Best Chicken-Fried Steak 2019 | Tom's Burgers & Grill | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
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.

Kathy Tran

A new Chinese restaurant opens seemingly every week in Plano, many of them regional specialists that offer Texans a glimpse into one of China's many cuisines. There are exciting new openings serving foods from Sichuan, Hunan, Shanghai, Fujian, Kaiping and Xi'an. Big Claw is more of a generalist, but an interesting one. Order a variety of delights by marking what you want on the paper menu form: grilled lamb skewers, bowls of sweet potato noodles in spicy sauce, a chili-pepper-studded sour fish soup, black mushroom salad and stir fries from Hunan and Sichuan. It's like walking through a night market, but without the walking part.

This traditional noodle-and-dumpling house in Carrollton is a go-to for Korean comfort cooking. Grab filled-to-bursting kimchi dumplings, or take on the spicy-food challenge that is a bowl of noodles topped with a scoop of eggplant and hot pepper sauce. If you can't choose between noodles or dumplings, there's a surprisingly satisfying compromise option available: a bowl of soup that contains both. As bits of pork spill out of the dumplings, the soup's broth only becomes more flavorful. To add to Arirang's appeal, the counter service at this little kitchen couldn't be friendlier. The restaurant's Korean name, used by some GPS services, is Um Ma Son.

It's not choked with heaping scoops of chili and hay bales of cheddar, which, while visually exciting, can taste like you dove into a mountain of Morton salt. This chili dog is a late-night classic, with just enough homemade elements to entice an order. You'll find Carlito's dog from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Everything but the dog is made in-house, including the crunchy-edged bun. The chili is richly infused with coffee and beer and simmered with onion and chili powder. They fine-dice red onion and chives and swipe that over soft, melted cheese. It's the kind of dark and evil bar food that you'll go hunting for after the sun sets.

Anywhere there's opportunity for people to have access to fresh food is a good place. The one claiming favor in our hearts this year is the Lakewood Village Farmers Market, organized by Good Local Markets. This organization gets praise from both customers and the very farmers who work the stalls each Sunday. Also running the White Rock Farmers Market on Saturdays, Good Local is a nonprofit that really makes sure the farmers are who they say they are and are providing what they say they're providing.

Brian Reinhart

Specializing in foods from Hyderabad and Andhra Pradesh, Indian Kitchen of Kuchipudi has some menu items that you won't find at any other Indian restaurant in Dallas. Try one of the abundant rice dishes, a dosa or bhojanam, an enormous sampler platter much like a thali that bears seven or eight tin cups of food, rice and a couple pieces of bread. Ordering seconds is allowed. This spot in northern Irving also goes by "Kuchipudi Indian Kitchen," so don't be surprised if your GPS gets a little confused, but it's well worth finding for the regional specialties of India's Telugu-speaking states.

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