Few car hawkers are as passionate about wine as Van Roberts (Point West Volvo) and his Lola. The restaurant is his vino playground. Roberts is a diligent and tireless wine-taster and list-tweaker, and his roster shows it. Lola's selection of Italian wines rivals that of just about any Italian restaurant in Dallas, and his group of Alsatian wines (more than 30) is unheard of in these parts. German and Austrian bottles, too. Half-bottles and magnums round out size options, and 25 wines are offered by the glass. There is also a collection of Roberts' favorite bottles from around the world. But the best thing about Lola's wine list is the prices, and not just the generous list of "twentysomethings" in the $20-$29 range. Roberts keeps his markups low, which means you can get a bottle of Krug Grand Cuvee for $170 (hard to find on lists for less than $200) or a '97 Diamond Creek "Volcanic Hill" cab for $180. This puts that special-occasion sip within reach with wines that most people will never taste in their lifetimes.
You can't drive through, and they won't serve it to you in a cardboard box, but for flavor and crispness, Ed Lowe's restaurant, which has been on the Dallas scene for 32 years, is head and shoulders above all others. All day Sunday (11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.) and on Monday and Tuesday nights, the $10.50 fried chicken plate is on the menu. You can get two large pieces of white, dark or mixed. And there are fresh vegetables, salad, soup or fruit. And, hey, you can ask for seconds with no additional charge. Their secret? It's the marinade the chicken is soaked in for 12 hours. "Can't tell you what's in it," says Lowe, "but our cook got the recipe from his mother."
Progeny of longtime Dallas restaurateur Charlie Venetis, Charlie's Opa! Grille is a rich cacophony of Greek grub, sprawling the gamut from deliciously tender lamb chops to flaky spanakopita (a savory pie), juicy grilled chicken, gyros that are lean, rich moussaka (Greek lasagna) and saganaki, thick pie sections of lightly breaded Romano cheese that are deep-fried, placed on a hot metal plate, doused with a shot of vodka that hisses and steams, and then set ablaze. The waiter shouts "Opa!," which is Greek for, "What the hell happened to your eyebrows?"
Nana has always had a spectacular view of Dallas from its 27th-floor perch, but it was blunted by burgundy brothel décor that included acoustic ceiling tiles, brass railings and sagging velvet curtains that cramped the windows. Now more than a year old, Nana's understated makeover has settled in. Alterations include Asian art installations from the Trammell Crow family collection, unobtrusive sage green curtains, rich gold carpeting, newly installed banquettes and ribbed, sandblasted glass panels around the raised open kitchen, subduing the severe visual thrust this culinary cockpit had when it was wrapped in clear glass. The food in this stunning room is virtually flawless, crafted as it is by David McMillan, easily among the top handful of chefs in Dallas. McMillan performs unparalleled wizardry that manifests itself in grilled Texas quail (with armagnac-poached prunes), silky grilled prime fillet in a black shallot sauce and sublime veal Rossini in a brew of Madeira and truffles, among other classics with shrewdly imaginative twists. Service is superb, and the wine portfolio is well-endowed. Plus, there is Nana herself: a 6-foot-by-9-foot portrait of a reclining, Rubenesque nude painted by Russian-Polish artist Gospodin Marcel Gavriel Suchorowsky in 1881. Tasty.
Café Izmir has all the staples: briskly fresh tabbouleh, velvety-smooth and nutty hummus (among the best you'll find anywhere), warm, thick pita bread and deliciously juicy lamb, beef and chicken. But the best part of Café Izmir is the tapas offerings, little plates of mixed olives, dolmas, grilled asparagus and beef and chicken kabobs, among other nibbles. On Tuesdays the tapas plates are just two bucks, along with $14 bottles of wine from an eclectic list that includes offerings from Greece, Lebanon, Spain and France. This is a noteworthy weekly event, especially in light of the news over the summer that the feds are thinking of bringing back the $2 bill after a seven-year hiatus. According to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, as of February 28, 1999, there was some $1.2 billion in $2 bills pumping through the economy. Hell, let's launch a campaign. Collect $2 bills and energize the currency every tapas Tuesday. Encourage other restaurants to have $2 bill specials. Without a strong $2 bill, the terrorists win.
Jerry Jeff Walker immortalized it in song. Chain restaurants often lace their margaritas with it. Even Boone's Farm has a version of the concoction. In spite of all that, we love that sangria wine. And at Spanish tapas bar Cafe Madrid, we really love it. Their sangria is a mixture of red wine and...well, we can't tell you the rest, something about a "trade secret." But whatever, the stuff is good, and in the summer months, you can opt for a white sangria that's made with cava, a Spanish sparkling wine, and some other stuff we can't tell you about. It's cool and refreshing and yummy, and the mystery just makes it all the more exciting. And if you like to do a little snacking with your drinking, the eatery's tapas selection offers some excellent complements to the fruity beverage. Just a note, though: If, like us, you've never been accused of being the brightest crayon in the box, and you can't figure out why the menu doesn't make sense, look to your right; the other side is in English. Yeah. Have some more sangria.

