Local
Maybe it's annoying to say it, but Local is old-school. Real old-school. There are no moose heads on the wall or annoying string quartet playing the Titanic theme on repeat. It's honest. Also, they have small but perfect portions of dishes such as fried green beans and pan-seared Maine lobster cake. Another old-school (and awesome) move by chef Tracy Miller: Hudson Valley foie gras. This isn't a little pâté spread on a tiny cracker: The foie gras is presented whole and seared as right as any meat you've ever had, served with house-made Texas toast and drizzled lightly with blueberry compote. Bring your vegetarian friends and show them what they're missing. Show them by changing your order from the guilt-free heirloom tomato thing at the last minute, just as they're getting their three-cheese scratch ravioli or balsamic roasted beets. They'll love theirs, sure, but you'll be evil and right.
Holy Grail Pub
Nestled into the sterilized, gentrified corner of a strip mall in Plano, close to the lauded burger joint Five Guys, is the Holy Grail. (No. Not literally. That's the joint's name.) The Observer has blessed Holy Grail's dishes like the fried goat cheese balls and burger, but we've managed to leave out something simple: the soft pretzels. No, oh no, these aren't those bullshit things you get at Auntie Anne's. These are house-made, butter-brushed and kosher-salted bread twists. And they come with béchamel cheese sauce and spicy stone-ground mustard. Two people can take this appetizer down, or maybe one person with a sick hangover. Either way, one bite of buttery, soft, oven-hot bread with the cheese sauce, and you ain't leaving for a while.
Smoke
When you see the Big Rib, Smoke's giant-honking meat shank with its hominy casserole and fresh herb chimichurri, you'll shout something reminiscent of Denzel Washington in Training Day: "Fred Flintstone ain't got nothing on me!" It's so big and meaty, you'll think first of how you'll conquer the dish — "hominy first, with meat?" Then, the walls drop away, and you're left in savory bliss because you've waited no longer. Dear readers, Oak Cliff's tenderest meat is this rib. It's the rib you've always been imagining when you utter the word "rib." Certainly there's no shortage of conversation on the subject of Tim Byres' unique pork creations, like his succulent guanciale or bold pulled pork. The Big Rib, at $24, isn't cheap "barbecue," but it's the best rib in Dallas, hands down.
Holy Grail Pub
Don't be scared. It's OK. Sure, it's one of the hottest peppers on the planet, but it works. In some sort of sweet, spicy symphony, this chili builds — Vivaldi-style — into a perfect climax of flavors. Several bites in, just when the scalp and the backs of your ears start burning, you'll confidently whisper, "It's delicious." Also, it's really hot. Like, a pepper punched you in the nards hot. The pepper melds, however, in a genius way with the ground beef, sausage, onions and Stone Smoked Porter (yay beer in the chili!). Who knows how it'll come out for you later, but worry about that when you're dead.
Urbano Cafe
The regular menu is always wonderful at this Old East Dallas nook, but it's the blackboard that really surprises and delights: mussels with white wine, garlic, basil, chorizo and marinara; tempura crab cakes with avocado/pepper salad and citrus vinaigrette; beef tenderloin with blue cheese and Parmesan polenta; poached egg and tomato Hollandaise. The owners and chef make sure you'll never come into their place and fail to find something new and wonderful to try. But call well ahead. This tiny place, split between two rooms two doors apart on the street, has become very popular. No wonder.
Dude, Sweet Chocolate
When The End comes, some of us figure we might be greeting a large, reddish, hoofed fellow carrying a ledger marked "accounts payable." In that moment, we hope we're carrying lots of Dude, Sweet's artisan chocolates, fudges and marshmallows. Is it possible to corrupt the ultimate corrupter? If anything can, it would be Dude, Sweet Chocolate's "Break Up Potion," with Breckenridge bourbon, agave syrup, Valrohna cocoa and Venezuelan dark chocolate sauce. When it looks like the jig is finally up on Earth, our plan is to lay in a stock of these $30 bottles of sweet syrupy sin. Facing the ultimate damnation — eternity bunking with the former contestants of The Bachelor — would we swap for better accommodations? Hmm. Tough call. This potion is just that good.
The Meridian Room
Screw the Wheaties. The real breakfast of champions, especially on a lazy Sunday, is a good Bloody Mary. It should be strong without being overpowering, spicy without making your eyes water, and, above all, there should be some stuff keeping your alcohol company in that glass: olives, pickles, celery, whatever, as long as there's a little bite of sourness and crunch to pingpong off the spicy red of the drink. Meridian Room isn't afraid to garnish their version with all the goodies. When it's Sunday afternoon, we're pleasantly buzzed, and our total vegetable intake for the day so far is what's in our liquor, we know we're at Meridian.
Yogurtland
Yeah, we understand that the health value of frozen yogurt is somewhat diluted when you ladle 12 Oreos, a Heath bar, some mochi and a half pound of gummy bears on there, OK? But the motto of this franchise is "You rule." Meaning we call the shots, so we're just gonna scoop some more cookies on here, and maybe a shot or two of rainbow sprinkles, then mosey over to the fruit side of the bar and add some blueberries for color, and you can just keep your judgment to yourself. Besides an awesome candy, fruit and cookie selection to top your froyo, they also get a thumbs-up for the inventiveness of the yogurt flavors themselves: Try fan favorite red velvet cupcake, pitch-perfect New York cheesecake or a delicious, creamy rendition of green tea, which we're pretty sure is still, like, totally good for you, even with an entire Snickers on top.
Pearl Cup Coffee
Most times, a cup of coffee opens your eyelids just enough to get you in the car and pointed toward the office. But sometimes, like at The Pearl Cup, the coffee sings. Their secret-recipe signature lattes are the stuff of legend, especially the "silky micro-foam." (We don't know exactly what that is either, but damned if it doesn't taste amazing). The espresso is always velvet smooth, freshly made and strong without tasting burnt or bitter. If coffee snobbery's not your thing, come anyway for the breakfast paninis with Nutella and marshmallow fluff. The parking situation at the shop nearest us sucks, but we'll happily brave it for another shot of that sweet, sweet espresso.
Double Wide
Matt Nager
Yoo-hoo with a stiff slug of vanilla vodka and some coffee liqueur in it sounds like a recipe for disaster, and it is, in the best way. Frozen to the slushy, satisfying consistency of a milkshake and deliciously chocolaty, it's easy to drink one (or five) of these things without noticing how deceptively strong they are. Better still, a Yoohoo Yeehaw lets you relive the best part of your lunch box while still enjoying one of the only perks of being a grown-up.

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