Best Of :: Food & Drink
Once, mortadella with peppers was the star. The times are a-changin': Shoals has flipped its entire model to vegan after a honeymoon of meat (and it won't go back). Now you'll find a sandwich of smoked jackfruit or ground-shattering, beer-battered tempeh or griddle-encrusted seitan with a remarkable smoked prosciutto-meets-bacon flavor. That one is part of a — you heard us right, plant-based —Cubano sandwich. Yes, it's a vegan cubano and all of the sensations are there. "This is a Latin-American restaurant. The food just happens to be all vegan," says owner Omar Yeefoon.
Good coffee, a solid pastry program and friendly staff are the foundations of an appealing coffee shop. Add in just the right vibe, and it becomes a place we can't get enough of, whether for sitting alone working on a laptop, meeting a friend (pre-pandemic) or spending time with a household member (in today's times). Davis Street has the right combination of all of this with some of the best chocolate chip cookies in town and beans from the ever-reliable Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters.
This bloody mary isn't the cheapest, but you're at the Ritz, and it's worth every penny of its $14 price tag. The server may warn you of spiciness, but it's not too much. In fact, feel free to request more even if there is a giant jalapeño sticking out of the glass. This drink is balanced and smooth, just as all the other bloody mary cocktails in town want to be. It's versions like this that make drinking in the morning acceptable.
There are decades-old places serving the classic, syrupy shaved ice that hits the spot on a hot summer day. Then there's Ruby's, where you can get snow-like ice filled with bright, fresh flavors made with real fruit. This Old East Dallas place has flavors we want all year long, like cool watermelon, decadent Vietnamese coffee and refreshing coconut.
This South Dallas spot is our No. 1 place for its well-balanced roasts, whether it's the seasonal firefly blend, the special blend for Bisous Bisous Patisserie or the Ethiopia roast. While we love to have a cup of coffee inside, these days the shop has easy online ordering for curbside pickup to keep us caffeinated.
Countless diners have been able to enjoy Luis Dominguez's work during his 20 years in the Dallas restaurant industry in a career that spanned restaurants in nearly every neighborhood in town: Tillman's, Hattie's, Smoke, Chicken Scratch and, most recently, HG Sply Co. Dominguez helped create some of Smoke's most popular dishes, adding Southwestern spice and Mexican tradition to chef Tim Byres' barbecue. Dominguez died of COVID-19 July 22.
The arepa is reason enough to wake up: The savory pocket, similar to a gordita, has enormous flavor. You'll see sun-yellow corn and cloud-white salt. Queso blanco fuses to the walls of the seared envelope. Zaguán began like an over-the-counter neighborhood bakery, with four glass cases of crackly breads (made in-house) like the cachito stuffed with minced ham and cheese and powdered-sugar pastries. Eighteen years after opening, they host more comfort than ever: Egg, ham, and cheese on cloud bread and a just-pulled espresso is stunning.
This spot on the edge of Deep Ellum has hot dogs we love along with a solid list of beer on tap. There's a wide selection, with much of it local, whether it's Deep Ellum Brewing Co.'s Easy Peasy IPA, Martin House's Pils or Peticolas' Golden Opportunity golden ale. Even more is available on a list of canned beer. Whatever you get, a cold beer here is a perfect place to be.
A few months into the pandemic, we had restaurants fully complying with safety measures (most of them, anyway). But there was one that stood out from the beginning, when we started asking restaurants what they were doing before the city reacted to the pandemic. Reyna Duong, owner of Sandwich Hag, was already screening her employees, making food pickup contactless and insisting on hand sanitizer. When someone on staff contracted COVID-19, they shut down and cleaned thoroughly. Protocols heightened as months progressed, communication was transparent and constant via social media as those escalated, and no exceptions were made. Sandwich Hag is an example of how to do it right.
Pounded, tender meat, the perfect crisp batter that isn't too thick but doesn't easily flake off and perfectly seasoned gravy: There's a lot that goes into a proper chicken-fried steak, and the folks at Jonathon's know how to do each step. Anything fried here is good, as is anything with gravy. But if you're hunting for the best CFS in town, it's right here in North Oak Cliff.
When the happy day comes that we can again spend our evenings sitting elbow-to-elbow with fellow humans, one of our first stops will be Shoals. From the kind and intentional staff to the expert cocktails and vegan food menu, this Deep Ellum spot has our hearts forever.
As this is written, Rudolph's is taking call-in orders only, which we're fine with because it's good to call anyway. After all, Rudolph's is a great first place to visit when you're cooking something that requires a specific cut of meat that may be hard to find. If they don't have it on hand, they can usually get it for you. And there's no better bacon than that pepper bacon they have in the cooler.