We love a good food truck. Without worrying about service staff, decor, ambience and the like, the food is given ample opportunity to shine. We especially appreciate a barbecue food truck, because it often provides a glimpse into the effort that goes into the finished product. Take Smoke Sessions Barbecue in Royse City as the perfect example. There are no secrets in Smoke Sessions' sublime brisket, just salt, pepper, smoke, heat and time. As good as the brisket is, Chad Sessions' brilliance as a pitmaster really shines in the garlic-pepper jack-habanero sausage. The links are an explosion of flavors unlike anything else we've tried.

Cattleack Barbeque
Chris Wolfgang

"They've gone crazy for it," Todd David says about his bologna sandwich. He fine-grinds wagyu-style brisket, smoothing and emulsifying, adding dry spices and casing it in a classic, bright red ring. It cures for a day or two, "getting happy," he says. Then it's cold-smoked, followed by hot-smoked to finish, and sliced thick to-order. There are days when his smoked bologna is in such high demand — repeat, he's made bologna so good that it's in high demand — that he's forced to ration patrons to two thick slices per order.

Bison Bar and Grill
Nick Rallo

The menu invites you to ask about it. What is it? It's beautiful beef calf balls, deep-fried and jumbled up in an "F.U. Sauce" that's numbed with the enormous heat of Carolina Reaper and ghost peppers. Eat six bull beanbags in four minutes, and you'll get to sign the wall. On a more serious note, 10 bucks of each challenge goes to the Kamil Patel Memorial Scholarship. Kamil Patel was one of bar owner Tim Tremoni's best friends; Patel was killed last year in a horrifying act of violence in Miami. The memorial fund is ready for donations without the challenge of downing Rocky Mountain oysters, of course.

Nate's Seafood and Steakhouse

A staple in DFW, this Addison eatery attracts crawfish lovers and Cajun enthusiasts alike. Nate's Seafood opened its doors in 1988 and has left no dish unturned. From seafood platters, to crawfish etouffée, to red beans and rice, there's enough to go around for everyone to get their fix.

"The Italian with everything, babe?" asks a sandwich hero. She's got the window clacked open. It's a beautiful question, isn't it? Quickly, a box lid loaded up with napkins, a paper-wrapped sub sandwich and Zapp's potato chips passes through the window. This is the breathless, speedy and diner-y service of Great American Hero — a drive-thru deli gem since 1976. The Heroletta — a precision stack of ham, turkey, Monterey Jack cheese, salami, capicola and provolone lashed with oil, dry spices, mushrooms, pepperoncinis and olives — is as comforting and reliable as a long-standing sandwich joint's food should be.

Elotes is a simple dish that packs in the flavor from just a few ingredients: roasted corn, mayonnaise, cheese and hot sauce. The dish that Mexican street vendors made famous quickly moved from small taquerias to restaurant menus across the country. So leave it to Panther City BBQ to bring us an elote cup that's firmly rooted in tradition but with a barbecue twist to stand out from the crowd. Panther City's roasted-corn creation would rock out on its own, but the addition of Panther City's smoky, salty brisket on top is the perfect accompaniment.

Tei An
Kathy Tran

Tasting menus are a superb way to sample a chef's range of dishes, even though they can sometimes be criticized for scant portions that don't match up with the bill at the end. But such is not the case at Tei An. Chef Teiichi Sakurai's seven-course omakase hits all the highlights of the soba noodle house with courses such as assorted sashimi, Japanese Wagyu (miyazaki) on a hot stone, tempura burdock root and creamy soba carbonara. Saving room for dessert will require some serious pacing, but the housemade soba ice cream with toasted honey and soba powder is worth the self-discipline it requires. The quality, variety and portion sizes in the tasting menu at Tei An make it one of the few places to spend $100 on a nice dinner in the city that won't exploit your savings account.

Chef Nathan Tate knows how to fry things. Chicken thighs rest in pickle juice for about a day. Next goes the buttermilk rest, amped up by hot sauce. After bathing, the thigh gets run through a dry blend of flour, salt and barbecue seasonings and is deep-fried. The buffalo sauce that cloaks the chicken has the tangy heat of a Sichuan-style mala sauce, exploding with peppercorns. Iceberg lettuce cools things down, along with fresh dill pickles, sliced scallions and an herb-forward ranch dressing. It's easily one of Dallas' best sandwiches.

Small Brewpub
Kathy Tran

Barrett Tillman is the one-man operation behind Blackman Brewing. To find his bottles for retail sale, you'll have to drive down to Small Brewpub in Oak Cliff and look at the little shelf on the left side of the dining room. There are lots of small-batch experiments here, including wild-fermented brews, fruited sours and Curry #30, so-called because it employs a blend of dozens of curry spices. It's not really a spicy ale in the flame-throwing sense, just a super-flavorful one. The curry comes through without getting overwhelming; it's refreshing and eyebrow-raising and uncanny and delicious all at the same time.

After 10 years, Balcones, the small distillery in Gaines-ville (aka Waco), is churning out amazing juice, and it's getting better with age. While it's not hyper-local, we'll make the drive for great whiskey. Be sure to track down their distillery releases, and look for their new, dynamite Pot Still Bourbon that hit shelves this year for a meager 30-or-so bucks a bottle.

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