Best New Face On The Scene 2009 | Leslie Brenner | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

We thought we'd miss Bill Addison, the smooth-writin', easy-going gentleman food critic. But Leslie Brenner came storming in from the West Coast (Los Angeles, to be precise) and began kicking some serious ass—as far as daily papers will allow ass to be kicked, anyway. Just look at the way she stripped The Old Warsaw of its faded glory. Sure, there are some points we disagree on. Such is life. Brenner gives the thinning paper back some of its...we were gonna say balls, but we'll stick with attitude.

If one talented chef is good, two will be even better, right? Seems to be the theory behind this far north gem, teaming elder statesman Gaspar Stantic and young (but accomplished) Jean-Marie Cadot, late of Lavandou. The kitchen works in touches of classic French, hints of pan-European and a lot of New American into their creations, to the benefit of diners. The duck terrine can legitimately be called brilliant, studded with pistachios and soothed by truffles. Sauteed escargots rival any in Dallas and the halibut with Champagne sauce, the soufflés...we could keep going. Despite the high-toned menu, this is a casual destination. Wear shorts. Sit back. Relax. Indulge.

Kathy Tran

A couple years ago, Teiichi Sakurai did something that at the time seemed downright dimwitted. He ditched two stellar restaurants—Tei Tei and Teppo—and headed to Japan to learn about cooking. He's one hell of a student, judging by his new One Arts Plaza venture. Tei An specializes in Japanese noodles: soba and udon, but especially the former. Hand-made, nutty in flavor, when dipped into one of his broth selections (ranging from traditional Japanese to a Texas pecan) they become something exquisite. Tei An is memorable dining and a contender for best new restaurant. Guess in retrospect, he wasn't that dumb after all.

Best Not-Like-Anything-Else Restaurant

Marlo's House


Any place billing itself as "the finest Mennonite restaurant" in the area and handing out matchsticks labeled "Mennonite flashlight" deserves some recognition. But the fact is, this quaint mom-and-pop place stuck in a Garland strip mall serves some damn good (can we say that?) Pennsylvania Dutch/Canadian food. Yes, you read that right. The cook (the mom) is a Mennonite, originally from Canada. Hence the great pies, simple but hearty meals and heaping plates of poutine, that strange Canuck sensation where they drench French fries in gravy and cover the lot with cheese. Really, it's better than it sounds.

As much as we love ice cream dripping with fudge and all manner of other artery-clogging ingredients, occasionally we just need a palate cleanser. What's that you say—fruit? Hmm, if there was only a way to combine delicious frozen treats with fruit...enter Yogilicious. Unlike some frozen yogurts, Yogilicious' brand isn't overly sweet in an attempt to imitate ice cream. Instead their rotation of flavors—from green tea to chocolate to coconut to strawberry—comes off as refreshing, not cloying. Continuing the healthy theme, Yogilicious offers fruit toppings such as pomegranate and blueberry or nuts such as almonds and pecans. Or if you need a little deviousness in your yogurt, veer toward toppings such as Oreos, Fruity Pebbles or sprinkles. While you're there, hang out and play some Wii Sports or Rock Band till you build up a hunger for more fro-yo.

If you've burned yourself out on Café Brazil (and let's face it, we've all done it at one time or another) the Dallas branch of this Southern chain is a more than adequate substitute, serving up everything from Southern crab stacks (a grit cake topped with homemade crab cakes, shrimp and andouille sausage cream sauce) to bananas Foster pancakes. We're slowly working our way through the menu ourselves, but the Hey Ricky!!—a Spanish omelet complete with avocado slices, green chiles, onions and cheese—is easily our favorite so far and probably the best omelet we've ever had 'round these parts. Add a little chorizo and it's even better. Throw in an English muffin, country potatoes and a side of crispy baked bacon and you've got yourself a breakfast to dream about.

The New England-style seafood shack has been around for a while, but they're not afraid to take chances—chances like dumping every kind of shellfish they can think of on some rice and calling it paella. Two small lobster tails, several scallops, some shrimp, mussels and clams. Geez. This is a tour of New England, the equivalent of an all-you-can-eat seafood feast for about $20. There's nothing Spanish about it, but who really cares? If it's on the menu and you think you're up to the task, do it.

OK, so it's a cram-packed little joint. So it doesn't take reservations, and there's no comfortable place to wait. And maybe Campania suits your tastes better. But there's just something about the crust at this tiny SMU destination. Owner Charlie Green supposedly plucked chef Salvatore Olivella from a New York establishment because he refused to start a pie until the wood-fired oven reached the proper temperature...which he checked by reaching in with a bare arm. This kind of care (or monomaniacal lunacy) leads to pizzas set on beautifully charred, smoky, crisp but chewy rounds of dough. So what if they cure their own mozzarella and find the best ingredients? The crust—it's all about the crust.

The Oak Cliff restaurant caught everyone's attention by offering a menu that changed daily based upon whatever a slate of farmers brought in. They also earned some notice because of their refusal to buy such conveniences as a deep fryer. But we really didn't care about any of that once we tried Bolsa's flatbreads—essentially cracker-crust pizzas, only far more expressive. We're talking about smoky bread covered in spicy Jimmy's sausage or basil that explodes on the palate, local and very fresh cheeses, tomatoes that taste as if they were picked that very day. They're just really damn good.

Best Place You Always Forget Is There


There's no-man's land as in that boggy space between British and German lines along the Somme and there's the real no-man's land, that gap you speed through when going from Knox-Henderson to West Village, or vice versa. Restaurants don't live very long on this treacherous ground unless they cling stubbornly to such basics as spot-on cooking and reasonable pricing. Helps if they have some back-up too—such as one of the best bartenders in the city. Salum is still there, tucked along Cole, after five or so years. You just never see it.

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