Kookie Haven's brownie
Dalila Thomas
Kookie Haven's brownie

When three sisters came together to create Kookie Haven, it was not only an extension of what they learned from their mother, it was a sweet addition to their Oak Cliff neighborhood. Cookie flavors like butter toffee crunch and chocolate chip walnut are enough to lure in curious customers, while the banana, red velvet and German chocolate cupcakes are enough to keep them coming back.

Dumplings in broth
Taylor Adams
Dumplings in broth

Cosmo's is a little slice of East Dallas history. The bar itself has been around for a few years, but now more than ever it reflects a lesser-known chapter in the city's past, when Southeast Asian immigrants moved into the neighborhood, escaping the Vietnam War and various bloody dictatorships. It's only logical that Cosmo's now boasts a Vietnamese chef and a full menu of pho, banh mi, stir-fried noodles and rice dishes, all made from scratch. Yes, the kitchen is so tiny that Jackson Tran's food can take a while to arrive. But one bite of super-fresh banh mi baguette, with pork meatballs that still taste like charcoal flame, and you'll know why you came. It's not all Vietnamese, either: There's a silly-good plate of kimchi-and-cheese tots, and some regulars still prefer the old-school bar-style pizza.

Sometimes at night you just want a big, untamed sandwich. A two-hander. At those hours, if it's Thursday, Friday or Saturday, a gravitational force will pull you toward Deep Ellum's Blue Light music venue, where one small corner of the bar makes for a tiny kitchen that puts out sandwiches that go long on flavor. Sofrito-braised brisket gets piled up, topped with pickled jalapeños and smashed into bread on the griddle; a plank of bologna gets good old crosshatched grill marks before the rest of the sandwich gets assembled. Don't miss chocolate chip cookies made with duck fat and five-spice mix, either. What, did you expect this to be healthy?

Town Hearth
Kathy Tran
Town Hearth

Big, brash, done up in Lone Star style. These words describe the experience of dining at Town Hearth, which should be reserved for special events: your dad's 75th birthday, your Chihuahua's premature death, or your observance of Fat Tuesday before the Lent diet. Once you cross the threshold of this Design District restaurant by chef-owner Nick Badovinus, you will morph from a frog into a prince. The spell of an amphibian life is broken in an atmosphere of 64 chandeliers, red Chesterfield sofa booths, antiqued mirrors, an 11-foot aquarium with a yellow submarine, a vintage Ducati motorcycle over the bar, and a 1961 MG convertible parked in front of the kitchen. Over the top? Shamelessly. But this is no place for restraint as you imbibe a French 75, slurp oysters and savor a bone-in steak cooked over an open flame. Make an advance reservation to become Texas royalty.

Every time the Anderson brothers and chef Nathan Tate open a new concept, Dallas diners can't get to it fast enough. The team has a knack for filling voids in Dallas neighborhoods, like the French bistro in Bishop Arts, Boulevardier, and the smart Southern kitchen on Lower Greenville, Rapscallion. Now, the Hillside area of East Dallas finally has what it's been desperately needing: a comfortable place to watch TV and eat sinfully delicious sandwiches while knocking back local brews, Eddie Eakin cocktails and a serious wine list. There aren't many places where you can get an $11 four-cheese patty melt on sourdough with a $91 bottle of Piper-Heidsieck rosé champagne, but you can do that here with neighbors and friends who feel like family by the time you leave.

Eight miles east of Legacy Hall in Plano stands another, more exciting food hall. It's in a building whose big yellow sign simply reads, "Food Court." The treasures inside span the Asian continent, from a Korean soft tofu specialist to Morefan, the Dallas area's first kitchen to serve Xi'anese foods like hot oil splashing noodles. Hakka Express is a longstanding favorite of the local Taiwanese community. Nothing here costs more than a fast-food lunch; bring friends, order a tray from every restaurant and try them all.

Coco Andrea, the cat's meow when it comes to chocolate
courtesy Coco Andre
Coco Andrea, the cat's meow when it comes to chocolate

Mother-daughter duo Andrea and Cindy Pedraza put their heart, soul and heritage into each piece of chocolate they make at CocoAndré Chocolatier. Their Oak Cliff shop is a haven for chocolate lovers — non-vegan or vegan — offering sweet treats such as truffles, Texas-shaped chocolates and their signature chocolate high heels.

Hypnotic Donuts is an East Dallas staple bringing creative combos to everyone's favorite breakfast pastry. Flavors like the Canadian Healthcare, the Homer and the Evil Elvis make it hard for customers to choose. Hypnotic also offers vegan doughnuts on Mondays and Tuesdays.

If you know much about Texas chili, you already know this name. Frank X. Tolbert, a Texas historian, founded the famed World Chili Championship in Terlingua in 1967 and opened a chili parlor in Dallas in 1976. Now located on Grapevine's Main Street, the parlor uses the same recipe developed by Tolbert himself — bite-size pieces of beef chuck simmered in an ancho chile-laden gravy and topped with chopped onions, cheese and a whole jalapeño. They'll serve it to you with beans if you ask, but they'll know you aren't from around these parts.

Bullion
Kathy Tran
Bullion

Bullion is a classical French restaurant with chef Bruno Davaillon's personal, contemporary flair, and the wine list mirrors that sensibility precisely. Just about every corner of France is represented in the restaurant's cellar, which means not just the usual suspects — though you can get plenty of classic vintages of Burgundy, if you wish — but more affordable bottles from regions that get overlooked, too. On a list that ranges from $30 to $5,000, look out for sparkling wines from regions other than Champagne, full-bodied whites from the Mediterranean coast and an extensive collection of cognacs. Intimidated? Personable wine staff can make it easy to find a bottle that matches your taste and your wallet.

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