Best Pivot 2021 | Pizza Leila | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
Kathy Tran

When the pandemic sent downtown workers scurrying to the safety of the 'burbs, restaurants that normally fed those commuters took a hit, among them Sloane's Corner at the bottom of the Trammell Crow Center. Chef Ji Kang also had another problem; the catering he'd done for tenants in the building towering above him left part of his kitchen dormant. With extra space and time, Kang experimented with recipes and developed Sicilian-style pizzas for delivery. Not a single sign outside announced that Pizza Leila was working out of the second line in Sloane's Corner; it was all virtual. Best, he was able to keep his kitchen staff employed and pushed out some fantastic pizza in the process.

Food courts, or food halls as they're apt to be called now, are back and better than ever. There are several around DFW including Legacy Food Hall in Plano, The Exchange at AT&T Discovery District in downtown and, the most fascinating flavor trip of all, Asia Times Square in Grand Prairie. The offerings here are nothing like the Sbarro Pizzas and baked potatoes we used to find at food courts in malls, but rather a flavorful celebration in culinary diversity. The highlight reel at Asia Times Square's food court includes Beard Papa's cream-stuffed pastry pockets from Osaka, Japan, Two Hands Seoul Fresh Corn Dogs, CM Chicken's famous snow chicken and Apsara, which serves authentic Thai and Cambodian dishes.

The Exchange Hall at the AT&T Discovery District in downtown Dallas takes the cake when it comes to shaking off the workday blues. A collection of some of the city's best offerings all within one space includes Revolver Tacos, Monkey King Noodle Company, La Duni and Zalat Pizza plus some new spots like Bobbers and Whips and The Dock. Add in the full bar, TVs and a spacious plaza with art, a large lawn and a babbling water feature, and it's a lunch slam dunk. Bonus: complimentary parking is available at 1212 Jackson St.; get your ticket validated at any host stand.

Lauren Drewes Daniels
The view from Sky Blossom

Look for signs on the sidewalk of Elm Street and take the elevator to the sixth floor. Situated in the heart of downtown, this new spot is an ornament perched atop the Dallas skyline. The outdoor patio at this Vietnamese bistro and bar looks straight across to the rooftop glass-encased turquoise pool at The Joule hotel. There's something fascinating about a pool floating on the side of a building. Sky Blossom's small bites menu and margaritas flights are great for happy hour. Enjoy great views of the city while people-watching; airplane flyovers or a storm rolling past miles away are bonus features.

Ghost kitchens were having a moment before the pandemic, but during it, the turbo-booster button was activated. Some ghost kitchens, were all schtick, but Furlough Brothers is a fantastic example of what a ghost kitchen can and should be. As the name implies, Sam Kaiser and chef Mike Youssef were furloughed after the pandemic hit. Instead of taking on the huge upfront costs of a brick-and-mortar, they rented kitchen space from Commerce Fork Food Co. and are making from-scratch upscale sandwiches — the Furlough OG is a Philly cheesesteak complete with Amoroso bread — for pickup or delivery only.

Lauren Drewes Daniels

The snow cones at SNO at the Dallas Farmers Market are all pretty spectacular, but when it comes to the mangonada and chamoy movement, their Chamoyada can't be beat. Eating one is an event. Freshly shaved snow is drenched in natural mango syrup (two layers; one applied halfway through so the bottom isn't just plain ol' ice), a sprinkling of Tajin, fresh mango cubes, chamoy, fresh-squeezed lime, then a spicy burnt-red Tamarindo straw stabbed through it all. Pull your hair back and roll your sleeves up for this beautiful mess.

Just outside of Love Field, Heim BBQ offers one last chance to get excellent brisket or bacon burnt ends before leaving town; or on the flip side, a succulent smoky welcome home. Jet-setting or not, head over to the hearth of Heim BBQ on Tuesdays where they have hand-battered, dipped and fried corn dogs with 44 Farms meat for just $2 each. They also have $2 domestic beer. Why, you may ask, would one not get brisket? We're not saying you shouldn't. We're just saying you should also get beer and corn dogs at 1982 prices.

From first-rate customer service to an amazing selection of local and far-off booze, Pogo's is what every liquor store should aspire to be. Just follow their Facebook page to earn a merit badge in sommelier studies. They'll have you opining about chalky soils and "a mineral spine" in no time. They offer such interesting background on their new finds or most recent shipments that it can often sway your weekend plans, for either good or bad (likely good). And while they have fine wine, craft beer and liquor from around the globe, they also keep things local.

There's no shortage of great breakfast spots in Dallas, but there's no other place quite like Bonton Farms in South Dallas, a working farm with fresh eggs, local honey and produce plucked right out of the earth and taken straight to the kitchen. Bonton provides healthy, nutritious staples in a food desert while also creating jobs for their community. Aside from that wholesome mission, breakfast at the café is spectacular. Their sweet potato hash is made with smoked sausage, red pepper gravy and eggs. The from-scratch buttermilk biscuits topped with house sausage or bacon gravy and a farm-fresh egg make breakfast worth getting up for.

Taylor Adams

The kouign amann is a love letter from the northwestern tip of France. This flaky French viennoiserie is imbued with a nefarious amount of butter, sugar and a touch of salt. There are other kouign amanns around town, but Bisous Bisous' is unique because unlike others it is rolled like a cinnamon roll — how chef Andrea Mayer discovered them in a street cart in France — as opposed to a four-corners method. Unroll the pastry instead of biting straight into it (that's too harsh for this delicate food anyway) and see how each ring offers something a little unique.

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