The Common Table

More and more restaurants are offering beer dinners these days, showing how beer can pair with highbrow cooking just as well as, if not better than, wine. Most of those dinners cost $50 or $60 per person, and can run even higher. That's why it's so refreshing to see a bar with a more than capable kitchen and a great beer selection offer one at $29 per person. That would be meaningless if it paired cheap suds with bad food, but these dinners don't skimp on the quality or quantity of the food or the beer.

It's beefy. It's cheesy. And most of all, it's huge. In other words, it's Texas. The chili-cheese dog, topped with grilled onions and jalapeños and served in a reinforced cardboard briefcase, is nearly two feet long, weighs a pound in beef alone and costs $26. And while sharing is recommended, some opt to finish the whole thing on their own — a dubious accomplishment, for sure, but that's just how some Texans support their Rangers.

Dairy-Ette

Opened in 1956 and apparently mostly unchanged since then, Dairy-ette is reminiscent of a bygone era. Or so we suppose. We're not that old. The burgers are cheap yet tasty, as are the fries. But the best part might just be the root beer brewed on site. Served in a frosty mug, it's sweet but not too much so, and tastes fresh without having that funky licorice taste that some of the far more expensive boutique brands have. Normally we prefer a beer sans root with our hamburger, but here we're glad to make an exception.

Excellent, locally baked bread; fresh locally grown organic produce; delicious meats made from regionally raised livestock; and cheese supplied by local cheesemakers make for an outstanding sandwich of any kind, whether you're making the Reuben of your dreams with the house-smoked pastrami or a simple roast beef. The cost of all those ingredients together may not be much less than buying from a sandwich shop, but the quality of the meal from some chain shop isn't even in the same ballpark. Plus, a side order of locavore smugness makes anything taste better.

Holy Grail Pub

Nestled in a shopping center in Plano shared by Five Guys and a kick-ass butcher is the Holy Grail Pub. Aside from having a damn good burger and one of the better curated craft-beer menus in North Texas, it features a bar snack that's worth the trip: baked bread twists (they call 'em pretzels) with a spicy mustard and house bechamel sauce. Come on; there are few things better than butter-washed, kosher-salt sprinkled warm bread in house-made cheese sauce. Right? The tall booths will let you devour it in peace.

Off-Site Kitchen
Kathy Tran

How dare you, Off-Site Kitchen. How dare you serve food that evokes the memory of clacking down a plastic tray in the lunch room in sixth grade. What are you, insane? Maybe you are. You serve a thing called a "Sloppy Taco," which is less filthy than it sounds. No, it's actually a Manwich-esque saucy meat inside a massive crispy shell, with lettuce, tomato and cheese. Hold on, it's good. It's a fairly perfect and crispy envelope of food, and the smell immediately sends you back to lunchtime at school. They found just the right balance of meaty, Sloppy Joe flavor and taco crunch to send you reeling. Go get it.

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Sara+Kerens
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It looks like a restaurant on a movie set. There are bare, mango-colored walls, a single flat-screen television playing Bollywood, and a sheet of printer paper taped up asks the customer in big font: "Please Don't Waste Food." That's about all you get for decor. The rest is the food. It's divided into meat and vegetables, each filled with spicy, brick-to-sunset-colored sauces. Indulge in the paneer butter masala or the goat korma, but the don't-leave-withouts are samosas. Stuffed with chicken, cilantro and masala and brittle-crispy on the outside (soft on the inside, you guys), these fried dudes are worth the drive to Irving on their own. Order a few for the table and catch some stunning Bollywood numbers on the tiny flat screen.

Cultivar

Sometimes appraising coffee requires more than just evaluating what's in the cup. Cultivar's java may be attractive mostly because braised beef tacos are in reach, but it's more likely because they pour one hell of a cup of joe. The folks behind the dishwater share space with Good 2 Go Taco on Peavy Road, which offers fancy gringo versions of the tacos. The coffee is good enough to stand on its own merit. Roasted within days before brewing, they may be the freshest beans in all of Dallas. But throw in a flour tortilla stuffed with scrambled eggs, cheese and big wad of stringy beef for a compelling morning taco and you have a breakfast combo that will keep you fueled for days.

The Old Monk

So many bars relegate food to burgers, wings and nachos, forgetting all the finer menu items that go well with a cold beer. Mussels served with a Belgian ale might be one of life's greatest culinary pleasures, and fish and chips with a pub draft can border on divine. The Old Monk does both of these well, and rounds out the menu with a good Reuben and a chicken sandwich featuring pistachio-breaded chicken tenders. Hell, there is even a decent burger if you want to be a traditionalist. If you're the kind of person who comes to a bar to drink beer, though, the Old Monk has you covered, with a shifting selection of craft brews from around the world. Work your way through the beers while sampling one of the greatest (and under appreciated) beer pairings: a well curated cheese board.

Velvet Taco

When Velvet Taco first opened, taco purists were incensed. What the hell are rotisserie chicken, herbed goat cheese, lettuce, tomato, smoked bacon, avocado and basil crema doing rolled up in the same flour tortilla? Velvet Taco's tacos read like a grocery list, a far cry from the simple chopped meat tacos served elsewhere in Dallas and topped with cilantro and onions (and only if you ask for it). Noise aside, the ingredients are pretty damn good. And it doesn't hurt that the corn tortillas are pressed and cooked on site, something that many "authentic" taquerías neglect. But the real reason Velvet Taco is included in this list is that it's open till 4 in the morning on weekends. After you spend a long night at the bars along Henderson Avenue, a steak taco will definitely hit the spot even if it's topped with Brazos Valley feta, a light Greek salad, tzatziki and fresh dill.

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