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We would venture that many Dallasites have never had the joy of a samosa (and no, it's not a Girl Scout cookie). Having only recently discovered them ourselves, we felt it our duty to spread the word, and with Texans' love of fried things, this Indian treat already has one point in its favor. Filled with potatoes and peas, wrapped in a pastry and then fried, often served with mint and tamarind chutney, you can't eat just one. Good thing they're only 80 cents at the front counter at India Grocers. You can also pick up other fresh and packaged Indian foods and goods while you're picking up your samosas. They tend to be pretty spicy, but a cool chutney or hummus balances the flavors. Just don't let them see you use ketchup.
We keep hearing that Deep Ellum and the West End are dead. Funny, we see plenty of young black and brown people in Deep Ellum and lots of pasty white tourists packing the West End. Oh, we get it: They're dead because the only good homogeny is white liberal homogeny. Now that we've cleared that up, we can tell you that you should brave the baby strollers and farmer's tans you'll find in TWE if you want a damn good hunk of meat at a reasonable price. We sampled four dinners (ours and three friends') there, and each cut of meat was perfectly cooked--seared outside, reddish-pink and tender inside--and dripping with flavor. We've been to several better-known steak houses in Dallas and received lesser-quality meals at 2.5 times the price.
Banana Leaf, whose twin mottos are "the leaf that's delicious" and "to-go, or reservation," does all the staples--pad Thai, panang, satay, spring rolls--with skillful aplomb. But it also pinches you with less familiar but well-spiced creations such as waterfall beef (so molten it turns your tear ducts into hydropower channels) and tiger cry (so named because it can turn a fierce feline predator into a typical Oprah guest). And while Banana Leaf isn't a dazzling example of interior design (walls feature groupings of birds from the truck-stop souvenir ilk), the food is clean, brisk and good-looking. Just make sure to stuff your pockets with Kleenex before venturing forth.
Most people we see at Whole Foods are buying stuff, so we don't think anyone goes there just to snack on the free samples in the aisles. But around the pineapple-mango salsa bowl, sometimes you wonder. It doesn't stick around long. The unlikely combination of fresh fruit and heat/spice, courtesy of chilies, cilantro and onion, is as refreshing as it is unusual. True, Tex-Mex purists might not even call this salsa. But it's such a brilliant departure from the traditional tomato-based varieties, and such a relief in the summer heat, it gets the best nod on originality alone.