Best Chinese Restaurant 2018 | Sichuan Folk | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
Courtesy Bradley Anderson

As the Sichuan dining scene explodes in Plano, one older standby keeps getting more and more consistent. Sichuan Folk's lip-tingling hot dishes, alive with the taste of numbing peppercorns, are formidable and thrilling. Spicy fish is practically mandatory. The wontons, 10 for $5, are excellent. But it's possible to pass a satisfying meal here without encountering high heat by trying the marinated wood ear mushrooms and a noodle soup with a mellow savory broth. In its realm of expertise, Sichuan Folk is still setting the regional standard.

Readers' Choice:Royal China
Kathy Tran

Early 2018 has seen a boom in upscale Italian restaurants across the Dallas region, from The Charles and Mille Lire near downtown to Frisco's Da Mario, which specializes in setting its pasta alla vodka on fire. But in many ways the original is still the best: Nonna, which just celebrated its 10th birthday, is as keenly attuned to the seasons as ever, basing its ever-changing menu on the freshest produce. As good as the stuffed squash blossoms and lobster ravioli might be, save room for main courses of fish, quail or lamb grilled in the wood-fired oven. They have a habit of stealing the show.

Kathy Tran

Ddong Ggo has enough gimmicks for a dozen restaurants, including its name, which its owner says is Korean for "chicken butthole"; its cocktails, which include popsicles dunked in pint glasses of booze; and its atmosphere, carefully designed to mimic the street-side bar carts of Korea. But Ddong Ggo's kitchen is serious about producing truly great fried chicken, tender seafood, shareable soups and addicting bar snacks like the "kimchi cheese pizza pancake," which is even better than it sounds. There may be no meal in Dallas more joyous to eat than Cheese Island, a skillet on which an island of fried chicken and potatoes floats on an ocean of molten cheese.

Kathy Tran
Bashar Al Mudhafar and wife Marwa Hamza, owners of Fattoush Mediterranean Kitchen.

You'll find some of the best hummus, labneh and lamb kebabs in Texas in the tiny town of Pantego, just west of Arlington. Here Bashar Al Mudhafar, a Baghdad native who arrived in America as a refugee in 2010, cooks superb Iraqi food with the help of his family. The falafel, its inside bright green with fresh herbs, comes from childhood memories of falafel Al Mudhafar ate from street vendors; the grilled lamb chops are dusted with ground pistachios. The secret to keeping even shish tawook (chicken kebabs) tender and moist? Grilling them to the side of the flame, so they don't dry out over the high heat.

Catherine Downes

Oddly, the steaks aren't always the first thing we remember fondly after a night at Knife. The sheer professionalism of the service, the fabulous creamed spinach, the pastas that are far better than they need to be and the gimmicky-sounding but delicious bacon old fashioned all produce their own warm memories. Knife is a complete restaurant, and in-the-know diners are just as excited about the cryptic menu item "Something Green and in Season" as they are about the 90-day dry-aged rib-eyes. But let's not undersell the steaks. Knife was a national pioneer in the dry-aging movement, and it's still the reigning champ. Whether you choose "old-school" meat or "new-school," which employs sous vide to ensure a flawless cook, you can't go wrong.

Kathy Tran
The Mitchell

In the shadow of The French Room, a tiny bar decided that it should try its hand at French food too. The Mitchell focuses on bistro fare, the kind you'd find at lunchtime in a Parisian cafe: huge, filling croque madame sandwiches; a cauldron of mussels steamed in apple cider; raw oysters dotted with caviar; and a ring of beef tartare dotted with egg yolk custard. Their food has the element of surprise — we never expected to be so delighted by steak frites or roasted bone marrow in a downtown gin bar. But The Mitchell is the real deal, and our return visits indicate that after several recent rounds of chef turnover, the kitchen's standards are as high as ever.

Kathy Tran
The French Room

Few spaces in Dallas combine comfort with opulence as effortlessly as the redesigned bar just a staircase away from the storied French Room restaurant. The period touches take the room back at least a century, including an ornate wooden fireplace, deep blue walls, oil paintings of wigged European nobility and, of course, a gold-painted ceiling. The $75 caviar-garnished cocktail might be excessive, but the snack menu is as superbly curated as the ambience. Order a sidecar, enjoy a cheese plate or salad and enjoy feeling like royalty for an evening.

Kathy Tran
Jalisco Norte

This upscale Oak Lawn Mexican restaurant serves three salsas with its chips — but one of them is stealing the show. The salsa de chile de morita is nut-brown and a little bit nutty in flavor too, with a sweet-savory combination that's intriguing even before the wave of spice arrives. Morita peppers, like chipotles, are smoked and dried red jalapeños, but morita peppers spend less time in the smoker, so they retain more of the original flavor while packing the same amount of heat. The only downside to this utterly addicting salsa: It's not served in a birdbath.

Nick Rallo
The standard burger at Wheelhouse.

If 2017 marked the golden age of the Dallas burger, 2018 is the Romantic period. Wheelhouse's Standard Burger is part of this renaissance of nostalgia. It wields passion without irony: two beef patties with special sauce, lettuce, pickle and, yes, it's served on a sesame seed bun. The sesame seeds pop and jolt on the buttery, cloud-soft pain au lait bun, showered on like a McDonald's ad. American cheese arrives in a molten state on this Design District masterpiece, rich beef juices burbling. The fast-food nostalgia will hit you like Thor's hammer.

Sara Kerens

Chef Jonathon Erdeljac was around 14 years old when he learned the recipe. He tenderizes the chuck steak, walks it through seasoned flour and drops it into a bath of buttermilk and Tabasco. The final crust — the one that turns into a jagged, undulating exterior — is saltine crackers. The diner beacon for a Dallas icon, coming from a toddler-size kitchen: Jonathon's CFS is as simple as it is darkly evil and moon-big. The peppered gravy is the only thing to eclipse the sharp breading. The crust could break in a stiff breeze. It's one of the best — a recipe the chef executes in the same way he did when he was a kid.

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