Top 5 Barbecue

Lest you think of DeSoto as one of those ubiquitous Dallas suburbs with the usual chain dining choices, Top 5 BBQ will disabuse you of the notion. The small restaurant adjacent to DeSoto's City Hall is cranking out brisket, ribs, sausage and pulled pork that are among the state's best, all bound together in the unique flavor of Top 5's complex spice rub. Our praise doesn't end with the meats; all of the sides we've tried are top shelf, especially the french fries that are dusted with that addictive rub. Don't overlook the barbecue-themed specials, either. Top 5 even fries their own tortilla chips in-house to make barbecue nachos. It's that kind of creativity and execution that keeps us coming back to DeSoto time and again.

Peja Krstic
Kathy Tran

It's not just us: Ask your favorite chefs around Dallas, and you're likely to hear admiration for Krstic, the Serbian-American mind behind Mot Hai Ba's fantastical variations on traditional Vietnamese cuisine. His food combines deep respect for Vietnamese cooking with a modernist sensibility that sends the food in surprising new directions, like taking traditional pâté and swiping it around tempura-battered okra, or pairing grilled duck meatballs with tomato compote or a mild kimchi. As Dallas fine dining becomes increasingly conservative and risk-averse, Krstic is a role model for chefs who follow their inspirations in new and exciting directions.

Hat Creek Burger Company

A good kids restaurant needs two things: a safe playground and food that's tempting enough to get them to take a break from it. Hat Creek Burger Company, a new arrival from Austin that describes itself as a "fast-casual family-friendly burger patio," hits both marks. Its wild popularity is probably also attributable to the wine and on-tap beers from Austin's Strange Land Brewery. The respectable burgers are fresh off the grill and all under $10. Milkshakes with gummy worms and sprinkles are on hand for emergency meltdowns/rewards/bribes. As of now, the AstroTurf playground is rocking mostly in the evening until a soon-to-come canopy will be installed. So try to get there in the morning for breakfast tacos, egg sandwiches and pancakes when the air is still cool enough to breathe. Birthday parties are free with a reservation, but they're already booked through October, so get on it now, moms.

Encanto Pops

The best popsicles in Dallas live at Encanto Pops. The glow of color-changing globe lights sets the tone at this funky Oak Cliff spot, where the Diaz siblings offer their updated take on traditional Mexican paletas. Adventurous palates will be charmed by innovative flavors like pico de gallo, Gansito and avocado soursop. Pair a pop with an agua fresca for a combination that really takes the edge off the heat — no small feat in Texas. This just may be grounds to elevate the Diaz family to sainthood status.

Kessler Baking Studio

From cookies to brownies to bars, once you walk inside Kessler Baking Studio and get a whiff, you'll throw your whole diet away. But owner Clyde Greenhouse doesn't stop at sweet treats. He's serving up packaged nuts and confections that can serve as the perfect gift. Pro tip: Start your weekend the sweetest way possible by stopping in for Cinnamon Roll Saturday.

Rudy's Chicken

There's no way anyone can deny — or compete with — the taste of Rudy's fried chicken. This no-frills spot is a southern Dallas staple that brings all walks of life to its location on Lancaster Road. Despite occasional long lines, no one seems to mind the wait. Don't forget to ask for extra seasoning.

Recipe Oak Cliff
Paige Weaver
Recipe Oak Cliff

Recipe Oak Cliff is not your average juice bar. Whether you're ordering from the menu or chatting it up with owner Tisha Crear, who always has a great suggestion, Recipe Oak Cliff makes you feel at home — if your home was stocked with plant-based meals and fresh juices and smoothies. If you're feeling timid, start with the fresh watermelon juice.

Sweet Georgia Brown Bar-B-Que

Sweet Georgia Brown is one of the first places folks recommend when asked about soul food, and it's not hard to see why. Load up on your favorites like ribs, fried chicken, collard greens and mac-and-cheese. This cafeteria-style staple is open daily, but if you want to avoid the after-church crowd on Sundays, get your fix in late afternoon.

Caribbean Cabana

The Dallas Farmers Market has a lot of goodies, but a true gem is the Trinidad and Tobago family-run spot Caribbean Cabana. Why? They're bringing the flavors you yearn for in Caribbean food, from island favorites like oxtails to the jerk chicken sandwich that's impossible to eat in one sitting.

SoulGood food truck

Meat is obsolete — at least that's how the vegan food truck SoulGood makes you feel. This food truck is serving up goods that'll satisfy any palate, plant-based or not. The fan favorite is the Vin Diezel, a vegan hot dog topped with vegan chili, banana peppers, sauerkraut and sweet relish.

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