Best Salad 2004 | Tempura chili-citrus chicken salad at Cuba Libre | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

Everything at Cuba Libre goes down easy, from the (pretty 'spensive) pitcher of mojitos to the elegant desserts to the eye candy that fills this Knox-Henderson joint late at night. But, to paraphrase an old Nate Newton commercial, when we are hawngry, which is most of the time, we like to pig out on this dish. A huge salad with dollops of blue cheese and covered with the most succulent chicken tenders you've ever sucked down your gullet, Cuba Libre's TC-CCS is one of our guilty-pleasure (read: post-hangover) meals. Warning: A 20-minute nap is required after eating.

Soup is a tough call. There are winter stews, summer gazpachos, even autumnal bisques. Chicken noodle is good year-round, but that's too easy. We want a soup that's tasty but not too rich. One that's smooth and substantial. Greenz, the Uptown eatery that specializes in salads, impressed us with something else green. Their creamy asparagus soup is velvety and luscious. Each spoonful slides down the throat, leaving a fresh taste on the palate and an instant craving for the next. Gouda sprinkled on top adds texture without getting too clumpy or distracting from the asparagus' bite. Greenz offers two sizes--the cup is a perfect amount to accompany any of the salads; the bowl is a filling option all on its own. This concoction combines two favorites: soup and asparagus. And all without the notorious asparagus effect.

Readers' Pick

La Madeleine

Various locations

Give us fried potato in any form and generally, we're happy. We praise the inventors of the tater tot, french fry and hash brown. And we felt really bad for our arteries when we discovered a new addiction: Jerk Frittes from Cuba Libre. The thin little gems are crispy, golden and seasoned perfectly with an herb blend that is undoubtedly the product of training in the culinary arts, i.e., making people drool. The damn things are even good soggy and straight from the doggie bag. The real key to these taters, though, is their partner in crime, the bacon-avocado ranch sauce that offers a cooling touch to their herby crunch. The restaurant's sandwiches come with the frittes, but if a sandwich isn't calling your name, check out a side of the perfect potatoes with a taco platter or even as an appetizer. They'll definitely change the way you look at the common drive-thru fry.

Readers' Pick


Various locations

In the Tex-Mex state, salsa has a lot to prove. Heat (as in spice) must make itself known but not so strongly that a full glass of water is needed after each bite. For us, the tip-off to a perfect salsa is a reaction after the initial taste of wanting to pour it on everything we order. But we weren't even thinking about salsa when we dipped that first chip at Margarita Ranch. That changed instantly as we tasted the warm, smoky near-puree. We wanted to drink the entire bowl. We would've rolled in it, it was so good. Forget whatever entrée we ordered, because it ended up drenched in the mix of peppers, fine bits of tomato and garlic. It's sweet and sultry lava that eases down the throat.

If there is a single dish that represents the idea of comfort food, it's shepherd's pie. It's warm, meaty and soft, and there's no worry of combining bites or elements since that's already been done for you. We've been known to tuck into some welcoming shepherd's pie, and in our experience, the Tipp's is the best. The ground meat is slightly peppery, the peas aren't watery and the mashed potatoes make for the perfect cloud topped with a crust of cheddar cheese. It has to be the best, actually, because no matter how full we get, the dish turns on the "glutton" switch in our head and we keep trying to finish...until the waitress is kind enough to take it away before we explode.

Ziziki's, the Travis Walk restaurant owned by Costa and Mary Arabatzis, has just celebrated its 10th anniversary, and with its record of outstanding quality, we expect another 10, at least. Ziziki's has won this award before--no great suspense here--and after trying the range of Greek restaurants in the area, we see no reason to dethrone it now. Though it would be more accurately described as Greek-inspired, Ziziki's uses top-notch ingredients and adds a dash of invention to Mediterranean favorites. We like it for the French feta cheese, the best we've ever tasted; the tender lamb souvlaki; the excellent children's menu; and, most of all, a sublime Australian rack of lamb.

Readers' Pick


The perfect sweet treat is indulgent, both cakey and gooey, and self-contained: the cupcake. Why people bother with slicing up a big hulking cake is a mystery, especially when the Cupcake Kitchen and their enorma-cups are just a phone call away. A one-dozen minimum is required for delivery, but there are no limitations to the complete satisfaction one achieves with a bite of, say, the Triple Chocolate Threat or the You Got Chocolate in My Peanut Butter! For the fruity, there's the Mellow Yellow or The Creamsicle. And there are still more to taste. The cupcakes come in regular (large) size or Li'l Cakes, and each dozen can be made up of three varieties. Of course, you could bake your own damn cupcakes, but after partaking of Cupcake Kitchen's moist cake, rich-but-not-too-rich icing and delectable flavor, who needs to? Currently Cupcake Kitchen is open only for weekend delivery service.

At the risk of never getting a table again, we'll impart our knowledge of a supreme lunch special. Monica Greene and her gang offer one of the most affordable lunches in town without skimping on flavor or quality ingredients. For a teensy $4.99, lunch patrons can have their pick of various enchiladas, Cha-Cha burritos, quesadillas, cheeseburger, Mexican lasagna (filling and flavorful) or, our favorite, Greene Pasta made with spinach jalapeo pasta. The portions aren't measly or humongous--just right for midday when there's still office work waiting. Monica's provides chips and salsa as well, so there's no leaving hungry. Even with a beverage and tip, the tab is still under 10 bucks.

Readers' Pick

Sumo Steak & Sushi

7525 Greenville Ave.


Pretty much everything on Joel Harloff's menu at the Melrose Hotel's signature restaurant is stunning. It's set up in courses instead of the more prosaic appetizer/salad/entrée arrangement. Most diners will focus on second or main course standouts. Among the initial offerings, however, is a simple broth. Now, broth is the sort of thing a cranky old man slurps down when the grandkids have "borrowed" his false choppers for a quick game of street hockey--an easily digestible soup consisting of water, for the most part. Yet Harloff's version, created from the roasted remnants of pheasant, stands out as one of the most exquisite first-course offerings in Dallas. The flavors of wild game and smoke linger with unexpected intensity. A few slivers of shiitake mushroom, a sparse handful of diced roma tomatoes and a slight swirl of pumpkin-seed oil add texture and enhance the natural wildness of the broth. Otherwise, it's a dish true to the heritage: mostly water and very simple. It's just about perfect, in other words

Crisp, crunchy, cool, hot and soft are all words that can describe a banner bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwich. But the bacon is the clincher for a good BLT. It has to be two things: perfectly crispy with no chewy parts and hot. One without the other just won't cut it. The lettuce must offer a cool, thin crunch against the bread, and the tomato must be firm and fresh. These all sound like obvious requirements, and ones easily met, but most anywhere, a BLT is hit or miss. Except at the Lakewood Landing. The Landing stands out time and again for the toasty goodness. The mayo has appropriate zing, and the toasted bread doesn't overwhelm the sandwich innards. The Landing's BLT is blue-ribbon material.

Nothing fancy here. No avocado, no chutney, no heirloom veggies. TABC just creates a good, honest bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. Their only nods to upscale pretension are homemade bread and apple smoked bacon. So whence the accolades? Well, unlike most restaurants, which pile on lettuce and tomato then lay a couple of greasy strips across the top, these guys stack the thing with bacon while skimping on lettuce. Oh, and not limp, soggy bacon either, but thicker pieces fried to a near-burnt crisp state of perfection. They understand the only thing that matters in a BLT is the B part. Want a pile of lettuce doused with mayo? Order a salad at any DISD lunchroom. .

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