Best Meal Under $15 2011 | Craft Lunch Service | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
Dining on the cheap doesn't have to suck. Ethnic restaurants provide affordable fare that's still inspired, but sometimes the ambiance leaves a little to be desired. Want something cheap with a sleek atmosphere and top-notch service? Head to Craft for lunch service, where many menu items come in below $15. The roast chicken takes top honors, with juicy flesh and crispy skin that has staying power. The portion is not quite as big as dinner, but here's the thing. The kitchen throws in a lovely mixed green salad, gratis. Other embellishments and amuse-bouches amp up your experience as well, like a crisp fried arancini and a tiny plate of tiny cookies. The chicken is a deal on its own, but with all these freebies, Craft makes a compelling lunch offer. If you want to double down, ask your server for the wine list. You'll pay another $15 or so for a glass, but the staff will let you try a few pours to make sure you like what you drink. You just got Dallas' best roast chicken for a song. Live a little.
A purist might scoff, but sometimes you order a margarita with one explicit purpose. If getting tanked is your goal, then your best margarita can be found at Gloria's. Sure they use a mix, but at least they use it sparingly. The drinks arrive barely tinted with sours and almost clear with alcohol. That first sip? Rocket fuel! But things will even out soon enough. Keep drinking while you munch on free chips with salsa and black bean dip, and then order a second round. Still think this might not be the best margarita in town? Order a third, and repeat this process as necessary. Given time, and an iron stomach, eventually you'll agree.
It's a total sausagefest at Lockhart Smokehouse. Every day, Jill and Jeff Bergus open up their restaurant, pitmaster Tim McLaughlin whips out his sausage and people line up and pay to eat it. Countless times, the folks at Lockhart Smokehouse have heard grammas utter the phrase, "Gimme some of your sausage." And they happily oblige, without once replying, "That's what she said." Because they're professionals, dammit. They're also the exclusive purveyors of the legendary, freaking amazing, 110-year-old recipe Kreuz Market sausage in Dallas. If you haven't experienced Lockhart Smokehouse's sausage, you really should get over there and join the meat party. Take one bite of Kreutz original or jalapeño sausage and if you don't start pillowtalking it, we're pretty sure you're not human.
Beth Rankin
The rest of Texas might disagree, but who cares? This is Big D, and in Dallas the greatest brisket can be found at Pecan Lodge. Barbecue has always been a humble affair, but pit masters who treat a great cut of brisket with respect and a good dose of smoke make cowboy chow a thing of beauty. That savory crust and intense flavor would be insulted if you dabbled in that tiny cup of tangy sauce. Save it for the smoky sausage with so much garlic that date night will be ruined for two days. Ribs and pulled pork don't stand out as brightly, but it's hard to shine while in the shadow of Dallas' bar-none best brisket.
A true grill master knows exactly how to make his favorite steak: a blazing hot grill and just the right amount of seasoning for a crispy sear and a bloody center. But even on his best day, a grill master is humbled by the Cote de Boeuf (bone-in rib-eye) at Bob's Steak and Chop House. Perhaps it's because the steaks at Bob's are aged for 28 days before cooking, or because the local chain has been making perfect steaks for nearly 20 years. That fact, coupled with the great wine selection and the signature sweetly glazed carrot that comes with each steak will likely send any grill master back to the drawing board — and definitely back to Bob's.
For those who are inexperienced elotes consumers, it might seem impossible to mess up corn in a cup, but the truth is some elotes carts are better than others. When it comes to delicious, sweet, creamy and spicy elotes, the cart at the Fiesta on Ross Avenue takes the cob. The corn to butter to mayonnaise to cheese to sour cream to hot sauce ratios are perfect. So's the two-buck price.
Located on Lower Greenville Avenue, just past the Granada Theater, this neighborhood gem serves some of the best salads and sandwiches in town. Some favorites include the Monticello Italiano sandwich, Mercedes shrimp roll and the Mockingbird turkey and apple sandwich. If you don't feel like a sammy, you can always grab any number of their house-made salads, like the Morningside chicken salad, or sip on a latte and sink your teeth into one of their many gourmet sweet selections.
When it comes to Chicago-style dogs, Eddie knows his stuff. The Chicago native was sick and tired of not getting a good hot dog here in town after he made the move from the Windy City to Dallas. He drove to Arlington and back in his quest for the perfect dog, but alas, he couldn't find one. It was his dad who finally prompted him to start his own hot-dog joint. The tiny shop is located at the intersection of Northwest Highway and Abrams Road, and can be spotted by its red and yellow Vienna beef umbrella out front. The dogs are as authentic as it gets, made from Vienna beef, sandwiched between a poppy seed bun and topped with relish, tomatoes, mustard, hot peppers and pickles. And while $4.50 may seem expensive for a hot dog, it's a heck of a lot cheaper than a plane ride to Chicago.
We're a little picky about our sushi 'round the Observer. We know the fish dish has become ubiquitous, available in grocery store refrigerators, convenience stores ... shoot, it's probably free with a fill-up at some gas station somewhere in the city. Uh, thanks, but we'll pass. We're still a little dubious on this whole raw fish thing, and if we're going to eat it, we want it served fresh, cool and clean and preferably not from someone named Mildred slicing meat behind the counter at Tom Thumb. (No offense meant, Mildred.) Yutaka Sushi Bistro has just what we're looking for: sashimi so fresh you can smell the sea in the silken tuna, salmon, octopus and other varieties of ocean fare. It arrives cut precisely, soothingly chilled and silky and arranged so meticulously on wooden plates that it looks fit for a still life. (There are rolls and hot Japanese dishes on the menu too.) The restaurant, black lacquer and bamboo in a vaguely industrial space in a shopping strip, is just as artful and so clean you want to wash up before you enter. Yutaka serves sushi as it was meant to be — an art form created by craftsmen, not something rolled, chopped and shoved under a layer of plastic wrap.
We know it's part of a chain and in a mall. Don't tell anyone, because it'll ruin our hipster cred, but we kind of like the mall, we've been known to patronize chain restaurants (especially those imported from California) and we love McCormick & Schmick's. What's not to love? The wide variety of fresh fish flown in from around the globe, prepared to your specifications and served by staff who can tell you what's cooking and how it'll taste? The variety of oysters from Texas, Canada and points northeast served fresh, briny and raw from the oyster bar? The blue crab tower appetizer with mango, avocado and huge lumps of moist crab meat? Listen, you want non-chain authenticity, there are plenty of shacks around town slinging fried catfish and shrimp. If you're like us and occasionally want to treat yourself to the kind of seafood that's usually found in cities with harbors, you can't do better than a trip to the mall. Just wear a hat in case any of your cool friends see you there.

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