Best Grocery Store Snack 2002 | Salsa at Whole Foods Market | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

Most people we see at Whole Foods are buying stuff, so we don't think anyone goes there just to snack on the free samples in the aisles. But around the pineapple-mango salsa bowl, sometimes you wonder. It doesn't stick around long. The unlikely combination of fresh fruit and heat/spice, courtesy of chilies, cilantro and onion, is as refreshing as it is unusual. True, Tex-Mex purists might not even call this salsa. But it's such a brilliant departure from the traditional tomato-based varieties, and such a relief in the summer heat, it gets the best nod on originality alone.

Parked in the West Village, where the tanned and tucked preen and leased BMWs breed like lab bunnies, Patrick Colombo's Ferré is an impeccably dressed Tuscan feedlot--razor-sharp. It's a collection of well-organized shapes and colors (amber mostly) with warming wood struts tempering chilly contemporary gusts such as the back bar, a cubist flourish of blurred glass and metal. Service isn't stellar, but the food is. Perfect gnocchi (a rarity). Desperately tender pasta with give. Flake-frenzied salmon. Zesty tomato soup with a poofy-do milk froth. Ferré's kitchen physics are executed by Kevin Ascolese, the toque who turned culinary tricks at Mi Piaci and the defunct Salve! Except here he does it with an eye affixed to brutal cost-consciousness. And it's good to nosh Italian that doesn't gnaw at your credit limit.

We've said it before and we'll say it again: Ifs Ands & Butts is the best place to wet your whistle without getting a buzz on. This shop sells specialty soda pop that you cannot find at the local grocery store, soda pop you've never heard of and soda pop your granddaddy used to buy you. We're talking about Nehi grape, Moxie cream soda and Frostie cola, the original recipe sold in the original 10-ounce bottle. That's just to name three of the more than 130 in-store brands. We recommend a trip to the store, located in the newly spruced Bishop Arts District, because the scarcity of some bottles requires on-site consumption. Also, it's a nice neighborhood. But if that doesn't work, proprietor Hamilton Rousseau has posted all his brands on the Internet,, and he'll ship your order to you wherever you are.

There are a lot of bad apple tarts out there: sticky, dry, old and washed-out. It's gotten so it's hard to remember what the thing is supposed to taste (or look, or feel) like. Well, refresh your memories with Paris Vendôme's apple tart (not the only tart there, mind you) galette with caramel ice cream--a simple piece of lively resilience. The pastry is delicate and light but supple. It also has valor, leaving the apple to flaunt its sassiness without getting bogged down in the juice flood. And the caramel sauce is among the smoothest, richest and most satisfying we've tasted. Order two in case you've lost some short-term memory down a water pipe.

Just as the Magnolia (and before it the Angelika Film Center) has exponentially expanded the city's movie-going options, Paciugo Gelato, the "Italian Gelato Renaissance," has broadened the city's snacking horizons. Gelato is another word for ice cream, but Paciugo's gelato is no ordinary ice cream. What makes this ideal after-movie snack so silky is it contains less air and is not as "cold" as other brands, allowing its natural flavors to tantalize the taste buds. This especially smooth treat also sits lightly in the tummy because, dieters take note, it contains less fat and sugar than the standard fare. The more tepid American can make the European leap into gelato by ordering familiar flavors, like a devilish chocolate-chocolate chip or Rocky Road, while the more adventurous might experiment with marron glacé, pannacotta or tiramisu. Our favorite is lavender.

We were going to give this to Einstein's, but something about handing out this accolade to a chain; readers do that enough anyway (fave burger in years past: Burger King; we kid you not). Besides, we love this venerable establishment, which is the Cheers of local bageltoriums; on any given morning, regulars can be spotted hanging out with owner Herschel Rayford (known solely by his first Charo), discussing life, drinking jumbo cups of good (not great, but close) coffee and noshing on some of this town's finest soulful holeless breadstuffs. We're partial to the everything bagel--garlic, poppy, sesame, goodness--especially when toasted and sandwiched with egg, cheese and bacon for the aptly named breakfast special. This is the closest we've found to the New York-style bagel, and we've looked; we wandering Jews will wander far, far, far for the perfect bagel and the quintessential salami and Reuben sandwiches, of which this place serves plenty.

Some are flat, some are bilious, some rely mainly on salt for their flavor; Lucky's tomato soup is merely sublime. We've always thought good tomato soup should have nothing to do with low fat--the piquant tomato taste should be gently subdued, but not overpowered, by the smoothness of cream. A real tomato base, evidenced by pureé and pieces, is likewise essential. Seasonings (including basil, we assume) add a savory kick, while the croutons sprinkled on top meld with the soup, creating a delicious breadiness. And, of course, soup goes well with the cool, crisp garden salad, topped with--well, don't get us started. We are certain we're shortening our life span with every creamy spoonful of this stuff, but we just can't stop ourselves.

Brandon LaJoie

Hate to cook? Don't have time? Then Eatzi's is the place for you. This market and bakery offers chef-prepared meals for people on the go, and the variety is outstanding. Eatzi's offers everything from lasagna and Spanish rice to King Ranch chicken and twice-baked potatoes. Just heat and eat. And if you're too lazy for the heating part, you can order from Eatzi's salad bar or sandwich bar. There's also a hot-food section that provides an excellent alternative to Boston Market. We suggest the rotisserie chicken with green beans and rosemary potatoes. Another plus: While you're wandering around trying to figure out what to take home, be sure to take advantage of the free samples Eatzi's has placed throughout the store. But don't spoil your dinner; it's too good to miss.

Alex Scott

Crunchy on the outside, chewy in the middle, baked in the store with real butter, real eggs and real vanilla, these are real chocolate chip cookies the way you wish you remembered somebody baking them for you at home. The chocolate is either Guittard or Ghirardelli, and the experience is unforgettable.

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