Best Wine List 2005 | Taste | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
Wine lists don't have to be as thick as the tax code. They don't have to be as ostentatious as a set of Park Cities fingers. They just have to be concise and make sense within the context of the menu while they challenge, pique and intrigue. This little list does all of that. The wines are smart, unexpected and beg you to experiment, so designate drivers. The white part of the list kicks Chardonnays down the field and opens with some of the most food-friendly varietals: Albarino, Roussane, Viognier and Sauvignon Blancs from new and old globe corners. Pinot Gris and Riesling hold up the back end, straddling Australia, California and Germany and tantalizing with an Austrian Gruner Veltliner. Of course there are sparklers, a couple from Veneto, Italy even. The red section sheds some Cabernet/Merlot bulk in favor of Syrah, Nebbiolo, Cabernet Franc and Tempranillo, wines that normally work better with food than those ham-fisted wines with the big scores. Plus, Taste has 35 wines by the glass. Sassy.

Readers' Pick
The Grape Restaurant 2808 Greenville Ave. 214-828-1981
A city of high-maintenance winos needs a few good sommeliers. For uninitiated inebriates, sommelier is just a French word for guy who brings you wine. Anyone can mumble "very good, sir" and trot out the bottle of swill you ordered. Lincicome excels at the delicate art of pairing wine with menu items and individual tastes. Love big, bold cabernets but prefer fish? No problem. We've even challenged him to find a bottle to suit a table of four with distinctly different and two very adamant drinkers, one wanting a sweeter wine and one demanding dry. He found a perfect solution. After more than a decade of experience, he still studies fermented grapes from each region, so he's able to recommend the usual French and California varietals, but also bottles from Australia, Argentina, Oregon, etc. Keep in mind there are other talented sommeliers in Dallas with similar pairing skills and a strong aptitude for guzzling. We mean sipping, of course. But Lincicome manages it all with a great depth of knowledge. He's a stickler for tradition, shunning wines produced with artificial "oaking." Yet he's no snob. For us poorer folk, he's quite willing to select a, shall we say, modest bottle and will discuss cheap but decent wines at great length.
Do not, repeat, do not let the word "lager" fool you. In fact, in the name "Rahr Blonde Lager," perhaps you should concentrate on the word "blonde," because this beer is more fun to drink than just about any other lager out there. The brewery describes the flavor as "rounded maltiness" with good reason: There's a heft to the sweet, grainy flavor completely unlike any watery, mass-produced lager. Crisp without being sharp. Bright with just a know what? Just go try the stuff. It's a damn good beer, made right here in the area.
You can do whatever you want to fries. You can pour industrial Velveeta on them and blast them with bacon bits; you can serve them with 14 varieties of Wishbone; you can braid them with beads of French's and Heinz; or you can cut them as thin as thong string, dust them with herbs and call them frites. But we like them Hibiscus simple: thin-cut, crisp, greaseless, sprinkled with parsley (if you must) and pebbled to hell and back with sea salt. Serve them on a white cloth napkin in a porcelain bowl for that black-tie effect and stomp your carb calculator under your boot heel. Dig in. Is there more to say?

Readers' Pick
Snuffer's Multiple locations
Celebration feels like a vacation. It has the smell of a hunting lodge, with lots of wood, stone and simple copper-topped tables. There are no appetizers, so decisions are focused. There are no reservations. Just rib-sticking meals you used to get at your great aunt's house before she discovered Emeril and sank your inheritance into a Viking range. You can even get seconds if you want them. Salads come in big bowls with tongs and an armada of croutons. Mashed potatoes, cheesed-out broccoli and squash come, too, plus rolls with a bowl of butter, the kind you used to get at Howard Johnson's. Dessert? Berry pies and coconut cream are waiting to inflate your spare all-season radial. Take a whiff and wolf down.

