Leading up to our annual Best of Dallas® issue, we're counting down the 50 most interesting restaurants in Dallas. These spots bring something unique or compelling to the city's dining scene, feeding both your appetite and soul. Find more interesting places on our all-new Best Of app for iTunes or Android.
Meet Tony G., the owner and operator of the Russian Banya in Carollton. His bathhouse has a reputation for having what feels like one of the hottest saunas on the planet, but the place would be better served if it were known as the best Russian restaurant in DFW.
Where else can you get plates of cold smoked fish with house-baked pumpernickel, and a plate of pickled vegetables, which makes the perfect vodka chaser? (You did bring vodka, yes? The Banya is a BYOB.)
And the servings are massive, so you should come with a few friends so a single dish doesn't ruin your appetite. There are dumplings made from scratch and steamed to order, and you're going to want to sample more than one. The pelmini will seduce you with a savory beef filling and rich butter broth. Or maybe you're in the mood for vareniki, which are stuffed with a smooth potato purée like pierogi.
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Whatever you order be sure to save room for dessert. As I left the spa one day I noticed a woman rolling out impossibly thin pastry on a wooden board. She draped the dough over a sheet pan and then baked it until it was crisp. She made scores of these sheets, and then alternated them between layers of cream filling and honey for a massive dessert. Besides the honey cake there are baklava the size of a deck of cards and meringues the size of softballs.
That all this is served along side a sauna that will roast you at 200 degrees, and a wooden-barrel plunge pool that will shock you with near-freezing water makes the Banya an interesting place to be. It might be the most interesting restaurant around.
Russian Banya, 2515 East Rosemeade Parkway Suite 401, 214-483-5050
No. 50: Joyce and Gigi's No. 49: East Hampton Sandwich Co. No. 48: 20 Feet Seafood Joint No. 47: Taj Chaat House No. 46: Mot Hai Ba No. 45: La Nueva Fresh and Hot No. 44: Pera Turkish Kitchen No. 43: Tom's Burgers and Grill No. 42: Mughlai