Our heart always sinks a bit whenever a Dallas business boasts that it has a true "New York-style" anything. Most often that means that someone has hung up a few black-and-white posters of the Manhattan skyline, maybe a shot of King Kong atop the Empire State building, and is serving up ersatz slices of what passes for the Big Apple in these parts. New York-style in Dallas is usually about as legitimate as those Louis Vuitton handbags peddled on the streets of NYC. Truth is, we don't know much about New York, but we know what we like in a deli: crisp, garlicky pickles that are dropped on your table the minute you're seated; crunchy complimentary bagel chips in regular and rye; lean, salty pastrami piled skyscraper high on soft marble rye; chicken noodle soup with real egg noodles floating in a broth that tastes like it's never seen the inside of a can. You want lox and bagels? Deli News ships theirs in from New York. Want to do your Seinfeld impersonation? They have black and white cookies along with a whole counter of baked treats. Smoked fish, egg creams, phosphates and a host of Jewish delicacies find space on a huge menu that almost requires a Yiddish-to-English dictionary to read. Is it true New York? Who cares? It's a lot closer and has to be just as good.
Listen Wendy, Ronald and Your Royal Burger Highness, you can stop calling those flattened sheets of beef-like substance you dish out "burgers." We know better now. Sure, Dallas has always had its share of great burgers--Whassup, Angry Dog?--but when you don't have time to sit down to the real deal, that doesn't mean you have to eat McSlop. Back Yard Burgers serves up thick patties of beef that taste like you just whipped them off the Weber yourself. They gladly smother it in cheese--including real cheddar or Swiss, not some processed cheese-like yellow gloop. Fries--seasoned or waffle--are not two or three generations removed from real potatoes. Back Yard Burgers may be a little more expensive than Mickey D's, but you're already rushing your lunch. Why not treat yourself?
What the hell happened to chicken wings? We've always loved them, but they used to be the red-headed stepchild of the chicken, just one cut above gizzards and livers in the parts pecking order. Sure, they're tasty, but back in the day few people would make a whole meal out of them. Now wing-slinging eateries are springing up everywhere--almost literally. It seems like there's a WingStop on just about every street corner in greater Dallas. Maybe it's because they scored Troy Aikman as a pitchman, or maybe it's because these wings are high-flying gems (great french fries too). WingStop's wings are available in more than a half-dozen flavors that let wings take flight. Try a 10-piece Atomic. Go ahead. We dare you.
The never-ending diet that dominates our portly life means we must eat a lot of salads. By lots, we mean we could give that giant invisible rabbit in Harvey a run for his roughage. When we want a fancy salad, we head over to Greenz, but mortgage rates being what they are, we often don't have the green for their greenery. Thank the rabbit god El-ahrairah for Snappy Salads, located in the shopping center at the northwest corner of Preston Road and Forest Lane. For just $6.49 we can pick from their complete variety of veggies and dressings (meat is extra, and they also offer soups.) The greens are fresh, crisp and never bitter, and the dressings are several dozen notches above the Kraft variety. It's a cheap, healthy--except for all the blue cheese dressing we add--alternative to fast food, and if you're a yo-yo dieter like us, you need all your money to maintain your various fat and thin wardrobes.
There might be cheaper sandwiches out there, but we doubt you'll find anything better than the variety at Which Wich, the ubiquitous shop created by Genghis Grill founder Jeff Sinelli. For $4.33, you get to play Dagwood Bumstead, building your own masterwork from the bread up--and the fresh baked bread here actually tastes like bread, not that fluffy Wonder Bread-like stuff at a certain other sandwich chain. Forget about the side soup or salad, though. These guys are specialists (they even make their own chips), and you can tell that from the results: a tangy muffaletta, salty pastrami, rich roast beef. If it fits between two slices of bread, they have it.
Yeah, that's right. We went with the chain. So what? Look, it takes a determined idiot to create a bad doughnut. Deep-fried flour covered in sugar--how do you screw that up? Even a mediocre doughnut gets better with 15 seconds in a microwave oven, but why nuke when you can get doughnuts hot and freshly baked--at least when Krispy Kreme's green "hot doughnuts now" sign is lit. Krispy Kreme's conveyors crank hot glazed beauties by the hundreds all day, and that's what drives their success. Frankly, we find the glazing to be a little thick and their sweetness a little cloying. Give us a chocolate custard-filled. They may not be hot out of the oven, and they're fattening as hell, but they're like really great sex with a wholly inappropriate partner. You may regret it later, but not much, and you'll be back for more as soon as your conscience allows.
