BEST CAESAR SALAD 2013 | Oak | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
Wits Steakhouse/Kathy Tran

This upscale Design District restaurant isn't new to winning awards or earning "best" nods for its cuisine in these pages or in other publications. Last year, Oak walked away with Best New Restaurant and Best Chef awards from us, and for good reason. We've yet to be let down when dining there. The menu at Oak is constantly changing, especially since its recent chef transition, but throughout the turmoil one thing has remained: the Ligurian Caesar salad. Oak takes the on-every-menu salad and turns it into a refreshing, modern nosh. The Caesar comes served with a hunk of hand-torn crouton, Parmigiano-Reggiano and mint pesto, and once that crouton soaks up some of the dressing, it's ever so heavenly.

Chances are that while sifting through the bar menu at Truluck's (which is half off during happy hour) you'll feel like a kid in an alcoholic version of a candy shop. The menu is filled with drinks ranging from savory to sweet, among them the tiramisu martini made with Vincent Van Gogh double espresso vodka and walnut liqueur, the Red Door with vodka, St. Germaine and fresh raspberries or the Dinner Martini made with Belvedere Intense vodka and served with a few blue-cheese-stuffed olives. While picking one can be hard, there's one cocktail in particular that stands out: the lychee martini. The sweet and perfume-like taste of the lychee pairs perfectly with vanilla-flavored vodka and Chambord. We've ordered the Asian fruit cocktail all over Dallas, but haven't been able to find anywhere that shakes and pours it up better than Truluck's.

Catherine Downes

The restaurant formerly known as Thai Express received an upgrade of sorts when it moved from its strip-shopping-center location on Inwood Road to the new spot on Oak Lawn Avenue (underneath the offices at 3300 Oak Lawn Ave.) and re-branded itself as "Si Lom Thai Asian Fusion" in late 2012. While the menu offers a variety of scrumptious options, from curries, salads and noodles to the amazing pineapple fried rice and Thai classics like pad Thai, it's the tom kha soup that keeps us coming back time and time again. Si Lom's take on the lemon grass soup is made with coconut milk, cilantro, green onions, juicy hunks of tomato, straw mushrooms and a choice of chicken or shrimp. It comes served in individual portions or as huge, sharable platters, and diners are given a heat index to choose from. We recommend ordering the large and asking for it "hot."

Sundown at Granada

Do yourself a series of favors. First, go to brunch at Sundown. After you've pounded your requisite (and delicious) mimosas and bloody marys, take a look around. You'll see the same dish ferried to most every table: Sundown's insanely delicious, heavenly choir-inspiring eggs Benedict. You will want to order them. Quickly. They'll come with Shiner brisket for the meat eaters, sautéed spinach and mushrooms for the herbivores, barbecue hollandaise and sweet-potato hash for everybody. They taste like drunk sunshine. The sight of that perfect golden yolk running across the plate is enough to inspire goodwill toward your fellow man, always important when you're at brunch surrounded by 200 people drinking just as many mimosas as you are.

Tacos Y Mas gets most things right. Every taco offered there is delicious, naturally, as are the queso, the guacamole and the chips, all of which they turn out from a tiny kitchen wedged between a car wash and a Walgreens. But the bombero salsa is, truly, their crowning achievement. The adobe-brown concoction is house-made, never watery and goddamn hot. It’s also got just the right hint of tomato and onion to make it flavorful, without overdoing them so much that it turns into some gringo-ish salsa fresca bullshit. Enjoy the sweet sounds of some dude blasting his stereo as he soaps his 1992 Camry and get yours.

Five years into the tradition, The Libertine Bar's annual July 4 celebration of gluttony, excess and cheap processed meat — all the things that make America great — is getting better and better without changing a thing. The prizes are fairly lucrative by local eating-contest standards, offering gift certificates of $100 and $50 for first and second place and $25 in quarters to third. That's enough to lure in professional gurgitator "Nasty" Nate Biller, who easily won in 2013 with 26 corn dogs downed in 20 minutes. But the real draw is the crowd of drunken smartasses on both sides of the contest table, shouting hilariously as men and women do their best not to reverse, all soundtracked by over-the-top patriotic jams played at top volume. For those seeking masticating glory, it's the longest and best 20 minutes of the year.

Few things can make us drive north of the George Bush Turnpike other than a trek to H Mart. This Asian-inspired grocery store opened its first location in Queens in the early 1980s and has since expanded across North America and even opened a location in Carrollton. According to its website, H Mart is short for "Han Ah Reum" or "One Arm Full of Groceries," but chances are you'll leave the department-store-sized Carrollton location (the spot used to house a Mervyn's) with a cart full of loot. H Mart is home to some of the freshest (and reasonably priced) fresh produce in town, a meat market section stocked with meats you would expect at a typical grocer, and tanks filled with live seafood we'd never seen outside of the Discovery Channel or Food Network. The market also offers some less conventional fare, from kimchi and seaweed to quail eggs and dragon fruit. There's also a section of household appliances and gadgets and the most impressive sake selection in town.

Deep Ellum Brewing Co. founder John Reardon was ahead of the craft-beer curve in Dallas, creating the first in a wave of new breweries in the city limits of Big D. With his new venture, he and DEBC event planner Zack Fickey are once again reading the hop leaves to foresee the future of craft beer. Canned beer is becoming respectable and even preferred in some cases for the kind of earth-conscious brewers and consumers responsible for the craft-beer business boom. Cans are lighter and have less of a carbon footprint; they are more portable; and they preserve beer better by keeping out the damaging sunlight and oxygen that can leak into bottles. But rather than simply buy a canning line for DEBC, Reardon and Fickey created a new venture, a mobile canning service that can serve their own brewery as well as other small breweries popping up around town such as Denton's Armadillo Ale Works. We raise a can (and then shotgun it) to the North Texas brewing community working together.

That old problem: Which sounds better, an order of queso, some quesadillas or a plate of nachos? If you can't figure out which Tex-Mex appetizer you'd like to munch on with your first margarita after a chaotic day at the office, Ojeda's has you covered. The botanas platter has every cheese-filled and fried finger food imaginable; a pile of nachos, a few chicken flautas, some amazing stuffed jalapeños, traditional chicken quesadillas, a cup of chile con queso and a scoop of guacamole — all served on one large plate. For $15 you can provide appetizers for happy hour with friends or the entire family, or simply make a meal out of it, but we don't recommend the latter unless you're training for a professional eating competition.

We've tried pretty much every variation of taco salad offered from East Dallas to Oak Cliff, and if you want a fresh and affordable take on the traditional "healthy option" while eating at a Tex-Mex joint, then this one wins our vote for a much tastier option without the temptation of that fried outer shell. Rather than a pile of iceberg lettuce inside of a grease-laden flour or corn tortilla bowl, Mia's salad is served with finely shredded greens in a wide glass bowl with the "taco" meat served in a small tortilla. For less than $8, diners get a choice of seasoned ground beef or tender shredded chicken on top of fresh lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and cheese. The salad comes served with a house-made spicy blue cheese or your pick of a variety of other dressing options. But if we're counting calories, we prefer dousing it in Mia's salsa.

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