Burger House
We've been to 'em all: Snuffer's (every one), Scotty P's (Plano location, legendary), Chip's, Twisted Root, Adair's, Who's Who, Balls, even Perry's, since a honest-to-goddamned steakhouse is where a real man oughta get a burger every now and again. And on any given night, any one of them's the best in town; hell of a place we live, where someone's best burger is a legit contender from any corner. But some of us old farts around here are feeling nostalgic, surrounded as we are by newcomers for whom "classic" is an imported Steak & Shake, so we're digging out a classic here, a 56-year-old institution where son and father and grandfather can bond over a $3.70 double cheeseburger, a basket of the special-seasoning fries (best in town, till death do us part) and a "real" cherry coke. The Burger House, we call it "Jack's," 'cause we've been around, has five locations now, one in Austin (no foolin'), but the Snider Plaza location is our fave. Meat just tastes better in Highland Park, most likely.
Twisted Root Burger Co.
We were sad to see that the elk sausage and fried mac 'n' cheese were off the menu on our last visit to Twisted Root, but you can still get a buffalo burger and sweet potato chips (with a dusting of cinnamon), which are tops on our list. Pretty much everything is handmade here, including the mustard and ketchup. And if you're adventurous enough to drink cinnamon banana root beer, they've got that too (they change the root beer flavor on a regular basis). And don't be offended if they call you Hugh Jass or Dr. Evil—they're just letting you know your hot-off-the-grill burger is ready.
Norma's Cafe
Norma's Café, which has been open since 1956, has everything you'd hope for in a diner: bar stools and booths upholstered in cherry red, breakfast served all day and a waitstaff that greets you like family. That's the thing at Norma's: It pretty much is family. It's the sort of place where customers come every single day, where the waitress doesn't even have to ask some of the regulars what they want. You really can't go wrong at Norma's (if you like 1950s-era diner food), but try the lemon meringue pie. It's not fancy, but chances are, it's just the way mom made it. And that's the whole idea at Norma's—it's like going home.
For years, we've longed for a decent hot dog joint to open in Dallas. Sure, some love Wild About Harry's, but we know better. We've been to New York. We've been to Chicago. In other words, we have standards, and when Big D's finally came along, it met the criteria and then some. Try this on for size—a quarter-pound kosher beef dog (or a killer veggie dog, if you're, like, a Communist or something) grilled up and served on a substantial potato bun (also grilled), topped off with basics like mustard and cheese or fresh-made toppings like Shiner chili and sauerkraut. Add some incredible hand-cut French fries and a mouth-puckering limeade and you've got a dog experience that rivals anything they've got up north. And just in case you're not sold yet, Big D's is open till 3 a.m. on the weekends, and you might even see the likes of Jerry Stackhouse chowing down if you play your cards right.
Sevan G&G Café
This hummus is not only authentic and tasty, it's gorgeous, and the family that runs the place works hard to make it that way. When they bring out takeout orders, they open the box with a flourish to reveal a perfectly shaped mound of chickpea delight. The cooks are careful to pool just the right amount of olive oil on top, sprinkle it with paprika and garnish their work with a couple sprigs of parsley. The baba ganoush and tabbouleh are just as good, as is the array of Mediterranean meat dishes. The wide dining room of blue-clothed tables is a pleasant place to spend the evening, and there's a patio that fronts on Greenville. Just remember, it's BYOB.
Beth Marie's Old Fashioned Ice Cream & Soda Fountain
We'll bitch about gas at three bucks a gallon, but we've got absolutely no problem burning $30 to drive up Interstate 35 for absolutely the most delectable ice cream we've ever laid our lips upon. It's that good. Almost a decade old, Beth Marie's makes more than 60 flavors of ice cream right in the storefront location nestled on the Denton square. Flavors span classics such as peppermint and rocky road to unique tastes such as apple pie and cupcake (with little bits of real confetti cake in it). Scoops are available in ounce increments so customers can go whole hog or opt for a golf ball-sized bite to avoid extending the belt. More than 40 flavors can be blended into malts and shakes, and requisite soda jerk creations such as floats and limeades are also available if cones (waffle ones are made fresh at the counter) ain't the order.
