The Old Monk
Few gastronomical adventures really excite us anymore. We love good food, but it seems as though we're too jaded--or just too fat--to believe that there is really any end-all, be-all dish. "Oh, the sea bass, yes, it was tremendous, but surely someone in town does it better, no?" Not so with this dish. No one in town does fried calamari better. No one on this earth does calamari better. It simply cannot be prepared in any more perfect a fashion than it is at Old Monk. The delicate ovals of splendiferous squid are feather-dusted in an impossibly light, perfect batter and then deep-fried. The quick-flash result is the most orgasmic experience of which any cephalopod has ever taken part. We figure, anyway.

Porta Di Roma
Forget those stampeding brass bulls near City Hall: Pizza joints are the best thing downtown has going for it. Porta di Roma is the newest addition, located in a renovated storefront across from the Bank One building. We're a fan of any pizza by the slice, but this one is exceptional: wide, melting triangles of heavenly goo supported by a strong, thin, slightly crispy crust. Perfection. As a bonus--like we need one--Porta di Roma offers huge, fresh plates of pasta, cheap. We're hot on the "spaghetti olio" dish, a mound of pasta flavored with olive oil, garlic, chili pepper and a dash of Parmesan. Even comes with hot bread. Lunchtime price: $4.25.
La Calle Doce
Where is Jimmy Buffett when you need him? Face it, Dallas is Margaritaville. So how do you choose between the perennial favorite ritas at Blue Goose and Uncle Julio's or the stylistically compelling artistry of, say, a Blue Mesa or Taco Dinner? We look for authenticity, and that is why La Calle Doce gets our vote. It's just the right amount of frozen--not overly icy or fluid. It's white, velvety, not too salty and plenty boozy. And it goes down smooth--that is, until that biting aftertaste grabs you by the throat and compels you to grab a chip and salsa--fast. Then it's back to the rita, a return trip to the chips, rita, chips, rita--all mixing and matching in a Mexican dance that can last until you're sated or plastered--whichever comes first.
If the ladies talking in thick accents aren't enough to convince you that this place is the real thing in German meat-eating cuisine, just take a look at the extensive menu. It includes things like Schinkenwurst, Kalbsleber and Grobe. We have no idea what any of those things are, but we can salivate over kielbasa, sweet and hot Italian sausages, veal and fresh-baked ham that tastes the way grandma from Slovenia used to make it. There is also the standard selection of pork chops, T-bones and whole chickens sold at prices that compete with Albertson's. This old-fashioned market may be small, but it also carries a selection of hard-to-find items, such as basil pesto mustard and a vast array of French, Italian and Spanish olive oils. For dessert, don't pass up the chance to buy the original Haribo gummi bears and Ritter Sport chocolate bars.
The cuisine here is from Northern India, so the flavors are a little subtler than some other establishments. At lunchtime, the buffet is priced right ($5.95), and the food is cooked fresh. The raita (yogurt salad), the nan (puffed bread), the tandoori chicken, the vegetable paneer dishes and the gulab jamun for dessert all make a meal you'll find hard to resist every week. Splurge sometimes and get a cup of the spiced tea, and your bill will still only come to about $8 per person.
Peggy Sue BBQ
Much ado is made of barbecue in Dallas, and it's true that a lot of places roll out a tasty rib platter, but none comes close to the culinary sensations being served up at Peggy Sue BBQ. The spareribs, rubbed in spine-shivering spices and cooked to tender perfection, are a good choice. However, the showstopper is the baby backs, which are cooked in an oh-my-God-this-is-so-sweet-I-have-it-on-my-ears-and-I-don't-care sauce made of maple and brown sugar. Combined with the salty taste of the meat, which falls from the bone, these ribs are as good as it gets.

Culver's
The hamburgers are perfect, throwbacks to the burgers we once bought at a family-run drive-in where everything was made to order--and to a real human being's exacting standards of quality, not a corporate entity that simply ships frozen goodies to a franchisee and its careless staff of teen-agers. But that's not all Culver's, a Wisconsin-based chain, has to offer. There's creamy, freshly made frozen custard, a Midwestern mainstay, available in several flavors (try the peach) and with a couple of dozen toppings, including blueberry, raspberry, blackberry and peanut butter (better than it sounds). The fish and chips ($6.79) tops what you'd get in most sit-down establishments, and Culver's also offers fried Norwegian cod fillets, fried chicken and several sandwiches. Culver's is a little more expensive than your average fast-food joint, but the difference in quality is remarkable.

One of our fave joints in the "window to weight gain" category. (Simpson's joke. Sorry. We're weak.) A neighborhood treasure near Southern Methodist University, Bubba's serves fowl that is by no means foul. (We can't stop with the puns, though!) When we attended SMU, we used to go there to watch the co-eds pound down the meaty chicken, the huge rolls and the accompanying gravy, then wonder how many years it would be before that all showed up in their thighs. All our guesses proved wrong. Liposuction, you know. But we digress. This excellent chicken joint is the place to go when burgers get dull. The side veggies don't always stand up to the winged bird they serve, but if it's chicken you're after, Bubba's does it right.
No, we're not talking about the icky-sweet stuff in iridescent colors that we pulled from wooden crates at the family reunion when we were kids. This is the adult version of cherry soda: not too sweet, just the right amount of carbonation, sold in real bottles, with a luscious, deep-purple hue and flavor that bears some resemblance to an actual fruit. Though IBC, better known for its root beer, has its roots in St. Louis, its sodas are now bottled right here in Plano, and IBC black cherry flavor is so much better than the mass-market brands' cherry concoctions. If you haven't had cherry soda since you were 6, it's time to reacquaint your taste buds.
Metro Diner
Back in the day, before we had spouses and 'sponsibility, the Metro was our home-away-from; we gave out its number as our own, the way old New York journos in the '50s passed off a bar's digits whenever they needed to be found in the wee small hours of the morning...or midafternoon. We lived beneath the dim flicker of the Metro's fluorescents; we puffed upon our coffin nails and choked down our caffeine while the jukebox murmured the bruised blues of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. We scarfed down our scrambled eggs and toast and crisp bacon and hash browns at 3 p.m., usually at 3 a.m. We watched our colleagues and friends and absolute strangers (they who live at the counter, propping up their weary frames after a likely trundle over from nearby Baylor) dine upon grilled-cheese sandwiches or pecan waffles or chicken-fried delights. We read, we wrote, mostly we all just talked till the cigarettes ran out or the coffee pot went dry. That was before the redo a few years ago, before they cleaned up the joint--which, as far as we're concerned, is like polishing the Hope diamond. We may be more settled (or maybe some of us just settled), but still the Metro beckons. We may not go as late or as often, but we go when we can--during that witching hour, usually, when the sky looks overcast even on a cloudless day. We'll be against one of the windows, smoking and drinking coffee and dipping biscuits into running eggs as we watch the world hustle to a crawl. Join us, yes, but leave us alone. We shall return the favor. It's the Metro's way.

Best Of Dallas®

Best Of