Best Fresher than Fresh Fruit 2005 | Ham's Orchard | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
You long ago snubbed supermarket produce, and lately you've even become bored with the selection at the Farmers Market. Short of waiting under a peach tree for the fruit to drop into your mouth, Ham's Orchard is the freshest you can get. Various fruits--peaches, plums, apricots, plumcots--are picked daily and sold in Ham's air-conditioned roadside store, which also peddles preserves, pickles and creamy soft-serve ice cream made from the orchard's peaches and strawberries. During May and June, you can even pick your own raspberries and blackberries. Sadly, you will have missed this year's crop (the orchard was open to the public May 15-August 15 this year), but that's no reason you can't start salivating for next year's bounty.
Every time you sit in the red vinyl booths and glance at the laminated sign, you cannot believe your eyes. "Hobo Special--2 eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, hash browns and toast, biscuit or pancakes. $6.60." It's like seeing heaven on a piece of 8 1/2-by-11-inch paper. So when the lovely server approaches, you confidently order the Hobo thinking, "I'm so gonna eat every last bite of that craaaazy Hobo!" Every time you think you're gonna make that Hobo special your breakfast bitch. And every time you're wrong. You finish the crisp bacon easily. You dive into the savory (and always perfectly cooked) eggs, sopping them up with the toast you thought would take up less stomach space than the other bready options. The golden, crispy hash browns have been alternated in between each bite. You chomp on the sausage, almost making it to the end. But there between the last sad lump of browns and the tail end of sausage sits the final element, and you're only good for one more bite. And dammit, it's sooo delicious; it's the albatross of this morning meal. That damned ham.

Readers' Pick
Lucky's 3531 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-522-3500
Don't speak. Don't speak. Not after siphoning a dab of Café Izmir's hummus. You'll flatten everyone within a 40-yard radius. This is why Café Izmir should be the first stop for cops after the doughnut shop. Dallas police could use Café Izmir hummus instead of pepper spray and Taser guns to subdue common criminals and jaywalkers--such is the garlic shock; such is the smooth allure. But that's not all Café Izmir has to water your eyes. They have brisk tabouli, delish babaganoush, great dolmas and killer kabobs. Plus they shovel $2 cold tapas and $14 wine bottles on Tuesdays and $14 wine bottles and $15 sangria pitchers on Thursdays.

Readers' Pick
Café Izmir
See? It is possible to reach greatness without stuffing pasta pillows with pulverized shellfish and drowning them in fortified grape ferment. Kathleen's artichoke-stuffed ravioli is little more than a pile of tooth-firm green pasta bulges reeking of the pulverized thistle flower and buried loosely under a pile of bell peppers, mushrooms, grilled chicken and limpid strips of spinach. But this isn't the best part of the mess. What breathes life into this heap is the three-olive pesto, a svelte touch that catapults beyond typical pesto, where the cheese and olive oil become an unction junction pinned together with garlic pricks. The surge of brine transcends the tumble, elevating the chaos along with it. This ravioli is so invigorating, Kathleen's serves it at brunch, which means it pairs well with wines, old wines that have aged into hangovers.
Mizuna, a feathery Japanese mustard green, does not make many house salad appearances in Dallas. But it does show up at the Landmark next to a sea bass, along with its Sicilian eggplant relish cousin caponata. Pommes frites are threaded through there, too, making this the first continental fusion fish that even Ronald McDonald could warm up to. The fish rests in a brisk blood-orange buerre blanc, relegating the buttery richness of the fish to the shadows. You may think nothing more could be done to the ubiquitous and drowsy sea bass, but you'd be wrong. Kick up a few contrasts, and this fish--in its natural habitat as ugly as a Robert Bork-Whoopi Goldberg love child--blooms with beauty.
Fancy schmancy. In this category, it's thoroughly inaccurate to claim chef Avner Samuel's Aurora has no rivals; Aurora is simply its own category. The evidence: Aurora offers Bentley car service to and from the restaurant. You see? Sure, Best Buy has its Geek Squad VW Beetles, and Sushi Zushi has its Scion xB sushi shuttles. But Aurora has a Bentley. This is important. It rolls you in, you enter the vestibule, the curtain is drawn back and you are sucked into a jewel box. Suddenly, you realize you aren't in Dallas anymore (don't mind that intense cook behind the open kitchen glass). On the plate, Aurora is nothing short of re-creation of the three-star Michelin temples that dot Paris and other French regions. Aurora is about layers and textures and simplicity and dinners that cost more than a Pentagon toilet seat. And a Scion ain't no Bentley, after all.

Readers' Pick
The French Room 1321 Commerce St., in the Adolphus Hotel 214-742-8200
After the cigarettes have been smoked, the shots have been swallowed and the numbers have been shoved into pockets, the beautiful people head to hook up or wherever it is they go. The rest of us go to Cuquita's to try to soak up all that is wrong in our stomachs. The restaurant stays open from 8 a.m. to 4 a.m. Wednesdays through Mondays, so it doesn't matter what nightly drink special you've been abusing, Cuquita's is almost always open. For breakfast lovers, huevos rancheros (or any of the many variations on that theme) is a sure bet, and the chicken mole is our official cure for a hangover before it begins. Potato and egg gorditas are recommended for the timid. Just remember to bring your cash, because this buzzing after-hours eatery is a no-charge zone.

Readers' Pick
Cafe Brazil Multiple locations
So, we lied. Standard isn't a new restaurant. Until recently, it was in the league of the undead. Standard has roots that stretch across time and Dallas neighborhoods. In 2003 it opened in Deep Ellum when former Tom Tom Noodle House chef Tim Byres decided to try his hand at restaurateuring. But diners' fear of crime plagued the Deep Ellum location, and a year later he put Standard in suspended animation, scouring the city for a plot that would sit well with his targeted audience. He found that plot in the former Stolik location on Cedar Springs Road and proceeded to fertilize it before he transplanted and slightly upgraded his menu. The food was good before the relocation: seductive short ribs, delicately aromatic halibut, rich lamb racks, even a stunning garden salad. This is set in such a stunningly unpretentious atmosphere. This is because Standard isn't trying to be anything: not hip, not European, not New York, not some edgy grub mosaic from the West Coast. It is simply a reflection of the personalities and the space that comprise it, an honest bloom from a specific stretch of Dallas asphalt.

Readers' Pick
Nobu 400 Crescent Court 214-252-7000
First off, it seems wrong for the region's best barbecue to be in hoity-toity University Park. Just wrong. Second off, the whole '50s theme at this place is sort of a Texas rip on Peggy Sue's Diner in San Jose, California. But so what? When it's barbecue we're talking about, we have to come back to the basic eats, don't we? And the plain fact is Peggy Sue's still has 'em all beat, from the succulent ribs to the tasty pulled pork sandwich, the fresh-cut fried onion rings, even the little thimbles of cole slaw they give you: It's all just right at Peggy Sue BBQ.

Readers' Pick
Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse Multiple locations
Flying in the face of the Starbucks-ification of America, Bob and Nancy Baker built a cool new building and opened this neighborhood coffee shop in Lake Highlands to offer custom blends of coffee roasted on the premises. Yeah, you can order almond mocha latte or the "White Rocker" (latte with caramel and white chocolate), but a plain cup of Baker's roast of the day is guaranteed to be a rich, robust blend of arabica beans--all from certified "fair trade" growers, so a portion goes directly to the coffee growers, if that helps you feel good about your caffeine habit. Add a scone or zucchini bread and jumpstart your day. Baker has added amenities such as wi-fi, but in the end, it's all about the beans.

Readers' Pick
Starbucks Multiple locations

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