Chalk it up to climate change—everything else is—but it's getting increasingly difficult to stir up deft authentic Mexican cuisine in Dallas. Most of the stuff that tries passes muster, but it won't spark the Pavlov reflexes. That's why Trece—or thirteen—is just our luck. Here you can get the most virile tableside guacamole known this side of the Minute Men; at a place where haute Mexican regional cooking unfurls in fresh clear flavors, from the "mucho frio" grilled green tomato gazpacho, to the pepita-crusted Alaskan halibut in tangerine hoja santa sauce, to the shrimp, spinach and goat cheese stuffed chile rellenos in clean, refreshing tomato broth. Trece is where good Mexican lives in Dallas. Here's hoping the others catch up. And fast.
Tin Star
Our favorite foods include eggs, fried potatoes and bacon. Did we mention we love breakfast? And, yeah, we're from Texas, so all the better when you wrap up those breakfast classics in a flour tortilla. Sadly, many taquerias don't serve their breakfast tacos during the day, but Tin Star does. Whether you favor the traditional bacon, egg and cheese taco or you're craving a migas taco or Taco Blanco (egg whites, mashed black beans and pico de gallo), Tin Star has only one question: Do you want one taco or two?
Fish City Grill Preston Royal
OK, so it's a chain, but Fish City has its roots in Dallas (originally called Shell's Oyster Bar) and it hasn't expanded past Oklahoma or Louisiana, keeping it unique enough to make our list. But even if Fish City were to expand to McDonald's-like proportions, there's no denying the mind-blowing goodness of the oyster nacho. We know, it doesn't sound good, but there's something entirely unexpected, yet delightful, about these nachos. It's tortilla chips topped with fried oysters, pico de gallo and chipotle tartar sauce. It's truly Texan and truly delicious.
Words fail at Bijoux. Eat. Let little bites speak to you. Let thoughts go where they may. Observe how you feel, how your face sometimes vibrates and your toes curl. Notice how a gastrique tangos the sex out of foie gras. Revel in the caramelized surface of a seared scallop, how it is like leather if leather could be shaved into sheer lingerie. Mark how sweet and tender is the skate wing. Make note of the lush and rich pan-seared fillet and the chewy Kobe short rib marinated in wine and herbs and braised until it frays into silky fibers. Bijoux is the dream weave of chef Scott Gotlich, who composes these short concertos within the context of an eight-course tasting menu, a three-course prix fixe or in à la carte fragments from the menu. He does so with such garish impeccability, you go mute from the force of it. Don't speak. Eat.
Flavors From Afar
Unleash your inner gourmet with a trip to Flavors From Afar, an "interactive" food boutique where you'll learn from owners Gary and Nancy Krabill the arcane and complex art of making balsamic vinegar and quality olive oils. Did you know balsam has nothing to do with this incredible vinegar ("black gold") from Modena, Italy? The Krabills will lead you through a tasting of balsamics from the skinny 7-year-old variety to the thick and luscious 30-year-old vinegar that tastes heavenly enough to drizzle on ice cream. They'll show you how to anoint your pulse points with samples of olive oils from Tuscany, Portugal, Sicily and Napa Valley, and breathe in the aroma. Then toss back a tiny cup of the stuff and roll it around in your mouth. Hack! Hack! Astringent, a true two-cough oil. The store also stocks Italian ceramics, specialty pasta, bread dippers, pestos and grilling sauces. Don't leave before you check out the "salt bar," with smoky sea salt, Hawaiian pink, Bulgarian black and French fleur de sel. Go condiment crazy! Schedule your own tasting party. But be careful. The Krabills will tell you about their most unusual offering: a September food and wine trip to Tuscany, where you can eat and drink and harvest olives, returning home with oil made from your own efforts. That'll set you back a few bucks.
Lee Harvey's
The best onion rings achieve a perfect harmony of onion, batter, grease and sauce, filling your mouth with the sweet, sweet flavor of short-order cook tears. It's almost as if you can taste the chef's hopes and dreams, and at Lee Harvey's, we taste the tears of a giver. Served thick and crunchy with a side of zesty chipotle aioli, these rings are top-notch grub, and most important, the batter holds fast to the onion, so you never end up slurping translucent cellulose and wondering what might have been. Hell, in a pinch, we'd even propose with one.
Carmona's Tex-Mex Cantina
So you find yourself in Terrell. Maybe you're on your way back from First Mondays in Canton, or maybe you're on the long haul between El Paso and Longview. Either way, you're hungry and you don't want fast food. So sit down and cool your leadfoot at Carmona's Tex-Mex Cantina, right next to the Tanger Outlets. This place is famous among Terrell residents, and who doesn't want to eat where the locals eat? And there are good reasons they keep coming back: fast, friendly service; frequently replenished chips and salsa; solid Tex-Mex entrees and warm sopapillas dripping with honey.
Primo Brothers Pizza
These guys definitely have it down for pizza that's just oily and rich enough to taste great without turning into tomato soup on a tortilla. Crusts here are done the Old World way—tossed and flopped and smushed around the way dough ought to be done. It used to be called just "Brothers Pizza," but they added the "Primo" after a bunch of other brothers decided to go into the biz at various locations. Nothing against the other brothers, some of whom are pretty good too, but Primo—well, they were the first brothers. Try their calzone and stromboli too. Very delicious.

Best Place to Eat Till You Explode

Maxim's

Maxim's Chinese Restaurant
Why is it that even long-timers here don't know about Chinatown, just north of Dallas off Main Street and Greenville Avenue? Sure, it's a strip mall, but it boasts the best Asian grocery store in town, some of the best Chinese food in three states (you ain't lived till you've soaked up the garlicky, greasy goodies at Mandarin Garden, which, alas, we hear isn't as good as it used to be) and a huge row of bubble tea dispensaries. But we come up here, thanks to the advice of Royal China's owner Kai-Chi Kao, for one specific reason: the dim sum at Maxim's, which is served seven days a week—rare enough, as most Chinese restaurants bust out the dumpling, noodle and soup carts only on weekends. Do yourself a favor and make sure you order the Pu-Erh tea, which cuts the grease and keeps you from feeling a little bloated, sage advice for those who, like us, can't get enough of the shrimp-and-scallion dumplings, easily the best thing on the menu for those who like their Chinese food a little less risky. For those who do, there's the thousand-year-old-egg soup; tried it once—not bad, but never could go back for seconds. Eat, eat and eat—then wonder how your bill's only $49 for six people what with all that food.
St. Martin's Wine Bistro
One week a month, St. Martin's Wine Bistro, an East Dallas staple, offers a four-course dinner paired with wine for $39.95 per person. Chef Georges DuBoeuf dreams up a perfect meal: for a starter, seafood Newberg, paired with a Côtes-du-Rhône white wine. The second course: country French with herbs and apple-wood smoked bacon-infused corn cake on mixed greens, accompanied by a nice Pinot Noir. And for the entrée: tournedos of beef à la bourguignonne, au gratin potatoes and haricots verts, washed down with a Côtes-du-Rhône red; and finally, for dessert, French chocolate mousse paired with Champagne framboise. You don't have to think, just eat, which is good planning after that second glass of wine.

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