Here's a swell parlor game: try pairing a nice full-bodied red wine with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Notice how the tannins complement the evil darkness enshrouding the land of Hyrule; revel in how the rich ripe cassis notes harmonize with the young farm boy Link as he awakens his hero and rabid inner animal. Also, don't the subtle acids and nice long finish complement a frontal charge on the dungeon boss as you pound him with clenched fists and open-palm blows? This is just one of the culinary escapades you and your family can enjoy at Bin 555: a post-modern entertainment centaur that is half wine bar, half video smorgasbord. While you savor sips of Byron Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, in between bites of rustic Italian asparagus Milanese—as dangerous as Zelda since asparagus murders red wine—your kids can savor Xbox 360, Wii and Playstation amusements in the "Kids' Lounge," or the wired play space with Net Nanny-filtered Internet access and ever-changing movie showings. It's a nutritious playground for post-toddler first adopters and midget attention span development. So while you glory in the Bin's rustic Tuscan cuisine on small plates coupled with a wine list featuring 55 bottles for $55, your kids can digest Zelda and Link. Feel the family inner animal stirring?
Ali Baba Mediterrian Grill
Taryn Walker
Ali Baba serves a succulent, melt-from-the-bone golden chicken with a spicy garlic sauce and pita bread, or you can ask for hummus instead of the garlic. If you're like us, you eat too much rotisserie chicken anyway, because you tell yourself it's not as bad as fried chicken, and that's true. And fried chicken is not as bad as fried beef. But no matter what Ali Baba's golden chicken really does for your cholesterol, it's a refreshing break for the palate—a hint of the Middle East, a whiff of barbecue, what could be better? Ali Baba has lunch hours, a midday closing and then evening hours, but it gets a little complicated. Best is to call ahead. Or live large and take a chance.
This classy neighborhood eatery turns out down-home cooking with an upscale flourish, and the menu changes with the seasons. You can count on delicious entrees such as the tender and juicy grilled pork chop, as well as unique sides like smoked Gouda grits and warm blue cheese potato salad. The salads are especially masterful. The 24 Chopped Salad, with tomatoes, shallots, blue cheese and avocado has a delectable fusion of flavors and the perfect amount of poppy-seed vinaigrette, and you can enjoy all of it in a cozy, upscale atmosphere complete with a bright mural of Lakewood on the far wall.
Taco Diner
Some like it hot. They're sissies. We normally want our salsa spicy enough to serve as a paint stripper in a pinch. The salsa verde at Taco Diner, however, is a different animal. We're not sure exactly what they put in this magical sauce, but it's unlike any salsa we've had in Dallas, creamy smooth and iridescent green, with a tangy flavor that's great on the restaurant's mouth-watering tacos. It's flavorful enough to satisfy fans of heat, yet mild enough to appeal to even Yankee palates. Luckily, the service is top-notch, so if you want to go through four or five bowls (and you will), it's not a problem.
Central Market
Among pleasures we've missed in our long adventures in gluttony is the joy of pink salt from the Himalayas. Say what? Yeah, the pink unrefined fossil marine salt formed some 200 million years ago in the mountains of the sherpas. It has a pinkish shimmer, a swell granulometry and crunch, and a slightly bitter flavor on the finish—everything you want from the pink in your life. This is just one of the many wonders to be found at Central Market Southlake's Salts of the Earth salt bar. There's hibiscus salt and salt with Mediterranean herbs, black olives and Sri Lanka curry. There's fleur de sel, hand-harvested sea salts from the Mediterranean and Atlantic. There are various grades of smoked salts, including one smoked from incinerated Chardonnay oak barrels. There are red clay salts that seal in meat juices when roasting, Hawaiian black lava salts and Cypress black sea salts with activated charcoal to provide relief from flatulence, among other things. The Central Market salt bar has 23 salts that you can taste, buy in bagged bulk or purchase in small plastic samplers if you're worried your blood pressure may launch your cerebral cortex through your nostrils. It's history, one lick at time.