Central Market
Somewhere deep in Whole Foods culture, Whole Foods still thinks of ice cream as a sin. Now, it's a sin Whole Foods will tolerate and forgive, but only in moderation, like Catholic sex. At Central Market there is no moderation. Central Market offers you every kind of ice cream, sorbet, gelato and other frozen excess that mankind has been able to scheme up since the beginning of ice cream, which, as we all know, was invented in Texas. More or less. Central Market's idea is definitely more. Their selection runs a gamut from better chocolate than we ever thought was possible in this life to something we didn't think was possible—ice cream that isn't good. Yeah, they've got some handmade niche varieties that somebody needs to put back in the niche, including one that tastes like it has little pellets of sod or something in it. We love the Earth too, but please, not in our ice cream! Anyway, if you want to expand your ice cream awareness, Central Market is the joint to visit.
Highland Park Cafeteria
Though no longer in Highland Park, the legendary cafeteria, founded on Knox Street in 1925, reopened this spring and has reconnected with devoted customers at its new location in Casa Linda. Face it, sometimes you need a cafeteria. Maybe grandma's visiting and the discussion about where to eat Sunday dinner took an ugly turn. Or maybe you're just in need of a little comfort food. Smothered steak, macaroni and cheese, squash casserole and other cafeteria classics like baked fish fillets can appease. Don't forget HPC's famous baked goods such as zucchini muffins and chocolate meringue pie. Walk down the line and pick up a little of this, a little of that. Jell-O! Sorry, "lime whip congeal." The line may move kind of slowly—hard for some gray-haired diners to hustle on their walkers—but that's part of the charm.
Clay Pit Grill & Curry House
Founded in Austin in 1998, Clay Pit is a modernization of this ancient exotic cuisine of hundreds of potent and sultry aromas and flavors somehow subdued into harmonious beatitude. Indian cuisine is a marvel that sorts through coriander, fennel, cumin, cilantro, turmeric, saffron, cinnamon, cocoa, nuts, garlic and chilies, somehow keeping them from erupting into Diet Coke-Mentos chaos. Chef and managing partner Tinku Saini once slandered his creation, referring to it as the P.F. Chang's of Indian cuisine, but Clay Pit is not as overtly mainstream as all of that. Sure Clay Pit has a Caesar and naan pizzas; it has naan wraps busting seams with lettuce, rice, cilantro and onions plus either chicken or lamb; it goes Indie-Mex with naan quesadillas with three cheeses. But it also has well-crafted tradition such as moist tandoori chicken that is more bird than burlap; mushroom and pea paneer simmered in smooth onion curry; moist beef vindaloo; and samosas and pakoras along with match and mingle curries and sauces for the meats, which include a nicely done bone-in goat—a thing P.F. Chang's wouldn't touch with 10-foot training chopsticks.
There's a joke among Dallas' culinary gentry that the best place for decent Italian is York Street, Sharon Hage's jewel where only the holy spirit of Tuscan cookery haunts her menu. That's why Riccardi's is such a surprise. It not only serves distinctive cuisine from owner Gaetano Riccardi's hometown of Avellino (near Naples), it bottles three of its own wines from the province of Avellino: a Greco di Tufo (white); the oldest variety of Avellino, the nutty and fruit forward Fiano di Avellino (white); and the rich and earthy Riccardi Taurasi, a red wine made from the Aglianico grape that is flush with food-friendly sharpness that unravels layers of balanced complexity. The menu includes spectacularly executed crimson sheers of carpaccio strewn with capers, and a creamy risotto mare blooming with plump shrimp, sweet lobster and tender calamari rings. It also has the unexpected, like the sausage- and pistachio-stuffed quail in a rich brandy sauce. Savor this in understated elegance that pools crisp contemporary edges with smooth traditional slopes and curves expressed in frescos, columns and wrought iron loops.

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