Best Frozen Dinners 2004 | Horizon Foods | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

What do Madonna and Mike Modano have in common with dozens of other celebrities and athletes and thousands of ordinary citizens who love good food? According to Chris Walter, Midwest regional partner, all have serious vittles--cooked and uncooked--delivered to their homes by Horizon Foods. "Our trucks pull up to the door, and our representatives put the food right in our customers' freezers." In business since 1979 and in Dallas since 1997, Horizon provides a wide array of seafood, steaks and poultry, as well as dozens of other items including soups, pizzas, hors d'oeuvres and desserts. All uncooked items are trimmed and individually wrapped, and every item comes "guaranteed to your palate. If you don't like it for any reason, we'll happily exchange it," Walter says.

Old-fashioned drinks require a certain atmosphere. Not necessarily a clubbish dark wood and leather, billowing clouds of cigar smoke, British accents type thing, mind you. Cocktails like the negroni or the mint julep or the old-fashioned call out for a bar. That is, a room dominated by a long counter backed by rows and rows of alcohol--the kind of place your grandfather frequented back when the greatest generation led this country through Prohibition, the Depression, war. You know, the good old days. The Meridian Room is such a place. Sophisticated without being fancy, it's a throwback in time listing a number of classic cocktails on the bar menu.

Yeah, yeah, we know. This is Tex-Mex, not true Mexican cuisine. With food this good, though, why be so persnickety? This tiny restaurant in a brightly painted converted house on Maple Avenue has all we expect in a Mexican joint--tasty, cheesy enchiladas, fiery salsa, creamy guacamole and rich tortilla soup--plus it offers something we don't expect. You can actually eat a full meal here and walk away without that heavy lump in your stomach that we call Tex-Mex belly. Lighter on salt and grease than typical Tex-Mex fare, Avila's food nevertheless is full-flavored and rich. Try the chicken enchiladas with tomatillo sauce--even avid calorie counters won't feel too guilty. The recipes are variations of the dishes Anita Avila and her husband used to cook for their houseful of guests, says son Ricky, who works there along with his mother and brother Octavio. A mother's touch--that must be what makes the food so special.

Readers' Pick

Luna de Noche

Various locations

We have this aunt. Her name is Lena. Well, technically she's a great-aunt, as she is our grandmother's sister. Anyway, her schtick is that she's always cooking. You walk in her house, any time of the day past 11 a.m., and there is a huge cast-iron skillet full of chicken frying sitting atop her stove. And the smell is unbelievable. So you would make up excuses to go there--"Gotta take Aunt Lena some Aquaman comics, so see you later!"--just so you could eat this juicy, sumptuous, peppery fried chicken. And when we moved away, we were sad, because we didn't think you could find fried chicken like that. And then one innocent day, we ordered fried chicken from Brothers. And we ate so much we got sick. And we cried on our bones and called Aunt Lena that night just to say hi. What we're saying is the chicken here is damn good.

Readers' Pick

Circle Grill

3701 N. Buckner Blvd.


Why is Pogo's a great place to shop? It's not because it covers just about every wine region in existence, or because it has low-riser wine racks instead of those floor-to-ceiling high-rises with Bordeaux avalanche insurance, or because it has a friendly staff who tell you what the heck's up with the Lois Gruner Veltliner from Austria. It's not even because it has a broad selection of wine half-bottles or because it stocks Hanger 1 Vodka Buddha's hand citron at eye level. It's not even because it carries accessories like martini olives, corkscrews and specialized beverage glasses. No, it's great because it carries stuff like that often harsh grape sludge spirit known as grappa with varietal labels such as Dolcetto, chardonnay and pinot noir.

Readers' Pick

Goody Goody

Various locations

The Dream Cafe has one of the best cheap lunches in Dallas. It's called "The Cheap Lunch." It costs six buckaroos. It's mighty tasty. Whether you love red meat and consume dead animals on a regular basis or whether you're vegan or some form of vegetarian, you will love this lunch. If you're into low carbs, high fat; low fat, don't count carbs; low cal and low carbs--whatever. It's a bowl of organic black beans and brown rice with some truly amazing spices, topped with jack cheese, sour cream and sprouts. They serve it with corn chips, so it's a homemade warm, cheesy bean dip experience. It is the best damn lunch. Only, it's no longer on the menu. A recent shrieking phone call to Christopher Sanford, Dream Cafe manager, went something like this. "Hey, have you really taken The Cheap Lunch off the menu?" "Well, yes and no," Sanford says. "The Cheap Lunch is off the menu, only we have The Global Dinner on the menu, and it's the same thing." Only bigger. Same price, though. So, Dream Cafe has the best cheap lunch in Dallas, only it's called "The Global Dinner," and you could say they now have the best cheap lunch and the best cheap dinner--and both of them are larger than they were before, for the same price.

