Dine in Denton Like a Pro: Little D's 11 Best Hidden Dining Gems

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Frosty Drive N

1002 Fort Worth Drive., Denton
Lunch and dinner. Counter service, $
There is actually a restaurant in Denton called Burger Time Machine, a self-fashioned retro-styled throwback to the diner days of long ago. But if you really want to step into an American Graffiti-era time-warp, just follow Fort Worth Drive 50 yards past Interstate 35 and visit one of Denton's oldest continually run restaurants, Frosty Drive N, colloquially known as Mr. Frosty. The very iteration of a mom-and-pop business, the Webbs opened Frosty Drive N as a carryout-only burger stand in 1954, before I-35 even existed. The Webbs' grandson runs it now, making it a third generation family-run business. Frosty is famous for their broiler burgers, chocolate malts and ice-cold mugs of house-made root beer. They also offer BLTs, corn dogs and Frito pies on a menu that's stayed static for the entire 62 years it's been open. 

Rooster's Roadhouse 
113 Industrial St., Denton
Lunch and dinner, $
Rooster's motto is "Red neck, white trash, blue collar." Their Pit sandwich is a half-foot-tall, meat-filled monstrosity with sliced brisket, pulled pork and smoked sausage. They have a slider on their menu called the Hell Burger; you have to be over 18 and sign a liability waiver before you can order it.

Denton lore says the cook wears a hazmat mask and gloves up to the elbow when he makes a batch of the ghost-pepper laden Hell Sauce. They run a yearlong Hell Burger-eating contest that begins on the first day of the new year, and in order to get your name on the board, you have to eat one more Hell Burger than the last person. We've heard there are usually tears involved. They run great drink specials all day everyday, and if you ask nicely, the bartender might make you a breakfast shot: a butterscotch schnapps and Jameson shooter with an orange juice chaser and a side of crispy bacon. Feels like a frat party, tastes like breakfast.

Hangout Bar & Dine
827 W. Eagle Dr., Denton
Lunch and dinner. Buffet lunch and full service dinner, $-$$
What was once Rasoi Indian Kitchen on Avenue C is now the Hangout Bar & Dine just a half mile east on Eagle drive. The large orange building can accommodate what Rasoi's old location in a renovated gas station could not: a nightclub, full dine-in menu, and — most important — a bar. Hangout will still serve their tasty rotation of meat-based and vegetarian-friendly curries for the $9.99 buffet lunch alongside freshly grilled naan and spicy samosas, but the newly expanded menu promises even more Indian comfort food from a kitchen most of Denton has come to love. Go on Tuesdays and Fridays to catch our favorite, mutter paneer — peas and cheese in a creamy tomato and cashew curry. 

Loco Cafe 
603 N Locust St., Denton
Breakfast and lunch. Counter service, $-$$
You would think, living in Texas that you wouldn't be able to swing a cat without hitting a good biscuit, but good biscuits are rare in Denton, as is good pie; luckily for us, Cafe Loco has both in spades. They also offer a good balance of satisfying breakfast indulgences (put some chicken on that biscuit with their Pollo Loco), as well as healthy and vegetarian-friendly Tex-Mex-inspired options like the huevos rancheros or the Eggs Lunatic, made with salsa-poached eggs and jalapeño corn muffins.

Lunch options include a bacon-wrapped meatloaf and a banging BLT, but make sure to leave room for their buttermilk pie. Don't let the $5 price tag fool you; it's an entire personal-sized pie. Your friends might tell you it's too much pie for one person, but you don't need that kind of negativity in your life. 

The Pickled Carrot 
208 N. Austin St., Denton (Austin Street Truck Stop at Eastside Social Club)
Lunch and dinner. Food truck, $
It's hard to believe it now, but there was once a time when Denton had no food trucks. Those were dark days indeed, but in 2012, the city lifted a law that prevented mobile food trucks from stopping for more than 15 minutes in one location, and we welcomed the food truck boom that ensued.

Austin Street Truck Stop followed, populating the empty lot behind Eastside Social Club with a regular cast of sweet and savory mobile food purveyors to satisfy Denton's late-night dining desires. Some trucks, like The Pickled Carrot, also set up shop for lunch during the week, giving us all an extra excuse to leave our building for lunch. The Pickled Carrot serves what is hands-down the best bánh mì in town. Protein options include the traditional marinated pork as well as chicken, tofu or mushroom, all served on a crackly baguette with house-made do chua (pickled carrots and daikon radish slaw), cucumbers, cilantro, jalapeños, Sriracha and a house-made roasted garlic mayo. The Pickled Carrot also tends to hang out at the Denton Community Market on Saturday mornings if you need a satisfying bite before you go Dentoning. And to top it all off, founder and owner Cuong “Kong” Mai is a UNT alumnus. 

500 N Elm St., Denton
Lunch and dinner. Full-service, $$-$$$

It would be a crime to talk about Denton's hidden dining gems without mentioning Keiichi. Up until the new sign was installed, Keiichi was difficult to locate in both the real and virtual world. It occupies an unassuming building on the corner of Elm and Parkway. Chef-owner Keiichi Nagano maintains no website and only takes reservations over the phone — through voicemail (oh, the humanity).

Unlike almost everywhere else in Denton, reservations are usually required; the restaurant's limited seating means they often book a couple weeks out. Lunch is somewhat more accessible and a good option for those with fiscal concerns (a night out at Keiichi doesn't come cheap), but it's currently only open for lunch on Thursdays and Fridays. The menu changes regularly, featuring fresh sushi as well as top-notch Italian — chef Nagano is a sushi master with a strong background as an Italian chef, which means you'll be hard pressed to decide between the fresh sashimi options and the lasagna. It's not cheap, but it's some of the best food in Denton.
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