The Grape
Beth Rankin

The Grape is the kind of place you want to huddle in on a Sunday: low-key, casual atmosphere with great food...and unlike Denny's, it's dark enough inside no one can see your bloodshot eyes. But really, it's all about the food. You can go meaty, with steak frites. Need something old-fashioned and hearty? They serve oxtail hash. If you're in the mood for a fancy meal, then you can order rainbow trout. But if you want something Denny's-ish (only prepared by a great chef), they'll whip up griddlecakes, waffles, or bacon and eggs too.

Kenichi

Lest you think there's only so much one can do to improve a slice of raw fish, allow sushi chef Kiyomi Sano to set you straight. Yeah, there's the whole attitude thing. The place is consciously hip, to say the least. But Kenichi has thrived through Victory Park's death throes thanks to delicate fish, chef Bodhi Durant's "badass" tuna tacos (we told you—attitude) and, most of all, the sake know-how of sommelier Hung Nguyen, who gained Level 2 certification from the Sake Educational Council of Tokyo, making him the leading expert in Texas and one of only 40 or so Level 2 masters in the world. His assistant, by the way, holds Level 1 status. So, piece of fish, great sake, perfect pairing—we're in.

Whole Foods Market Highland Park

The best part of shopping at this Whole Foods is that when you inevitably get hungry at the sight of all that food, all you have to do is mosey over to the bar once you've filled your cart. The salad fixings are broad and varied, from healthy greenery to hard-boiled eggs and at least three different kinds of tuna salad. The hot food bar offers a number of different things depending on the night, from home-style meat and mashed potatoes to Indian, Asian or North African. And once you've made your selection, you can enjoy your meal on the patio or inside while gazing at the big, bright tropical fish tank.

Royal Thai

You can make an argument for Asian Mint, of course, but Royal Thai takes its regal title seriously. And it's not easy to depose a king when they turn out perfectly balanced pad Thai. Look beyond the world's go-to Thai noodle dish, and you'll find odd, fierce and refreshing combinations like pla goong, full of lemongrass, mint and burning peppers. There's even Texas-pleasing cuts of flank steak. Service is solid, the cooking consistent and the restaurant well-deserving of its longevity.

Mattito's

Prepare yourself, because the next few sentences might make you grab your car keys and take a drive to Uptown. Have you ever wondered what's better than artery-clogging bacon? Artery-clogging bacon that is wrapped around chicken. What's better than artery-clogging bacon wrapped around chicken? When the chicken is stuffed with Monterey Jack cheese and jalapeños on a skewer, with sides of ranch and cayenne sauce for your dipping pleasure. Keys in hand yet? You can find this mouthwatering dish, the Baja Chicken, at Mattito's in Dallas. It's an Uptown favorite on the corner of Routh and Cedar Springs. Go. Go now.

Diterra's Urban Italian

We were sitting there, staring at the menu, thinking about just what we wanted to order. But a steady stream of bartenders from nearby establishments kept walking in, ordering "mushroom toast" to go. OK, we'll bite...and damn, are we glad we did. Warm, bittersweet points of charred bread slathered in goat cheese peek through a sauce supreme laden with mushrooms. Then their warm bread salad shows up: butter-soaked cubes tossed with greens and nice, salty ham, covered with a fried egg. These are salads on steroids, salads major league players from the '90s would love. Filling, meaty, fatty friggin' meals. Old bread and some other stuff. Who'd have thought it?

Blythe Beck, chef at this ground-level space in the Hotel Palomar, doesn't believe in treading lightly. There's no 2 percent milk in her kitchen, no low-cal dinners on her menu. And no way in hell will she even go near I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. Nope, she fries just about everything. And in her sauces—every one of them—she piles in either real butter, whole cream or both. The resulting sauces are outrageously decadent. Tasting them, you realize why the old French chefs put such stock in heavy ingredients: They are so damn good. They also stick—to the food, to the roof of your mouth and to your ever-growing hips.

Rise No. 1
Kellie Reynolds
The days of sneaking around the kitchen while grandma makes her special souffl are over. Oh, the souffls can still be had, but thanks to Hedda Gioias Rise No. 1, the mood has definitely lightened. The bustling eatery with its browse-able shelves of recycled wine-bottle glasses (short from the white bottles, tall from the red), Torchon (French-made, embroidered towels), books and those special hidden brass frogs, just feels like a little French bistro in the middle of a funky garden...which, no doubt, is hard to accomplish in the middle of Inwood Village. The decor is a little rustic and wild and contrasts beautifully with the sometimes 6-inch souffls that grace the tables. Lobster, escargot, mushroom. Raspberry, bread pudding, chocolate. Savory or sweet, chef Cherif Brahmis souffls are decadent but not freakishly high in calories, satisfying and yet light (dont fret, servers are skilled at recommendations). Grandma would totally approve.

Best Use Of Goat Since The Warren Commission

Inca's Café

Inca's Cafe

Ah, the musty, oily, stringy character of goat meat. For some reason it hasn't caught on in, you know, the civilized world. But a sample of Inca's seco de cabrito might have you second guessing first-world values. Yeah, it's all that we said—musty, oily, stringy, with bits of bone and gristle thrown in for that extra oomph. Still, there's a rustic, gamy quality that keeps drawing you in, as a good stew should. And although the fibers fall into long strands, they are tender and thoroughly marinated, providing dense, earthy notes that match well to sides of beans and steamed yucca. In the end, it's not at all gruff.

Lumi Empanada & Dumpling Kitchen

In Dallas, the lychee is quite the underrated, underused fruit. It's fragrant and sweet, tender to eat and fun to free from its bumpy red rind. Normally it's sold in Asian markets—where people are familiar with what a cool ingredient it is—and rarely lauded elsewhere as it is on the drink menu of Lumi Dumpling & Empanada Kitchen. The Lumi Lychee, for instance, combines mango rum, lychee and tart cranberry for a sweet treat whose strength sneaks up on you just when you decide it's time to pry the floating lychee out of the martini glass with your fingers and eat it. The lychee mojito is also deceptively sweet, but adventurous with its exotic twist on the usual mojito recipe. Girl drinks perhaps they are, but it's nice to see the lychee get some play around these parts. And since it's high in vitamin C, it might actually help with its own hangover. Hmm, we might need more research for that...

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