El Ranchito
Kathy Tran
Mexican food is a lot like sex. It comes in infinite varieties, but there are a few basic elements that you just can't do without. And of course, even bad Mexican food is usually pretty good. One way the two differ would be that sex delivers ample visual and aural stimulation, senses that a plate of enchiladas would seem to neglect. Perhaps with that in mind, El Ranchito picks up the enchilada's slack. The riotously kitschy décor and the strolling mariachis provide a suitably lively backdrop for the fantastic food. Not only can you stuff yourself with delicious Tex-Mex standards for around $7, but you can venture farther afield with authentic norteño cuisine like grilled baby goat. In all, it's a great place to bring a date, which brings us back to our point above.


Readers' Pick
Mi Cocina Multiple locations
Luna De Noche
This stuff is unique: Made from a base of "lots of cilantro," as our waiter described it, it's dark green with little flecks of red tomato. Dense and deep-flavored, it isn't at all sweet, like many tomato-based salsas. We've had nothing else quite like it in the area. Also prominent in the recipe are jalapeño peppers. If you don't like cilantro, well, you're not going to enjoy it, but it's still worth a visit to this lovely, inventive Mexican eatery.


Readers' Pick
Luna de Noche
Original Market Diner
Some lunch hours you just want something cheap and filling to quiet the beast in your belly so you can get back to work. Sometimes, on the other hand, you want to splurge, to eat something you're not going to forget about before you pay the check. With its blue plate special, the Original Market Diner gives you both. For $5.25 you get the kind of flavor that only labor-intensive home cooking provides: a slab of meatloaf and mashed potatoes with cornbread, say, or a giant bowl of chicken and dumplings. If the food doesn't do it, the cowboy hats on the counter patrons and the trains rumbling by across the way will have you humming John Mellencamp on your way back to the corporate cubicle.


Readers' Pick
Potbelly Sandwich Works Multiple locations
Remember the feeling of going to your grandma's house when she's made so many appetizing dishes that you can't choose one, so you end up eating more than you thought humanly possible, and Nana (or Granny or MawMaw) still lays the guilt trip, "You barely touched your food. Don't you like my cooking?" Avoid this whole debacle by taking your grandmother to gorge at Cindi's, where she can enjoy deli favorites like latkes, stuffed cabbage and matzo ball soup. Cindi's menu also offers page after page of more traditional American breakfast and lunch items (we'll just say the waffle is delightful). If you're feeling a wee bit peckish after all that, top it off with an old-fashioned egg cream or phosphate. We had to loosen our belt just thinking about it.
Hey, where but in East Dallas are you going to find a Mexican dish named after the Duke? And it's meant as a compliment. To Mexico. The John Wayne is two eggs over on a flour tortilla, hash browns, melted cheese, choice of sausage or ham and lots of hot sauce. It's a breakfast dish, but you can get it anytime at this venerable clinic for hung-over hipsters. Tell you what, Pilgrim: You polish off a John Wayne, you're gonna be ready for your siesta.
Just up the hill from the intersection of Gaston and Garland roads, near the White Rock Lake spillway, La Parillada might be in a part of town you don't consider picturesque. But you could be wrong. Some nice evening, go get yourself a plateful of La Parillada's delicious fajita tacos, served from a little mail slot in the front of the building at a buck a piece. Step down to the beer store nearby for beverages. Come back and take a seat at one of the tables in front of La Parillada. The circus parade of life is before you on Gaston Avenue, my friend. And you've got good tacos to eat. What more can you ask?
In business 20 years at its location near Abrams Road and Lakewood Boulevard, Dallas Affaires has earned a regional reputation for wonderful wedding cakes, but a good half of the store's business is in its other great product--the custom birthday cake. There is no birthday boy or girl who won't love the white chocolate cake with Chambord (French liqueur) and raspberry filling. Call ahead: They make these things by hand. And if you do happen to have a birthday person who doesn't like Chambord and raspberry filling, it's the perfect opportunity to tell him or her to grow up.
A pink drink to make you think, the pomerita (pomegranate margarita) at Café San Miguel is a concoction of fresh-squeezed lime and pomegranate juices and Sauza Gold tequila. Goes by in a blink, makes you sink to your knees: the perfect potion to accompany the avant-Mexican fare at San Miguel. The only chink in the plan would be too many pink drinks, and then, of course, you might land in the clink. Which is why we told you, in the first place: think. That's the link. Wink, wink.
If you're a reader (or employee) of this paper, the odds that you place a high value on respectability are probably only 50-50. But just in case you do, "the only respectable way to have beer for breakfast" (as proudly stated on the waitresses' shirts) is Barbec's beer biscuits, which accompany pretty much any of their breakfast plates. If you like your biscuits on the baking powder side, salty and light, we can respect that. But we'll take ours full of beer--decadent, dense and delectable.
Asian Mint
The Asian Mint dining room is rather small. (This is especially noticeable at busy hours, when you feel the waiting customers praying that you eat faster and leave sooner.) But for some reason, you just can't rush at Asian Mint. We always find ourselves slowly eating sushi, pondering the pad Thai and dawdling over dessert (usually one of their green-tea ice cream creations). Don't know if it's the funky décor or the Asian spices that make us linger, but we always do. Good thing they're open until midnight on weekends for those of us who just don't know how to say goodbye.

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