Crab cakes are ubiquitous. Crab cakes are dull, persecuted into monotony by the terror of filler tyranny. Chef Tom Fleming conquers this heinousness. Fleming's Maryland jumbo lump crab cakes have filler, but there is a precise method to his madness: quarter-cup of bread crumbs to 5 pounds of cleaned crab flesh. To this he adds a dressing composed of brandy, mayonnaise and roasted peppers with plenty of cayenne. The cakes are seared until they form a thick mahogany coat. They're loose and topped with fried potato strings. They rest on a bed of wilted arugula and tomato relish in a lively vinaigrette. Lemon is there too, creating a stiff acidic tension that gradually dissipates in the depths of the sweet cake. Relish that.
La Duni Latin Cafe
"Greed is good," says Gordon Gekko in 1987's Wall Street, and damn if the selfish bastard wasn't right. Greed isn't just good, it's down right saintly when it comes to La Duni's cuatro leches cake. Oh, you could share it with a friend, but the noble thing to do is eat it all by yourself, throwing your expanding body on this live hand grenade of caloric excess. According to the menu, this sumptuous confection begins with layered mantecado vanilla sponge cake, which is soaked in tres leches sauce, then topped with caramelized Swiss meringue and dotted with arequipe reduction and served with extra tres leches sauce and arequipe caramel. Yeah, yeah, dunno what all that stuff is; all we know is that if you reach toward our plate, you'll find yourself with tiny little fork holes in the back of your hand. Don't be angry. We're doing it for your own good.
Four Winds Steakhouse
Four Winds Steakhouse
It rests in the thick of the back country, at the end of a twisty driveway, wood fencing lining its flanks. There's a gazebo, a long porch and a few oaks sulking in the breeze plus a 15-acre pond where bass can be reeled in. This is Dallas steak dining as envisioned by Zeus and executed by former Del Frisco's chef Frank Rumoré. Once a ranch house built by former Dallas Cowboys middle linebacker Lee Roy Jordan, Four Winds is a rustic cedar tabernacle with obese shrimp in the cocktail, house-made mozzarella in the caprese and charred steaks that look like hunks of cooled Hawaiian lava flow that get the hot flow going in the mouth. Dab that drool. Perched on an 1,100-acre stretch an hour or so out of Dallas, dining here is like a four-hour vacation. Pitch a tent near the gazebo if the wine gets get the best of you.
Snuffer's
What was it that your sorority sisters told you when you were packing on that freshman 10? A grilled chicken sandwich is lower in fat and calories than a burger? Right. If they said that at Snuffer's, they were lying to you. Don't feel bad. They'll get theirs eventually. For now, revel in the fact that you saved enough Weight Watchers points to blow on the chicken club sandwich. A savory grilled chicken breast gets raunchy with some deli-cut ham (yay, pork!), smoked turkey, American and Swiss cheeses (that's right, the best in fake and true) and some mayo, plus lettuce and tomato for good measure. Put it in a burger bun and sink right in. It's oozy, it's wrong and it's so right. Pair it with one damn fine chocolate shake (waitstaff tells us shakes depend on the bartender, but we've never had a bad one, no matter what hour or flavor) and you've got a bit of guilt and a lot of pleasure. Fries too? Hell yes. But not the cheddar fries. That'd just be way too sinful. Right?