The Oceanaire Seafood Room
If it swims, it flies. The Oceanaire has fresh fish—arctic char, Shetland Island trout, barracuda, red mullet, smoked sturgeon, thresher shark, blowfish—flown in from every conceivable global spot, including Iceland, the East Coast, New Zealand, Panama, South America and Hawaii. The menu is driven by freshness and reshuffles daily—even hourly—as the market dictates. Have your catch prepped the way you want: simply grilled, broiled, sautéed, steamed or fried. There's a raw bar jammed with marine-misted lobsters, crab, clams and shrimp; an oyster selection of Wellfleets from Massachusetts, Malpeques from Prince Edward Island and Kumamotos from Oregon, or whatever else can catch flight. No other Dallas restaurant does seafood as varied or as fresh or racy and unbridled. And so far it seems no one ever will.
Mama's Daughter's Diner
For much of the last couple of decades, two sisters "of a certain age" have been serving meatloaf and attitude to customers at competing diners. In the process they have won fans and even a bit of fame. Barbara Woodley, 70, in her signature oversized sunglasses, works the crowd at Mama's Daughter's Diner, while little sis Natalie, 66, in oversized barrel-curl up-do, serves the masses at nearby Original Market Diner. The fare is similar at both spots: chicken-fried steak, mac and cheese, biscuits and gravy, etc., but the girls are definitely different. Everyone agrees that Barbara is the more conservative sister, while Natalie is the more flamboyant. Both have legions of admirers who eat with them daily. Expect a wait if you want to sit in either of their sections and also expect to hear their banter dotted with "hon" or "darlin'" or "sweetheart." The girls are comfortable financially, but both have decided not to give up their day jobs. Lucky for us. Big smiles. Big hair. Big hearts. Come on, who doesn't need to be called "hon" every once in a while?
Hibiscus
There's a reason why, shortly before this writing, Rudy Mikula was poached from Nove Italiano by Consilient Restaurants to become wine and beverage director for Hibiscus, among other Consilient duties. No surprise. Mikula is a walking comfort zone, a wine geek whose easy style and bone-dry wit melts inhibitions, making diners susceptible to Mikula's unique brand of vino evangelism. Listen to him. He plumbs and probes for the world's great sacramental blessings like the best of them. He'll pour you sips of his favorites. Like a particular wine and want to avoid the painful restaurant mark-up flaying? He'll soak off the label and secure it in a Ziploc so you can bring your bagged prize to your favorite retailer. Mikula is an intensely sincere steward, at once discerning, eager and shrewd. He'll usurp your finger and lovingly lug it through the wine list, helping you pinpoint the hidden ones that won't scare the Quicken out of you. If he can do this with Italian wines, with all of their confounding indigenous grapes and regional obscurities, imagine what craftiness he'll pull with the far more mainstream Hibiscus list. Just wait. And watch.
RJ Mexican Cuisine
Because it's considered a simple tomato soup, people tend to think gazpacho is easy to make. So wrong. Often you order the cold Spanish dish only to be served a bowl of chopped tomatoes, onions and peppers, as if they can just whip up some pico de gallo and change the name. RJ's gazpacho is the real deal, though, a cool, refreshing blend of tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, Spanish onion, cilantro and Haas avocados. It has just enough spice and soupiness and exactly the right amount of garlic, which let's face it, is the most important of all.
Pappas Brothers Steakhouse
Big slabs of red beef alive with juice and char are the essence of Dallas cuisine. Diners full of lust and sweat and drool are the essence of the Dallasite. All of this is found in a maze-chambered dining room appointed with meticulous elegance for the indulgence of the well-appointed paunch. Pappas' prime meat is dry-aged, hung out to dry for 28 days (or so) to maliciously extract the deep rich flavors and heighten the impact of its evenly distributed fat. Natural enzymes break down connective tissues, creating a sublime cut—rich, silky, seasoned simply but with mind-bending effectiveness. The nutty dry-aged finish elegantly unravels and loiters with exquisite persistence, loosening only when sluiced with a strapping, gripping Cabernet or one of those assertive Australian Shirazes. So pass the bacon-wrapped scallops, some turtle gumbo, the thick asparagus needles and maybe a few lettuce wedge layers. Meat lust must be tempered. Then again, you may choose to lose consciousness in a fit of carnivorous bliss.

Best Of Dallas®

Best Of