Mot Hai Ba
Kathy Tran

Salads do not have to comprise wilted iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots with the moisture of toothpicks and dressing weighed down with xanthan gum. Yes, some of them can be bright and refreshing. Take the papaya salad popularized in Vietnamese cooking. It's loaded with crunchy fruit, the bright acidity of lime juice and the funky pungency of fish sauce. Mot Hai Ba's take on the classic salad decimates your favorite corner takeout spot. Not only are the central ingredients brighter and snappier, but also an addition of beef jerky adds extra texture and flavor. It's kind of like bacon bits except they don't taste like sodium nitrate and dextrose — they taste like beef and delicious. And they help make this one of the best salads, papaya or otherwise, you've encountered in awhile.

Mariano's Hacienda

If frozen margaritas are your thing, Mariano's is where you want to be. Owner Mariano Martinez invented the drink, after all, so he should know a thing or two about its construction. Behind the bar, four frozen margarita machines spin like race car wheels, hypnotizing you while whipping frozen tequila and sugar into a velvety froth. Served in a pint glass, Mariano's margarita does not mess around. Drink one and the chile peppers on your plate will start to dance around. Drink two and you'll be the one dancing around until the inevitable sugar crash finally brings you down. When you awake you'll be left with hazy memories of the Tex-Mex meal you previously enjoyed, and you will not be hungry.

A+burger+with+fried+egg%2C+bacon+and+peppers%2C+and+the+house+it+lives+in.+Photos+to+scale.
Sara+Kerens
A+burger+with+fried+egg%2C+bacon+and+peppers%2C+and+the+house+it+lives+in.+Photos+to+scale.

Ice-cold beer and a big basket of crisp potato chips scrambled with nuggets of blue cheese, indoors in the A.C. or up on the roof in front of the giant-screen TV: You've never felt this good this close to Baylor Hospital. It all works. Salty chips, savory cheese, washed down with beer. Why don't we have this stuff for breakfast? Stackhouse is a hangout for the scrub-suit set from the hospital, with a growing clientele from the whole Bayloresque region near East Dallas. Remember: When you order the chips and dip, you do have to ask them to add "bleu" cheese, pronounced bluh. Yeah, so, no place is perfect.

Peggy Sue BBQ

There's really only one thing to know about onion rings. Fresh? Or frozen? At Peggy Sue they slice their own fresh onions, batter them up and deep fry them right there in the kitchen, so they taste like sliced battered deep-fried onions instead of chemically enhanced Mylar. Everything at Peggy Sue is pretty much that way. The onion rings stand out, maybe because a good onion ring is such a hard thing to find in this world. Those fake ones must be a whole lot easier to do. That's not what they do at Peggy Sue.

Meddlesome Moth

Captain Keith Schlabs, Meddlesome Moth partner and beer guru, precedes the craft-brew revolution. His Flying Saucer was serving up the best beers available in the area before "craft brew" or even the now antiquated-sounding "microbrew" were terms that merited USA Today trend pieces. Flying Saucer, which has blossomed into a formidable chain of franchises in the South, may have more mind-boggling arrays of taps, but the Moth is where you'll most often find Schlabs' most prized trophy brews: cellar-aged kegs, special one-off casks and rarities otherwise difficult or impossible to find in North Texas. Better yet, chef David McMillan's culinary creations are made with beer pairings in mind, helping prove that beer is just as good (well, better, if you ask us) as wine when it comes to elevating a great meal.

A good brunch is a balancing act that has to take a variety of things into account. There’s more involved than just sweet and savory, though these elements are of the highest importance. A good brunch has to cure a hangover while keeping things a little fruity and wholesome. It also has to appeal to the church crowd while being rich and fiery. Bread Winners can straddle all of those at the same time — for example, with the Tabasco hollandaise on the Southern Benedict or the hot sauce and maple syrup on the fried chicken and waffles. Or the Carmen’s French Toast — cinnamon raisin bread topped with fruit — with an added side of jalapeño bacon. Bread Winners has the balance you need in a successful Sunday brunch: the healthy and nutritious parts of breakfast with all the lingering sinfulness from the night before.

BEST RESTAURANT WITHIN 50 FEET OF A JUNK YARD

Barbacoa Estilo Hidalgo

Barbacoa Estilo Hidalgo

It is an unlikely place for an eatery of any sort, but if you were going to pick a restaurant to open up on this little strand at the end of Lake June Road, it would probably be a taco place. Lucky for you, Barbacoa Estilo Hidalgo isn't just any taco restaurant, but a really good one. They likely make the best barbacoa in all of Dallas, and they pack it into handmade tortillas. Owner Raymundo Sanchez roasts lamb down to shreds on the weekends for breakfast and lunch. During the week his restaurant is closed. That's just as well because the food here was designed to destroy your worst hangover. The lamb roasts in a special oven, suspended over a bed of chickpeas. What collects in a pan at the bottom is the most restorative soup you'll ever encounter. Come with friends and say goodbye to last night's margarita haze. Everything is all right now.

Los Torres Taquería

The term "mom and pop" is as overused as the word "hipster." It's heaped on every restaurant that's not a Chili's or a Cheesecake Factory. Mom and pop should indicate an actual set of parents is at the heart of the business. It should be reserved for family-owned restaurants, like Los Torres Taquería in Oak Cliff, where Ramiro Torres, wife Irene and her sister Evangelina wait to deliver bliss tucked in a tortilla. Even their children are there, more often then not. And you wish you grew up with cooking like this. There is succulent goat spiced with cloves and cinnamon and rich barbacoa made not just with beef, but pork too. And if you request it, they'll make your tortillas by hand, to order. Step up to the salsa bar and choose your ammunition. Your hunger never stood a chance.

Oak

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.

Truluck's

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.

Best Of Dallas®

Best Of