Best Reminder of Childhood 2012 | The "Sloppy Taco" at Off-Site Kitchen | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
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.


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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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


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.

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