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.

Best Happy Hour Now That You're An Adult

The Grape

The Grape
Beth Rankin

Remember happy hour in college? Beers were 10 cents apiece if you were in a fancy place where the seniors hung out, and the bar slathered you with plenty of salty, greasy, free food, just to get you to stay and drink some more. Yeah, well, you're not in college anymore. And those free wings tasted like shit anyway. The Grape's happy hour is easy on your wallet and lets you maintain your dignity. Marcona almonds, mixed olives and flash fried calamari are all offered for a song, and chef Brian Luscher's popular charcuterie is available for padding your belly as well. You'll need the protection. Beers are available for $2 apiece and wines by the glass are cut in half. The special runs from 4:30 till 7 p.m. every weekday, so you have two and a half hours to get completely trashed. You didn't want to grow up anyway.

Lucia

David Uygur's reservation policy is a major pain in the ass. You have to call his phone number in the morning on the first of the month, fight your way through 700 busy signals and then pray you get a 5:30 p.m. reservation on a Wednesday night. You need a personal assistant with the skills of a switchboard operator to get a prime-time reservation on a Friday night here. Ditch the formality and roll up at any night of your choosing around 5:15, look the hostess in the eye and tell her you want a seat at the bar. Provided a line hasn't formed outside already, you'll be seated immediately at one of the best perches in the house with a full view of the kitchen. Everyone knows the bar is the best seat in any restaurant (you always get the best service), but that Lucia's bar gets you out of a logistical nightmare makes it the best reservation hack in Dallas.

Nammi

Compared with Austin, Dallas' food truck scene is abysmal, with more meals on wheels spurred by restaurant spin-offs and investors than hungry, passionate, entrepreneurial cooks looking for a cost-effective way to get into the food business. There are a few diamonds in the rough, though, and the biggest star of them all is Nammi, the sky-blue truck helmed by two frustrated architects who thought life would be more fun if it was spent delivering delicious banh mi all over Dallas. Tina Nguyen and her partner Gary Torres cook nearly everything that's served from their truck except the bread, including the meats, pickled daikon and carrots and condiments that top their banh mi sandwiches on light, crunchy baguettes that fill your lap with shards of crust while you eat. Make sure you ask for the pâté, which is handcrafted as well. It's added to sandwiches by request only and is necessary for an authentic Vietnamese sandwich.

Off-Site Kitchen
Kathy Tran

Nick Badovinus' latest outpost took longer than anticipated to open, but the wait was worth it. You can expect long lunch lines even now, months after the open, as business workers in the area come to dine on simple burgers and sandwiches on buttery bread, with cheap canned beer, fountain sodas and bags of pork rinds. The Sloppy Taco demonstrates why this place is so popular. It takes the Manwich from our youth, adds lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and ranch sauce and drops it in a taco shell so big it makes you feel comparatively small. That's the secret. This place makes you feel like a kid again. The whole menu is essentially the foods you were forced to consume in your elementary school cafeteria, but updated, elevated and actually tasty.

Best Place to Park Your 1961 Lincoln Continental Convertible

Keller's

Keller's Drive-In

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, there's only one place to park your presidential convertible: Keller's Drive-In. On the west side of the building that's responsible for Dallas' most popular take-out burger on a poppy seed bun, you might not feel comfortable hanging out with the motorcyclists who have come to show off their hogs. But on the east side, you'll be the envy of every classic car owner in Dallas. The owners of classic Chevelles, Mustangs, Chargers and other shiny sports cars congregate each weekend and sip on Coors Lights in between burger orders while talking paint jobs, engine configurations and plenty about the good old days. Say hi to Shirley, the waitress who's been taking orders since the place opened 46 years ago. Grab yourself a burger and connect with the blue-collar vote. Watch out for mustard on your chin, and remember, you're in Dallas. Maybe leave the top on your convertible closed.

Union Bear

Some bartenders gripe about customers who aren't sure about their orders. It's hard to blame them when someone comes up to the bar and leans over the beer taps to ask what's on draft. Other bartenders, though, take pride in being beer sherpas. They relish in the opportunity to introduce another newbie to their perfect malted match, in hopes of inducting another hophead. Union Bear's bartenders have this shtick down, pouring shot glass after shot glass of local and national brews when someone seems like they're not sure what they'd like to order. Take your time when ordering a beer here. The barkeep wants you to find your perfect beer just as much as you do. Fold in Dallas' best fried chicken sandwich, a great indoor/outdoor bar and plenty of patio seats, and you have a great spot for an extended beer session.

St. Pete's Dancing Marlin

Eating hot dogs is as important as kissing babies on the campaign trail, but you need to be careful. Too many tube steaks and you'll risk popping a button on that new three-piece suit. Hot dog photo ops must be chosen wisely and there's no finer opportunity in Dallas than St. Pete's chili dog, with a load of chili and mound of cheese. St Pete's uses local links from Rudolph's Butcher shop, right down the street. Now you can show your support of local small businesses while you convince your constituents of your blue-collar appeal. Just don't pick up that knife and fork. Wool suits be damned, you have a humble image to uphold. You're a candidate of the people.

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Thai food in America is mostly relegated to a take-out affair, stuffed into white Styrofoam containers to steam away into limp incarnations that hardly evoke their original counterparts. When Bambu opened in Richardson, though, the ubiquitous ethnic chow became more than worthy of a sit-down meal. It may be the enthusiastic staff as much as the plates themselves that make for compelling eating in this stylish but predictable dining room. A velvety tom kha gai soup sings with heat and kaffir lime leaves, and a spicy duck curry is heady and addictive. The staff is more than happy to help you pick out a dish that suits your taste, but be sure to let them know you're an adventurous diner. The specials here are worth your attention, and the owners, who previously owned a sushi restaurant, have a special talent for working with seafood.

Carbone's

Texas convention says everything should be ridiculously big. Dallas convention is that all dessert should be sweet. The two combine to result in portions the size of a The Rock's forearm, chocolate that's cloying and fruit that's so saccharine it tastes like a plastic-wrapped freeze pop. It doesn't have to be this way. In Highland Park, a young Italian chef is breaking this convention one dessert plate at a time. Try the semifreddo to see what we mean. The respectably sized quenelles of light, airy, kinda-frozen sweetness still let the lemon flavor shine. Think of that cold glass of lemonade you bought for 10 cents on a hot summer day back when you were a kid. Remember the melting ice cubes. Remember the tartness. Now turn the volume up to 10 and add some blueberries to the memory.

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