When you order fresh-squeezed orange juice, you don't want it from a plastic jug labeled "now with extra pulp." You want to know that someone actually crushed the rind between his fingers to force that last drop into your glass--just like at Grandma's. Landmark Restaurant in the Melrose Hotel is a place to break from tradition and enjoy an artery-clenching fest. Among the modern and Southwestern creations, diners find nods to the past. The standout: real old-fashioned steak and eggs. Remember those classic World War II movies where wimp-ass 4F actors who were a bit too precious to enter the armed services would sit in a soundstage foxhole and moan about Mom's steak and eggs? That's the stuff we're talking about. And Landmark has it.

Original Pancake House

There are two other locations in town--on Lemmon Avenue and Belt Line Road--but this is the one we go to most often...and from the looks of it on weekend mornings, it's your favorite, too, since the line seems to go to the Albertson's across the parking lot if you don't arrive before, oh, 9 a.m. (And on weekdays, too, it's pretty crowded; get there early or you're stuck eating at La Madeleine, which isn't a bad option, but it just ain't the same.) Every table usually has a little one in a high chair--the dollar-sized pancakes make this a parent's fave for the little ones--so if you're partial to reading the paper in the quiet, maybe you oughta go to Breadwinners or the Metro Diner in Preston Center or stay the hell home. But this place is especially worth it for the corned beef hash, which you should order with eggs sunny-side up, and, of course, the pancakes. Coffee's also really good here, but beware the tiny cups; on busy days you'll have trouble getting a waiter, who's always sorry he hasn't been there earlier, but, well, it's the best breakfast in town, and people tend to get busy. We understand.

Readers' Pick

Cafe Brazil

Various locations

The appetizer is traditionally a thing you eat before the headliner. You know, salad, foie gras, fried calamari, frog legs in aloe vera. But sometimes appetizers can be meals instead of just tongue-whetters or fodder for the grazing trough. This is what Café Modern's smoked mozzarella-stuffed risotto cake is. It's a bronzed baseball--with the bronzing provided by panko bread crumbs--resting in a bath of "light tomato sauce." This alone makes it a museum piece. But when you add that it tastes good, it makes it double-plus fine. It's layered with overlapping wilted leaves of baby spinach. That bath is smooth and brisk, crackling with delicate acids. The ball crunches when pierced, exposing a steaming network of risotto grains--not creamy but breadlike in consistency. Plumb further and you unleash a core of molten smoked mozzarella that flows like slag through the risotto webbing, turning the whole thing into creamy, messy goo that steams. Now you're ready to view the art at The Modern.

Readers' Pick

Snuffer's cheese fries

Various locations

Why wings? Simple answer: Because it's the only part of the chicken that still tastes like chicken. We've had enough of boneless, skinless, lifeless, loveless chicken breasts; of chicken parts larded with slimy globules of yellow fat. So we've developed a taste for wings. We kind of get a kick out of pulling little strands of meat and crispy skin off the bones, as long as no one is looking. And while the Dallas area has some respectable wing outlets, such as M.D. Plucker's on Upper Greenville, where people actually wait your table, we settled on Buffalo Wild Wings in Grand Prairie, mostly because of the zingy sauces. Our favorite was a hot-and-spicy Caribbean Jerk sauce, but other winners included the super-hot (but edible) "blazin'" sauce and a mild teriyaki. They also serve up an excellent charbroiled hamburger and something called "boneless wings"--basically, small chicken tenders that kind of look like wings.

So we're having lunch at Taco Diner in the West Village. One in our party--the one who is washing down his lunch with shots of Patron and bottles of Negra Modelo--says, "OK, who wants dessert?" We all shake our heads and moan. Who eats desserts these days? They're full of carbs and sugar and sin. We all want to be skinny when we die. Look good in the casket. This gentleman then likens us to female genitalia--not in a complimentary way--and proceeds to order slices of the pastel des tres leches (cake of the three milks) for the table. Not to go all metrosexual on you, but oh...mah...gawd. Moist, slightly sweet, creamy. With a cup of coffee, to die for. And he almost did, on the way home, but that's another story.

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