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.
The owners of Highlands Café were fed up with the dearth of non-chain restaurants in Lake Highlands, so they decided to start their own. Almost instantly, the place became the local lunch hangout. Nothing fancy; the walls are decorated with kids' art. The burgers, sandwiches, salads and homemade soups are fresh and inventive; kid-sized meals come with fries or raw baby carrots. The nachos are worth a special trip. Yeah, you can get plain cheese nachos, but try one of their specialties: a plate of tortilla chips piled mile-high with beef, chicken or pork topped with sautéed mushrooms and red onion or artichoke hearts, green olives, feta cheese and diced tomatoes. Each overloaded plate is served with homemade salsa and pico de gallo, or order extras such as jalapeños, sour cream and guacamole. Highlands Café is also open for dinner, serving grilled steak, chicken and fish. It's an excellent start for a neighborhood starved for something besides fast food.
Why is it so many restaurants don't understand why people order BLTs? Is it for the bread? No. The tomato? Not really. The lettuce? Please. You buy a BLT because you're in the mood for bacon, and the best place to buy a BLT with a hefty rasher on it is Café Brazil. Everything else on a Café Brazil BLT is great, crunchy and fresh, but the bacon is what it should be and more, crisped hard but not burned and, best of all, spilling out of the sandwich. BLTs are funny. A bad one can put you off your feed for the rest of the day, but a really good one can make your day. Café Brazil is the place to go for the kind you're yearning for.
It's too far for a workday lunch for up-and-downtowners, but you'll find many of us trekking there on Saturdays to sample the lunch buffet. Did we say "sample"? Strike that, we mean "gorge on." For about $6, a hungry vegetarian or vegan can get bottomless iced tea and a shot at Suma's all-you-can-eat buffet. The buffet varies somewhat week to week, but you can expect fried rice, flat noodles, a tasty green curry, egg rolls, sweet and sour "chicken" and a tofu dish. There are some vegetables, but the carbs are glorious and abundant. Often, we can eat lunch at Suma on Saturday and not need to eat again until Sunday brunch. Now that's filling.
The Metropolitan Cafe
Never pit a cooking mom vs. a canned good. There's no point. Especially when it comes to split pea soup. Bordering on stew, it's a tough soup to get right (not too salty, not too chunky) and it'll never be right if it comes from a can. Mom will always win. Christine Vouras proves this with a hearty, savory concoction that sticks to your ribs in a way that somehow feels healthy. It may be the fresh ingredients she uses each day to prepare her two or three soup selections for the Main Street breakfast and lunch spot, or it may just be that something extra that comes from Mom. We don't know the magic that spouts from her ladle, and we don't want to know. We just want that perfect puree of peas sliding down our gullet whenever we can get it. She's no Seinfeld Soup Nazi, she's Souper Mom.


Readers' Pick
Tomato basil at La Madeleine French Bakery Multiple locations
When we bite into a bagel, we want dough so fresh that the shiny outer layer sticks to our teeth. We want chewy goodness that's fresh-baked whether it's sweet or savory. No truckin' it in. And schmeared or not, we don't want overwhelming spice from our cinnamon raisin round, and we don't want devastating heat from the jalapeño kind. We want the dough to stand out and the flavor to just serve as a nice highlight. Our Park Cities bagel experience went just that way. The chocolate chip variety was seductive but not too sweet. The cheese was sturdy but not overpowering. The blueberry offered wonderfully delicate fruit sensations. But in each, we never forgot that what we were eating was a bagel. Not a muffin, not a sweet roll, but a good, hearty bagel. Our final taste test ultimately proved why this strip center bakery/deli gets the win: the plain jane--no jam, no lox, no cream cheese--was the star of the show.


Readers' Pick
Einstein Bros. Bagels Multiple locations
Hector's on Henderson
Except in some diners and French restaurants, liver and onions has gone the way of Salisbury steak or chili mac. But in this era of retro, you know some smart-ass is going to come up with Salisbury squab steak or habanera chili mac ziti. Hector's gives us chicken-fried chicken livers and caramelized cipolline onions. This trio of crispy chicken livers with onions is not grand because it merges exotic flavors from Taipei with seasonal heirloom beetle nits from Crandall. It's grand because it combines an old dish with an old frying technique in a new dress that still reeks of Southern charm (they throw blackstrap molasses in there, too). Three coated and fried livers rest near a pool of thick molasses vinaigrette, where droopy onions swim, hemming and hawing their sweetness right at the base of the liver crust. Snare a few sprouts with your forkful of organ and onion to broaden the dimension with a slight aromatic pungency. Where can you go from here? Well, there's always the gizzards.


Readers' Pick
Snuffer's cheese fries Multiple locations
Bone Daddy's House of Smoke
A sign on the wall says this: Blonds, our other white meat. Fondle the pork substation and do what you will with it. Our concern here is the white meat that isn't the other, whether oinks or squeals. Bone Daddy's messy grilled chicken wings aren't exactly white. They're more of a barbecue bronze with jet-black wing tips. These wings are juicy; the barbecue sauce throttles the sweet and turns up the tang before the spice slaps you as hard as a blonde with whom you've been fresh. The edges are crisp, so you don't get any of that wing Jell-O that sometimes forms when the sauce melds with the slime from barely cooked chicken skin.


Readers' Pick
MD Plucker's Wing Factory & Grill 5500 Greenville Ave., #406 214-363-9464

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