Best Indian 2014 | Chennai Café | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

Biryanis, pilaus and other rice dishes are often overlooked by diners in Indian restaurants in favor of more familiar curries like chicken saag and lamb vindaloo. That move would be a mistake at Chennai, where some of the best baked rice dishes served in the DFW area fill the dining room with their spicy perfumes. On the weekends a young goat version is available, provided you get to the restaurant early enough, because it sells out regularly. If it does, console yourself with a heady chicken curry and make a note to come back soon. Trust us, the return trip will not feel like a burden.

Dallas doesn't exactly excel in the red-sauce Italian category. There are a number of Italian restaurants that will serve you up pasta dishes inspired by the hills of Tuscany, but if you're looking for exemplary spaghetti and meatballs, you were out of luck until Carbone's came along. Stop by for lunch and nab yourself a high-end hoagie, just like the ones you can get in Philly, but with better charcuterie. There are cannolis piped to order, so the shells stay crispy, and like any good Italian spot, American or otherwise, lots and lots of vino. You can even take some home with you if you like, along with some sauce, pastas and bread — Carbone's doubles as your neighborhood bodega.

Catherine Downes

Let's get it out there right away that Mesero Miguel doesn't bill itself as a Tex-Mex restaurant. But that doesn't change the fact that there's a section on the menu for Tex-Mex dishes, and all of them are considerably more delicious than those from your old favorite lard-laden bean pit. As further evidence, chips and three salsas land on your table not long after you sit down, and behind the bar a frozen margarita machine whirls and turns out the official Tex-Mex beverage. Sure, you can order a fancy ceviche and a well-seared steak, but you'll feel a twinge of jealousy when that chicken enchilada plate walks by. And don't forget the cinco leches cake. It looks formidable but it's light as air.

Chances are, if you eat at most of the Tex-Mex restaurants around town, your salsa is for sissies. Most places keep their table salsa on the mild side, for fear that tepid gringos will cry. Not so at Avila's. Here the salsa looks like it's dominated with tomatoes but it tastes like the pain train as a number of chiles bring on the heat. Maybe this is their way of keeping customers from asking for that third bowl, but for whatever reason their salsa is unapologetically piquant. And don't even think about asking for the mild version because spicy is all they got. Anyone have milk?

You can get hot dogs at many bars, but most of the time you will be served a commodity wiener that tastes like a tube-shaped shoe. Not so at St. Pete's, where the link comes from neighboring Rudolph's Meat Market. The pedigreed dog is tucked into a plain, white bread bun, and then slathered with a nearly obscene amout of chili. There are onions in the fray, and a fistful of shredded cheese, and then because nobody cares about your well-being there's a massive serving of french fries too. Don't even think about ordering a light beer with this mammoth calorie bomb. You're in it to win it.

Beth Rankin

For the past few years, it has been common convention that Pecan Lodge serves the best barbecue in Dallas. What nobody knew is that it was about to get so much better. A hastened departure from the Dallas Farmers Market threatened to ruin a great thing, but Pecan Lodge feels right at home at its new address in Deep Ellum. They even brought their notoriously long line, but now there are more smokers turning out stellar brisket and things move a little faster, and there are more tables, inside and outside. Pecan Lodge, Deep Ellum edition, has longer hours for extended brisket dining, and it has bands on the patio, so you can blow out your eardrums while you bury your face in a hot mess. And sweet, sweet Jesus, most important of all they have beer — the very best complement to brisket.

Peggy Sue BBQ has a wall covered in denim and some passable brisket. Another thing it has, though, is the finest, most tender, most delectable and juicy baby back ribs in a 200-mile radius. If your idea of barbecue is that ribs are king, then you should a) leave Texas and b) go past Peggy Sue's on your way, because the potentially fictional lady knows her ribs.

Sushi can be intimidating for novices, even for those who are open-minded and have no qualms about chowing down on uncooked fish. The menu cards often have dozens and dozens of items, most of which have names that have no meaning to the uninitiated non-Japanese speaker. And then there's the fear of ordering an expensive roll expecting it to be worthy of a meal only to get a few bites out of it. The Deep Sushi Dinner takes the guesswork out of it, offering an affordable meal with an interesting selection of seafood. It's all tasty and fresh, and lets you enjoy your pre-dinner drinks talking to your date or friends rather than Googling the names of the rolls. And now that you know the names of a few items, you'll be more confident next time.

Catherine Downes

It's rare you'll encounter a chicken-fried steak that's as interesting as the one served at Tom's Burgers & Grill. It starts out with the breading, which replaces everyday seasoned flour with crushed potato chips that pack a serious crunch. There are flecks of herbs strewn about and the whole thing is fried until it's a deep, rich brown. Ask for your gravy to be served on the side to preserve the crispy texture and then get to dipping until heart palpitations tell you it's time to quit. Chicken-fried steak has a whole new lease on life at Tom's, and so will you while you're eating it.

Steakhouses are a dime a dozen here in Dallas, but none of them will let you get out of door for loose change. Knife is no different, but it can be significantly more affordable if you know how to navigate the menu. Look for the section of affordable bistro cuts that can be had for $25 each. You might not recognize names like tri-tip, culotte and chuck flap but you'll recognize the flavor as big and beefy. Each is cooked sous-vide and then finished over an oak fire. Pair yours with any of the sides such as creamed spinach and super crunchy onion rings and you'll have a steakhouse meal for well under 50 bucks.

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