Best Fort Worth Import 2015 | Rodeo Goat | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

Fort Worth's top contender for the North Texas burger throne proved itself in 2015 as its second outpost took up residence in the Dallas Design District. The Rodeo Goat features a burger named after our mayor — the Irish whiskey cheddar- and candied bacon-topped "Mike Rawlings" — and brought the Fort Worth original's Goat Balls along for good measure. Ignore the rude name, the goat cheese-stuffed beignets are little wads of cheesy goodness. Every bite of the half-chorizo Chaca Oaxaca burger is an adventure into spicy meat happiness.

Aaron Barker's burgeoning Dallas institution, Carnival Barkers, is in a state of flux. The ice cream master lost his lease on his space at the Truck Yard this year, but opened his first stand-alone joint near the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff. It's a good thing, too, as even the slightest doubt about the availability of Barker's most delicious creation, the Rice Krispies treats ice-cream sandwich, featuring vanilla ice cream jammed between two Rice Krispies squares, would've been utterly snap, crackle and no.

Weekend brunches at Ellen's are worth the one-hour wait for the perfect scrambled eggs and hash browns, but many would put up with longer queues if all Ellen's served was pancakes. They're less sweet than the flapjacks served at most joints, almost savory, and loaded with tangy buttermilk. A big stack dripping with syrup is a fine reward for waiting your turn.

When a restaurant devotes a whole section of its menu to the gooey Canadian delicacy poutine, you know they start with good french fries. The Blind Butcher's executive chef Oliver Sitrin has created intriguing varieties of poutine. A new shrimp poutine just joined the menu, lighter than the duck poutine with added foie gras hugging the cheese curds. There's even a vegetarian mushroom poutine. The rest of the menu here, including hand-cranked sausages and pastrami egg rolls, may distract, but the poutines have a gravitational pull.

Many people aren't aware of Dallas' strong Ethiopian community. About a dozen East African restaurants, many around the intersection of Forest Lane and Greenville Avenue, are delicious proof that it exists. Each restaurant offers a slightly different ambience — some with white tablecloths, flowers on the tables and contemporary art on the walls — but we prefer the humbler vibe at La Libela. Don't mind the blaring TV or the large group that often dominates the small room. It's probably the family of Genet Mulugeta, the owner, and she'll treat you like you're part of it. Plus, her food's out of sight (try the veggie combo). Each excursion to La Libela is like a positive party-crashing experience.

Arrested Development's Buster Bluth would love this place. ("We can have unlimited juice? This party's gonna be off the hook!") Your juice options are pretty close to unlimited at Roots' storefront on Oak Lawn. Cleanses are available if you're the zealous type, but juices such as the Immune Booster, which has a pleasant balance of sweet and spicy notes thanks to apple juice and jalapeño, are just as pleasant as a mid-afternoon refresher or green supplement to an otherwise unhealthy meal. Smoothies made with almond butter are more substantial for a light lunch. Let's all set aside our disdain for health food trends and agree that this is one that can stay.

Beth Rankin

Slow Bone is a case of downtown marries the country. Minutes from downtown on Irving Boulevard, with ample parking, Slow Bone offers classic Texas barbecue in a smartly re-purposed space that's small, clean, bright and arctic air-conditioned. Walk in the door and you're already in a cafeteria-style line, strolling past steam tables that shimmer and shine like a brand new dime. Get the classics, of course — fall-off-the-bone ribs, butter-soft chopped beef and rich chewy sausage — but do try some of the house specialties, like Oora's jalapeño mac and cheese, and Brussels sprouts and cauliflower au gratin. Great barbecue, pretty fast, clean and good. That's lunch that's smokin'.

For a while we thought maybe "green stuff" was code for drugs or Cuban cigars, because insiders at the Gold Rush Cafe in East Dallas always drop their voices when they ask for it. George, the proprietor, always looks over his shoulder before he mutters sotto voce whether they have it that day or not. But it's salsa, really, really good fresh green salsa made by a member of George's extended clan — sometimes. Not always. And it's never on the menu. You have to ask. But don't just blurt it out, or George will say, "Green salsa? I don't know about any green salsa. Who told you a thing like that?"

Pink, smooth and soft, Love Dip spreads cold on water crackers or rests easily on a chip or crudité. Like an evening cloud wafting across the setting sun, this dip hints hauntingly of things it is not. Of caviar, rosé wine and Provence. In fact it's made in Texas from milk and cheese, onion powder, cayenne, tarragon, cilantro, lemon juice, kosher salt and other tasty stuff. For about six bucks, you get a nice pint container, which you might as well gobble down as you drive home because it's so good you won't want to share, even with someone you love.

The best thing at Dallas' oldest New Orleans-style oyster house isn't on the menu, but it is on the table if you ask for it. S&D waitpersons are accomplished in the art of table-made remoulade and spicy cocktail sauces, made not simply while you watch but to your order. A little less horseradish, a little more pepper, light on the hot sauce, a splash of soy. However you want it, that's how they're going to make it. Nothing makes a big platter of oysters or a plate of boiled shrimp taste better than a great sauce for dredging, and these people know how to stir it up just right.

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