Best Sandwich Shop 2018 | Sandwich Hag | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
Beth Rankin
Sandwich Hag

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.

Lori Bandi
Ten Bells Tavern

These are true-blue tavern wings — aka drumsticks that behave like wings. The sauce covers every nook and cranny of the drums, topped by crags of funky blue cheese. The sticky sauce arrives the hue of a smoldering campfire — a coating made with garlic, beer, brown sugar and a hammer or two of Frank's Red Hot. "We had a rival restaurant once try to poach our kitchen staff to find out how we make these," says owner Meri Dahlke. Diced green onions and celery blunt the richness. These are wings that taste like they predate Monday Night Football.

Courtesy of Mitsuwa Marketplace
Mitsuwa Marketplace

Up against hip, shiny new food courts like Legacy Hall in Plano and the beloved Dallas Farmers Market, Mitsuwa Marketplace shines a different light on DFW. This Japanese food court in Plano doesn't have its own brewery or double as a concert venue on the weekends. It's not open and roomy, and you can't bring your dog — but don't cast it aside. It's got variety and character, and it's a modern food court that puts Asian fare center stage. Mitsuwa's food court hosts only four stalls that serve distinct Japanese comfort foods: matcha-based desserts at Matcha Love, tonkatsu and other fried delicacies at Wateishoku Kaneda, ramen at Santouka and giant "stamina bowls" of pork belly and rice at Sutadonya. Don't skip out on the shops, like the specialty bakery that sells decadent carbohydrates like fried curry bread or the ready-to-eat counter with fresh sushi, onigiri, soba, takoyaki and rice bowls.

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."

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