Best Soul Food Restaurant 2019 | South Dallas Cafe | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

Whether you're getting your fix after church or indulging on a whim, South Dallas Café is the place to consume all the Southern fixins' under the sun. The newly renovated, family-owned restaurant is serving the classics such as fried catfish and smothered chicken with sides including greens, macaroni and cheese and candied yams — cafeteria style.

Alison McLean
Maskaras Mexican Grill

Former TV star Rodolfo Jimenez and his wife and business partner, Zulma Vanessa Hernandez, are cooking up a tribute to Guadalajara at this Oak Cliff mainstay. Maskaras initially drew regional attention for its massive collection of luchador memorabilia, but now fans come back for crispy tacos drowned in belly-warming salsa, carne en su jugo, 15-inch shrimp burritos and enchiladas verdes. The Taco Maskaras, featuring steak, avocado and molten cheese, makes for a great appetizer, too. Maskaras hasn't been around for very long, but it is already an Oak Cliff institution.

Kathy Tran
Zoli's burger, like McDonald's, but good

Chef Jeff Bekavac's first burger memory is two all-beef patties and special sauce. Years ago, he sat at his grandma's dinner table and took enormous bites into the smashed, pickle-forward, bread-middled Big Mac. It stuck with him through the years. His double cheeseburger at the Addison pizza joint is stunning and rich, a tower draped by a flag of American cheese. It's delicious until there's nothing left. Mustard seeds pop when you take a bite, bursting through the rich, buttery flavors. The secret-sauce homage is a creamy marvel. This is food that's enjoying itself.

Dalila Thomas
Kookie Haven's brownie

When three sisters came together to create Kookie Haven, it was not only an extension of what they learned from their mother, it was a sweet addition to their Oak Cliff neighborhood. Cookie flavors like butter toffee crunch and chocolate chip walnut are enough to lure in curious customers, while the banana, red velvet and German chocolate cupcakes are enough to keep them coming back.

Taylor Adams
Dumplings in broth

Cosmo's is a little slice of East Dallas history. The bar itself has been around for a few years, but now more than ever it reflects a lesser-known chapter in the city's past, when Southeast Asian immigrants moved into the neighborhood, escaping the Vietnam War and various bloody dictatorships. It's only logical that Cosmo's now boasts a Vietnamese chef and a full menu of pho, banh mi, stir-fried noodles and rice dishes, all made from scratch. Yes, the kitchen is so tiny that Jackson Tran's food can take a while to arrive. But one bite of super-fresh banh mi baguette, with pork meatballs that still taste like charcoal flame, and you'll know why you came. It's not all Vietnamese, either: There's a silly-good plate of kimchi-and-cheese tots, and some regulars still prefer the old-school bar-style pizza.

Sometimes at night you just want a big, untamed sandwich. A two-hander. At those hours, if it's Thursday, Friday or Saturday, a gravitational force will pull you toward Deep Ellum's Blue Light music venue, where one small corner of the bar makes for a tiny kitchen that puts out sandwiches that go long on flavor. Sofrito-braised brisket gets piled up, topped with pickled jalapeños and smashed into bread on the griddle; a plank of bologna gets good old crosshatched grill marks before the rest of the sandwich gets assembled. Don't miss chocolate chip cookies made with duck fat and five-spice mix, either. What, did you expect this to be healthy?

Kathy Tran
Town Hearth

Big, brash, done up in Lone Star style. These words describe the experience of dining at Town Hearth, which should be reserved for special events: your dad's 75th birthday, your Chihuahua's premature death, or your observance of Fat Tuesday before the Lent diet. Once you cross the threshold of this Design District restaurant by chef-owner Nick Badovinus, you will morph from a frog into a prince. The spell of an amphibian life is broken in an atmosphere of 64 chandeliers, red Chesterfield sofa booths, antiqued mirrors, an 11-foot aquarium with a yellow submarine, a vintage Ducati motorcycle over the bar, and a 1961 MG convertible parked in front of the kitchen. Over the top? Shamelessly. But this is no place for restraint as you imbibe a French 75, slurp oysters and savor a bone-in steak cooked over an open flame. Make an advance reservation to become Texas royalty.

Every time the Anderson brothers and chef Nathan Tate open a new concept, Dallas diners can't get to it fast enough. The team has a knack for filling voids in Dallas neighborhoods, like the French bistro in Bishop Arts, Boulevardier, and the smart Southern kitchen on Lower Greenville, Rapscallion. Now, the Hillside area of East Dallas finally has what it's been desperately needing: a comfortable place to watch TV and eat sinfully delicious sandwiches while knocking back local brews, Eddie Eakin cocktails and a serious wine list. There aren't many places where you can get an $11 four-cheese patty melt on sourdough with a $91 bottle of Piper-Heidsieck rosé champagne, but you can do that here with neighbors and friends who feel like family by the time you leave.

Eight miles east of Legacy Hall in Plano stands another, more exciting food hall. It's in a building whose big yellow sign simply reads, "Food Court." The treasures inside span the Asian continent, from a Korean soft tofu specialist to Morefan, the Dallas area's first kitchen to serve Xi'anese foods like hot oil splashing noodles. Hakka Express is a longstanding favorite of the local Taiwanese community. Nothing here costs more than a fast-food lunch; bring friends, order a tray from every restaurant and try them all.

courtesy Coco Andre
Coco Andrea, the cat's meow when it comes to chocolate

Mother-daughter duo Andrea and Cindy Pedraza put their heart, soul and heritage into each piece of chocolate they make at CocoAndré Chocolatier. Their Oak Cliff shop is a haven for chocolate lovers — non-vegan or vegan — offering sweet treats such as truffles, Texas-shaped chocolates and their signature chocolate high heels.

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