Best Place to Eat Alone 2018 | Ascension Coffee | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
Scott Reitz
Ascension Coffee

There's really no better place to be an introvert than at home — or at a coffee shop. And there's no better coffee shop to be an introvert than Ascension in the Design District. Of course, crowds are welcome. But to the dismay of society's social butterflies, there is a contingent of restaurant-goers who just want to eat and drink in the sole company of a book or a smartphone and not be judged. Ascension deserves praise because it accommodates quiet solitude with more than just a cappuccino and a scone. This coffee shop also serves a full menu with "real" food such as lamb meatballs, smoked salmon boards and niçoise salad. There's wine, beer, mood lighting and a chill, understated vibe. Come for the delicious cortado but stay to revel in your fierce independence.

Kathy Tran
Shake Shack

This is a touchy subject, because all cheese fries are technically the best cheese fries. But some places, like Shake Shack, go above and beyond. A smart cheese-fry slinger opts for a cheese sauce that coats the fry more evenly and doesn't congeal into a cold, flavorless epoxy. At Shake Shack, the fries are amped up to gold-star gourmet status by infusing a cream base with sautéed onions and jalapeños for a deeper, more organic flavor. That mixture is then strained over equal parts grated American cheese and cheddar for a smooth, golden, creamy finish.

At this Dallas Farmers Market stall, all the meat you purchase comes from small family farms ethically raising beef, pork and lamb. The husband-and-wife team behind this shop can answer any question you've got about your meat, and then some. The butcher stall even hosts "meet your farmer" events where customers can meet the local ranchers behind this high-quality meat. Try the house-made sausages and brats.

Nick Rallo
You won't leave Mama's Daughter's Diner hungry.

The high-end, farm-to-market diner is hot right now, but sometimes, you just want the real, grease-stained thing. Mama's Daughter's is the classic diner of our dreams: sassy signs on the wall, lightning-fast service and cheap, satisfying diner eats.

Kathy Tran
George Kaiho

This sleek West Dallas cocktail enclave is great for hiding out in a dark corner with a Negroni and a date, but it's also a great place to geek out over cocktails with bar manager George Kaiho, a quiet but friendly presence behind the bar. His cocktails are sophisticated but approachable, and his hospitality means you're likely to hang around a while, tasting different cocktail components between sherry and mezcal cocktails.

Chris Wolfgang
For $16, Panther City's three-meat tray may be the barbecue bargain of the year.

Panther City BBQ may be a food truck, but the breadth of barbecue goodness being served rivals that of many brick-and-mortars. Sure, you'll find brisket, pulled pork, spare ribs and two kinds of sausage. But there's also smoked turkey breast, smoked bologna and pork belly burnt ends, a nod to their friends down the street at Heim Barbecue. Don't sleep on the sides, and if brisket elote or pork belly jalapeño poppers are on the menu, make sure to save room. Not only is Panther City's barbecue a stellar example of the Central Texas style of barbecue, but the modest food-truck roots mean a plate of their tasty fare won't break the bank, either.

Paige Weaver
Recipe Oak Cliff

At Recipe Oak Cliff you'll find creative, fresh and affordable vegan food — no heavily processed meat substitutes. Instead, owner Tisha Crear reinterprets the food she grew up with, using homemade, plant-based meat alternatives. Crear opened Recipe with the goal of offering healthy, quick options in the food desert of South Oak Cliff. All food is served to-go, and in addition to vegan options, there are also raw selections available daily. You can order things like a BBQ jackfruit sandwich, zucchini noodles with cashew "cream" or tacos with walnut and sun-dried tomato "meat."

Paige Weaver
Wow! Donuts & Drips

At Wow! Donuts & Drips, the doughnuts are works of art. They are made to order: small batches are baked every few hours, and the toppings and fillings are added on demand. Wow offers more than 120 creative toppings and fillings, from classic chocolate old fashioned or glazed cake doughnut to Nutella Kit Kat, carrot cake, and Elvis, the latter with peanut butter, bananas, chocolate and bacon. Inside, the shop is bright and playfully decorated — it's an Instagrammer's playground. Grab a cup of coffee while you're there; they have a rotating selection of coffees from small roasters all over the world.

Beth Rankin

The blue tile-covered building downtown is a welcome addition for people living and working in the area. While you can get a well-made meal all day, Commissary offers a breakfast daily made with spot-on execution. The smoked salmon bagel is magical with dill-caper cream cheese, and the poppyseed bagel is good enough to eat on its own. And it still gets better with the porchetta egg sandwich. Shaved porchetta, arugula, salsa verde and a fried egg lay in the middle of a freshly baked bun. This little spot filled with mostly two-tops frequently has a line to the door for a reason: The odds of you leaving happy are good with whatever you order.

Kathy Tran
The Market at Dallas Farmers Market is filled with dining options.

In the last couple of years, the Dallas Farmers Market has become not just a good spot to pick up locally grown tomatoes but one of the city's largest tourism draws, which unfortunately shows in the lack of parking. Even still, this farmers market is a blast to visit, and it's easy to lose a day buying produce, eating snacks from local vendors and shopping for everything from local salsa to cowhide rugs. When buying produce, keep an eye on signage: conventionally grown and organic/locally grown goods are identified as such.

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