Hey, we don't care if you grew up next to Laura Miller in Connecticut: Anybody who lives in Dallas any period of time develops a tortilla palate. You can tell the mass-produced ones from handmade. Caf San Miguel offers fare that might be called neo-Tex-Mex, based on familiar dishes but with a creative flair. In the matter of the near sacred tortilla, however, there is no messing around. The tortillas that come to your table here are made by hand by a lady whose craft you can actually watch at the front of the restaurant. All the food here is great, but the tortillas add a note of traditional fidelity. A restaurant that produces a tortilla like this is a restaurant that takes Mexican food seriously. Open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and through 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
Since Teppo was sired by Teiichi Sakurai in 1995, Dallas concrete has been swarmed by sushi depots in hotels, countless strip mall nooks, grocery stores, even from warehouse stores such as Sam's. In the thick of this krill, Teppo still floats to the top, compelling awe with its often perverse sense of culinary fish doctrine. Flounder carpaccio in a mango-hued splash of uni spritz with sprouts and tomato, for instance. Or raw fish (we spaced on which species because we were caught up in our bottle of Ozeki Dry sake) with okra in plum sauce. Flora is pressed for duty as well, with gazpacho Teppo-style: a lurid chilled tomato soup with ginger and cucumber. If this is too edgy for you, nibble from a skewer of beef tongue, quail egg, chicken hearts--even chicken joints--cooked over oak coals from the yakitori menu and pretend you're a French organ fetishist. Mundane sushi options dance with pristine lushness. Spanish mackerel shimmers like a clinging silvery chemise.
In Dallas, the quest for good Chinese food is not only about grub quality; it embraces clean fragrant ambiance and graciously attentive service too. Many, if not most, Chinese restaurants skirt the service part. But not at Kirin Court, a second-story restaurant nearly as big as a football field with a burbling tank filled with live crustaceans on one end and a stage often filled with live entertainment on the other (sometimes Vietnamese rock-and-roll). But it's best just to eat. Graze from assorted clay pots and fried-rice dishes. Or chew delicious dim sum--from tasty chicken feet to steamed buns with a molten core of barbecued pork--delivered from passing carts. And for those with tongues finely tuned to exotica, pluck nourishment from double-boiled shark fin soup, braised sea cucumbers with black mushroom or crispy fried pig intestine. Does the thought of such culinary adventures set the gullet butterflies a-fluttering? Then dampen them with a tasty, crispy roasted squab. Crunch, crunch.
What's there to say about Stephan Pyles? Much and little, all at the same time. He demonstrated his paranormal facility with flavors at Routh Street Caf, his imaginative wittiness at Star Canyon, his ability to weave and float a pan-American mesh at AquaKnox and his skill at panning commercial karats with his work with Carlson Restaurants, Dragonfly and the Gaylord. With Stephan Pyles restaurant, the man is not merely back, he is transmogrified. After years absorbing influences and steeping in ideas, Pyles is unleashing a torrent of interpretations never savored before in Dallas--maybe anywhere. From his distinctive ceviches (halibut, scallop, hamachi, bronzini) posted in martini-esque display bowls, to his seared foie gras "Tacu Tacu" with lentils and bananas, to his poblano-asiago soup with scallops salpicn and smoked tomato foam, to his coriander-cured rack of lamb, the food doesn't stun the senses via an array of "aggressive, bold" flavors, as Pyles contends. Rather it gives pause because of the imaginative way Pyles applies his ruthless finesse to these vigorous tastes and aromas. Pyles has never discarded his West Texas roots (the dining room is a panoply of stone and sunset hues with chandeliers mimicking tumbleweeds). Rather, he has taken his Texas rootstock and grafted a careful parsing of every relevant flavor and aroma he has ever come across, re-engineering it with that distinctive Pyles craft. We're lucky his Texas roots exert enough force to keep him fixed in Dallas' orbit.

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