Best Dessert for a Crowd 2006 | Cheesecake Royale | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
Need a happy ending for a dinner party? Try the tiramisu at Cheesecake Royale. The layers of ladyfingers, mascarpone cheese, espresso, Kahlua and whipped cream topped with a layer of rich cocoa are heaven in a pan and will give the end of an Italian meal a flourish. No need to order in advance, but give yourself time to let it thaw enough for the ingredients to reach that lovely creamy texture. For 18 servings, it's a bargain at $25. Their three-layer desserts, especially the chocolate mousse, rum and Italian cream cakes, are other good choices. And of course the house special, cheesecake, comes in varieties such as amaretto, black forest, Key lime, raspberry, chocolate swirl and the sinful caramel fudge, and you can mix and match slices. Or just go for the most basic: New York Plain Colossal Cheesecake, tall and rich with hints of vanilla and lemon. Sometimes the simplest desserts are the best.
This is the sort of place where you roll up your sleeves, put your elbows on the table and get down and dirty with your crawfish or crab legs. There are no tablecloths here, or napkins for that matter. Instead, grab a roll of paper towels and get to work. Try the shrimp, boiled or fried. Dip 'em in butter, drench 'em in lemon juice or order 'em spicy. You can't go wrong. But if they're in season, order the crawfish. And when they're not, splurge on the summer platter for two. It's more crab legs, shrimp, potatoes, sausage and corn than you can eat, sprinkled with enough cayenne pepper to make your lips burn and your eyes water.
The walls are painted the color of chocolate, and the tables are covered in cloths that looks like caramel. At Xocolatl, everything in the store has something to do with chocolate. Take breakfast, for example. They have chocolate pancakes, chocolate croissants and chocolate pastries; a dinner menu is on the way. The owner and chief chocolatier loves chocolate so much that in addition to opening the store she has started a chocolate club that tours the city to find its best chocolate. It's that kind of obsession that results in the best chocolate around, from pancakes to cakes and candies, all of which are made in-house.
Brazilian churrascarias are a meat lover's paradise. The meat is cooked over an open fire on a stick of steel and then carried table to table where it is cut to order by men dressed as gauchos. The best Brazilian barbecue house in the area may be Addison's Fogo de Chao, but it's so pricey it's hardly enjoyable. For meat that's just as good, and not quite as expensive, go to the newly opened Rafain. The restaurant was started in 1959 in Southern Brazil, near the famous Iguassu Falls. The chain has expanded throughout Brazil and has recently opened in the United States, to the delight of Dallas' small but proud Brazilian population.
Sausage makes everything better. And luckily Kona Grill in NorthPark Center knows this. Kona's big island meatloaf is a slab of tasty meat topped with a wild mushroom ragu and served with white cheddar mashed potatoes and a side of vegetables. And all of it is good. Really good. But the best, most awesome, most saliva-producing piece of the culinary puzzle is the andouille sausage the meat loaf is stuffed with. Yeah, that's right. Meat stuffed inside meat. Maybe that sounds wrong, but trust us, it is oh so right. The NorthPark Kona Grill is the chain's first Dallas-Fort Worth location, and the Hawaiian-inspired menu is pretty impressive all around. Supposedly, the macadamia nut chicken is the restaurant's signature dish, but that can't possibly be right. We ordered it, and there was absolutely no sausage to be found, so, clearly, they have no idea what they're talking about.
There are many reasons Piggie Pies takes home this award, as well as receiving similar ones in the past. Here are a few: the mozzarella cheese, the fresh mushrooms, the pepperoni, the feta cheese, the Canadian bacon, the just-right crust, the goat cheese, the fresh garlic...the list goes on. And that's just the regular, choose-your-own adventure pizzas. Piggie Pies also has a list of gourmet pies that are equally as good. With options such as the meatball pizza, the Mediterranean, the Milano and the pizza al pesto, among many others, the menu is almost overwhelming. Pizza Hut this ain't. Besides all the pies, there's a long list of pasta choices as well. We suggest the blackened chicken pasta: It's Roma tomatoes, mushrooms, penne pasta and blackened chicken in a marinara cream sauce, and it's big enough and rich enough to split. Unless you're greedy, and then you can just save half for breakfast. It's good that way too.
Kathy Tran
We have to be honest. We have no idea what bhalle papdi is. (Or bhel puri or aloo chhole or dahi bhalle, for that matter.) But that's OK. We do know it tastes good, and that's all that matters. Nothing on the Taj Chaat House menu is translated into English, so if you're less than adventurous, you may want to bring along a dining companion who's well-versed in Indian cooking. Otherwise, you can walk up to the counter, pick out a couple of items and take your chances. Either way, you'll probably be satisfied. And, if not, you can toss your Styrofoam plate and plastic fork and try again. Taj Chaat House serves Indian street food out of a nondescript strip-mall unit off of MacArthur Boulevard in Irving, and the interior looks about like you might expect: lots of tables, very little decor (if you don't count the bright yellow walls) and fans blowing from the ceiling and from all sides. It's quick and casual, and the staff is so polite, they don't even get irritated when you stand in front of their counter gaping at the menu for far too many minutes.
We already feel guilty enough eating at Chick-Fil-A, given the company's notoriously right-wing beliefs. We don't need to constantly be reminded by a bunch of Bible- beaters loudly and publicly praying every time we sit down with a delicious No. 1 combo (value-sized with a sweet tea and a golden wheat bun). If God really is all-powerful, don't you think he can read your thoughts? Heck, you probably don't even need to bow your head anymore, prayer technology being so advanced and all. It's not that we don't necessarily pray, either. Think of it this way: If you're God, and you're checking your e-mail, don't you think you'd find it annoying if you had to find the important prayers (say, a crisis in the Middle East or a relative with inoperable cancer) amongst thousands of "Thanks for the Chick-Fil-A" prayers?
People may want to "keep Austin weird," but up north, we try to "keep Dallas plastic." Jags and Hummers speed up and down Central Expressway as big-name suits broker real-estate deals and wage high-dollar lawsuits in glassy office towers. But in a tiny white shack at the edge of Deep Ellum, a crew of home-cookin' connoisseurs at Vern's Place fix up Texas-style meals from 7 a.m. till 4 p.m. The food's great, from the chicken-fried steak to the mac 'n' cheese, but Vern's Place is as much about actual soul as it is about soul food. Folding tables are covered in red-checkered plastic tablecloths. If you want somethin' besides sweet tea, sonny, you're going to have to get it from the Coke machine. Chances are you'll end up waiting in the line next to a family of six from Pleasant Grove, a couple of cops on lunch break and some lawyers in Armani aiming to get a head start on a clogged artery or two. When people from all walks of life in this town unite in the holy name of deep-frying, well, that's soul.
Patrick Williams
America's fatter than ever. Obesity epidemic. You've heard it all, and maybe you've been guilted into reducing your burger intake as a result. So why half-ass your occasional indulgence with a skinny patty or a charred hunk of grease? Don't settle for less: No hamburger patty in town has more flavor than at the Angry Dog. Certainly, a hamburger is the sum of its parts, and Angry Dog's half-pounders are well-equipped: The veggies are fresh and full-sized (none of those too-tiny slivers of lettuce and onions), the cheese variety is tops (pepper jack!) and the bun, at the very least, is large enough to sop up the juices. But lettuce isn't why people come back to the Dog. Their hunks of lean beef, especially when served medium-rare, have a sweet, juicy, full-bodied flavor that sticks in your memory for days--even weeks--after downing the huge beast. So why get upset about the obesity crisis? Get Angry instead.

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