La Duni Latin Cafe
Oh, how cozy this place is. La Duni is owner Espartaco Borga's quest to craft a Latin Brasserie with homestyle food from Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico and Cuba served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. All the homespun recipes are authentic, and to that end, he succeeds spectacularly with enhancements such as house-baked goods and wine program agility that is as sophisticated as it is functional. La Duni's wine list catalogs some 89 wines, all of them from Spain or South America and all of them available in more ways than you can order a religious experience. They'll serve your wine by the half-glass, by the glass, by the half-bottle, by the bottle--hell, they'd probably pour some in your Calvin's if you asked them to. And like all religious experiences, wine makes a swell breakfast beverage, no matter how you order it.

The Riviera is practically a Dallas Institution, distinguished by its suave continental food and sensibility. To that end, its service execution is tight and remorselessly efficient. While it embraces a level of formality that can leave you a little chilly, it's impressive nonetheless: attentive and well-orchestrated to the point of dizziness. Wine glasses are whisked away immediately after the wine is ordered and replaced to reflect the appropriate type of wine. The ensuing service is impeccable, right to the wiping of the dribbles from the neck lip of the wine bottle. Glasses are filled as soon as the supply in the glass gets low, as if a pair of eyes hovers over the table waiting for the wine level in the glass to drop below 2 ounces. Servers are well-briefed on the menu, answering detailed questions without so much as a brain-strained hiccup. It's the kind of professionalism and coddling you wish the IRS would employ. But then you'd have to tip them. And who could survive that?
Cantina Laredo
The perfect chip is thin, lightly salted, freshly fried and devoid of translucent, grease-saturated blemishes. The perfect salsa is Cantina Laredo's tawny tomatillo brew, served warm and full of rich, smoky flavor imparted by chipotle peppers. And if that weren't enough, the restaurant has another version that, served cool, is a skillful complement: a bracingly fresh red tomato-based salsa with garlic, onion and cilantro. We've tasted plenty of fine salsas in Dallas, including those at Gloria's, El Ranchito and Cuquita's, but Cantina Laredo's is the most distinctive and remains the best.
Culver's
You've probably never heard of the place, because it's the lone North Texas outpost of a Wisconsin-based chain known for its great malts, shakes, sundaes and frozen custard--so much better than the vaguely dairy, soft-serve substance extruded from machines at Dairy Queen and Sonic. But we'll travel a long way for the purest, tastiest, old-fashioned drive-in hamburger experience: fresh ground chuck seared on a 475-degree grill, served on a butter-stroked bun and accompanied by crinkle-cut fries in a paper sleeve. You can actually taste this meat, because it wasn't steamed on a grill (hello, McDonald's), nuked in a microwave (yo, Burger King) or entombed in a walk-in freezer. Your "ButterBurger" is always made to perfection, since Culver's maintains strict control of quality and vendors. And a regular cheeseburger costs only $1.79.
This exotic confectionery serves up lots of enticing and imaginative flavors of ice cream such as rose geranium blossom, French lavender, red ginger and red port, and orchid vanilla. Palate-cleansing sorbets include margarita; peach and champagne with mint. Available at Whole Foods Markets. Go ahead. Lap a bloom.
Veggie Garden
Veggie Garden is Chinese food without livestock or pets. This restaurant serves fare void of animal products, preservatives, food coloring or MSG. Veggies are stir-fried, sautéed and otherwise cooked and sauced with simulated scraps of beef, chicken, pork, shrimp and fish made of soy proteins. Yum yum.
Cuba Libre
Cuba Libre had its gears ground from the outset with the objective of pulling in and lubricating Dallas' stylish throngs into sultry swarms. The look and feel is addictive. And to keep them there, Cuba Libre has enlisted former We Oui chef Nick Badovinus to seduce the flies with stuff like grilled achiote pork chops on camote-corn hash and roasted banana curry sauce, and citrus tempura battered fish--because nothing's worse than being malnourished when you're trying to do the bar bump.
Yes, the martinis are big and tasty, full of liquid courage that would make Sinatra proud. But that's not all that makes the Ranch worthwhile; it's the incredibly hot cheese that high-heels its way in and out of the Ranch's doors. You've probably often heard of the stereotypical, plastic Dallas look. Go here to see it. Not long ago, we were enjoying a few responsibly consumed adult beverages when a white limo pulled up and let out two big, blond bims and their escort: a balding old man who stood a good foot shorter than the ladies. Maybe it was the 'tini, but we've never laughed so hard. Entertainment that real you can't get from Survivor.

Arcodoro Pomodoro is little more than a simple pair of Sardinian joined-at-the-hip dining experiences. It's all at once a place to dine in elegance (Pomodoro), while it slips into something more comfortable and throws a little pizza (Arcodoro) at your appetite and some hip-grinding glamour at your libido (the bar guests). Yet the differences between this genetic aberration's dual personalities are as striking as they are similar. Everything on the menu is available in each Sardinian incarnation, except pizza is offered only in the more casual (and noisier) Arcodoro. The food is fresh, rustic and aromatic with oddball additions such as grated bottarga--the dried roe of gray mullet--and a couple of twists on carpaccio. The wine list is an intelligent capturing of Italian pressings as well as wines from the island of Sardinia. Plus, these restaurants are in Dallas, a city not known for its gray mullet.
Steel Restaurant & Lounge
This exotically erotic gulper is a libido depth charge with a little proof pumped in to facilitate heady reflection. The potion consists of uni (sea urchin roe), ponzu sauce, tobiko caviar (flying fish eggs) and either Hennessey or Rémy Martin XO cognac kicked with lime juice. The ingredients are layered in a cordial glass and topped with chopped scallions. Throw it back, swallow hard and smile.

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