Best Orange Chicken 2003 | Jade Garden | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
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."
Located across from Baylor hospital, this place deserves a spot in the Greasy Spoon Hall of Fame. Waitresses balance three or four orders at once, all the while yelling good-natured chatter at one another and calling every customer "sweetie." Signs on the wall note that only "two coffee warm-ups are allowed" before you start paying again, and another politely asks that you "do not stand in front of the door to smoke." The griddle is on 24 hours, cranking out breakfast feasts (eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, breakfast tacos, etc.) anytime you get the urge. Back in the kitchen they're whipping up chicken-fried steak, smothered pork chops, pinto beans and turnip greens to die for. Their motto is "Always Cookin'," and that's truth in advertising. Don't be surprised if you have to wait for a booth or a spot at the counter to open.
Better get to the Metropolitan Cafe early on Wednesdays, because the lunch special is crab cakes, and they sell like hotcakes, whatever that means. Unlike many Dallas restaurants that buy their crab cakes from food distributors, Metropolitan's Momma Christine makes these oval morsels from scratch, having divined her recipe from a dream, she says, as she did for many of the soups, salads, sandwiches and such that find their way onto the menu of this hot downtown spot. These babies are sautéed rather than deep-fried, loaded with fresh crabmeat rather than frozen and served up Texas-style with black-eyed peas and coleslaw. Lawyers, cops and journalists lousy for lunch turn away in tears when they learn there will be no more crab cakes until the following Wednesday. Unless, of course, they can dream up their own recipe.

Their tagline is "We'll make you a pizza you can't refuse." The logo splashed across their menu features a sextet of sharp-suited gentlemen walking toward you like a pack of reservoir dogs...and one is armed with a pizza box. The name of the joint is Café Nostra, and while they may play it up "bad," every run-in we've had with these fellas has been good. Backed by lunch and dinner choices that are available in-house, for pickup or (best of all) for delivery, the fine folks at Nostra make us almost forget that we're not around the corner from a genuine New York eatery. Appetizers to salads, pastas to pizzas, it's all here, capice? Our favorite? Start off with some garlic knots and maliciously addictive Buffalo wings, then move on to the main event: The Sicilian. Aesthetically, it's a bit like "The Big New Yorker," but the similarities end there, as Nostra's Sicilian is actually, you know, good. Each ingredient is balanced with precision in this thick-crusted rectangle of pie perfection. You'll likely have leftovers, and you'll definitely make use of them.

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