Readers' Pick
The McKinney Avenue La Duni's better known and more crowded, so please, God, whatever you do, don't tell anyone we prefer this location; enough, already, with the crowds. But we're resigned to the fact that the secret's out about this spot, which is a little darker and more cramped inside but somehow a little superior to the other joint. It may have something to do with better service, too; we've had Sunday brunch on McKinney turn into Monday lunch on more than one occasion. The food's wonderful at both, of course, especially owner Dunia Borga's pastries, which she often makes at the public kitchen at the Oak Lawn locale; you haven't lived till you've had her cuatro leches cake (not to mention the homemade gelato and the La Duni Café con Leche Sundae). But we come for the breakfasts: popovers full of egg and ham and Gruyre, the salsa-baked eggs and the cinnamon brioche French toast. There's nothing like La Duni in town; it's one of the reasons we live here in the first place.

Readers' Pick
Blue Mesa Grill 7700 W. Northwest Highway 214-378-8686
Ever since our first visit to Miami, we've been hooked on the Cuban sandwich--not the slab-o'-pork crammed between two slices of cardboard they're serving up at Little Havana but the real thing, which melts in your mouth before it even hits your tongue. See, with a good Cuban sandwich, it's not just about the pork and pickles and melted cheese, but the bread, which has to be tender and sweet, like our high-school girlfriend. At this Northwest Dallas joint, they serve up a proper Cuban--and with a rum punch more powerful than Superman, too, as well as some of the best fried plantains and conch fritters and jerked chicken and coconut shrimp this side of Key West. But see, the thing is you gotta come here on Friday and Saturday to guarantee you'll get the full menu. That's when the place is hoppin', literally, as the restaurant gives way in nighttime hours to a dance hall full of cool vibes and cold punch.
Catherine Downes
They say Guatemalans fill duffel bags with hunks of Pollo Campero chicken for import to the United States, filling the airplane cabin with the smell of freshly fried fowl. We know, it sounds like an urban myth, but we read about it in no less a source than The New York Times. It just goes to show you that Pollo Campero plies some serious chicken. You don't need to tell that to the Central American families who fill Pollo Campero's only Dallas restaurant, which opened last year near Bachman Lake. Made with "adobo spices," which means something different in just about every Spanish-speaking culture, Pollo Campero's fried chicken tastes fresh, pleasantly spicy, a little greasy (what did you expect?), and somehow, soft, thin white corn tortillas, chipotle salsa and a rich stew of bacon-spiked pinto beans seem like the most natural accompaniments.

Readers' Pick
Bubba's Cooks Country 6617 Hillcrest Ave. 214-373-6527
We've tried all the hamburger joints everyone touts and were disappointed to find places frying up frozen cow chips and trying to hide the paucity of flavor with gobs of toppings, or failing to grill the beef at the appropriate temperature, in effect producing steamburgers. Yuck. It really isn't that complicated. Fresh (never frozen) lean meat, seared at a high temperature and seasoned with plain old salt and pepper--that's all it takes. Like they do it every time at Culver's, a Wisconsin chain with local outposts in Rockwall and McKinney. Trust us, their "Butterburgers" taste different from what you've come to expect. They taste like...beef. Imagine that.

Readers' Pick
Snuffer's Multiple locations

Best Bar, Bakery, Boutique, Restaurant and Coffee House

Cretia's on McKinney

Cretia's really oughtn't work. It's one of those Jack-of-all-trades ideas that could be a mile wide and an inch deep. The thing is, from morning until way after dinner, you can eat, shop, drink and hang out in this bakery gone wild, and it's all good. Start with a cappuccino and croissant in the coffee bar on the way to work. This former army-navy store on McKinney Avenue, offspring of a Duncanville bakery, knows how to treat breakfast bread with European care. Their baking skills shine all day and all night, providing a wealth of breads, cakes, pies and cookies to enjoy on the premises or take home. Lunch includes a variety of moderately priced entrées, and at dinner the big guns come out with an array of fish, steaks and unique entrées. And all the while you can shop in their trendy boutique or drink or watch a ball game or hear a live band in their Ruby's Lounge Bar.

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