We admit, we found out about this place in the "Sentence Restaurant Guide," a highly critical survey of local restaurants by a Dallas author we'd never heard of, one Ralph Robert Moore, who posts a moody, authorly pic of himself on his Web site (www.ralphrobertmoore.com/dallasrestaurants.html) as well as personal essays and diary entries that fall in the category of Too Much Information. We have to agree, however, with everything the straight-shooting Mr. Moore says about Sam's Pizza and Pasta, an unprepossessing place in a Duncanville strip mall: "Sam's pizzas are superior to those obtained elsewhere in the Dallas area, the emphasis placed on the flavor of the dough, and the freshness of the toppings." We can add that this is the best we've tasted in Texas, where pizza seems to suffer from a lack of family eateries with the old-world ethos and ethnic connections. Nothing fancy about the range of toppings here; just the usual suspects (except our prized green olives). Straight out of the oven, Sam's pizzas are stunning. Try it for yourself and you'll wonder why more people don't make the short jaunt down to Duncanville for a great traditional pizza. (But please, Sam, would you do something about those scary restrooms?)


Readers' Pick
Campisi's Multiple locations
This rack is bright green, and this is a good thing. The green, as frilly as a shamrock boa, is a bright herb encrustation unmolested by intense heat. The lamb chops themselves are gorgeously ruddy, creating a kind of Christmas holiday wreath in meat. The bones are propped vertically, leaning into a crown pinnacle around a central core of portobello mushroom risotto sown with garlic sautéed spinach. This is tall food that doesn't annoy. The flesh is slightly loose, saturated in juices and silken with streaks of raciness--not the kind that elicits winces, but the kind that rounds flavors as they hint at tension. Pooled around this crown of lamb bones is a demi-glace--a restrained one that serves as more of a gauzy moisture curtain than a heavy viscous blanket. Rack 'em up.
Scalini's Pizza & Pasta
Lots of Americans are suspicious of thin-crust pizza. It's hardwired into our brains to want the most stuff for the least amount of money, and nobody but nobody is gonna skimp on my pizza dough. But for those of us willing to transcend our capitalist heritage, a good thin-crust pizza is manna from heaven. Cooked just right, crispy but not brittle, a thin crust is the perfect cheese-and-meat delivery vehicle, and Scalini's is the Cadillac of thin crusts. The toppings are fresh and the service is friendly, too. To those thugs and killers who would force us to eat thin crusts, we enthusiastically say: "Bring it on!"
Paparazzi Pizza
There are a few magic words when it comes to pizza: "delivery," "wood-burning oven," "stuffed crust," "extra pepperoni." The new spot at Josey Lane and Keller Springs Road forces you to pick up the damn pie. We don't see a big open flame anywhere behind the counter. Guess you can order extra pepperoni, though. And pay with a credit card--the other magic words. Paparazzi Pizza serves the usual "works" and "supreme" pies heaped with meat, olives, tomato sauce, etc. But they also bake six different olive oil-based pizzas. These are unique and flavorful. No red sauce, just a nice crust and a dollop of olive oil supporting such ingredients as roasted eggplant, kalamata olives, capers, tarragon, pine nuts and whole roasted garlic. The eggplant version sits on an amazing black pepper crust. A pie called "tomato tango" features both sweet sun-dried and herbal seasoned veget...fruits. Whatever. There's other stuff, too, including babaganoush, kabobs and gyros. Think the owners must be furriners or something. After all, no Texan thinks of the Mediterranean when they ponder the origins of pizza.

