Afrah Mediterranean Grill & Buffet

Afrah may be one of the most well-known Middle Eastern restaurants in the Dallas area — a fact that can likely be attributed to its origin as a sweets shop when it first opened in Richardson. The restaurant that followed, though, is anything but a run-of-the-mill kebab house. The breads are freshly baked on-site and arrive warn and soft, while skewered meats come out charred and blackened in spots, yet remain juicy and tender. During lunch, there's a buffet where you can eat tabouleh and hummus till your stomach pops, along with most of the rest of the menu. And the best part about Afrah is they never gave up on those sweets, and have only added to them. How many Middle Eastern restaurants do you know that will serve gelato along with baklava after your meal?

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Sara+Kerens
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Consider Il Cane Rosso a pizza dynasty. Not even Jay Jerrier himself could top his original creation. His newest pizza shop in Oak Cliff does its best to bring a slice of New York to Oak Cliff, but Zoli's still can't top the carefully prepared Neapolitan pies Jerrier built his name on. The pizzas at Cane Rosso are light, soft-crusted and don't go down like a 12-inch round of lead. Now with two locations serving up pies certified by the Vera Pizza Napoletana, Cane Rosso brings a taste of Naples to Dallas in a casual, relaxed atmosphere that's as good for a laid-back date as it is for a family dinner with the kids or catching up with your friends over some beers.

Manny's Uptown Restaurante

Unfortunately for Dallas there aren't a lot of provincial foods that locals can hang their hats on. There's good food, sure, but not much we can call our own. Except brisket tacos, which are said to have been created at Mia's Tex-Mex before taking over the Tex-Mex world. Regardless of origin, they're done nowhere better than Manny's in Uptown, where the peppers have a little extra crunch, the beef is more flavorful and the bowl of dipping gravy is as big as they come. If brisket tacos aren't your thing (shame on you), there's still plenty to keep you well fed. This is Tex-Mex after all, and enchiladas, tacos, beans and fajitas are all promised in endless combinations here.

Jonathon's Oak Cliff
Sara Kerens

You wish you had a restaurant like Jonathon's in your neighborhood. Unless, of course, you live in Oak Cliff, and then you're thankful to have a restaurant like Jonathon's in your neighborhood. (The rest of us hate you.) Jonathon and Christine Erdeljac have turned a tiny house on Beckley Avenue into a staple for neighborhood locals, who now see a sizable wait for a table during brunch on the weekends. That's why you should come to Jonathon's during the week for breakfast. You'll get nearly the same menu, with none of the hassle. Bring your paper and grab a seat at the bar and order up a couple of eggs, with two sides and toast. This is how breakfast used to always be. And if you're not a classicist, you can always go with the danger dogs. Sausages battered in pancake batter are difficult to eat without a smile.

The best way to assure you'll get good fried chicken is to order it from a place that does little else. Henderson on Abrams Road is just this type of takeout chicken joint. The menu may look large, but it really just offers an endless array of chicken parts, assembled in two-piece, three-piece and other-piece combinations. While rookie fry shacks serve up chicken with greasy crusts that drip with oil before they slough off with one bite, the chicken at Henderson has integrity. The skin stays attached to the meat until your teeth say it's time to let go, and it's rich but not excessively greasy. Make sure you get some of the pickled whole jalapeños. Prick one with a fork and squeeze the vinegary brine that's inside all over your cardboard basket full of golden brown deliciousness. There's no better condiment for fried.

Craft and Growler

With the craft beer movement exploding in Dallas, your options are bubbling up like the head on a farmhouse saison. Of course you're having a hard time choosing your beer, which is why you should make haste to Craft and Growler in Fair Park. Husband and wife owners Kevin Afghani and Catherine Kinslow are here to make sure you end up with your perfect brew, and finding your match is half the fun. Just 10 bucks gets you access to four different beers, and each of the glasses is a generous pour. The 30-tap dispensing system behind the bar is your gateway into a world of Texas beers, and they always seem to have the latest, greatest brew that your beer nerd friends are buzzing about. When you find one you like, grab a growler from the wall and take the object of your affection home. If only dating were this easy.

Los Torres Taquería

Every popular taquería has a most celebrated taco. There's always a filling they pull off with a little more flair than their taco-making counterparts. But when Los Torres Taquería opened and offered several noteworthy taco types, something special happened. Your order will be larger than you're used to here, and there's little you can do about it. How can one choose between birria and barbacoa roja? The first is soft and tender goat meat, flavored gently with cinnamon and clove and kissed lightly with chiles for heat. The barbacoa is more aggressive. The abundance of dried chiles lends a rusty red color and the subtle suggestion of smoke, while the meat has been cooked down into tender threads that could only belong in a tortilla. It tastes so much like home cooking you might feel like you're eating in someone's home. You almost are. Los Torres Taquería is a family business, and Mrs. Torres is patting fresh tortillas in the kitchen.

Chennai Cafe

It's a hike from Dallas, but it's worth the trip to find what is undoubtedly the best vegetarian restaurant in the area. Chennai's dals, vegetable curries and chutneys are delicious, and their South Indian menu promises an almost endless array of vegetarian choices. Don't miss the masala dosa. It's stuffed with potatoes, onions and cashews, yellowed with turmeric and flavored with mustard seeds. The crepe is big enough to cover your table and it's incredibly cheap. The uthappam, idli and other breads are affordable too, and they won't send you home hungry. The best value is the thali, which provides no fewer than 10 vegetarian dishes and a massive bowl of rice to soak them up. And because every vegetarian friend has at least one carnivorous friend there are curries made with meat that are outstanding here. Everyone is happy at Chennai — especially your belly. Besides, you were never going to convert your friend, anyway.

Pecan Lodge
Beth Rankin

Mac and cheese is one of those dishes that is all over the map. There are highbrow versions made with mascarpone and obscure aged cheese, and there are the versions we all grew up on that came out of a cardboard box. There are baked versions that will cause your heart to flutter and there are versions that will cause it to stop. Nearly every mac and cheese rendition made is at least satisfying, but when the variables of texture, flavor and the crucial cheesiness all reach their respective pinnacles in unison, the resultant dish can make a person emotional. Pecan Lodge offers such a mac and cheese and after you wait in line for an hour for the cup of golden sunshine, your first bite will bring tears to your eyes. Thick, cheesy, lactose-laden tears, because you've just realized you should have gotten a second order and the line is now twice as long.

Start

The shame of bad drive-thru starts with the heavy sack. Sometimes it's a plastic bag that's dense in the center like a full diaper. Start is not baby dump. Someone has finally figured out a way to make drive-thru food not shitty. It's this place called Start, and the food isn't all quinoa troughs and garbanzo bean tubs. You can get an honest-to-goodness burger. And tater tots. And sweet-potato tater tots. Here's a plus, and we can't believe we're saying this, they actually have a good veggie burger. It's rich, faux-meaty and loaded with fresh avocado. Fresh, from-scratch and made-to-order: That's drive-thru that doesn't suck. Oh, and the staff sometimes wears cool hats.

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