AllGood Cafe
Nick Rallo

In August, the AllGood Café celebrated 10 years of bringing its Deep Ellum regulars the Austin dining treatment, which, as the menus proudly proclaim, thankfully comes "without having to go through Waco!" But while we sure do enjoy the Austin vibe, the collection of concert posters that cover the walls and the adorable mass of origami birds that hang from the ceiling, there's a very specific reason why we keep returning to this Main Street mainstay: The chicken-fried steak is the best in town. For just 12 bucks, the AllGood offers you a cooked-to-perfection strip steak covered with just the right amount of batter—not so much that it's overwhelming and not so little that you barely notice that it's there—and then splatters a healthy portion of white gravy on top. Oh, and the best part? You also get two sides.

Burger House

This category could so easily go the frou-frou fry way, whether they be the thin crunchy matchsticks at Urbano or Toulouse, the salt & vinegar fries at Oceanaire or the chips served with malt vinegar at just about any bar with the word "tavern" in its name. But it's the good ole reliable "Jack fries" at the original Burger House—the one that since 1951 has kept frat boys belching through finance class—that we wish to celebrate. Their secret seasoning—a kinda of garlicky, peppery, salty, Greeky something—begs the fries be bought at first whiff as you enter restaurant space and place your order at the window. Their bet-you-can't-eat-just-one goodness only gets multiplied when you order a double cheeseburger that tastes of the same smells as the fries. Ketchup is a must on both.

Big E's Food and Beverage

Since opening in April, Big E's Food & Beverage has transformed itself from your average beer, toothpaste and snacks shop into a great place to grab lunch with its addition of a deli. This should ensure that the old building at the corner of Gaston Avenue and Oak Street doesn't sit vacant as it had for months following the short-lived occupancy of Discount Master Kevin's Corner. Meatball subs, Frito pies and chili dogs are just a few of the daily specials offered, and the cold sandwiches make you wonder why you've ever wasted time waiting in line at Subway. Not only is the food better than chain stores, the prices are nifty too—$4.50 for sandwiches or $6.50 with chips and a 32-ounce drink. Big E's variety of breads, meats, cheeses and veggies are enough to concoct just about anything your heart desires—even a PB&J, should the mood strike you.

Royal Thai
Royal Thai
Twisted Root Burger Co.
Twisted Root

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The real test of a restaurant's wait staff isn't how it handles a noisy group of birthday partiers or a pompous wine connoisseur: It's Restaurant Week. Discount-driven diners and massive guest counts make Restaurant Week a nightmare for even the most disciplined restaurants, and wait staffs usually make sure customers know it. Not so at the always-elegant Al Biernat's, the storied steakhouse where servers this year performed with professionalism most eateries can't match on an average night. Our server was knowledgeable and unobtrusive, and bothered with the littlest touches, such as discreetly rattling the rocks in an emptied martini rather than barking "You done with that?" As it happens, we were done with that drink. We're not quite finished getting spoiled at Al Biernat's.

Popeyes

Yeah, that's right. We said Popeyes. You wants to makes something of it, swabby? Look, we know Babe's and Bubba's are good and all, but the fact is that when we want something hot, greasy and spicy (to eat, not pay-per-view), Popeyes is our chicken choice, and not because we're trashy. Or rather, we may be trashy, but Popeyes is still pretty damn good: just the right amount of crunch, a nice touch of spice, moist but no chin-scalding grease. None of the mysterious, soggy blend of herbs and spices that tastes suspiciously like a ton of salt. It's so good that it regularly makes the guilty pleasures lists of food pros, or as we reported on our food blog, "the famously fastidious restaurant critic at the San Francisco Chronicle has proudly announced his allegiance to the dish. Popeyes is so widely admired by food industry folks that it's perfectly acceptable to ask, upon hearing of a new upscale fried chicken venture, 'Yes, but is it as good as Popeyes?'" As for us—a box of Popeyes' spicy, a couple of biscuits, a little of this to drink and a little of that to smoke, and we're in bliss. We am what we am and that's all that we am.

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