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

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

Ziziki's

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.

Maracas Mexican Restaurant

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.

214-987-2333

The Landmark Restaurant

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

Thomas Avenue Beverage Company

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. .

If+a+restaurant+wants+three+stars+from+the+%3Ci%3EMorning+News%3C/i%3E%2C+it+had+better+be+as+good+as+the+Waffle+House.
Stephen+P.+Karlisch
If+a+restaurant+wants+three+stars+from+the+%3Ci%3EMorning+News%3C/i%3E%2C+it+had+better+be+as+good+as+the+Waffle+House.

Go ahead, ask him anything. Is it acceptable to drop a few ice cubes into wine--even red? What's the best thing for less than $30 that pairs well with steak, fish and salad? Is there really a difference between Australian and New Zealand wines? He answers all questions with an unflappable grace and a frightening level of knowledge. Yep, frightening. He can pair wine within any price range and with any dish on the menu. Even when patrons argue over red or white, he manages to find a compromise suiting all parties. Press him on product from any region or vintage and he's likely to launch into a lengthy discussion of vineyards, soil, weather, fermentation technique--stuff you'll forget in a matter of minutes but wish you could remember the next time you stop by Sigel's. Wine, after all, changes from year to year, and to keep up requires an astounding level of devotion. For wealthy patrons, he builds wine cellars and stocks them with collectible vintages. For the rest of us, Lincicome happily points out value items, great-tasting wines for a decent price.

The Green Room

If you want to support Deep Ellum but don't dare want to stay up past your bedtime, here's a good way to do it: Set up reservations for you and your honey, take 'bout $160 and make reservations at this DE staple. Here's what that covers: four courses of food and wine for each of you, each dish chosen by the chef based on what's freshest/bestest in the kitchen that day, that hour, that minute. If you have an allergy, tell 'em. If you prefer to start with the fantastic mussels (steamed in champagne with spinach, mushrooms, ginger and chili flakes), tell 'em. You prefer red meat to fish, tell 'em. Then sit back, drink from a fantastic wine list and eat some of the most sophisticated, hearty fare you'll find in town. Suggestion: Plan on taking a cab home. Most likely, you'll be stuffed and loaded when you leave.

La Popular Tamale House
Taryn Walker

Jesse Moreno and his family are among the few proprietors still producing truly handmade tamales in Dallas. They roast the pork, grind the corn, spread the masa harina de maiz (corn flour) by hand in the husks and cook the tamales themselves. The Morenos use all the best-quality ingredients, no lard, all vegetable oil. During the holiday season, La Popular is so popular, you have to call in your orders several hours in advance, maybe even a day. There's always lots of chitchat along the front counter: Jesse Moreno Sr. is an avid community volunteer with long service to the Dallas school system, and Jesse Jr. will probably show up on the city council some day. So in addition to selling great tamales, La Popular is an interesting place to visit.

Sometimes the servers can be snooty. Sometimes the prices are over the top. But this is the way things are in the world of Michelin star restaurants. You can't feed those suffering from wallet obesity unless there's a little condescension. Yes, the rich may like to belittle their bilingual Toro jockeys when they accidentally puree the azaleas, but they absolutely adore being sneered at by those who snicker when they slosh and make their noses run red with expensive Burgundy while trying to remember the tasting ritual. Anyway, Chef Avner Samuel--the kind of man you pray would prepare your last fried chicken-and-cottage fries dinner should you ever find yourself with a serious appointment at Huntsville--has created Dallas' first and only Michelin star-quality restaurant. There is no flavor here that doesn't make your toes curl like popcorn shrimp, or your wallet trim down like a waist on a carb countdown. So sneer all you want. We can lick our plates without ever showing our tongues--unless the food goes rude.

Readers' Pick

III Forks

17776 Dallas Parkway

972-267-1776

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