Best Hot Dogs 2007 | Big D's Dogs | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can get a heart attack just reading about it: A baked ham and Swiss sandwich soaked in rich cream sauce. But La Madeleine's Croque Monsieur, which is French for "Mister, you're going to croak if you eat this," is worth the year or two it will take off your life. All the main ingredients work perfectly together; the ham doesn't overwhelm the Swiss, which co-exists peacefully with the sauce, which seeps just right onto the warm bread. Like most of La Madeleine's fare, the Croque is a little pricey, but, then again, it's also filling enough to tide you well past the dinner hour.
We've neglected our old friend of late, and it has made us sad. Long ago, during the beginning of Bill Clinton's age of prosperity and peace, this place was our home-away-from. Late at night, the din of Deep Ellum still ringing in our ears, or early in the morning, on the way to our battered former HQ on Commerce Street, this diner—its seats sparkly red, its walls wooden brown, its surfaces covered in a fine sheen of...something—this diner would be our coffee-and-cigarettes-and-big-effin'-grin be all and end all. Bacon and eggs and burgers and fries and ham and steak and everything else, that was extra, the greasy solutions to the hangover brewing all over. But the was good, cheap, something with which you washed down the Chess Records blues and the occasional slice of radio cheese squawking out of the jukebox. There's nothing better than 2:52 a.m. coffee, couple of sunny-side-ups, three sticks of crispy bacon, a mound of greasy potatoes and a biscuit or two. Nowadays, course, you can't smoke at the Metro, but it's still there, still surviving and thriving despite the demise of Deep Ellum and the expanse of DART-board construction threatening to drown the joint in rebar and torn-up concrete. Nothing fancy here. Just home.
There's nothing wrong with trendy upscale pizza restaurants, but sometimes all you want is a classic, simple slice that doesn't stray from its roots or require an hour-long wait and valet parking. Carmine's, like any self-respecting New York pizza joint, has red and white checkered tablecloths and pizzas displayed on those round silver platters by the register. Best of all, of course, is the pie itself—the crust is relatively thin but incredibly soft, with just the right quotient of chewiness. We recommend the cheese and pepperoni, which is flavorful, a little spicy and a lot garlicky. And since there's rarely a wait, you can grab a slice on the run.

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