Best Dining Diamond in the Rough

Local

Local
Local is a slowly evolving organism, one that seems to thrive creatively on the cusp of its own extinction. Chef/owner Tracy Miller brought forth her restaurant in 2003, an offshoot of the catering operation she's nurtured in Deep Ellum's classic Boyd Hotel since 1997. Miller opened with the commitment to shepherd and develop Local in deliberately managed increments so as not to outrun her culinary (and financial) headlights. Since that time she has added a sleek yet comfortable wine lounge and is unfolding plans to subsume the Boyd's courtyard with garden dining in the spring. Yet through all of this inching, Miller has never relaxed her snug embrace of American flavors, distinctly teased with her own earthy flair. Try her urbane steak and eggs twist, two fried quail eggs on a drift of steak tartare. Or wallow in her meticulously harmonized hazelnut- and mustard-crusted halibut in Chardonnay thyme broth accompanied by grilled country bread and a young spinach salad—pure haute meets homey. Or surrender to the rib eye in a mushroom sauté with onion risotto. Miller is a virtuoso who whirs the salivary glands with clean flavors that mingle and marry and juxtapose in well-composed essays. That it sits in the Deep Ellum urban frontier means your adventure never has to suffer the irritants (noise, parking, neglect) of the stunning and the trendy.
Angelika Film Center Dallas
Spike Global Grill and the Angelika have a movie-and-dinner deal that for $22.95 per person gives you fresh mint basil salad, skewered tapas and strawberries-and-cream parfait, plus a movie ticket to any film at the Angelika. Since movie tickets now cost $9.25, the three-course dinner is fresh and tasty and a real bargain. Spike also offers two other movie packages: a wine-and-cheese tasting with three 3-ounce flights of red or white wine for $24.95, or a four-course meal (dishes selected by the chef) for $39.95. See the movie first or see it after you dine. (The ticket is good for up to one year.) It's a perfect first date—the movie gives you something to talk about when conversation lulls, and Spike stays open until 2 a.m., great for long getting-to-know-you conversation if you hit it off—or plenty of time to get really wasted if your date won't shut the hell up.
We knew the service at Central 214 was attentive when our waiter surreptitiously noted our preference for Splenda and brought a single packet with each tea refill. And the food sparked oohs and aahs too, especially the hanger steak and the "mac and cheese our way" (their way is rigatoni with a garlic cream sauce and Parmesan). But if you're really on your game, you'll parlay the delicious dinner into a suggestion of dessert...brought by room service. The chic Hotel Palomar offers sumptuous rooms to sleep off your gluttonous meal or, you know, whatever. Our tip: Request a room with a soaking tub.
Crandall Cotton Gin
Unless you really, really love Dairy Queen, the Crandall Cotton Gin is one of the last outposts for a hearty meal between Dallas and Tyler. Next time you're truckin' out to the Piney Woods, stop here for an $8.95 daily dinner special, which gets you more food than any person should eat in a single sitting. About as "fusion" as it gets is the grilled ham with pineapple on Sundays, but expect solid down-home entrees such as liver and onions, roast beef and chicken-fried steak. Just pray you've no occasion to travel east on a Monday when the Cotton Gin is closed.
The Porch
Named after Dallas lawyer Steve Stodghill, the Stodg Burger at The Porch, a lively hot spot in the Knox-Henderson neighborhood, is not only politically incorrect—high-calorie, high-fat, honest-to-God red meat—it might be a good idea to look over your shoulder for the food police while eating it. The combination of flavors would probably get you thrown out of culinary school. Here goes: the Stodg is a thick burger topped with a slice of cheddar cheese, which is topped with applewood-smoked bacon, which is topped with a fried egg, all of which teeters on a bun spread with foie gras. That's the final killer touch. Does it taste great? Yep. If you decide to order it, alert the local paramedics first or make sure your dining companion knows CPR.
It's a gangly, lowly beast with a thick crunchy stalk and curled, rippled leaves. It was once honored by the Greeks and Romans for its medicinal attributes, a weed that calms with spinach essence even as it teases with a pungency followed by a fierce, if tiny, lick of salt. In the hands of the Craft magicians this natural militancy is wrung out and somehow coaxed into harmony. Have it sautéed. The leaves are blanched and chilled before they're heated in olive oil in which garlic has been sautéed. Leaves are cooked until the leaf edges are slivery crisps. This is compelling simplicity, a kind of nourishment that if finished as a child earned you dessert with two scoops. At Craft, eating it is its own reward.

Best Of Dallas®

Best Of