Whether you're sweating it out on a hot patio in August, throwing down on a spicy batch of crawfish in February or just looking for a beer with a little punch, Peticolas' Velvet Hammer is a solid choice. A 9 percent ABV imperial red ale with no shortage of hops, it's got it all: a malty, caramel base with just enough hoppy bite. It's hard to find a beer that goes down smooth in both winter weather and surface-of-the-sun heat, but Peticolas nailed it with Velvet Hammer.

Readers' Pick:

Revolver's Blood and Honey

The empanada may be the world's perfect food. It's cheap, filling and, considering that it's a tiny dough pouch filled with ingredients, perfect to eat on the run. Out in Irving, Empa Mundo has developed a well deserved reputation for making the freshest, most flavorful empanadas in the area. Along with the classic Argentine empanadas, don't skip the brisket and cheesesteak empanadas, for obvious reasons.

Small Brewpub
Kathy Tran

Small Brewpub does many things well, but the charcuterie program is where chef Misti Norris really gets to stretch. Norris has extensive training in butchery and charcuterie from her time at Nonna, Lucia and FT33, and at Small, she works with local farms to obtain whole hogs for the Oak Cliff restaurant's charcuterie program. By breaking down the animal herself, Norris can experiment wildly with the ever-changing board — beef lardo, pork liver terrine and hot pancetta with fennel have all been featured on the board recently. No matter how many times you order this charcuterie board, you're guaranteed to always experience something new and interesting.

Montlake Cut
FlavorHook Restaurant Group

A cozy Pacific Northwest-themed eatery in Preston Center has become one of the city's most popular seafood spots. Restaurateur Nick Badovinus opened Montlake Cut in the space that used to belong to Spoon late last year, and the restaurant specializes in pricey but well sourced oysters, simple but delightful raw bar dishes and straightforward main courses that focus more on the quality seafood than on fancy kitchen tricks. There's a touch of whimsy to this spot, but this seafood doesn't mess around.

Readers' Pick:

TJ's Seafood Market

Tacos Mariachi

Tacos Mariachi proves that serious tacos don't need to take themselves too seriously. The colorful Tijuana-style taqueria just down the street from Trinity Groves breaks down their playful menu into three main categories: Funky, gourmet and traditional. Classic taco purists can enjoy carnitas and barbacoa while the more adventurous go for "funky" tacos like the pulpo (grilled marinated octopus, avocado, asadero cheese) or a "gourmet" taco like the smoked salmon (asadero cheese, avocado, crema fresca and a fat smoked salmon filet on a corn tortilla). Stop by on Taco Tuesday for fish tacos made with crumbled chicharron-breaded mahi mahi with avocado mousse and crema fresca.

Readers' pick:

Fuel City

Cow Tipping Creamery

Early this year, Cane Rosso/Zoli's pizza master Jay Jerrier decided to expand into the ice cream biz by buying creative Austin soft-serve food truck Cow Tipping Creamery and expanding the business into Dallas. Cow Tipping Creamery opened inside Good 2 Go Taco in East Dallas in March with creative confections like the High Tea (vanilla soft serve, fresh lemon curd, crushed tea biscuits and honey dust in a cinnamon cone). CTC specializes in "stackers," which are basically sundaes with the toppings layered throughout the ice cream to create a more even distribution of toppings. It's like ice cream socialism, and it tastes mighty fine.

Readers' Pick:

Steel City Pops

When Samson's Gourmet Hot Dogs shuttered its Oak Lawn brick-and-mortar this year, we were more than a little bummed — these creative, tasty hot dog creations catered to everyone, from the gluttonous to the gluten-intolerant and even vegans. Luckily, Samson's isn't dead: The business is now focusing its efforts on catering and its food truck, which has been slingin' creative wieners in Deep Ellum every weekend this summer.

Readers' Pick:

Easy Slider

Ever since Luscher's Red Hots hit the scene in Deep Ellum, it's been Dallas' biggest hot dog heavy hitter. From the Post Oak Red Hot — a Texas take on the classic Chicago-style dog — to the Meat Fight Smoked Sausage and the Depression Dog, it's impossible to go wrong on this menu. Luscher's also proved itself as a community gathering place this year when local chefs and restaurateurs gathered at the hot dog spot to gather food for Dallas cops after July's fatal police shooting downtown.

Readers' Pick:

Angry Dog

Avila's Mexican Restaurant

When it comes to Tex-Mex, the old standbys always beat the newcomers. Some of the old guard has fared better than others, and Avila's has continued to prove that it's worth its salted rim. The cozy Maple Avenue spot serves a commendable margarita, either frozen or on the rocks, that will help you wash down their delicious but dangerously spicy salsa. Ruin your diet with a combo like the Avila's Special, one chicken enchilada topped with tomatillo, one chicken enchilada topped with sour cream and one cheese enchilada.

Readers' Pick:

Chuy's Mexican Restaurant

Tacodeli

This Austin import is known for its breakfast tacos as much as its salsas, the recipes for which rabid fans argue about at length online. Tacodeli's signature salsa, the Salsa Doña, is a creamy green salsa chock-full of jalapeño and garlic. If you're feeling brave, go for the Salsa Habanero, made with habaneros, carrots and the tears of your enemies.

Readers' Pick:

Gloria's

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