Best Hangover Therapy 2003 | Angry Dog | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
Patrick Williams
Dad says the best hangover cure is to take an aspirin before bed and another upon waking up, washed down with a Coca-Cola. That works for the headache and drunken-injury aches, but what about that pit inside screaming for sustenance? Enter the Angry Dog and eat away at the post-intox hunger with an Angry Dog cheeseburger, nachos or even The Natural if you're not real keen on the meat. This may sound like a bad thing, but the sodium content of a burger here is enough to force you into healthy hydration for the remainder of the day, and that's a good thing when the only liquid in your system is the kind others can smell emitting from the pores on your contaminated body. The waitstaff is helpful and deft at refilling drinks and maneuvering through the close tables and our burger-eating asses. Plus, if you subscribe to the "hair of the dog" system, the full bar can knock you out of hangover and into next week.

There's cinnamon roll French toast, French toast sticks, even stuffed French toast. All these things are great (usually "for a limited time") at some 24-hour breakfast joint, but the best French toast has no gimmick. It's thick, soaked instead of battered and thick, thick, thick. What better way to achieve such qualities than to use fresh challah (Jewish egg bread) instead of skinny little pieces of white bread? That's what the Bronx offers on its Sunday brunch menu, and we're sure Mom would be embarrassed to serve that skimpy Wonder Bread version after having a gander at this one. Two slices of thick, flavorful toast lie temptingly bordered by a pitcher of warm syrup, real whipped cream, strawberries and butter for use at the diner's discretion. One bite and the firm crusty edges give way to the tender heart of the challah, and Sunday morning magically fills with tasty bliss.

Raw beef in Texas is generally good for just one thing: grills. But what do you get when you slap raw beef with French rigor? One thing you don't get is freedom flanks. Another thing you don't get is modesty. Café C's menu, created by Frenchman and "C" owner Francois Fotre, boasts that its steak tartare is "simply the best." And its home of Little Elm, a mere mattress dimple in the stretch of bedroom communities hugging Lewisville Lake, is not a destination by any stretch. But 48 minutes of drive time seems a reasonable price for this mound of raw meat. It's not so much the rich meat--urged into sublime flavors with a spicy dressing of egg yolk, mustard, cayenne, chopped capers, paprika, red wine vinegar and a little lemon--that draws. It's the substitution of traditional toast points with house-made pommes frites (otherwise known as freedom fries). Why spread raw meat on toast when it's much easier and tastier to gouge a pinch of ground carnality with a fry tip?

Fungus is mostly a bore, except when it's between your toes. Yet this same sort of urgency can be coaxed out of a mushroom every now and again. Avanti's stuffed portobello Florentine with glazed chablis béchamel and Parmesan cheese is a lusty fungus treatment. Centered on a fleshy portobello cap complemented--but not in any way smothered--by the rich flavors of the clean, smooth sauce, this dish is a masterpiece of understated richness; of hearty meatiness that can only come from a toadstool relentlessly pestered with dairy products.

Named after the sprawling ranch in the 1950s epic flick Giant, Reata is a Cowtown narrative of Texas cuisine. It skillfully merges diverse Southwestern influences with Texas staples. Tenderloin tamale with pecan mash is just one such species. It's a supple meshing of flaky masa, beef, chopped pecan and cream wrapped in a shuck. The balance is impeccable; the textures are sublime, with only a bit of spice to dislodge it from potential doldrums--a tamale for the epic set.

The Mozzarella Company is an amazing hole-in-the-wall Dallas success that produces specialty cheeses. We're talking real whole-milk mozzarella that could make any self-respecting Italian smack his lips. It's smooth and creamy and just flat-out good. Get out of the supermarket. Drive to the Mozzarella Company and see for yourself. You will agree. Molto buon.

Appetizers are nice friendly little things, like shrimp cocktails and fried crab cakes that look like powder puffs. But fried jumbo asparagus? What a freak. Served on a bed of field greens and roasted corn relish with an addictive, smooth mango-serrano chili cream sauce, these battered and fried asparagus stalks look like battle-hardened insect legs. Yet you must never judge asparagus by its duds. The stalks are delicious, with a brittle, crisp coating and a snappy stem that didn't dry out or go mushy after a trip to the fry bath. Don't try this with a carrot.
Dragonfly's white bean soup is as beautiful as it is tasty. It's assembled at the table with bowls of ingredients--tomato, tiny crouton cubes, smoked bacon and white beans--ceremoniously transferred to a serving dish. This soup is a smooth, piping-hot blend with a creamy texture and a delicate racy aroma from pureed fennel, while the rough bean grip is pleasantly pronounced. It's as nourishing to the paunch as it is captivating to the noodle, which is pretty good for a bean.
Nikita is a hash of Soviet Bloc funk twisted and sanitized into Red hip, which means it serves caviar and James Bond flicks. But it also has one swell innovation crafted with a lowly proletariat root--the beet, progenitor of borscht. Nikita's golden beet and goat-cheese salad, feathered with arugula and planked with petite green beans, is a masterpiece. Slightly sweet and tangy pink beets loiter on the edges of a plate puffed with greens and doused in horseradish vinaigrette. Add a flight of vodkas, and it will send you into orbit like Laika the Sputnik 2 space dog.

La Dolce Vita
Take a break from overpowering, burnt-cheese-laden, tomato paste-centric Italian food with a light dish from La Dolce Vita. While they do serve classic pastas and pizzas, we often opt for the salads. The caprese, one of our favorites, is flavorful with juicy tomatoes, red onions and fresh, delicate mozzarella mixed with field greens and the house vinaigrette. We adore the arugula salad--crisp, peppery arugula and shaved lettuce drizzled with lemongrass olive oil. The fact that you can dine here without feeling like you ate a bread truck makes it a great lunch spot.

Back in the '90s, when Seinfeld dominated prime time, one of the things Elaine really wanted was a big salad. Sounds easy enough, but apparently it's more difficult than one might think, and Elaine's not the only one who's come up short. Dallas menus are laden with subpar salads--limp lettuce, bland dressings and sparse ingredients abound. But not at Baker Bros. These guys do it right, and they do it big. All five offerings on the deli's salad menu are excellent, but the Santa Fe chicken salad is a standout. A mix of greens sown with roasted chicken, cheddar cheese, tomato, red onion, green onion, black olives, cilantro and spiced pecans, the Santa Fe is a meal within a meal. Just when you think you've picked out all the good stuff, a quick flick of the fork reveals another layer of once-hidden heaven. And topped with Baker Bros.' Southwestern honey mustard, well, it's just too hard to talk about.

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