Jose
Alison McLean

A good drink starts with good ingredients, no question. But a great drink is about time, place and ingredients. And when we think about margaritas in Dallas, there is a cornucopia of options. At José on Lovers they keep it simple with Avión, their top shelf, with Cointreau, lime juice and gave nectar. With an amazing menu, a large patio with a fountain in the middle, José has it all. Be sure to inquire about their seasonal frozen margaritas and enjoy beautiful food in a beautiful space.

Best Late Night Hotdog
Courtesy of Mike's Gemini Twin

Mike's Gemini Twin in The Cedars is a swanky dive bar that's struck a perfect balance for an ideal night of drinking: it's elegant enough for a dressed-up evening out, but forgiving if you spill Champagne on yourself. We imagine it's the kind of spot where Jack Kerouac would've shot back several tequilas (after his go-to, margaritas) while talking incessantly about jazz and women. But the "gem" in "Gemini" is its bar food, a late-night snack offering in the form of a simple-but-delicious hot dog. The all-beef delicacy has mustard options and fixings such as relish and can be ordered solo or as part of a meal with two hot dogs, plus two beers, two shots, candy and dessert — a prime choice for a laid-back date night or for those who know what's good.

Niwa Japanese BBQ
Nick Rallo

Quality is king at Niwa Japanese BBQ. With a wide selection of meats, veggies, and other sides that customers grill up at their table and Japanese sake, beer, and craft cocktails ready for imbibing, Niwa doesn't disappoint. The intimate, yet relaxed dining space makes for a prime opportunity to dive in family-style to experience a little of everything and to explore the range of dishes on the menu. With COVID-19 ravaging the Dallas restaurant world, owner Jimmy Niwa has set a prime example of how amazing food can bring and keep a community together.

Drake's atmosphere is as equally important as the food and drinks they serve. Sitting in a booth or table in the moodily lit and elegant space can almost make one feel like they're having a secret dinner meeting with producers and talent from old school Hollywood. They're a perfect excuse to try on that new dress or to steam out those wrinkles on the old three-piece suit to enjoy a classic cocktail and a lavish multi-course meal.

Best Monday Night Dining
Alison McLean

We invented this category a few years ago when our restaurant critic had his birthday on a Monday — the day of the week on which most of Dallas' best restaurants take a break. But some are still serving food on Monday nights, including Partenope, downtown's terrific Neapolitan pizza and pasta spot. Chef-owner Dino Santonicola grew up making and eating pizzas in Naples, worked at Dallas chain Il Cane Rosso and now has his own place to show off his skills. You can have a fancy night out with fine wines and pastas, or you can grab a pizza to go. In the early summer, Partenope served a Neapolitan traditional delicacy called the "Pizza Americana," topped with hot dogs and french fries.

Let a British ex-pat tell you about the first time they ordered up sausage in this country and ended up with a big ol' mouthful of Jimmy Dean. It's probably one of the most painful transitions that come with a trans-Atlantic move; the savory, herbal comfort of your stout bangers are replaced by a dry, aggressively sweet yet strangely spicy patty. Until The Proper Baking Co. and their legit sausage rolls came along, we were still mourning this reality. Luckily, pastry chef Tina Miller has put together a brilliant menu of British standards that satisfy the homesick Brits among us and appeal to Yanks alike. Try Miller's perfectly executed takes on steak-and-ale or chicken curry pies, and make sure you add in a few miniature Victoria sponge cakes or jam dodgers. The best part? The Proper Baking Co. delivers in and around the DFW area. You'll also find them at pop-up markets and events across the area.

Best Bounceback
Tida Pichakron

Haute Sweets is a downright cheerful little place, its pastry case dotted with whimsical macarons and cheerful comfort desserts. You'd never guess this shop has been through so much: COVID, of course, but add in a major accident. Last November, a car plowed through the front window, heavily damaging the kitchen before a major holiday and banging up owner/chef Tida Pichakron and two employees. Pichakron persevered while devotees of the Lake Highlands patisserie rallied to raise funds and stock up as soon as the doors opened. Within weeks, the Haute Sweets team was back to slinging delectable baked goods. It's a lesson in resilience, especially when you consider that somehow, Pichakron even had the energy to open a beautiful new shop in North Dallas' Hillcrest Village this summer.

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