Best Reason to Think You're in Brooklyn

Sal's Pizza

Sal's Pizza
It's the kind of neighborhood family spot you find all over the outer boroughs of New York: bright, bustling and filled with good smells and foreign, friendly waiters. In fact, Sal Jakova brought his family and recipes to this location (inevitably, a second Sal's is opening in Plano) from Queens 21 years ago. Some of the best pizza around, Neapolitan and Sicilian, bubbles in Sal's ovens to be sold by the slice as well as in pies of four sizes. The heroes are heroic, the calzones flaky and tongue-searing, the pastas more than passable, and the stromboli has, in previous years, been recognized in these pages as the city's best. The menu is rounded out by an ample selection of veal, chicken and seafood dishes. Sal's is also probably one of the safest places in town, because you'll almost always find cops eating here, testimony to the large portions and working-guy prices. Go on a Sunday night, when Sal's is presided over by colorful son Kenny, and you'll find a cross section of the community chowing down like straphangers.

Scalini's Pizza & Pasta
Even people who aren't fans of pizza will surreptitiously try to sneak a slice of Scalini's. It's thin, not too delicate and the options for topping allow creative license for personal pizza heaven. For dining in, delivery or carryout, the family folks at Scalini's serve up the best thin-crust pie we've ever masticated. Although incredible when direct from the oven, the cheesy goodness is never compromised by a quick car ride. A favorite with us is one with sausage, fresh basil and fresh tomatoes (for veggie-lovers, eighty-six the sausage and add pine nuts). The flavor is robust, and the aroma is divine. Order up; just don't forget a side Greek salad.

Alfonso's Italian Restaurant
You may think you need to live near this White Rock eatery to order its pizza, but we would argue that the trip is worth it unless you live in Wylie or Red Oak--and even then, it may be a good idea to give it a go. Alfonso's is a small Italian restaurant that serves pretty good pasta, but it's the pizza that distinguishes this place. Generous portions, fresh vegetables, enough (but not too much) tomato sauce, sausage to die for...oh, sweet Mama, we're gettin' hungry. Our fave? Difficult to say, but it's hard to go wrong with a large sausage, onion and mushroom.

Lakewood Landing
The title Best Hamburger is not limited to the burger alone. It encompasses the atmosphere and the options as well as flavor. When we want a burger, chances are we want a drink, too. (Hey, we're going for the full-blown unhealthy beef and brew combo.) Enter the Landing, as we neighborhood dwellers are prone to call it, and they've got the atmosphere and the options for our dietary delinquency. It's dark, cool and no one's easily identifiable should our running partner happen to saunter by. Plus, there's a selection of cheeses (go with provolone) to heighten the caloric content of our edible sin. The taste is slightly charred, not too salty and fresh with all the veggies piled on. And the bun...the bun is sheer toasty goodness. Fries abound, and there's even a veggie burger for the meat-free. Order a beer and burger, hit one of the best jukeboxes in town and choose a well-worn seat for a real red-meat treat.
Often, big muffs are overrated. What you want is a muff that is just the right size. You ever try to eat a muff that was too big to fit in your mouth? Not fun. Quality, not quantity, is the way to go when searching out a tasty muff. Which is why our favorite muffuletta, when we're not wanting to stuff ourselves, is the authentic one found at Gulf Coast. Served with Cajun fries and (if you're smart) topped off with a $2 Stoli Bloody Mary, this bite of heaven takes us back to New Orleans' Central Grocery, the originator of the muff. And if you can't pay homage to the muff's home, then don't put one in your mouth.

Crescent City Cafe
Isn't Louisiana considered one of the fattest states? Judging by the Louisiana cooking replicated in the Crescent City Cafe's muffuletta, it's no wonder. For the uninitiated, the muffuletta is a delectable sandwich with unusual flavor from a combination of ham and cheese and olives on a toasted loaf of sesame-seed-topped bread. The cafe sells the quarter muffuletta. Or you can get a half muffuletta, which is filling enough that you can skip meals for the next several days. Throw us some beads.

