Best Chinese Restaurant 2019 | Big Claw | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
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.

Lucia's younger, bigger sibling became an instant favorite in the Dallas service industry for its adaptability and consistency. Need to go out for a special occasion? Just want to swing by for a snack after attending an event in Bishop Arts? Macellaio is just right for both situations. Unlike Lucia, it doesn't serve pasta, but the silver lining is a renewed emphasis on salumi — grab a big board with four or five cured meats of different shapes, textures and animals — and ultra-seasonal large plates meant to be shared family style, like a pot of roast lamb in winter or, this summer, a rabbit leg surrounded by veggies.

Brian Reinhart
Jerk chicken

Our city now has a portal to Jamaica, and it's located at a six-table storefront in Mesquite. Owners Chubby Lee and Shelease Forbes are serving authentic Jamaican fare, such as the national dish, ackee and salt fish, a sauté of salted cod, Scotch bonnet peppers and a West African fruit called ackee. Eat it as the Jamaicans do: with a boiled dumpling made from green bananas. Other Jamaican specialties include callaloo (like spinach), escoveitch snapper same as Mediterranean escabeche — marinated in vinegar after cooking) and Mannish water (goat soup). Of course, there is jerk chicken, jerk ribs and jerk wings, but this is a place to branch out from the expected items. It's the oxtails and goat curry that will keep us driving east down Interstate 30 over and over again.

Scott Reitz
Velvet Hammer, its name means what it says.

Not for the faint of heart, Velvet Hammer from Peticolas Brewing Company packs 9% ABV. But it's got much more going for it than bang for your buck. The imperial red ale has garnered numerous industry awards since coming on the scene in 2011 for a unique flavor profile that adeptly balances caramel malt with floral hops and a noticeable bite of alcohol. Velvet Hammer can be found at a number of local restaurants and Whole Foods, where you can take it home by the growler. Recently, it became available in four-packs of 16-ounce cans at the taproom.

Alison McLean
Khao's boat noodles

For too long, Lao food has been lumped into Thai cuisine as one and the same, both in Dallas and throughout the world. But with the opening of Khao Noodle Shop, a small, BYOB kitchen in East Dallas, we finally have distinct and unapologetic Lao food, thanks to chef-owner Donny Sirisavath — also our Best Chef. The signature dish here is the boat noodle, where bone marrow and pork blood come together for a rich, piquant broth hosting a twirl of rice noodles, brisket and herbs. At $5 each and in sample-size portions, there's room both in your stomach and wallet to try Sirisavath's four other noodle dishes. The shareable bites ranging from $7-9 need to be tested as well.

For 3 Nations Brewing, the end of 2018 brought major news. The Farmers Branch brewery announced that it would soon move to a massive former grain storage shed built in 1950, located in Carrollton's bustling downtown. 3 Nations, launched in 2015, has moved forward with construction on the new location while shipping out a series of adventurous beers from across the flavor spectrum. For local stout-heads, there's not a friendlier brewer in town, thanks to its inventive and devilishly delicious Devout series, which has featured offerings of créme brûlée, chocolate hazelnut, bananas foster and even golden marzipan.

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