Best Cheap Italian 2012 | Besa's Pizza & Pasta | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

There's no reason Besa's should be good. It's tucked into the farthest corner of an obscure North Dallas shopping strip, sandwiched between a vacant storefront and a Hobby Lobby; the prices hover just above Little Caesars levels; the guys who run it are Armenian, not Italian. Ignore all that. Order the baked ziti. Eat it. Find yourself in a state of bliss. Besa's menu is a no-nonsense collection of Italian standbys, many of which, like the baked ziti are hit out of the park. Matter of fact, the only thing about Besa's in keeping with its humble exterior is its prices. Try finding a $6 Italian dish somewhere else that even comes close to Besa's. You won't.

A snow cone's a snow cone, just some finely shaved ice swimming in flavored syrup. There's not much room for a snow cone joint to distinguish itself from the competition — or so you assume until you hit up Aunt Stelle's. Somehow, the Oak Cliff landmark makes its just a little better than anyone else. Maybe it's the history, all 51 years of it on the same corner. Maybe it's the way the whole experience makes a summer afternoon seem so luxuriously carefree. Maybe there's something extra in an Aunt Stelle's cone. Whatever it is, get your fill while you can. Lee Albert and husband Ed Schwartz, who have run the stand since taking over from her mother, have promised to keep it open only as long as their health holds up. The Old Oak Cliff Conservation League, after Aunt Stelle's cut its hours to weekends only, saw fit to put it on last year's Architecture at Risk list. Here's wishing the couple eternal health.

Kathy Tran

El Ranchito may not bill itself as a Tex-Mex restaurant, but there's a Tex-Mex section on the menu with tacos, burritos and enchiladas. The fajitas turn heads with a trail of smoke and steam wafting behind the cast-iron plate like an old jalopy with bad valves, and most things are flanked by go-to rice and beans. Semantics aside, this place serves up all the classics you expect when dining at a Tex-Mex restaurant, with lots of other dishes waiting to tempt you out of your comfort zone. Try the cabrito, grilled baby goat you can strip clean from the bones before using the meat to stuff warm pliable tortillas. Wash it down with enough of their margaritas that you can really join the party. The mariachi band here plays loudly as they bounce from table to table and stir up the crowd. And if that's not festive enough for you, come back when an Elvis impersonation competition turns the whole place into Las Vegas meets the Mission.

Beth Rankin

Hey, you two guys. You really want to win this election? I have one name to drop and she's a real momentum builder. Lurlene, Pecan Lodge's smoker, may not look that great — she's caked with grease and smoke, and is maybe even rusting in a few spots — but strap her to the back of your tour bus and let the great aroma of Texas barbecue leave a scented campaign trail in your wake. Adults will chase you through suburban neighborhoods for a mere taste of your brisket. Their children will run behind hoping for a morsel of smoked sausage. And puppies will run behind those children, galloping with tongues unleashed while hoping to lap up the smallest dripping of grease. Film all of this. Run it in slow motion. You'll have the greatest campaign commercial of all time and people will vote for you based on the image alone.

Fried chicken is an all-American food for an all-American candidate. Grab a take-out bucket and stage it with a blanket on a grassy knoll for your next photo op. The best part is, this bucket is not a prop. Grab a drumstick and squeeze a little house-made sriracha on it. Take a bite and feel the crisp skin and taste the vibrant heat. Sure, the fried chicken's fancy, and you'll be branded as an elitist (just wait till you're seen with Sissy's caviar-topped deviled eggs) but you have staffers who can put a spin on anything and this fried bird is too good to worry about it.

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