Best Burger 2019 | Off-Site Kitchen | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
Kathy Tran

Like craft beers, craft burgers aren't exactly in short supply. This is precisely why Off-Site Kitchen's classic quarter-pound creations deserve a moment in the spotlight, now, more than ever. A burger haven with the charm of an old-school greasy spoon, Off-Site turns out burgers made with Angus chuck that's ground in-house and cooked to juicy perfection. Standard toppings include flat-top onion, lettuce, tomato and pickle on a brioche bun. But for those who just can't help themselves, there are "funky-fresh" options, such as Peanut Butter & Bacon and Teriyaki & Pineapple.

Caffeine addiction is for the nocturnal college student and the harried professional. Or the jilted lover, if you take jazz singer Sarah Vaughan's words: "My nerves have gone to pieces. My hair is turning gray. All I do is drink black coffee since my man's gone away." With its two locations in Deep Ellum and Highland Park, San Antonio-imported Merit Coffee washes away its "third wave" competitors, delivering superior java for whomever craves it. Represented by a train conductor's presentation lantern, it illuminates a way forward in Dallas. By directly sourcing beans from farmers and roasting them to perfection, Merit serves up memorable espresso like "La Falda" from Colombia, with tasting notes of red apple, marshmallow and cocoa powder, or filter coffee like "Larcho Torka" from Ethiopia, with tasting notes of lemongrass, star fruit and raspberry.

Scott Reitz

There are those of you who are satisfied with knowing the best coffee shop in town, and we suppose that's fine, but why be basic when you can be not basic? "Third wave" refers to a developing interest in viewing coffee like fine wine or cheese, where specific flavors are labeled through tasting notes and greater effort is put into brewing the perfect cup. Houndstooth Coffee at Sylvan Thirty, our favorite of three Dallas locations, impresses with its excellent coffee, superb service and pleasant setting, where four gleaming white "seraphim" rule the counter, waiting to prepare your flawless pour-over, and the friendly tatted baristas chirp cordially with customers. There's copious seating inside, and even a dog-friendly patio. Real Texans won't choose to miss out on a trip to Houndstooth, even if all you're willing to try is a (great) vanilla latte.

Matt Peterson at Plano's Matador Meat and Wine is everything you would expect of a butcher: ruddy complexion, stocky build, crushing handshake. His old-school butcher image is underlined by his goal of offering high-quality meats at a retail level. All of his dry-aged, Angus-certified USDA Prime steaks come from a small, family-owned packing house in Nebraska that processes cattle from no farther than 150 miles away. For next-level tenderness, he sources wagyu cuts from Snake River Farms. Free-range chickens that are never supplemented with preservatives come from a private farmer an hour outside of Dallas. Berkshire pork? He has that, too, along with housemade sausages in natural casings that are free of curing salts.

After 32 years of stocking office break rooms with gourmet beans, Parks Coffee now has a coffee shop called the Roastery as part of its new 50,000-square-foot roasting facility that includes a coffee lab and event space. Owner Randy Parks started Parks Coffee as a wholesale distribution center from his Carrollton garage and started roasting his own beans in 2003. The company's newest space has the capacity to roast more than 10 million pounds of coffee per year, a process visible through a window in the cafe. Coffee fans can get in even closer with a one-hour, farm-to-cup tour that includes single-origin coffee tastings and pastries from La Casita Bakeshop. In addition to sandwiches from BIRD Bakery and La Casita's cruffins, the cafe offers 20 varieties of roasts, including creations from the baristas — all of whom are ready to talk about tasting notes.

Catherine Downes

When your knife cracks through the crust, remember it's made of shards of Ruffles potato chips. Chef Tom Jones — it's not unusual to be in love with his CFS — touts seven secret ingredients, but broken Ruffles chips as a crust and a good, salty-peppery cream gravy are all we need. Before frying, Jones lets his steak sit like a king in a buttermilk bath. In one of the few ways he serves his CFS, it comes with a scoop of garlicky mashed potatoes and buttered Texas toast. Say adios to cynicism and darkness — this chicken-fried steak is the light.

Like it or not, many adults reproduce in the form of kids, and in order to get them to grow out of the screaming, overactive hellions they can be, we must feed them, preferably in places with good food and kid-friendly distractions. Arepa TX has both: delicious, healthy and affordable sandwiches on corn flour dough, along with an entire back room dedicated to kids with toys, a chalkboard and TVs to boot. No one back there is going to confront you if your kid accidentally bumps a chair, and there won't be any dirty looks when plates go flying off the tables. Everyone understands, so it's easy to relax, especially during happy hour on Monday through Thursday when an arepa and a glass of beer or sangria will only set you back $10, making it possible to still send the hellions to college one day.

Lauren Drewes Daniels

Tiny Victories has been getting major wins since they opened their doors in the Bishop Arts District. As many Dallasites aimlessly search for the perfect watering hole, Tiny Victories continues to serve the specials straight up. The cozy spot not only offers $7 classic cocktails on Tuesdays and drink names that'll give you a chuckle, they're open until 2 a.m. during the week.

Ellen's is a greasy spoon meets silver spoon kind of joint with brunch all day and comfort food classics, but you'll also find a wine list, full bar and cloth napkins. The pancake pot pie is the stuff of breakfast dreams: a stack of pancakes layered with gravy, bacon, sausage and hash browns, topped with cheesy scrambled eggs. It's perfect for anyone coming off a fast or trying to put on weight for a role. Owner Joe Groves often makes bold political statements, like last year when he contributed a portion of sales to Moms Demand Action during the NRA convention. It doesn't seem to detract from business, however, as they recently celebrated their millionth customer since opening in 2012.

Alison McLean

Ask a professional drinker in Dallas about their favorite cocktail spots, and it won't take long for Jettison to come up. One thing that sets Jettison apart is the intelligence and seriousness of its drinks — they taste like classics that have been honed for generations. But the other standout quality is the relaxed feel of it all. People still don't seem to know about Jettison, which is why its tiny space in Sylvan Thirty never gets too crowded and its dim lighting always feels just right for the crowd. At its best, the bar quietly takes inspiration from its neighbors, with mezcal cocktails and drinks that use locally brewed coffee.

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