serves oysters on the half-shell squirted with Guinness, grilled quail, damn good fish and chips, and grilled filet mignon.
Teppo Yakitori Sushi Bar
Impeccable execution is the key to superb sushi. That, and a disciplined reverence for presentation and service. Teppo, which means iron cuisine, embraces all of these things. Teppo sushi is briny, cool, firm and moist--from the sea urchin to the octopus. The Teppo roll is a glorious thing of fleshy vibrancy. The core is a rich rose of salmon mingled with cucumber and carrot threads. The exterior is draped with sheets of yellow tail and sections of avocado with the edges punctuated with sesame seeds. It's a sensory barrage of balanced flavor and textural elegance. And it's no doubt rich in iron, too.
Abacus
Its plush and cutting-edge tones are choreographed with dramatic angles, jarring plunges and hard surfaces softened by sloping ceiling soffits, rounded angle points, rich wood, deep reds and sumptuous fabrics. And chef/owner Kent Rathbun's food employs as much dipping, lunging, sloping and breathy sweeping as the atmosphere, albeit with more aroma. Rathbun draws from a variety of influences--Asian, New American, Southwestern--stirring them in his state-of-the-art kitchen to craft atypical compositions that astonish without alarming. To keep things graspable, Abacus embraces consistency: The food is uniformly clean and top-notch, while the hectic décor follows an endlessly repeated design cue: squares tucked within squares. Everything in this restaurant is just a little offbeat, and perhaps no other presents unusual opulence and elaborateness as shrewdly. The bathrooms are clean and well-appointed, too. Fancy that.

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