Americano
Kathy Tran

Step onto the small patio space offered by Americano, and you'll think you've stepped into an alternate, slightly Italian, slightly modern universe. The open, airy space is the kind of place where you can enjoy the city's best people-watching while sipping a mean Negroni and popping fried olives. It feels like paradiso, no? Va bene.

Mot Hai Ba
Kathy Tran
Mot Hai Ba

Aside from the sprawling fried pancake that is banh xeo, there's not a lot of traditional, old-fashioned Vietnamese food at Mot Hai Ba, but that's what makes it so fascinating. Ultra-responsive to the seasons, the menu of this tiny East Dallas restaurant features specials that take familiar Vietnamese ingredients and flavors and present them in new settings, whether that means bun cha-style porchetta, tapioca flour dumplings or a sweet caramelized onion tart. The short list of cocktails and wines are chosen to pair perfectly with Mot Hai Ba's style of food.

Boulangerie
Kathy Tran

If "only dull people are brilliant at breakfast," as Oscar Wilde quipped, then skip human company altogether for a laminated brioche and café au lait at Village Baking Co. This sweet bun is spiraled like a nautilus shell — crisp on the outside, soft inside, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and layered with enough butter to expand your belt a few notches. Each bite transports you to Paris faster than a Concorde. Rows upon rows of pastries await the drowsy commuter or weekend drifter: almond croissant, pain au chocolat, palmier, financier loaf, kouign-amann and pain au jambon. Making a decision at the Boulangerie is harder than naming your first child, but once you do, the daydream begins.

Pick a downtime, and it's likely you'll find owners Andrew and Edi Kelley waiting for you behind the counter. They've taken the idea of a counter deli and asked, "What if we made this awesome?" The churning waves of real grape soda will lull you into a trance. Arch your head back to see the faded-yellow menu near the ceiling — it's an original from the joint's creation. Brisket pastrami, rosy on the inside and pepper-charred on the outside, is light years ahead of its sandwich competition. Load it with pepperoncini peppers. The No. 13 is a gem, too: Find turkey, capicola and sharp provolone in between whatever dang toppings you want. Get a cookie and an ice-cold grape soda, for goodness sakes.

Sushi Robata
Courtesy Sushi Robata

We're going to upset people with this one. Not because Sushi Robata is the wrong pick — it's oh so right — but because a lot of Dallas sushi lovers see this joint as a well-kept secret, tucked away in North Dallas far from the hype and the Instagrammers. Sushi Robata is an all-rounder with a full Japanese menu that encompasses ramen, grilled meats and pork katsu. The sushi bar is equally wide-ranging, but insiders skip over the glitzy specials in favor of traditional maki rolls, some of them vegetarian, and the ever-changing list of daily seafood specials. Sushi Robata is one of Dallas' best-kept secrets. Unfortunately, we're not in the secret-keeping business.

Resident Taqueria's fare
Paige Weaver
Resident Taqueria's fare

The folks at Resident are always dreaming up something new and interesting. More important, they're always doing it right. A Philly cheesesteak taco could be a tiresome gimmick if it didn't taste so darn good. If anyone is going to try putting, say, a crab cake or shishito peppers into a taco, it might as well be the kitchen at Resident, with its from-scratch tortillas and its marriage of love for tradition with a penchant for inspired pairings of flavor. Even the vegetarian tacos, like the one with caramelized cauliflower and pepitas, are worth driving for.

One of the most 'grammable burritos in the nation can be found in the Dallas Farmers Market at Brunchaholics, as reported by the Food Network. Jessie Washington's soul-food burrito made national news when the foodie channel included it as one of "the most over-the-top burritos in the country." Washington says the burrito was the result of a craving, and he originally only made it to post on Instagram. But after the swaddled trio of fried catfish, smoked turkey collard greens, and mac and cheese started showing up on news feeds, the composition took on a life of its own. Now Brunchaholics draws lengthy lines on the weekends, and food is typically sold out in a couple of hours. Washington's aim is to give Dallas brunch the revival that it needs, and he is doing just that. Check their website for new pop-up locations.

Vegan Food House, a new restaurant near Bishop Arts, is tackling vegan Creole food. Owner Elizabeth Anderson has been a vegan for more than 10 years, and the menu is inspired by the food she grew up with. Anderson uses a variety of meat substitutes in her cooking. Vegan Food House serves a "bacon" avocado tomato sandwich that is made with seitan. The big fish po' boy sandwich is made with oyster mushrooms as the "meat." The menu is focused on value; the only thing that is priced above $14 is the big Creole basket for $17, which comes with a pile of food.

Bryan Street Tavern

These are no puny, dry wings. Bryan Street Tavern's wings are large, tender and perfectly fried. They are beer-basted, and you have your choice of eight sauces and rubs, including mild, medium, hot, honey-chipotle barbecue, spicy Thai, spicy ranch dry rub and Cajun hot rub. Can't decide what flavor you're craving? You can get half and half at Bryan Street. And if you're one of those people who can't handle bones, they also have all white-meat, battered-and-breaded boneless wings with the same rubs and sauces as their bone-in brothers.

Homewood's watermelon creme fraiche pound cake
Alison McLean
Homewood's watermelon creme fraiche pound cake

When Maggie Huff retires from making desserts in Dallas, we'll need to figure out where to put the statue. In front of City Hall, maybe. Outside our office would do, too. Huff enchanted diners at FT33 with desserts that employed fine-dining techniques but tasted straightforwardly delicious. Now she's brought her style back at Homewood: fruit-forward, texturally interesting and indulgent without being too sweet. In the summertime, that could mean grilled lemon pound cake topped with blueberries, or a Texas peach crostata and ice cream. We can't wait to see what cooler weather brings.

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