The Franconia Brewing Company
Franconia brewmaster and owner Dennis Wehrmann is a native of the Bavarian region of Germany, home to some of Europe's finest beers and the reinheitsgebot, or German Beer Purity Law. He comes from a family with centuries of brewing experience, and you can taste it in every drop of Franconia's German-style beers. The brewery doesn't go wild with extreme styles, hybrids or knock-you-on-your-ass levels of alcohol, instead sticking with a few traditional styles like the crisp and smooth lager, the rich and malty dunkel and the refreshing wheat. Almost as refreshing is Wehrmann's insistence on environmentally friendly production. The mash spent in the brewing process is recycled into cattle feed, the brewery is housed in an energy-efficient building and Franconia is encouraging the reuse of bottles by working on the implementation of a refund system for the return of 1-liter flip-top vessels in a handful of local stores. We'll prost to that.
The Libertine Bar
A touchstone gastropub since before people started using that silly term around these parts, the Libertine offers upscale cuisine at bar-food prices and has a great selection of craft beers and imports. It manages to do so without succumbing to the pitfalls of a stuffy atmosphere or high prices. So it makes sense that its monthly beer dinners (7 p.m. on the last Wednesday of the month) would offer great food with well thought-out complementary suds and, best of all, generous pours. Even though they're on the cheaper end of the beer-dinner spectrum at $50 per person, we've gotten way drunker at Libertine beer dinners than at others around town that cost considerably more.
Babe's Chicken Dinner House
While kids may clamor for a trip to Chuck E. Cheese and other shrines to sensory overload, it's hard to call such establishments "restaurants." "Arcades that happen to serve pizza" is more like it. But Babe's — a perennial Best Of candidate for its fried chicken — definitely qualifies. The unlimited refills of sides, including the sweet creamy corn and green beans with enough salt to get kids to actually ask for seconds, let them enjoy opulence on the cheap, while the catfish, enormous chicken-fried steak and crispy, moist chicken ensure that parents enjoy it just as much. Kids can distract themselves counting chickens in the eaves, reading the country-fried signs hanging everywhere, trying to find the "hidden" bathroom doors or watching the creepy man-sized stuffed Easter Bunny costume morph into an equally uncanny cat costume. Most entertaining of all is when the servers serenade birthday boys and girls (of all ages) and make them put on a stuffed chicken hat and beak, flap their arms and dance like a yardbird.
The Libertine Bar
In three years of watching and competing in the Libertine Bar's annual corn-dog eating contest, we've seen contestants order and down shots mid-bout, seen a drunken "pregnant" girl give birth (to a balloon, but still) under the table in the midst of the action and watched a contestant run outside to vomit and return to finish the match. Intoxicated and nitrate-maddened spectators will intimidate and threaten physical violence against rivals. And God forbid you should tie with anyone, as that is settled with a triple-shot tequila shoot-off — rotgut, dirt-cheap well tequila, that is. Exactly the last thing you want in your belly following 15 grueling minutes of two-fisting corn dogs. A $100 bar tab for first prize may not make it the most lucrative eating contest, but we have yet to witness one that can bring together seasoned gurgitators and wide-eyed newcomers alike in such a wild-ass, fun-loving and, by golly, patriotic contest.
Meddlesome Moth
If Keith Schlabs, partner and "beer guru" of the Flying Saucer chain and Meddlesome Moth, isn't the godfather of the North Texas craft-beer scene, we don't know who is. With more than 15 years' worth of history working with domestic and international breweries, he has the juice to get hold of the rarest, most obscure and sought-after kegs, casks and bottles available in the area. Safe to say many of those breweries owe him a solid or two for introducing their product to this market. And he put that influence to work leading up to Ale Week, the Moth's one-year anniversary celebration April 4-10. The highlight had to be the Saturday Strong Ale Festival, with more than 50 different strong ales, some of them cellared for months or even years, others rare birds normally unavailable in the area. But you don't have to wait till Ale Week to find them — stop by for a Wednesday night keg or cask tapping. Or any night, really — just ask your bartender what's new.
The Bottle Shop
World Beer Co., online purveyor of fine beers, has taken to the street with the opening of this cozy bar on Greenville Avenue. The feel of the place is sort of a cross between university reading room and corner pub. Instead of books lining the walls, you'll find a whole lot of beer from all around the world. It claims to offer 500 different beers, but who's counting? Maybe the best thing this place offers is a truly sophisticated, may we say beer-opolitan wait staff able to tell you a plausible story for each and every one of those 500 brews. But who's listening? This is a place to taste, and there are enough on the shelves to keep you at your studies for a very long time.
