Mike Anderson's BBQ

Sure, it's possible: You could drive an hour and a half to a small town or distant suburb and find better barbecue. But if you're gonna drive that far you might as well keep on truckin' to Lockhart. For those seeking a barbecue lunch without needing a whole tank of gas, Mike Anderson's will be there waiting, serving up the same delicious ribs, pulled pork, hot links and sides they've been serving since 1982. The brisket can be hit or miss—no barbecue joint in the city limits can really work that Central Texas magic with the cut—but when it's on, it's really good. And when it's not, a dip in the best barbecue sauce in town will bring just about anything to life (we especially recommend the spicy jalapeño version). Just make sure to check out the online menu before you pop in—the mouth-watering smell of smoke hits hard as soon as you reach the door, and if you dawdle too long at the ordering station, the rest of the line's liable to get restless, as well they should. After all, there's eatin' to be done.

The Gold Rush Cafe

Breakfast is not a leisurely meal. Breakfast is not a social hour. Breakfast—says it right there in the name—is when you wake your arse up and put something in that rumbling tumbly of yours so that you can get your day rolling. If you want to spend four hours languishing over eggs that got cold three hours and 57 minutes ago, fine. But that's called brunch. If you want to eat some basic, tasty grub that will satisfy you and not be bothered while you read the paper, head to the Gold Rush over in Lakewood, where nobody would look twice if you walked in without pants on. The line is long on weekends. Why? Because those people are eating brunch, which is not, and we absolutely mean to keep harping on this, breakfast. Get there early, like a proper breakfaster, and order the migas and a coffee. You'll be in and out before the hangover crowd figures out whose bed they're waking up in.

Pasand Indian Cuisine

For Pasand, you'll have to trek to Campbell and Coit. There are closer Indian lunch buffets and full-service dinner offerings, but if you have the time it's worth the drive. When it comes to samosas (both vegetarian and lamb) and dosa (fermented rice and lentil crepe) stuffed with savory veggies, there's just no better. The service? The service is simply amazing. And the strip-malled eatery takes that further than the dining room: One of the best things Pasand has going for it is its catering. They can throw a mess of chicken tikka masala your way no problem, but better yet, they can adjust the seasoning to accommodate your guest list. Got a wedding and the fam isn't too keen on spice? No worries. They can provide a mild masala, a plain tandoori and then amp up your favorites like kadhai paneer.

Victor Tangos

If you're in the mood for something out of the ordinary, Victor Tango's aims to please with a menu that includes roasted bone marrow (sounds disgusting but is quite good). Not feeling daring? Then we suggest the chicken and waffles, paired together as one delicious dish at Victor Tango's. The history of the unlikely pairing is murky at best, with most accounts referencing its introduction into black culture in the 1800s, but a trip to Victor Tango's is all you need to understand why the two were ever put on the same plate.

Alligator Cafe

The Alligator Café doesn't serve hurricanes, New Orleans' most popular cocktail. The chef-owned Cajun restaurant only serves beer and wine, but that's a Big Easy indiscretion easily overlooked because the food is always so damn good. Chef Ivan Pugh has crafted a spot-on menu of Cajun and Creole staples with a few unfamiliar surprises. We like to start with an order of fried green tomatoes or boudin balls and end with bread pudding or sweet potato pecan pie. For the main course, we like everything from the po-boys and gumbo to the muffalettas and jambalaya, but our favorite is the Atchafalaya (two blackened catfish smothered in a rich crawfish or shrimp étouffée). Be warned: Popular items, like the pie, tend to run out by the end of the day, but that's a small price to pay when the menu's made from scratch—even Alligator Café's root beer is "homemade." The restaurant features live music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, and the dining area of the converted fast food joint tends to fill out faster than Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras. Luckily, even if the place is packed to the gills, there's always the drive-through.

Oak Cliff Pizza & Pasta

There's a time and place for fancy gourmet thin-crusts or pricey wood-fired pies with goat cheese and pine nuts. But when you just want a simple, New York-style big, floppy, chewy slice with house-made sauce and fresh high-quality toppings, Oak Cliff Pizza is the place to go. Be sure to get sausage, as the place offers nice thick slices of Jimmy's Italian sausage rather than the crumbled generic stuff so common at lesser pizza joints. Also recommended is roasted red pepper. Best of all, they offer single slices, with two costing you less than a five-spot, or a full meal deal with two slices, a soda and salad for $5.

Artin's Grill

Tracking down a memorable place to eat outside the friendly confines of Dallas proper can be tricky, but we've finally found a place worthy of a short trip at The Shops at Legacy in Plano. The hickory smoke-filled Artin's Grill is the perfect place for a business lunch or dinner with that special someone, with a dining area that features African mahogany booths, stone columns, dramatic ceilings, abstract art and a wine display that creates the illusion that the bottles are floating. The menu is packed with tasty items, but our fave is the braised beef short ribs. These tender and juicy strands of meat are braised for five hours before they're placed into a cabernet pan sauce and served with haricots verts and a delicious mushroom mac and cheese. Better yet, order the beef short rib nachos as an appetizer so everyone can get a taste.

Penzey's Spices

Browsing Penzeys Spices' selection of more than 250 different herbs, spices, seasonings, sprinkles and blends from around the world is enough to make one's head spin. Especially while trying to choose between numerous different peppercorns, chili powders or cinnamon (they stock more than a half-dozen different varieties of each), but, luckily, as you sniff your way around the store, the knowledgeable employees are always ready with suggestions to help you spice up any recipe from tacos, burgers or curries to cakes, cookies or custards. But the best part about Penzeys is that if you don't have time to make a trip to the store, there's always the expedited shipping from the company's online catalog. Penzeys has sold its world-wide array of spices by mail order for more than 20 years now, opening its first storefront in '97. (The Dallas spot opened in 2005.) Our new favorite purchase is the new salt-free Arizona Dreaming, which is an all-purpose blend that lends a "South of the Border" flavor to any dish. Warning though, once you go Penzeys Spices, you never really go back.

Tiff's Treats
Tiff's Treats
Ricardo Avila's Mextopia
Mextopia

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