Best Sea Scallop 2008 | Mirabelle | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

Chef Joseph Mahr's diver is a titillating tango of Latin and Southwestern, its veneer seared into a slight, consistent brittleness shrouding buttery succulence that veers into extracted sweetness on the finish. It's bedded down on a knoll of smooth polenta richened in chicken stock, cumin, cream and orange honey, a pool of lobster broth surrounding the island, the spinach floating in the pool like kelp beds. It's a surf and turf that's wonderful in its weirdness and makes the tongue dance.

Fish City is a mid-price to reasonable franchise place, but don't think that it has anything to do with fast food. This is a full-bore seafood restaurant, locally owned and operated, offering a revolving menu of specials including wonderfully succulent salmon dishes, blackened trout and more—everything served by a cheerful, well-trained staff. The decor is informally tasteful. A small patio in front offers a very interesting view of the circus of life in Old East Dallas. This is a neighborhood place you can drop in on without a reservation and enjoy a really well-prepared seafood dinner and great service, all at a relatively modest price. That's a lot to beat.

Funny thing about Mel's Ice Cream: It used to be a Marble Slab Creamery, and the marble slab remains—unlike Mel, who has gone the way of Marble Slab Creamery and is no longer the proprietor. The current owner is Dae Cho, who daily scoops out about 40 flavors of ice cream, many of them overtly delish, especially mixed together with all the holdover slabbish toppings—Oreo cookies, M&Ms, Gummy Bears—you name it. But Cho has added something cool and refreshing—actually cold and refreshing—shaved ice, 40-50 flavors of it, with names like Tiger Blood (strawberry and coconut syrup), Fuzzy Navel (orange, peach and lemonade) and Rock & Roll (blueberry and grape). The fine ice shavings when topped with the sugary syrup of your choice offer a less creamy alternative to the normal, run-of-the-mill Reese's Pieces-infused double-chocolate fudge ice cream fare that can make summer such a dreadful bore.

Sometimes it's hard to know what you're going to be in the mood to read. A fashion rag, a novel, a good nonfiction narrative or just a book of pretty pictures. Thanks to Gachet Coffee Lounge & Books, there's no need to lug around a back-breaking bag of reading materials to ensure a good coffee break. And you don't even have to settle for the discarded sections of someone else's newspaper—they already took the good coupons anyway. No, the Victory Park café not only has a top-notch latte (DRY sodas and other non-caffeinated sips too), but it has a varied and well-stocked book boutique too. The 500-square-foot area boasts faves like Vanity Fair as well as more obscure monthlies, hardbacks, best sellers and coffee table fare. Sip with confidence—Gachet's got a perfect literary match for whatever flavor you're tossing back.

In the late '50s, Joseph Marco Nuccio started serving pizza at his Marco Pollo Lounge on Carroll Avenue. Then in '62, he moved his pizzeria to its current location at Preston Road and Royal Lane. Not sure how much a piece of pie and a cold drink cost back then, but today Pizza By Marco will serve you up a slice of pizza loaded with three topping of your choice and a soda for a measly $2—yeah, you read that right. A family business since the day they served their first piping-hot pie, Marco's doesn't serve up a greasy, cheap-o slice either. Every morning, Joseph's son, Frank Nuccio gets up early to prepare the pizza sauce and dough fresh from a closely guarded family recipe. The slices are amazing, and the crust is perfectly thin and crispy, and they offer all the standard toppings to choose from plus vegan soy versions of cheese, pepperoni, sausage and hamburger. Frank has recently opened two other locations that offer a one-topping slice of pizza and drink special for $2.50, which we still think qualifies as a best deal.

It's nearly ubiquitous in Japanese restaurants, but all too often the fried soft-shell crab is a mushy, spindly-legged blob that at its worst assumes the texture of a sodden sponge that sometimes squirts. At Gui, this cliché becomes sublime. It's called spider on a leaf, a panko bread crumb-coated creature burrowed into a sheaf of greens, its claws bared, its legs folded inward like the predator at rest, sprung to pounce if need be, those panko crumbs fried into perfect spider-pelt mimicry. It's crisp but tender, moist but not slushy. The bite crushes the delicately brittle exoskeleton and in floods a gentle rush of arousing marine funk. This might be the best example of the fried soft-shell crab we've ever tasted. If it really is a crab.

A few weeks back we made the horrific mistake of leaving the ice chest at home; but, hey, we should have known this Saturday would wind up like most—with a trip to the Dallas Farmers Market. Specifically, Shed 1, site of the homegrown goodies. Down toward the end was a table set up for relative newcomer Savoy Sorbet, the result of two years' worth of planning and prep. For the moment, we'll say only this: The sorbets are made entirely with locally grown herbs that are infused into a frozen concoction that, swear to God, tastes like something you pray for but don't dare actually expect when you hear flavors like "rosemary Chablis" or "apple mint" or "chocolate mint" or "rose geranium-raspberry," among the divine seasonal offerings now for sale at Shed 1 on weekends, till they run out. And we'll demand this: Bring your cooler.

Lauren Dewes Daniels

If you've ever had the Jimmy's Sausage flatbread pizza at Bolsa in Oak Cliff, you know how perfect the sausage is—just the right combination of sweet tenderness and spicy-hot piquancy. "Jimmy's Spicy" is one of several sausages made on the premises at Jimmy's Food Store, one of the treasures of Old East Dallas. You can get your own frozen pizza dough while you're there, so you can go home and make your own flatbread pizza. You might pick up a bottle of good Italian wine, some bitters and maybe a liter of limonata, as well. But it's that spicy Italian sausage that will stay with you the longest—in a good way.

Face it, you'll never be able to afford tickets to a Cowboys game once the new stadium opens. Hell, a handful of nachos at Jerry Jones' prices will probably run you twice what a pair of Texas Rangers tix might cost. So when you consider that the Rangers' all-you-can-eat-seats promo includes seats in the Lexus Club Terrace and as many hot dogs (and peanuts and Cracker Jacks) as you can cram down your maw all for $34, baseball suddenly looks very attractive. Just make sure you're not too busy putting relish on your wiener when Josh Hamilton hits his 1,000th home run.

Chef Michelle Carpenter turns sushi into performance art with her omakase dinners, which lets her indulge her whims. Such whims may include Southwestern strokes—cilantro, lime, jalapeño—or a specific "market-fresh catch" of the day. The sushi is fresh, smooth and silken: racy strips of Spanish mackerel, bright fluffy tobiko; rich uni over rice. Zen Sushi is a raw fish respite blazing trails in Oak Cliff's Bishop Arts District.

Best Of Dallas®

Best Of