Rahr & Sons Brewing Company Winter Warmer is a fine holiday-season beer, a chocolatey, roasty smooth English dark ale with a nice kick at 8.5 percent alcohol by volume. But the bourbon barrel-aged version, usually called "Whiskey Warmer" by those in the know, is our favorite locally made beer. The ale picks up some sweet vanilla, brown sugar and toffee notes from the aging and whiskey soaking, making an already great beer outstanding. The beer has changed each year as the brewery switched brands from Old Forester to Maker's Mark to, most recently, Jim Beam. Whether one of those will be used again (we were partial to the Maker's batch) or something new (one of the rash of up-and-coming Texas bourbons, please?), we'll be waiting at our favorite beer bar for a pint. Or store: Last year, Rahr appeased the masses clamoring to get some in stores by finally offering 22-ounce bottles of the previously draft-only brew.
AllGood Cafe
Nick Rallo
Mike Snider's AllGood Cafe clearly has a thing for our state's capitol. The little placards announcing the upcoming dinnertime shows at the Deep Ellum mainstay proudly boast that a trip to the AllGood is like a trip to Austin, "without having to go through Waco," no offense to Waco, we guess. Fitting, then, that the best thing on the menu (yes, ahead of the chicken-fried steak, even) is the so-called "South Austin Migas." The AllGood's version of the classic Tex-Mex breakfast item pairs scrambled eggs with diced, grilled veggies. Mix it up all up, pile it high in a provided flour tortilla, top it off with some green salsa and it's tangy and sweet — but not too powerful to overwhelm your cup of hot coffee. It goes down smoothly and deliciously. And, when all you're worried about is keeping last night's intake down, that's all you really need. Hungover? Us too! But drag your ass out of bed and trust us. If you can get your throbbing head to Trinity Hall, everything will be OK soon. Tell your server you have an emergency and order these four things: a glass of water, a cup of coffee, the English breakfast and a pint of Guinness, please. Pound the water and sip the coffee while your pint warms up just a touch. By this time, your English breakfast will have arrived. They say grease is a great hangover cure, and Trinity Hall pulls out all the stops. Fried eggs, bangers and bacon are just the start. Black and white pudding and a bowl of baked beans are ready to right your aches and pains too. Buttered toast will soak up that nausea and leave you in a cholesterol-laden, pleasant haze. You might even be ready for a shot of Jameson after.
Taco Joint
Here's how you can tell that the food's legit at Taco Joint: Every time you go there — and when you do, you better go before 2 p.m., because that's when they close, and breakfast and lunch are all this place serves — you'll find yourself surrounded by people wearing hospital scrubs. Baylor employees, one assumes. But, thing is, the Joint isn't that close to Baylor. And it's not particularly healthy either. So, what gives? Our best guess: It's too damn tasty to turn down — especially the massive breakfast burrito called The Great Gordo (yes, named after KTCK-1310 AM The Ticket morning show personality Gordon Keith). A 14-inch flour tortilla filled with eggs, bacon, potatoes, chorizo and ohmygodsomuchcheese, this thing's a beast. We recommend taming it with some of the Joint's killer ranch salsa. Like we said, doctors are all around. If ever there were a place to have a heart attack ...
Quesa-D-Ya's
Pizza in the morning? Pizza in the evening? Pizza at suppertime? Count us in. Until, that is, we can't stomach the thought of once again traversing the dangerous Dallas waters of mediocre delivery pies and we'd-rather-not-discuss-it crusts. Enter Quesa-D-Ya's, a business model so effin' obvious that we don't understand how it hasn't yet swept the nation. Here's how it works: They make quesadillas — big ones, filled with whatever ingredients you want — and you can order it for either pickup or delivery. There are a number of different options on the menu; we prefer the build-your-own. And, because we're fatties, we prefer our orders with a side of the very-solid queso, so we can dip them sumbitches in the cheesy goodness for that little something extra. Oh, and speaking of extra: Order the large. You won't come close to finishing it, but you'll have leftovers that hold up shockingly well for days. If nothing else, consider it a way to avoid going to the grocery store for a bit. That's why people order pizza anyway, right? C'mon, that can't be just us.

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