Black Swan Saloon
It sounds so basic, almost a little too girly, like something you'd find heavily sweetened in a martini glass. Take one sip of watermelon-infused vodka with club soda for added fizz, however, and you will never again snap-judge a drink by its fruit. It's only as sugary as it needs to be, which is hardly sweet at all, and with only enough watermelon pulp to let you know that yes, this is the fresh stuff, simple and perfect. Gabe Sanchez, bartender and proprietor, might very well be the city's most welcoming host, and plastic cups add to the place's relaxed neighborhood vibe, meaning you can sip your light pink drink the way it should be savored, in cut-off shorts and a comfortable T-shirt. Meander through the narrow bar area to a picnic table on the back patio and you'll feel like you're in a favorite neighbor's backyard. And you are, 'cause it's Gabe's.
Café Brazil
Hunger that stems from drunken debauchery shouldn't be treated any differently than hunger that stems from your body's nutritional needs. Cafe Brazil understands this — understands you, your needs — and prepares eggs accordingly, perfectly runny but not undercooked, even at 4 a.m. While other unintended bad decisions often occur between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., eating hockey-puck yolks does not have to be one of them. "Not Just Another Eggs Benedict" is just that thanks to spicy cream sauce that mixes with the yolks in such a way that it preemptively cures hangovers by what must be a proprietary chemical combination. Hell, it's so good, it might even cure the common cold.
Ali Baba Mediterrian Grill
Taryn Walker
For the amount you spend on two Starbucks Frappuccinos — about 10 bucks — you can gorge yourself on a buffet lunch of truly delicious Mediterranean food: a crispy falafel here, a charred lamb kabob there, a perfectly juicy cube of chicken breast, pita liberally coated in zaatar spices — anything you can think to drag through mountainous globs of hummus, babaganoush and tzatziki sauce. Half of your plate will inevitably hold a divine mush of condiments for the protein of your choosing. Eat grape leaves with a fork to submerge them completely in a pool of yogurt sauce. Make a mess of a sandwich with pita, hummus and fresh tabbouleh. Whatever, it's delicious. Bring someone who won't judge you, and dive in.
First Chinese B-B-Q
Long live the king of all Dallas-area Chinese restaurants. First Chinese BBQ — particularly the original Richardson location — remains the measuring stick against which all other Chinese restaurants in our burg are compared. As Chinese cuisine is vaster than a Westerner might realize, picking one restaurant as best can be an unfair barometer. Tough luck, other restaurants, 'cause this place is just that good. While its satellite locations occasionally waver, the Richardson mothership has consistently served up the juiciest slabs of roast pork, fattest slices of duck and tastiest Cantonese comfort food locally for 23 years. Prices have understandably gone up in all those years, yet the quality of food remains uncompromised. Because of its long-standing reputation as Dallas' go-to for sure-bet Chinese, First Chinese BBQ Richardson gets the crown.

Best Little White Tablecloth Greek Restaurant

Kostas Café

Kostas Cafe
Quiet, dignified, intimate and with a seasoned wait staff and a couple Greek travel posters on the walls, this place feels less like Upper Greenville in Dallas, more like Greektown in Detroit or Chicago. The menu is classic Greek American restaurant fare: spanakopita plate, pork souvlaki, moussaka and gyro plate with all the right sides. The taramosalata is always fresh, the hummus smooth and the dolmas so fat and meaty they're almost a meal in themselves. And there are always these guys, you know, older guys in suits and white shirts without ties at a table in the back, and you wonder: What are those guys really talking about? It's a trip to a whole other place, with great service and good food along the way.
Si Tapas Restaurant & Bar
Other happy hours come close, but limited options cut them short. Si Tapas, on the other hand, has an impressively varied and extensive happy hour food menu, with each tapa on the list priced at only $2. What it also has going for it is that it doesn't treat that menu as a bastard stepchild. There are many restaurants that have food specials during happy hour, but how many offer a true glimpse of the best items from the regular menu? (Think sushi restaurants offering California rolls and steakhouses serving sliders.) Si Tapas, meanwhile, offers its best-selling tapas, usually priced anywhere between $5-$7. There might be more popular happy hours out there, but few are as great as Si Tapas'.
Royal Thai
A friend of mine once said of Royal Thai, "Oh, THAT place is good." From someone who was born and raised in Thailand and who once claimed she would never eat Thai food if she didn't make it, her statement was as high as praise gets. She has a point, though. Ask someone who has ever been to Thailand, and more often than not they will tell you it's difficult to come back to the States and eat Americanized Thai food. This isn't the case for all Asian cuisines, and it puts Thai food in its own unique category. There are several restaurants in our city that try to re-create the distinctive qualities of old Siam, but Royal Thai succeeds at it. With its solid rendition of the classics, the neighborhood family ambiance and the exceptionally affable service, it is no wonder the restaurant commands consistently large crowds. Outside of that recent burger import that shall remain unnamed, you won't find a longer, more patient or eagerly awaiting queue that side of Central Expressway on a Saturday evening.
Serious Pizza
Choosing a winner for this prestigious category was an exercise in the process of elimination. Fast-food chains were dropped right off the bat. Douchebag meeting grounds were disqualified next. Lastly, places where you could be shot (distressingly numerous) were the last to fall out of consideration. In the end, one of life's very simplest of truths was what determined Serious Pizza as our winner: A slice of pizza and drunken gluttonous yearning go hand in hand. This place is called what it's called for a reason. Few things can kill a drunken craving and sop up all the exorbitant amounts of alcohol as well as a notoriously monstrous Serious Pizza slice. Open until 3 a.m. on the weekends, the lively after-hours atmosphere, HD televisions and interesting people-watching are exactly the stimulation needed for some sobering up. Understandably, with crowds comes a wait, so be patient and don't end up like one of the drunken knuckleheads who are thrown out on the busier nights.
Thai Express Restaurant
It's small. It can get really hot. It is in possibly the most unappealing shopping center ever. But boy, is it really, really good. Thai Express is a speck in the blemish of a shopping strip on Inwood by Southwestern Medical Center. It's long been an old popular standby for workers at the nearby hospitals, particularly during the $6.99 lunch buffet. Labeling it as a greasy spoon would have been highly accurate in the past, but the restaurant went through renovations six months ago under its new management. The buffet remains intact, and the digs are nicer, but most notable is that the food has gotten even better. The head chef is sister of owner Somchai Kongnuan, and the woman has some serious skills. In a city where Thai food can become formulaic and homogenous, every dish at Thai Express is distinct and stings with palate-pleasing flavor. While attention to the food is certainly important, the other little details that the new regime added tickle as well. The Muzak/bossa nova covers of songs ranging from Nirvana to the Bee Gees playing over the restaurant's speakers are the same tunes popular everywhere in Thailand. Thai Express is the classic hole-in-the-wall find — memorable food and cheeky atmosphere.
Dairy-Ette
Crowning the best hamburger is nigh impossible in this beef-crazy town, but a master of burger basics muscled its way to the top of our list. Dairy-ette, the East Dallas drive-in burger joint, has earned serious street cred since opening in 1956. Car hops serve juicy, old-fashioned hamburgers, fresh-cut french fries and homemade root beer to people in cars parked under the red-and-white striped awning. Top a burger with cheese, chili, or live large with chili and cheese. Heck, go for the double meat layered with bacon and jalapeños. Hot grub and sandwiches are also dished out inside at the counter, near the original soda fountain. Root beer is sold by the gallon for $4.50.

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