Start

It's 8 a.m., you're late for a meeting, you're hungry and last night you had a steak and creamed spinach for dinner. You need breakfast, you need it fast and you need it not to suck. That's why you're in line at the drive-thru at Start, perusing a menu of whole wheat breads and tortillas, baked goods and fresh fruits. You can get a smoothie if you need some extra nutrients, and the coffee is black and strong. There's oatmeal if you're inclined, and if that steak dinner doesn't have you too far down, plenty of sunny scrambled eggs and bacon. Don't feel bad about it — bacon makes everything better. And at Start it's just one of many ingredients that are responsibly sourced and carefully handled.

First Chinese B-B-Q

Customers know they're somewhere interesting as soon as they walk through the door. The diners are nearly all Chinese, payment is accepted only in cash, and there aren't any egg rolls on the menu. There are marinated pork intestine and beef tendon and dried squid. First Chinese offers up Cantonese-style cooking, but don't think everything here is blood and guts. Roast duck with crispy skin is a go-to order, as are a number of stir-fried noodle dishes from crispy noodles to lo-mein. And the best part of the restaurant is BYOB, which combined with some rock-bottom menu prices adds up to a really cheap night.

Palapas Seafood Bar
Catherine Downes

When you walk into a Mexican restaurant with fajitas and nachos on the menu, you might be inclined to indulge in your standbys. You can do that at Palapas, too, and you'll leave with a great impression of the restaurant. But where this Greenville Avenue newcomer really excels is with ingredients that hail from the sea, in ceviches and grilled fish dishes that absolutely sing. Get the shrimp ceviche served on a crunchy tostada for a textural contrast, or a mixed seafood ceviche served in a young coconut. And if you have a hangover you might consider the camarón in agua chili, which features shrimp quickly cooked in lime juice and served in a freshly blended sauce of cilantro, more lime juice and shrimp stock. You certainly don't need a hangover to enjoy the dish, but if you had too much tequila the night before it can be a godsend.

Easy Slider was one of the first trucks to have a real presence on the Dallas food truck scene, and years later they are easily still the best. Whenever you see their teal, stars-and-stripes-themed vehicle parked around town and you're feeling hungry, you'd do well to change your dining plans. At times, some of the flavor combinations sound like they'd be too much, especially when you're dealing with toppings like strawberry jam and goat cheese, but each of the wacky creations works as well as the next, and their diminutive size means you can try two at a time, or maybe three.

La Banqueta has been a mainstay on the Dallas taquería circuit for years. The tiny walk-up with only a counter for seating is the go-to spot for suadero tacos. But with the move across the street to a new location, the Dallas location of this four-taquería chain has become a neighborhood hotspot for everything taco. Don't stop at the suadero; the pastor is a popular order too, and while you may not see as many customers ordering the tripas, you owe it to yourself to try the tacos made from calf intestines. Order them extra crunchy and give your taco a sturdy dousing from the squeeze bottle filled with green salsa. One bite and beef tacos will be forever boring.

For those who have grown tired with the ice cream status quo, Carnival Barker's offers flavors that are anything but boring. Banana pudding and Nutella vodka join Fat Elvis — a peanut butter and banana ice cream with candied bacon and honey — in a slew of flavors that will keep you thinking while you spoon-feed your face. For those who aren't feeling as adventurous, cookie dough and cookies and cream are among flavors that will resonate with old ice cream memories. Just don't forget these guys are Texas' only independent ice cream shop. Those other shops have to buy their base from state-controlled creameries.

If you were just to read the list of ingredients off the menu, many of the salads served at Gemma would sound like abstract art. A bok choy salad features thinly shaved cabbage, paper-thin radishes, mint, fennel, cashews for crunch and peas for sweetness. A salad of heirloom squash features more of those windowpane radish slices, pine nuts, Pepato cheese and lemon. If either of these sounds like they'd eat more like a Mondrian or a Picasso, relax. They're just like the salad you'd expect served alongside a hearty steak, only much prettier. And because of top-shelf ingredients that taste like they were just plucked from the garden, those salads that you're used to will fall into a very distant second place.

Cattleack Barbeque
Chris Wolfgang

To put things delicately, the Toddfather is not a sandwich you should take lightly. Todd David's brisket at Cattleack Barbecue is worth a visit all on its own, but fold some pulled pork into the mix along with his brilliant house-made sausages and you've got a holy trinity, a great trifecta of smoked meat generously tucked inside a fresh, warm bun. If it sounds like a lot of fat and heavy flavors, that's because it is, but a small container of sweet and crunchy coleslaw will help cut through the richness.

Steel City Pops

If your understanding of a frozen pop was solidified with ice pops you squeezed from plastic tubes after they were plucked from your home freezer, it's time to give the art form another look. Even if you grew up on the small-batch paleterías around town, you need to reconsider. The frozen forms that leave the front door of Steel City Pops may be fleeting, but the memory of a pop this good will stick with you a long time. Forget flavors like grape, orange and cherry. Try a creamy avocado pop instead. The satin-smooth bright green pop smacks of life. There's a creamy lemon flavor, peanut butter, and sour cream and cherry, and if you'd prefer something a little fruitier, you're covered here as well. Blood orange, anyone? It's not to be missed.

Monkey King Noodle Co.

It's a fact: Food tastes better when you eat it while standing. Street stalls around the world have served up some of the best bites imaginable, catering to a diner's desire for deliciousness, portability and affordability. Dallas doesn't have a lot of street food, but at Monkey King Noodle Co. they certainly have some of the best. With hand-pulled noodles, carefully pleated soup dumplings and rustic, hearty soups, this Deep Ellum restaurant is producing some of the city's best Chinese food, takeout or otherwise. Place your order at the window and pour yourself a cup of hot tea. When you get your noodles, head up to the roof deck and soak up the Dallas skyline while you slurp.

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