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...

Bliss Raw Cafe and Elixir Bar
Alex Scott

This small, mostly outdoor eatery (albeit with plastic covering and stylish décor, including crisp white tablecloths) specializes in vegetarian, raw and vegan dishes, and their salads and faux-lasagna don't disappoint. Yet the most intriguing attraction is the "elixirs," which the Web site describes as "medicinal liquid potions" complete with phytochemicals and antioxidants. We're not sure what all that means, nor were we sure what to think when we opted for a drink called, "Rainforest Bliss: Chocolate Bliss with rainforest rush peak cell function booster" (it was a toss-up between that and the "Cosmic Dharma Latte: A full-on medicinal cinnamon explosion that lifts you up and rawks your day!") The cacao-filled wonder was different and delicious—with hints of orange and vanilla flavors. Whether or not its health-enhancing powers are as great as the menu claims, this is no doubt a scrumptious departure from the average beverage menu.

Mai's Vietnamese Restaurant
Taryn Walker

The first time you pull up to the dump that is Mai's, you think, "No way in hell I'm going in there. I'm too young to die." Oh, but once you actually risk it...Yes, there are plenty of authentic hole-in-the-wall spots in Garland serving great pho or bun mang vit. But Mai's is across-the-board wonderful, from rich noodle dishes, steaming clay pot creations, the delicate rolls, the fiery spices to, well, everything on the menu. There's a reason the place has become a Dallas dining mainstay. And a reason we keep coming back, again and again.

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SARA+KERENS
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It's one thing when servers show proper deference and reach in from the correct side. What sets the staff at Coast apart has little to do with such mannerisms. Although they are tidy, there's nothing special in their approach. But when we asked about a dish, these guys knew the details. When called upon to repeat specials, they did so without hesitation. When they recommended something, it turned out to be very much worthwhile. And, most important, they made no mistakes on our visits. Hope they keep it up.

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