Ddong Ggo
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.

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.

Knife

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.

The Mitchell
Kathy Tran

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.

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.

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.

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.

Jonathon's Oak Cliff
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.

The Mexican Hot Dog at Revolver Taco Lounge ($9) uses a bacon-wrapped Luscher's Red Hot and a bun from Fort Worth's Swiss Pastry Shop.
Kathy Tran

There are only a few places left to get a real street dog. Dallas is a hot dog ghost town, while major cities around the country have dogs pinned to sidewalks. Regino Rojas' Revolver Taco Lounge has the most emotionally moving street meat in the city right now: smoky bacon spirals around a Luscher's Red Hot, a charred and snapping hot link. The Mexican Dog was inspired by the hot dogs Rojas grew up on: bacon-wrapped dogs with white onions rolled in carts around Guadalajara, Mexico. He amps up this version with crema; bright, fresh tomatoes and onions; and a scatter of tender mayocoba beans. Street food is home cooking, and Revolver's dog is straight out of the mind of a chef at home.

Sandwich Hag
Nick Rallo

The best sandwiches, the ones you crave for days after ordering, are served family style one day and between bread the next. Owner and chef Reyna Duong was born in a small fishing village on the southern tip of Vietnam — a tattoo on her forearm bears the city's name — and grew up in Orange County. Sharing food was non-negotiable, a family's rite of passage, as it is at Sandwich Hag. The pork sausage banh mi — a neat rectangular patty, charred and surrounded by pickled radish, jalapeño, daikon, fresh cilantro and a Quoc Bao bakery baguette — is stupendous. Duong grinds the sausage daily by hand.

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