Best Eatery Where Everything is Good (And Maybe Even Good for You)

Eatzi's

EatZi's Market & Bakery
Brandon LaJoie
The fruit is fresh. The milk is cold. The sushi's delivered daily (we think). The breakfast burrito is great. The ribs come slathered in a sauce that's tangy without being showy. The salsa is showy--who knew peaches and raspberries went well with Mexican spices? The salad offers more toppings than could be included--either here or on the greens. On the sandwiches, honey mustard is the best spread. The soup, when they have it, is worth hoarding. The microwavable meals are far better than Kroger's. The eggs Benedict is the best way to start a Sunday. The wine, the best way to end a Saturday. The pasta is always perfect. The marinara sauce is underrated. The salmon tastes like it was caught five minutes ago. The triple-flavored cheesecake is the best. Ever.
Bangkok Inn
Taryn Walker
Ambience is in short supply at the Bangkok Inn. The garish red and green décor may be an attempt to distract patrons' attention from the uneven floor and matching ceiling, and often the best tables are taken by members of the owner's family reading the paper or doing homework. But don't worry, once your masaman curry arrives, that smell is all the ambience you need. We can't actually tell you what the rest of the menu is like (we hear it's pretty good, though), because we can't bring ourselves to order anything other than that Buddha-sent concoction of potatoes, beans, meat and spices. No wonder that guy rubbed his belly so much.
Like its cousin Café Madrid on Travis Street, Hola! serves Spanish tapas, small plates that pack big taste. Our favorites are the potato omelet and the corn-and-codfish croquettes, but the menu offers a plethora of other dishes as well, including a fabulous dessert of sautéed bread drizzled in toffee. Hola! is a dinner-only establishment, and that seems fitting. The place is small and dark and could be a great choice for date-night romantics. It may be just our active imagination, but if you squint a certain way and avoid the patio (it offers an excellent view of a generic intersection), the atmosphere feels almost European. Hey, Dallas is a long way from Spain, so we'll take what we can get.
Mariano's Hacienda
When Mariano's Mexican restaurant lost its lease in the Old Town shopping center, it was a sad day. The birthplace of the frozen margarita would be no more, replaced instead with a Petsmart. They should make historical markers for occasions such as this, but history, alas, is lost on some. Mariano's, however, would not be beaten. It has found new digs on Skillman Street across from Super Target and dubbed itself Mariano's Hacienda. Thankfully, the restaurant continues to serve its famous margarita and its warm salsa and its gooey Tex-Mex. Just when we thought Mariano's was down for the count, it came back to fight another round, and the new place is a knockout.
We picked this category in the summer, when shaved ice is as necessary to survive the August heat as air conditioning, water bottles and Umbro shorts, but the great thing about T&C Shaved Ice is its year-round appeal. If you've ever thought "shaved ice is just shaved ice," then you haven't been to this blink-and-you'll-miss-it shack on Garland Road. The ice is cut so finely and smoothly that you'll want to smear the cold, cold glory on your face. More than 30 syrups (including a delectable take on the orange cream "dreamsicle" flavor) can be mixed and matched, and you can order an ice cream/shaved ice combo cup, too. Oh, and the pours are so masterful that the first sugary bite will be as sweet as the last. Get an ice headache in January or July--it'll taste as great either way, even if you're holding the T&C Styrofoam cup with gloves.
Spiral Diner & Bakery
Yeah, we know Spiral Diner is in Fort Worth, and this is Best of Dallas. But that's the point: If you want vegetarian food in Dallas, be prepared for Indian food, Thai food, carb-heavy Chinese food, salad bars or veggie burgers cooked right next to the meat. And let's not forget the refried beans (which may contain lard) and the rice (which may have been made with chicken stock). Spiral Diner is worry-free. It goes beyond vegetarian; it's completely vegan--no "99 percent vegan" or "vegetarian...plus some fish." Spiral Diner has no meat, no eggs, no dairy, no honey, no casein. Just tasty homecookin'. In addition to the obligatory salads and veggie burgers, Spiral Diner's expansive menu includes burritos whose size and contents put Chipotle to shame, a tempeh-based Jamaican Jerk BBQ San'ich and the Nighthawk, a vegetarian-friendly diner dish of tofu "eggs," meatless sausage and toast--a guilt-free version of IHOP. But don't just take our word for it: Last year VegNews Magazine named Spiral Diner one of the 14 best vegetarian restaurants in the country.


Readers' Pick
Cosmic Café 2912 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-521-6157

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