Best Fajitas 2014 | Mariano's Hacienda Ranch | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

Mariano's has been known for decades as the creator of the frozen margarita, but their more impressive accomplishment is what they've done with fajitas. If fajitas were measured by their sizzle, Mariano's would win based on heat alone, but there's a lot more to celebrate here beyond a hot metal plate. The beef is perfect — a little chewy, a little salty, with a big, smoky flavor that goes perfectly with the sweetness of the caramelized onions that share the plate. What's better is all of these flavors get wrapped up in tortillas that were patted out and griddled moments before at the station at the front of the restaurant.

Catherine Downes

Bread service is presented like an afterthought at most restaurants, if it hasn't been abandoned all together. But all of those napkin-lined wicker baskets filled with stale rolls make the bread served at Pera Wine and Tapas all the more impressive. A length of super-crusty baguette is scored into slices and then paired with a small bowl of olive oil. There's a dollop of thick, creamy labneh, a few dill fronds and some chile pepper in the mix too, making this gratis snack more of a first course than something to kill time while you wait for your drinks to arrive. Bread topped in such a way borders on decadence. And to think, some people are stuck with those months-old pats of butter wrapped in tinfoil.

Taking kids out to dinner can be a challenge, so you'll need every advantage you can get if you have any chance at having a relaxing evening. Chips and salsa land on the table just seconds after your butts hit the seats, keeping crumb snatchers occupied while you peruse the menu, and margaritas keep your anxiety at bay as more kids stream in through the door. It doesn't hurt that Pepe's is easy on the wallet considering the trend in tuition costs these days, and when you finally hit your limit for shrieks and over-turned salsa bowls, your check arrives just as quickly.

Lots of sandwich shops have character, but Uncle Uber's is a real personality. Stop by for lunch and you'll have to wait in a line filled with hungry workers from nearby offices, who come for creative takes on classic sandwiches they grew up on. There's a solid cheesesteak made from shaved rib-eye and a roast beef served with salty jus. Don't miss the Cuban that binds pork and ham with plenty of melted Swiss cheese. If you order the chicken sandwich crispy, you'll be ruined for Chick-fil-A, and there's an impossibly juicy burger to get lost in as well. Don't pass up an order of fries that are cooked to a deep golden brown, and relish that your late evening snacking needs are met here too. They're open until midnight on the weekends.

Kathryn DeBruler

The Tate Farms grass-fed burger excels in just about every category available for burger assessment. The bun is a soft round of pain au lait, the bacon is cured in-house and the pickles are made right there, too. The Gruyere is nutty and melted in a thick slice and while most burgers sport raw onions, here they're caramelized and sweet. That's before you even get to the patty, which is gently formed, cooked over a wood-burning grill and served alongside a tangle of hand-cut french fries. There are only so many things you can do with a burger, and Boulevardier checks off all of them.

The market's tagline sums it up really well: "Only Growers. Only Makers. Only Local." When you shop at White Rock Local Market you know exactly what you're going to get, while other markets often allow commercially supplied produce to mingle with local goods. It might not seem like a big deal but the commitment colors every interaction you'll have at the market. Whether you're buying peaches from the man who picked them the day before, or frozen pops from a local artisan selling them out of the back of a VW bus, you'll get to interact with passionate people who care and are knowledgeable about the products they're selling. The hot dog stand that peddles some of the best hot dogs in Dallas doesn't hurt things either. And yes, those links are local too.

Emporium Pies opened in the Bishop Arts District two years ago and quickly became known for the best pie baking in Dallas. The shop has only gained momentum since, and now a line snakes out the door and down the street in the evenings as diners from neighborhood restaurants defect for their evening desserts. The pies are all made from scratch with fresh ingredients, and each defies your expectations for what pie should be. The Smooth Operator is a classic here — a French silk chocolate with a pretzel crust, but newcomers seldom disappoint. Feeling sluggish? Try the Java the Hutt for crunchy toffee and a creamy espresso filling poured into a simple buttery crust.

Scott Reitz

There aren't too many baristas in town who have to put on a shirt and tie before they start pulling espresso shots. Consider the uniform a testament to the seriousness with which every coffee drink is created at Houndstooth. Before the magic even starts, customers are given a choice of beans based on tasting notes like fruity, chocolate or even pastry. Next, the beans are ground, weighed to the 10th of a gram and carefully pulled through the shiny La Marzocco machine sitting on the counter. Ditch your laptop. There are no power outlets to be found here and coffee this good requires quiet contemplation. Grab a seat at one of the communal tables or out on the patio and sip until you find the answers to what troubles you.

Steak and eggs has reigned supreme as the high-protein breakfast dish of choice for generations, even though most restaurants deliver terrible renditions. Why would anyone want a thin and crummy New York strip when they could come to the Meddlesome Moth and enjoy an impeccably cooked hanger steak that packs big, rich beef flavor? It's the little things a restaurant does to elevate your brunch that makes getting out of bed on a Sunday morning worthwhile, and here the coffee is served from personal press pots and a bloody mary comes with your choice of beer chaser. When the weather is agreeable, grab a seat on one of Dallas' prettiest patios and get ready to drink the last day of your weekend into oblivion while eating very well.

When is a Greek restaurant not a Greek restaurant? When it's a full-blown club with a DJ filling the place with throbbing dance music. Stratos is a party as much as it is a place to eat. Come for lunch, though, and the cavernous dining room will be filled with office workers looking to fill up on the cheap. Massive plates of grilled chicken kebabs, lamb and other grilled meats land on tables beside huge Greek salads topped with tomatoes and feta. And then there's the gyro, which if you're crazy enough to order it, comes in a double meat variety. Go on and try it. You'll never make it back to work.

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