Best Butter 2003 | Gumbo's Louisiana Style Cafe | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
A friend suggested this as his favorite spot for butter to put on bread, and so on a day we were feeling particularly decadent, we gave it a shot. ("I'll have just butter and toast, please. And my friend will have four fried chickens--and a Coke.") We agreed. Not for the reason he said--"Because it tastes good, and I like to put it in my mouth"--as that could apply to a dozen categories of food, drink and lascivious miscellany. No, we appreciated it because it's herbed and spicy. We do this to our butter at home, but why do so few restaurants do so? A few flecks of green, a bit of piquant flavor and then butter becomes not just a condiment but a meal.

Taryn Walker
We make the trip over to Mai's at least once a week for the clay pot, a devilishly hot (in every sense of the word) mixture of rice, Asian vegetables, rice noodles and, in our case, tofu. (It works just as well with chicken and shrimp.) We'll accept no arguments when stating that it is, without a doubt, the best thing we've ever eaten, Vietnamese or otherwise. Seriously, don't test us on this one. The only strong competition comes from the other items on the menu; may we suggest the supple spring rolls, or perhaps a bowl of spicy chicken soup? Whatever you get, remember to wash it down with a tall glass of the finest iced Vietnamese coffee in town, which deserves its own award. Mai's doesn't look like much, inside or out, but the kitchen is the only place that counts.
You can get something to take the edge off a hangover anywhere. A meat-and-potatoes plate of, well, meat and potatoes? Nothing special. There are plenty of places that'll hook you up. In a pinch, there are also half a dozen 7-Elevens on your way home. But if you're sober enough to want real food, something you can (and want to) remember eating the next morning, look no further than Cuba Libre. Chef Nick Badovinus mixes ingredients like a good DJ, giving well-worn ideas (say, tacos) a brand-new taste. Bonus: Thanks to the beautiful-people spillover from nearby Sense, you still have an outside shot at hooking up before you head home.
Sometimes, one dish done perfectly is enough to bring you back to a restaurant time and again. Such is the case with Jade Garden's orange chicken. While the restaurant itself is a dingy little place with ancient seating, cracked mirrors and limited parking, the chicken (extra crispy, with cashews, please) is almost painfully good. Covered in a sweet and salty sauce with pieces of orange peel, this dish is a delight not to be undertaken lightly: Please be sure to watch for drool and try not to burn yourself as you partake of this succulent poultry fare.

First, let's put a few things on the table. This is not New York. Bagels here are not New York bagels. They are like us: They are not kneaded; they are whipped. Bagels here are machine-made and have lots of air in them. They're soft. That doesn't mean they have to taste like doughnuts, but they can. You have to be careful. So for the best compromise between bagel reality and what we wish bagel reality could be, it's the Central Market salt bagel. This bagel offers generous size--a mittful. It's got a skin with a good amount of resistance, a body with some heft and big chunks of salt on the surface. If we can't have character, we'll make do with saltiness.
While Buffalo wings at most restaurants are an afterthought, Wing Stop makes it their business. Though we understand that it may be inconceivable that a chain restaurant has the best of anything in town, just hear us out. They do, because, um...we say so? There's no substantial argument here or anything, just our opinion that they're really, really good. Lip-smackingly good, even. Wing Stop's wings are served up hot and slathered in the best sauce around, with yummy fries alongside if you wish. They're prepared when you order them and can be doused with an array of obscure sauces (garlic Parmesan or lemon pepper, anyone?), so you can change it up when your tongue gets tired of being singed. These wings are hot and messy, so be sure to load up on napkins. You're going to need them.

Sooner or later, things become too complicated. This is true no matter the arena or walk of life. When our knowledge of the human body extended no further than the four humors, any barber could apply medicinal leeches or perform annual bleedings. Now we need specialists to assist the specialists referring us to other specialists who deny our medical insurance. Such is the case in the world of viniculture as well. In the old days, there was good wine (meaning French) or Thunderbird. Today, more than a million drinkable wines from vineyards in New Zealand and Argentina and South Africa and so on gather dust on shelves around the world. Todd Lincicome can discourse for hours on everything from soil types and rainfall amounts in wine-producing regions to storage conditions of individual vintages. Yet he lacks the snootiness we seem to expect from wine experts. Ask him for a decent, inexpensive wine (he doesn't even mind if you use the word "cheap") and he'll launch into a discussion of bargain bottles. Even tricky orders--"I'm having beef and like a dry red; she's having fish and enjoys a sweet white"--never throw him.

Perry's serves only prime beef, and while prime may at times seem interchangeable with flame-proof saddle padding on the city's menus, Perry's has the real thing both on paper and between the lips. It's juicy, rich and infiltrated with lusty silk that successfully straddles the razor-thin line between feminine refinement and masculine rusticity, never delving too far into either pocket. Each bite is a fresh adventure in the annals of beef-witted delight. Yet these gnaws are plump with exquisitely balanced flavor, and therefore rife with intelligence--the kind that fills your mind with two-fisted poetry.

Readers pick

It's a given that a competent service staff has a deft grip on the menu, and Perry's is no exception. Yet steak generally doesn't cause a strain on the culinary memory banks. What does tax servers are the vagaries of people. Perry's staff knows people. They know how to make them feel at ease, how to serve without being a pest (never interrupt a conversation to ask if everything is OK), how to anticipate needs, how to meet them without calling attention to the service protocol. Skillful service is being in the forefront while loitering in the background.

Readers pick

Technically speaking, Krispy Kreme's isn't the best cup of coffee, if by "cup of coffee" you mean just coffee. Starbucks is fine for that, though with all its iced drinks, the chain lately seems more like an ice cream stand. (Hint: If it has lots of ice, sugar and milk and is whipped in a blender, it ain't coffee. It's a milk shake.) Krispy Kreme's brew, taken in the right combination, hits on a more primitive level. Picture this: Your soul is screaming, as it's up early for another miserable day working for the man. Gotta have something to brace the mind, and only that pitch-perfect blend of chemicals will do. First, start with hot grease and sugar from a doughnut. Add caffeine from the joe, then pitch in some sweet, sweet nicotine from the morning's first cigarette, balanced delicately between two fingertips to keep you from singeing your eyebrows as you sip the steaming brew. Does the coffee taste the best? Who cares? What's important is that deep inside your psyche, a primal, raging beast rolls over and purrs. It's the best combo since some long-forgotten stoner said, "Hey, I know! Let's put the hash in the brownies."

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