Fat Straws

We still don't understand the purpose of the tapioca balls in the bottom of the bubble tea: They just get stuck in the freakishly wide straw. And yet we're still attracted to this weird concoction, a kind of milk slushie. At Tempest Tea, they improve on the regular bubble tea by offering a variety of quality teas as the base. If you are new to bubble tea, they are glad to make suggestions too; for us they prepared a delicious, cool mix of apricot white tea, vanilla flavoring and soymilk. If bubble tea is not to your taste, you can relax on their plush benches with a hot or iced tea chosen from their selection of more than 75 varieties.

It's hard to frequent any culinary establishment with the word "fat" in the name, but this fabulous slurp-fest is made possible and palatable only by the fat straws used to suck up the big, chewy tapioca balls at the bottom of the delicious and nutritious teas, slushees and smoothies the place has to offer. The tapioca balls—bubbles in Fat Straw parlance—are pearls of chewy carbs and aren't so much flavorful as they are textural, providing the slurper with a unique sip, chew, swallow, eat experience. The Dallas location we visited near the Galleria is a slight, sleek ultra-modern venue, and the menu boasts a vast array of post-modern beverages such as a green tea milkshake, passion fruit jasmine tea and mango slushees. This is definitely not your father's Starbucks. Nor does it pretend to be.

Twisted Root Burger Co.

This Deep Ellum gem is known for one of the best hamburgers in town, along with its famous homemade root beer and milkshakes that can be ordered with Bailey's or amaretto. But for those hoping to avoid a future of getting drunk on milkshakes and packing on calories from hamburgers, the turkey burger is a way to satisfy your craving for meat without all the guilt. Unlike most places that use ground turkey, Twisted Root serves up a slice of moist turkey meat and places it on a wheat bun. And, like everything else on the menu, they are happy to customize it any way you like it. We like a slice of Swiss cheese and bacon, but then we're just extra health-conscious.

Chuy's

Sadly, the word "burrito" conjures up the idea of a bland, paper-wrapped item purchased in a drive-through during the "fourthmeal" time of night. Chuy's has shown us it shouldn't be that way. Their "Big as Yo' Face" burritos live up to the claim; we can usually make two meals out of one. This is what a burrito should be: stuffed, not limp; hearty, cheesy and spicy, not mushy and pasty. And, oh yeah, you're definitely going to need that knife and fork that Chuy's provides in a prayer-printed glassine envelope. This monster comes topped with lots of sauce of your choice: We suggest the deluxe tomatillo. Yum.

Alligator Cafe

Alligator-skin wallpaper, green. Lots of napkins. And helpful hints: pinch the tail, suck the head. Who'd a-thunk Cajun could be so Freudian? Such is the power of the crawdad. And of the Alligator Café with its long ropes of thick and greaseless fried alligator tail, soothing and swarthy gumbo with rings of fresh scallion embedded in this Cajun lava, plates of fried green tomatoes covered with shredded Parmesan on a bed of lettuce, and the heartiest damn red beans and rice your stomach ever rumbled to. Yes, Alligator, blow my Freudian crater.

We used to be satisfied with the greasy calzones at your standard mall food court pizza joints (Famous Famiglia, Sbarro, etc.), but now that we've sampled the Italian staple at Picasso's, we just can't go back. There are those of us who'd argue Picasso's serves up the best pizza pie in town, but fold the crust over and it's just as good, if not better. You can choose from the normal toppings—pepperoni, sausage, olives, etc.—but Picasso's also gives you the added advantage of "deluxe toppings" (artichoke hearts, feta cheese, pine nuts, etc.) and "gourmet toppings" (steak fajita meat, portabella mushroom, smoked Gouda, etc.), allowing you to take your calzone experience to the limit. We highly recommend the large—not only will it feed you for a couple days, but if some freak snowstorm blew up, you could probably crawl in the thing and survive. It's that big, people.

Dallas Fish Market

Dallas Fish Market chef Randy Morgan says his goal is to align food with décor, in this case a modern white glass and metal room with repeating geometrical shapes cleansed into near sterility. Thus Morgan, who resuscitated the shuttered Russian Tea Room in New York, works his food into these cues, sometimes by shaping, sometimes by deconstructing and reformulating. His ceviche reflects this mindset, if only subtly. It's an invigorating mound of precisely minced Hawaiian red snapper interlaced with bits of mango and jalapeño that issues bursts of cumin. Morgan has teased out a workable juice formula—roughly 60 percent lime with 40 percent orange—to flash-cook the fish into opacity while moderating the lime intensity as it annuls the orange sweetness and preserves natural fish flavors and textures—flavors balanced with the precision of the mincing. Geometry never tasted so good.

Fuel City

Not that this truck stop needs any more love. Texas Monthly already called their tacos the Best in Texas, and we once wrote a cover story about the truck stop itself, calling it the best truck stop in the world or something like that. It is a delightfully weird place with a swimming pool, a drive-through featuring bikini-clad girls who will buff your car while you buy beer, and a Tejano singer who sets up shop in the parking lot Friday nights and gets the weekend started right. But it's the tacos that keep us coming back, and Texas Monthly had a point: They are damn good. And cheap. We recommend the picadillo and the barbacoa. Just remember: cash only. And if you have a hard time finding the taco stand, just look for the line.

Yutaka Sushi Bistro

Starting with the décor, Yutaka is impeccable and authentic. Shelves behind the hostess stand bear beautiful Japanese vases, and walls are accented by bright wooden box frames that hold delicate Japanese maples. This place is the best relief in town from the disappointment of cheap, Americanized sushi. Their fish is incredibly fresh—the salmon and yellowtail unagi melt in your mouth—and the chefs use Binchotan charcoal, renowned in Japan for cooking the inside of the food while sealing the outside to hold in the juices. You'll be hard-put to find a better appetizer than the tuna tataki, bathed in an outrageously flavorful cilantro sauce, and they change up the menu with things like roasted eggplant and seared foie gras. Lunch offers affordable bento boxes, and if you want to pretend you're at a Tokyo bistro, you can order the whole squid.

State Fair of Texas

Glen Kusak's chicken-fried bacon won the award for "Best Taste" in this year's State Fair of Texas food contest, but let's give credit where credit's due. Chicken-fried bacon's been served up for years at Sodalak's Original County Inn, located in the small Texas town of Snook. They even serve it with cream gravy—none of the wussy ranch and honey mustard that Kusak's offering. We do, however, want to thank Kusak for bringing the delicacy to Big D, since we'd like to be as close as possible to our primary care physician after forking over our food tickets. But if you're on a diet, don't fret. Downing a few strips of chicken-fried goodness ain't cheatin'—it's doing your duty as a Texan. After all, as chicken-fried godfather Frank Sodolak once said on Texas Country Reporter, "your own body can tell what's good for ya."

Yao Fuzi Cuisine

Yao Fuzi Shanghainese style blends in bits of Mandarin and even Japanese, keeping it floating atop the mainstream in North Texas. You can savor fried calamari in curry dust, spicy tuna summer rolls, pan-fried duck in Mandarin sauce, and sweet and sour chicken. For the authentically adventurous, try duck gizzard, beef tripe and cilantro, jellyfish sliced from the head. There is even kimchi. Any of these chosen paths leads to serenity.

Best Of Dallas®

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