Bubba's Cooks Country
Bubba's monster chicken pieces, coated in extra-crispy batter, are the perfect specimens. Not too greasy, not too salty, just a giant hunk of chicken-y fried goodness--perfect with Bubba's exquisite made-from-scratch dinner rolls. Another thing about Bubba's: Each time we've eaten there, the chicken was perfectly cooked, a testament to quality control and properly maintained fry vats. Doesn't happen at some of those fast-food joints. Add to that a killer cherry cobbler, and it's more than worth the wait in Bubba's hairpin-turn drive-through lane.
The beauty of this service protocol is its deftly coordinated tag-teaming. Bread is dispensed and water poured with choreographed precision. Order wine by the glass and the bottle is presented, a taste is poured and, after a nod, the glass is filled. Servers know the menu and almost no question trips them. They confess to ingredients, technique and approach with eloquence, and then query you before making recommendations. They check on the experience without disturbing. Their expressions soothe when the check arrives, because they've earned that muscle-bound gratuity.
We can think of nothing better than having a friendly delivery person arrive at our door with tacos al pastor--yummy wraps of chicken, cheese, lime and pineapple pico--as well as a Corona six-pack, limes, Tylenol and some cereal for in the morning. No, you heard right. Just hit a $15 minimum and Tijuana Bar & Grill will send their Taxi Express to your door with their freshly prepared Latin dishes and whatever needed convenience store items they can satisfy with their inventory of more than 300 products. When a marathon of Nip/Tuck is on, or you just realized all of your underwear is currently in the washing machine, the Tijuana Taxi Express is the coolest thing since sliced breadwhich, of course, they can bring to your door.
EatZi's Market & Bakery
Brandon LaJoie
You want cake? EatZi's has good 'uns, and there are other fine establishments named in this issue to help you with your frosted desires. Here, however, we're talking about the staff of life. You can keep your buttercream icing and your red-velvet masterpieces. For us, the true measure of a great bakery is its bread. Thick frosting and a butt-load of chocolate and sugar can produce a passable cake, but cranking out bread with a soft, pliable crumb; rich, yeasty flavor; and a crust that's crisp and substantial but doesn't cut up your mouth or dislocate your jaw takes a master baker. Want a loaf of sourdough that actually has a touch of tartness? How about a chili-cheese bread that isn't greasy or overly dense but could make a full meal with a slice? A kalamata olive loaf that would make a Greek yearn for home? EatZi's has all those and more. So keep your sugary treats; when we're jonesing for a white-flour rush, we take it straight up--from EatZi's.
Baker's Ribs
Tough call here. Perennial Dallas favorite Peggy Sue BBQ whips up a mighty fine pulled-pork sandwich, and its ribs, brisket and sides are equally tasty, but for straight-up, down-home, Texas-style barbecue with just the right amount of smoke and fall-off-the-bone tenderness, we have to give the edge to Baker's Ribs (this year, anyway). It's no surprise that Baker's emphasizes ribs in its name. Slow-cooked but never dry, not overly greasy and dipped in a peppery but restrained sauce, Baker's ribs melt in your mouth like a meat Fudgesicle and will having you sucking on the bones like...well, you can insert your own double entendre here, but smutty comparisons aside, these things are damn good. Add in an equally smoky side of pinto beans and some lightly creamy coleslaw and you have a meal fit to make a cowboy weep for joy. Our advice though: Take your order to go. A frenzy of meat lust is best enjoyed in private. Besides, we're talking barbecue here, so you're probably gonna need to take a shower after you're done rolling in them bones.
Peggy Sue BBQ
It may seem odd giving Best Chicken-Fried Steak to a joint known for its barbecue. On the other hand, to anyone but a Texan, applying the word "best" to a flattened, floured and fried hunk of cheap beef slathered in--ugh--cream gravy is pretty weird itself. Texans' love of this dish was always a bit of a mystery to us, seeing as we're not from around these parts--or at least it was until we took a bite of Peggy Sue's huge hunk o' steak. Miracle of miracles, it didn't taste like the greasy sole of a shoe dipped in batter and smothered in wallpaper paste! We actually took another bite. (Or several. We may have been drunk at the time.) Regardless of our mental state, however, our Texas-bred spouse assures us the Peggy Sue's chicken-fried is exactly what all the Texas culinary fuss is about: a crispy coating, not greasy, surrounding a piece of tender, flavorful beef accompanied by a moderate amount of peppery gravy that actually has a rich creamy flavor not reminiscent of glue. Thanks to Peggy Sue, we can say we've become converts to the Texas way of thinking about this Lone Star favorite. Now, all we need is the number of a good cardiologist.
Deli News
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.
Back Yard Burgers
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.
Snappy Salads
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.

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