BEST FRIED CHICKEN SANDWICH
Nick Rallo

You'll find pepper and juices under long-cut slaw, orange-gold from hot sauce. The heat is just enough to whisk away a year's worth of anxiety. The tenders crack and break under pressure, releasing juices and flavor right into the store-bought bun. The chicken is crackly enough, loaded with enough pepper, that you won't need a bunch of high fructose condiments. Pack a book; you might need to wait a few minutes. Or do a load of clothes: It's a family-run joint next door to a coin laundry.

BEST HOT DOG
Andrew Kelley

"Historically it is difficult to sell a hot dog in Dallas, so we figured, if we're going to do it, they might as well be the best," owner Andrew Kelley says. That's a tall order considering the steamy street meat you'd find in New York City, but that's exactly what he did. Tangy sauerkraut in shredded scoops as fine as angel hair melts against brown mustard and the rich juices of the frank. The bun is chewy and fresh. The Angus beef frank is sourced from Fort Worth. It snaps some. It's sparkling with juices. It does not taste of curing agent and heart-killing salt, but bears the flavor of good beef.

BEST INDIAN RESTAURANT
courtesy Urban Tadka

At Urban Tadka, the specialties are food from far north India and terrific housemade paneer, which is a star in every dish where it appears. There's a whole menu of paneer in various sauces to pair with the excellent housemade naan, and every item on it is a gem. If you can resist the vegetarian items, try a goat dish or lamb dhansak with tender lamb stewed in lentils. The buffet here was never really a star attraction, but during a pandemic, that hardly matters.

BEST KLOBASNEKS
Nick Rallo

Every time the door opens, smells of hot sugar and dough waft out in the super-heated air. It's the aroma of frosted chocolate, of glazed things, that takes hold of you at Jarams. But that's not why you're here. You're here for the wonderland of "kolaches," (Texas' erroneous name for sausage entombed in fresh baked dough). Some look like fritters with braided dough and ornamented with many sliced sausages. Cheese is woven directly into the dough. The jalapeño-studded klobasneks have good heat and some snap, and the melted cheese swirls through the chewy, tender dough.

BEST KOREAN RESTAURANT
Alison McLean

Dallas' Korea Town has been devastated by the coronavirus with some of its most popular and longest-established restaurants closed temporarily or permanently. But a relative newcomer, Damasita, is coming into its own. Originally opened as a high-energy bar, Damasita has turned to Korean home cooking under new ownership with possibly the city's best gimbap and satisfying, enormous rice bowls. Noodle soups and dumplings round out a menu that spells comfort food in any language.

BEST LOCAL BEER
Kelsey Shoemaker

Close your eyes while drinking a pint of Royal Scandal and you might just think you're in England. This pub-style English pale ale tastes like a textbook, technically perfect example of the style with refreshing lightness balanced against a backbone of bitterness. The way Peticolas makes Royal Scandal isn't actually textbook — the hops are all-American, for example — but the result might just be better than the real deal. And the fact that we can finally drink cans of this beer at home is one of the very, very few good things about 2020.

BEST MEDITERRANEAN 
RESTAURANT
Kathy Tran

Baseball and football games may not be welcoming tens of thousands of spectators this fall, but there's still a good reason for the Arlington area to be a destination drive for Dallasites: Fattoush, a sterling restaurant run by an Iraqi refugee chef, Bashar Al Mudhafar. His journey to Pantego began with his serving burgers to American soldiers in Baghdad; now he cooks some of the best lamb kebabs, rice pilaf, lebneh and roasted chicken kozi in Texas. Grilled lamb chops are dusted with pistachios, and the falafel — made using an especially tricky, finicky recipe — is a standout.

BEST SANDWICH SHOP
Philip Kingston

Entering Jimmy's feels like stepping onto a Sopranos set, and you can easily get lost shopping for authentic imported Italian goods in the store's aisles. One of life's greatest treasures is gorging on a decked-out 12-inch Italian Stallion or muffuletta sandwich and topping it off with a rich cannoli. Luckily for Dallas residents, Jimmy's is still up-and-running with some minor modifications, including a somewhat condensed menu. Grocery shoppers must wear masks, and hungry customers can still buy premade, grab-and-go cold sandwiches for in-store or curbside pickup.

BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT
Kathy Tran

Revolver's gift for improvisation has come in especially handy this year. Not only is chef Regino Rojas' team still inventing new menu specials, the restaurant's got a rebuilt interior to allow a socially distant tasting menu of high-quality traditional crudos and tacos under the name La Resistencia. Rojas and his crew use Japanese grills and charcoal to cook meats and vegetables for their housemade tortillas, which are made from numerous varieties of heirloom Mexican corn. The latest innovation, a seafood brunch extravaganza, illustrates the way this restaurant will keep adapting. It doesn't hurt that their tortillas are still the best in the city.

We can't help but salute the courage of anyone looking at the restaurant business, a risky endeavor in any climate, and deciding that now, in a public health disaster, is the time to try it. If we're all still here next year, we can pass judgment on their food in detail, but for now, let's give them all an unusually generous welcome. We only have space to name some of the most notable 2020 openings: 2 Neighbors Hot Chicken, Ariana Kebabs, Bacchus Kitchen and Bar, Edoko Omakase, Elm & Good, Hurtado Barbecue, Invasion, K-Pop Ramen Shop, Korean Street Eats, Krio, Luna 23, Marugame Udon, Mestizo, Ngon Vietnamese Kitchen, Pangea, Ricky's Hot Chicken, Thai Monkey and Uncle Zhou.

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