Best Cheap Tacos 2008 | Fuel City | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

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.

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.

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 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.

For meat lovers, the Brazilian churrascaria is the king of steakhouses, although it doesn't really qualify as a steakhouse, not in the traditional American sense of a slab of meat on a plate with some potatoes to the side. In case you haven't been to one of these places by now, it's caveman simple: meat on a stick. But the wonder of the churrascaria is the many ways that meat—and its many varieties, from chicken hearts to pork wrapped in bacon—can be cooked. By now, there are churrascarias all over the place, but if you have the money, the best of the best is Fogo de Chao. And if you're not a meat lover, the salad bar is superb. It's a pricey treat, but well worth it.

Cookouts are a staple of many holidays, but let's face it—between the picky eaters, the charcoal and the bugs, sometimes they can be a real pain in the buns. Lucky for you, Central Market sets up an outdoor grill on most holiday weekends (and for their annual Hatch Chile Festival), serving up gourmet burgers, hot dogs and sausages all afternoon for a price almost unheard of in this town. Forgo the microbrew beer and two people can eat for less than 10 bucks. And it's tasty too—we're still salivating over the Hatch chile burger on the Hatch chile bun with Hatch chile cheese we had a few weeks back. And remember—it's always better to shop for groceries on a full stomach.

Many a weekday you'll find half the editorial and production staff of the Dallas Observer hunkered down at the Original Market Diner, enjoying meatloaf, a turkey club (forget fries—try the homemade potato chips), or best yet, a scrumptious breakfast of eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy. You see, unlike our other old-school favorite—Mama's Daughter's Diner—the OMD serves the most important meal of the day from open till close, allowing the late risers in our ranks to enjoy the same advantages as the early birds without having to resort to Denny's or IHOP. Throw in the friendliest waitstaff in town and the always-fruitful people-watching and you've got the best diner anyone could ever hope for.

From one of the maybe two French restaurants left in Dallas after the Franco-genocide that followed in the wake of the great "freedom fries" skirmishes comes Watel's escargot, an assortment of Thai snails sautéed in Chardonnay, onions, garlic, tomato, and a lasting touch of cream before they're finished with basil and olive oil. They're rambunctiously plump and earthy, without any of that musty temperament. You're never left wondering what feedlot fodder got them to fatten up just so. A shit-kicking blessing, that.

New Mansion chef John Tesar is the dark horse on the Dallas dining terrain, the diamond in the rough. This outsider could not compete with or build upon the traditions that unfolded from The Mansion through the decades under the Lucchese-booted Dean Fearing. So, he wisely chose to focus on foodstuff and flavor with laser precision as the restaurant received a much-needed multimillion-dollar makeover. Its dusty, cobwebbed Southwestern appointments have largely disappeared, though Mansion tortilla soup remains. The room is richly understated with immaculate lines and lush artworks that whisper of its past formality. And what can you say about Tesar's flavors, a near unclassifiable Euro-Yankee mosaic harmonized with thin threads of Asia? Tesar's flavors are almost universally compelling and articulate—from seared Hudson Valley foie gras with braised rhubarb, to arctic char graced with fennel puree and soy and orange, to roasted Texas guinea fowl with lentil and bacon. Rest in peace, O lobster taco.

Truth is, we could dine on Indian every day of the week—man and woman, we're so totally hoping, can live on samosas alone. And if so, Roti Grill's the place to get 'em hot and fresh once you place the order at the counter...if, that is, you can keep your mitts off everything else on the menu at the joint started three years ago by Pardeep Sharma, owner of the equally delish India Palace, which this place resembles, but without all the pomp and circumstance. The tandoori's to die for; the garlic naan's divine; the biryani's the best we've had anywhere in town. The only thing we tend to avoid is the paneer pakoda; cheese isn't meant to be shoe-leather tough, sorry. Still, one item out of, oh, 100 ain't bad at all.

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