BEST DATE SPOT FOR DINNER AND DRINKS 2013 | The Cedars Social | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

Something about The Cedars Social is perfect. It may have something to do with the fire pits with the polished rocks, the late-night oysters, brioche-bun burgers and succinctly astounding cocktails. No, hang on. That’s not it. No. The Cedars Social is awesome because it has somehow managed to completely own a Secret Agent/007 theme. The menu comes out like a “for your eyes only” dossier. Come on, what’s not fun about that? Did we mention late-night oysters?

You walk into Smyth, and you're immediately transported. Not to an island in the Caribbean, or Fiji, but to a plane. You're on the second floor of James Bond's private jet. There are only a few seats, but the way Smyth is carpeted and decorated it's a certainty you're in a deleted scene from Dr. No. Here's why it's great: There's no giant, weird wooden menu. No menus at all actually, so you can just pretend you can afford everything. You just tell them what you like, and they make you a great cocktail. Somehow, even though you might order a cocktail that they finish with the smoke from a lit match, it ends up being not pretentious. It's simple and good.

There simply isn't enough room here for the philosophical discussion necessary to suss out when, in the process of garnishment, a bloody mary ceases to be a bloody mary. At what point does it become something else entirely? Perhaps the mixologist (chef?) who concocted "Fuck Brunch" can better answer this question. All you need to know is that when you order this "bloody mary" for Sunday brunch, you need not order anything else. Its "garnishes" include a bacon-and-cheddar slider, an artisanal cheese, some meat (maybe a Slim Jim, maybe not), asparagus, green beans, a pickle, shrimp, Brussels sprouts ... truly, the list goes on and is subject to Anvil's whims. But it will all, somehow, fit inside a big-ass mason jar. Yes, Fuck Brunch.

It must have taken some brass balls to open up a shop that sells nothing but pies at the tail end of the Great Recession, so if supporting the gumption of the lovely young ladies behind Emporium Pies isn't enough to get you in the door of their Victorian bungalow on Bishop Avenue, perhaps the "Smooth Operator" will. It has a silk chocolate filling and a pretzel crust that provides a delectable salty counterbalance to the sweet. Chocolate not your thing? How about the "Drunken Nut" — bourbon pecan with a shortbread crust? Or "Lord of the Pies," a deep-dish apple and cinnamon-streusel pie? If you're dining on Bishop, there is no finer postprandial delight than a made-from-scratch pie.

Beer dinners are becoming a staple of the Dallas dining scene, proving that craft beers can complement fine food just as capably as wine. One of the great things about beer is that it's so much less expensive than wine — you can get 750-ml bottles of some of the world's best beers for less than $20 apiece. But beer dinners typically start at around $50, and with exceptional food and ales they can approach the $100 mark, undermining beer's place as the common man's drink of choice. The $29 four-course meal, available Mondays at The Common Table, somehow manages to offer new creative and tasty food pairings each week with their perfect bubbly mates, without putting the meal out of reach for the working man.



Lebanese club music throbbed through air tinged with hookah smoke. A comely and curvaceous belly dancer writhed through the restaurant, finger cymbals ringing to the beat of the music. Diners took in this sumptuous visual delicacy as waitstaff brought platter after platter of tender lamb, chicken and steaming rice. They brought bowl after bowl of hummus and olives and creamy baba ghanoush. Once sated, the diners on a recent evening, many of them Indian, danced alternately in their own cultural way and in the booty-shaking style found in any club. And in a way, it was fitting. At Al-Amir, it's a taste of something familiar or something exotic, delivered — from the valets to the restroom attendant bearing a selection of cologne — in a very Dallas way.

Sometimes, in spite of the advice of doctors, we don't want to eat kale and sustainably caught salmon. Sometimes the only food that can fill our souls (and our arteries, with congestive levels of cholesterol) is served by the greasy spoon. Norma's Café has chicken-fried steak swimming in cream gravy. They've got fried catfish, pot roast, chicken pot pie and sweet tea to wash it down — the stuff Mom used to make, if you grew up in the South. Their Mile-High Cream Pie is the stuff of diabetic dreams. What's more, it's served to you by the kindliest, most matronly women. They're the kind of ladies who call you "sweetie." We swear, "being grandmotherly" must be one of the chief qualifications for becoming a waitress at Norma's.

On the list of foods destined for artisanal rebirth, ice pops would seem to hover in the vicinity of fish sticks. But John Doumas, with the stand converted from a VW bus, has managed to lift the humble popsicle into the quasi-foodie realm. We say "quasi" because Doumas' take on the frozen treats, which include flavors like cucumber lemon mint, coconut lime and apple rose, appeal to palates both sophisticated and young and sugar-crazed. Except for the Noble Coyote cold-brew coffee. The kids tend to steer clear of that one. Thank God.

It doesn't matter which one you order. Every flatbread at Bolsa is a flavorful and delicious dish that's great for splitting as an appetizer during happy hour or scarfing as a main plate for dinner. The margherita flatbread with amazing smoked tomatoes and fresh basil makes for a safe, favorite starter for any pizza — er, well, flatbread-lover (we all know these crusty, salty bread and cheese things are just a thin-crust pizza, right?). And while the sausage and shishito pepper flatbread and the bacon and blue cheese one with charred pineapple and kale make our mouths water, our favorite is the "Twig & Branch" topped with wild arugula, caprino chevre and roasted grapes.

Nick Rallo

The North Dallas Chinese restaurant opened in 1974 and has since won "Best Chinese Food" several times for serving up some of the best food in town. And while most everything on the menu is worth a try, the xiao-long-bao or "soup dumplings" at Royal China especially deserve praise. The handmade morsels come in a handful of varieties. There's the pork, which they claim is their most popular dumpling, chicken, shrimp and vegetable. There's also a gluten-free dumpling which comes wrapped in a steamed napa cabbage leaf, for those with allergies.

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