Best Torta
Brian Reinhart

If all the restaurants in Dallas got together to recount their pandemic woes, El Rincon del D.F. could one-up them all. First, before anyone ever got sick, the October 2019 tornado severely damaged the restaurant, forcing a temporary closure. The virus hit and infected many of the family members who own the business. As construction workers continued to make tornado repairs, a driver attempting suicide plowed a car into the restaurant, partially destroying it again. El Rincon reopened a year after the tornado, only to lose another week to February's power outages. And yet it's still here, still serving the city's best tortas with flavors as big as Mexico City. The torta Cubana is big enough for a family, so start with one of the other sandwiches, which will still be one of the most generous lunches in the region.

Best Charcuterie Board
Alison McLean

In a city obsessed with smoked, cured and spiced meats, nobody does a charcuterie spread better or more generously than Petra and the Beast. Expect six kinds of meat in a rich variety, some spreadable on toast or crackers, some in terrines speckled with fruit or nuts, some sweet, some spicy. There will be big, bubbly crackers, too, and pickles, and jam. Petra's house-made spicy mustard makes everything better and can be purchased in a jar as a souvenir. This charcuterie board runs at the expensive end ($40), but it's so bountiful that a table of four people will have to work hard to finish it. And it's so delicious that the effort is worthwhile.

Best Vietnamese Restaurant
Alison McLean

There are many things to love about Ngon, which opened during the pandemic on Lower Greenville. We love its spring rolls, which come in many varieties, though "regular" might secretly be our favorite. We love the soups' richly seasoned broths, like the 24-hour pho and shrimp-topped banh canh. The meatballs on a platter of bun cha Hanoi smell like they've just come off a backyard grill, and the curries come with baguettes for dunking. Ngon is women-led, packs up takeout orders to perfection (soup broths are packed separately to prevent everything else overcooking) and the restaurant itself is comfortable, quiet and blessed with a tiny but nice patio. We couldn't ask for anything else.

The GreenHouse Restaurant & Bar

One needn't really be all that brave to tackle the Brave Combo burger at The Greenhouse if you can stand a little heat from a double-barrel blast of jalapeño piquancy. The burger's patty is flame-kissed over Mesquite wood before being placed on a brioche bun and topped with a thick slice of Gouda cheese and two crisp slices of bacon, then the heat comes from a mouthwatering mix of roasted jalapeños and onion. Before sending it to the table, the kitchen slathers one side of the bun with a generous smear of house-made jalapeño aioli made with fresh garlic cloves and roasted jalapeños. It's served with a side of wedge fries, which can be swapped out for sweet potato fries. It's named after long-time vegetarian Carl Finch's Grammy-winning nuclear polka combo, so the menu offers a black bean patty substitution upon request.

Best Dessert Shop
Matthew Martinez

BigDash's Middle Eastern pastries have no equal in North Texas. There's a joyous variety of baklava alone: pistachio, almond, hazelnut and more. (The hazelnut, new in summer 2021, includes a Nutella-like drizzle.) There are pastries in beautiful shapes, including little folded flowers and pie-like wedges. There are boxes of cookies to go. At one of BigDash's stores, the star attraction is kinafa, an indescribably delicious shredded pastry concoction filled with gooey cheese, pistachios and sweet syrup that gets heated on a special-made skillet. If that all isn't enough, BigDash serves ice creams, too, and they've been praised as far away as the pages of The New York Times.

Best Food Inspired by a TV Series
Lauren Drewes Daniels

Who couldn't use an infallible sense of optimism right now? If you haven't seen the Apple TV+ series Ted Lasso that doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy these wonderful "biscuits" that play a sweet role in the show. Lemma's Bakeshop in Dallas had a clever idea and is selling quaint boxes of these Southern tea biscuits, mimicking the packaging and shapes of the ones on TV. Any boss would swoon over these. As a bonus, they're adorned with quotes from the show such as, "Be a Goldfish" and "Be Curious, Not Judgmental." Follow Lemma's Bakeshop social media and website to find these cookies around town.

Best Steakhouse
Kathy Tran

This fine dining, no tipping (or children) restaurant in Dallas falls into a lot of categories. The chef is an Iranian-American immigrant serving Persian-inspired flavors and a two-time Texas Steak Cook-Off Champion. Yet at Gorji, the small staff and charming atmosphere rebuke the big show found at many local steakhouses, which is even more reason why we love this place so much. At the end of the day, it's the fire-kissed meat that is cooked to perfection that draws us in and keeps us going back to this five-table gem. Be sure to make reservations and be prepared to meet the chef at some point.

Best Happy Hour Eats
Kristen Hubby

What happens when you take brisket from one of the best pitmasters in Texas and parlay it with one of the best Asian cuisine chefs in Texas? Well, you get LORO Asian Smokehouse. But, looking past the fundamental menu items like brisket served with chili gastrique and Thai herbs, or the smoked prime bavette with a shishito salsa verde, the humble LORO Cheeseburger makes happy hour happy again. A red onion brisket jam (which is 95% brisket) is piled thick and high atop a juicy patty with two sheaths of butter lettuce and Muenster cheese. The bun only lasts about halfway through, at which point you shove the rest of the burger in your mouth. Breathe it all in nice and slow. Find this burger on the happy hour menu, weekdays 2 to 5 p.m.

Best Appetizers
Alison McLean

Encina's tiny kitchen is notorious in the restaurant industry. It's got just eight burners, one pizza oven and a portable home-cook-sized deep fryer. Maybe that's why the appetizers are so creative and versatile. Take the mezze platter: It's got pre-made items like white bean hummus and goat's milk labneh dips, plus a big handful of addictive fried olives. There's a sampler of pastrami and pimento cheese, too, and a fabulous steak tartare with cutting vinegar action from pickled celery, served on big chunks of toast. To save kitchen space for the main courses, Encina has to get creative, combining fresh items, salads and deep-fried goodness, and that strategy means that the restaurant's appetizers are as cool as its cocktails.

Since 1983, Herrera's on Illinois Avenue has been pushing out plates of quintessential Tex-Mex. Generations of families have sat at their tables slurping down the complimentary bowl of charros beans and, hopefully, this family tradition keeps going for a long time. Many grew up on the No. 7: two cheese enchiladas and rice and beans. It might even be in some local's DNA. The Hangover with two eggs smothered in pork guiso with a side of refried beans will make Sunday right again.

Best Of Dallas®

Best Of