Well, Dallas finally got The Bird. First it was College Station (in 1990), then Austin (in 1999) and Houston (in 2001), but it seemed Big D might get lost in the shuffle. So when Freebirds World Burrito opened this spring in the Old Town shopping center, the lines that formed outside made it clear that this grand opening was a long time coming. Freebirds makes the best burrito this side of the border, any border, ever. But the customer has a lot to do with that, considering all the options The Bird offers for its burritos. Sizes range from a half to a super monster, and there are four types of tortillas, six kinds of sauces and ingredients too numerous to mention. Let's just say there's a bunch of 'em, and they're mighty tasty. If you opt for the monster or super monster, though, be prepared for leftovers.

We used to think that our old college roommate's homemade piña coladas were the best possible use for pineapple juice. They were so good we almost didn't mind the brain freeze we got trying to hide the evidence from our dorm monitor. But, you see, we had yet to discover The Scza. While the name (pronounced skee-za) sounds like something you might hear on Doggy Fizzle Televizzle, and, in fact, it is off da hizzle fo' shizzle, there's nothing ghetto about this Meridian Room original. A combination of vanilla vodka, coconut rum and pineapple juice, The Scza is the perfect beverage for summer or spring or any other season. Admittedly, the drink is pretty girly, and the cherry that tops it off doesn't help matters, but take this opportunity to get in touch with your feminine side. And if you're able, do it on the first Monday of the month, when The Meridian Room hooks up with Good Records for Good Music Monday. You'll have the chance to listen to new releases, win prizes and sip on half-price draft beers. Definitely worth a trip to Exposition Park.

Dining vegetarian frequently involves ordering a salad (hold the ham cubes), second-guessing whether the soup may have been cooked with chicken stock or leaving hungry. None of these applies at Cosmic Café. It's all vegetarian, much of it is vegan and we still haven't found a dish we don't like. Though it's Indian-inspired, there are also enchiladas, beans and rice, salads, sandwiches, a burger (meatless, of course) and a personal pizza in addition to samosas, dahl, curried vegetables, nan and pappadam. The desserts are even vegan. You won't miss the meat, we promise. C'mon, even our mom likes it.
We suspect Peggy Sue's gets ignored by Texas Monthly and other established barbecue-rating agencies because it's in the Park Cities--and what-inna-world would those stiffs know about 'cue? We are here to assure you that the barbecue world is a classless society, and besides, Peggy Sue's wagon-wheel décor and early-'60s house music will make you feel right at home. Anyway, why fret over prissy details? Barbecue is about meat, and if you can find a sweeter, meltier, crunchy-on-the-outsidier example of a baby back rib, by all means, ship us a box of them right away. We also like Peggy Sue's big selection of sides, starting with the tangy vinegar-based coleslaw and the old-fashioned fries.

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