Best Ice Pop 2014 | Steel City Pops | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

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.

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.

If you haven't paid the Wine Therapist a visit in a while, you need to check it out again. The East Dallas wine shop made a move across Skillman Street and has a completely new look and feel. There's a bar for sipping from a curated list of wines, but the best seats are up the steps to a loft where leather couches wait to cradle you in a little bit of privacy. Work your way through the list and when you find a bottle that really suits you, take one home for later. You won't find an experience like this one in the wine section of your typical grocery store. You won't find an experience like this in most wine shops, either.

Catherine Downes

El Come Taco doesn't always have chapulines and escamoles on the menu, but when they do, enthusiasts come out of the woodwork. That's probably because there aren't many restaurateurs willing to put grasshoppers and ant eggs on their menus. Do not be afraid. The grasshoppers have a mild nutty flavor and a crunchy texture that's exciting to eat. Everyone smiles when they bite into a grasshopper taco, especially when they get a leg caught in their teeth, and there aren't too many foods that can evoke laughter. The escamoles are comparatively serious, with a rich, almost livery flavor that's complemented by a dollop of guacamole.

Spam isn't exactly the most cherished ingredient. It's hard to work up enthusiasm for any meat product that comes suspended in a can full of jelly. But given the right treatment, the right complements and perhaps a little bit of luck, Spam can be turned into some stellar bar food. Just look at the Surfers on Acid served at Local Oak in Oak Cliff. The buns are soft Hawaiian rolls and they're toasted in butter before they receive a modest slice of lightly seared Spam. Add a red cabbage slaw for some creaminess and body, and pineapple minced with chiles for a little sweet and a little heat, and you've got three small sandwiches that can disappear before you can get a few fingers into your beer.

There are times you want a massive slice of cake when you're craving something sweet, and there are times when you'd really prefer something smaller and more understated. Canelés are perfect for this. Like a small gift, they are wrapped in a tough, waxy crust that is a deep mahogany brown. Inside you'll find a dense cake that has a moist, almost custardy texture and the strong flavor of vanilla beans. Just a few bites and it's gone — the cake equivalent to a small cup of espresso — becoming a memory seconds after you've broken one open.

With all the steakhouses and barbecue joints in Texas, opening a meat mecca on Greenville Avenue would seem like a non-event. But Blind Butcher has managed to completely shift animal protein expectations since it opened earlier this year. There are sausages of all varieties, ground and cased right in the kitchen. Get the bangers with the creamiest of mashed potatoes for a worthwhile introduction and branch out your sausage exploration from there. There are charcuterie plates and cheese boards featuring house-made wares and there are french fries like you've never seen, topped with a boatload of gravy, a fried duck egg and foie gras for a decadent poutine. If you've got a vegetarian friend, there are a few things available on the menu, but why?

Kathy Tran

You're going to want to bring a friend for this one, as Vietnamese pancakes are a touch larger than the sweet breakfast items you doused with Aunt Jemima when you were a kid. They're also savory, and come stuffed with your choice of mushrooms and tofu for the vegetarians, or shrimp and scallions for lovers of seafood. It also comes with a plate of herbs and lettuce leaves that's so big it's almost overwhelming. Grab a lettuce leaf, wrap it around a slice of the pancake and then fill the pocket with as many herbs as you can manage. Dip the resulting roll into the bowl of slightly sweetened fish sauce and then take the biggest bite you can muster. It's even better with a cold, crisp beer.

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.

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