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.

The stuff of life, a staple that provides energy, fiber and nutrition. The vehicle for peanut butter. Yet the American industrial grocery complex, with its propensity for refining flour into pulverized sheetrock, has managed to turn most commercially produced bread into tasteless, sugar-filled fluff. The alternative to sweating over a hot oven to knead and bake it yourself is a moist and hearty 2-lb loaf from Texas-based Heartland Bread Co., sold in Kroger, Albertsons, Sprouts and Whole Foods in Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. With all-natural ingredients, no fats, oils, chemicals or other nasties, Heartland Bread is literally the toast of this or any other town.


There comes a time in every parent's life when the invitation arrives for a child's birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese's. Kids may love the soggy pizza and animatronic rodent, but it's misery for adults. Amazing Jake's, which occupies an old department store space in Collin Creek Mall, is a much nicer place for kiddies to gather. Buffet-style food includes pizzas, pastas, soups, salads and desserts. An open layout relieves claustrophobia, and there's a wide array of games and activities. If one must go to a kid-centric arcade, Amazing Jake's beats the rat-hole.

There's a narrow window of time in North Texas when it's not too hot or too cold for a picnic, so if you're going to do it, do it right. This is why we like to leave it to the experts at Scardello. Their "monger picnic service" includes a consultation with their cheesemongers to pair cheeses and accompaniments, and $25 will get you a choice of two quarter-pound cheeses, a half baguette and an accompaniment of a jam, chutney or pesto. If you like, they can also help you select wine and craft beers to complement your cheese. (Biodegradable utensils, cups, etc. included.) The perfect picnic needs the perfect setting, so you'll want to abscond with your goodies to nearby Dragon Park, a tucked-away statue garden that some find as magical as a "mini-Narnia."

Best Place to Get a Margarita and a Mustache


Kathy Tran

No, we're not talking about that time you fell asleep at that party in college. Hiding in the corner of the waiting area of Smoke's Plano location is a kooky vending machine that dispenses not only fake mustaches, but also random wildflower seeds and "medals for achievements that have yet to happen." If you get stuck waiting for a table at the popular upscale barbecue joint, you might as well make the most of it — add taste-testing their Woodshed margarita and mustache-sporting to your list of achievements.

Best Place to Chase Caffeine with Shaved Ice


Catherine Downes

You know it for its craft coffee, but Mudsmith has a secret. Tucked away in the back is a booth housing an "Olde New Orleans" shaved ice machine. Order a shaved ice up front at the barista stand and a friendly coffee slinger will escort you there past the hipster hunting lodge decor. You'll choose your 12- or 16-oz flavor from the chalkboard list, with options to add coconut milk or cream. In a stroke of genius, you can manage your caffeine fix and banish the Texas heat all at the same time.

The Little Greek Food Truck may not provide tables, chairs or a little old lady who turns every broken plate into a celebration. It doesn't serve any alcohol, either. What this rolling restaurant lacks in amenities, however, it makes up for in portability, making delicious Greek food possible on any paved surface in DFW. The truck's menu of street food — mainly grilled meat sandwiches served in pita, salads and baklava for dessert ­— has your Greek basics covered. Just bring a little ouzo in a flask, ask for a cup of ice and belt out, "Opa!" as you toss one back.


A trip to Seoul Garden is worth it for the kimchi alone. The cabbage is assertively spicy, fresh, vibrant and so crunchy you'll think it's still fresh. But since you drove here, you might as well enjoy the rest of the menu, starting with Korean barbecue that you'll cook yourself at your table with a charcoal-fired grill. Get the plain, non-marinated cuts if you want the flavor of the charcoal to shine through, and don't neglect the plates of banchan that cover the table when you order. The kitchen here isn't afraid of big and bold flavors, and that personality comes through in these tiny dishes of pickled snacks.

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