Wild About Harry's
Harry's has had it going on since 1996. Truth be told, his mom had it before that, since it's her stellar recipe that makes possible the creamiest frozen custard ever to pass our lips. The shop makes custard daily, changing up flavors while keeping favorites like chocolate, strawberry, etc. It's probably safe to claim that if they've made it, we've tried it, and rarely have we been disappointed. Don't worry if a particular flavor doesn't appear on the day's list. Almost all flavors Harry's makes are available in pints and quarts. While in the shop, don't let a good dog down. Harry's is also famous for hot dogs (the best in the city), and there's nothing boring about them (the dog comes in various clothing from Texas chili to sauerkraut).
The qualities of perfect cheesecake are really oxymorons if you think about it. Each bite should be saturated with flavor but fluffy and rich, while also being light. The Xango has all those characteristics, plus a surprising one: It's wrapped in pastry dough and flash-fried. Sign us up. Understand, though, we're not supporters of all things fried. We don't dig the fried Twinkie, and frankly, a battered Snickers is way too much to deal with. The Xango, however, is so different from all the greasy, too-much-batter treats that are dunked in funnel cake mix. And while we do love a good funnel cake, in this instance, lighter is better. The pastry shell is crisp and thin, makes a nice crackle when attacked by a fork and, oddly enough, isn't greasy in the slightest. Topped only with cinnamon sugar, the Xango stands on its own (no unnecessary drizzle) and rewards the taste buds.
Taco Lounge
This is Texas, so it's understood that there are quite a few margaritas to be had out there. And before we went on this quest we were pretty accepting of whatever 'rita goodness was served to us. Then we walked into Sol's. To be honest, we weren't thinking Best of Dallas. We were just having some Mexican food with a friend and decided to imbibe. Our patient waiter discussed with us the merits of the top shelf and urged us to choose that over the basic version. A little suspicious of a possible up-sell, we went ahead. Bless that man! Sauza Conmemorativo and Gran Marnier provided an outstanding base for what our bartender concocted for us. It was light, not too tart, not too sweet, didn't burn the hair off our chest, and yet it sure as hell hit us about 10 minutes later. This top shelf schooled us in the finely prepared margarita.
Cafe Izmir
Part of the experience of the Izmir order is the personality of the husband-and-wife team (Mehdi and Faye Nazari, an uncle and aunt of the owners Beau and Ali) that usually answers the phone. Mehdi's got an amazingly accented voice that is welcoming and calming (for those of us who hate phoning in an order). And both he and Faye are fantastic at helping the undecided choose what to order. The chicken and arugula sandwich on marble rye bread is amazingly bold. Chicken schnitzel is a true specialty, and the cold mozzarella sandwich with basil and tomatoes is crisp, light and makes a perfect meal with the addition of a side Greek salad (the dressing, oh, the dressing). The Mediterranean fare is a top-notch delivery option, but plan to order before 9 p.m. As Mehdi always says, they'll have it there "in about 40 minutes, hopefully sooner." It's always sooner, and in the world of delivery, punctuality and ordering assistance along with spectacular food make Izmir Market and Deli truly the best. Don't forget to order a brownie; they're delicious and about as big as your face.

Best Place for General Tso to Chicken Out

China Express

It's Sunday evening, the lawn's mowed, laundry's done, the kitchen's clean and, frankly, why dirty it again? Pick up the phone and call the friendly man who remembers every customer (and we're convinced he's the super-nice delivery guy, too) and won't complain if you want a fountain drink instead of a canned one. While the Mongolian beef, fried rice and chicken lo mein are sure bets, there's a dish that's truly worth the caloric intake and financial splurge on takeout: General Tso's chicken. It's nothing short of delectable, with crispy bits surrounding tender chicken pieces in a sweet and spicy sauce (mind the demonic red peppers). There's nothing "general" about this chicken; it's so good we can't believe it arrives in Styrofoam.

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