Over the course of 2016, my job as a food critic and writer has yielded probably over a hundred restaurant meals across Dallas, Garland, Richardson, Plano, Allen, Carrollton, Addison, Farmers Branch, Irving, Coppell, Highland Park and Cockrell Hill.
Of the many things I've eaten, these 10 dishes are my personal favorites. They might not be the “best," technically speaking, and this is not an attempt to be objective about the best meals in Dallas or the best restaurants. They are, quite simply, the 10 things in metro Dallas that I most loved eating in 2016 and that I'm most excited to eat again.
10. The one-day-a-month soups at Casa Vieja in Carrollton
. On the last Sunday of the month, Casa Vieja serves up ajiaco, an incredible Colombian chicken soup loaded with indigenous potatoes and herbs, plus a big section of corn on the cob. But on the first Sunday of the month, the soup special is even better: a seafood curry-like stew loaded with just about every water creature there is. It’s hearty, slightly spicy, generously sized and worth planning a whole weekend around.
9. Lamb souvlaki at House of Gyros in Mesquite
. Eating at House of Gyros is like eating with the family: friendly service, decorations straight from My Big Fat Greek Wedding
and delightful conversations with proprietors Bill and Victoria Kaprantzas. Plus, there are $1 corkage fees for BYOB. But back to that lamb souvlaki — it’s just how my Turkish family cooks lamb, with a great spice rub and medium-well meat that, despite losing its pink, manages to stay perfectly juicy and tender. Oh, and those steak fries are way better than you'd think.
8. Pollo en mole at Mi Lindo Oaxaca
. This is one of the most remarkable restaurants in Dallas, not least because the kitchen makes its own mole negro from scratch. That means, among other things, buying cacao beans and making chocolate in-house. All the effort pays off in some of the deepest, best mole to be had at any Mexican restaurant in Dallas; try it on enmoladas, a stack of tortillas topped with Oaxacan cheese, or on a quarter chicken, the leg and thigh perfectly tender underneath that rich blanket of oh-so-great mole.
7. Fried chicken at Rice Chicken
. Guys, this is the good stuff. Ask for the spicy batter-fried chicken, no sauce, and you’ll be getting fried chicken that dreams are made of: such a crisp, gently crunchy batter coupled with juicy, practically molten meat. On first bite, the chicken might taste like it needs a little salt, but the spice slowly builds to a crescendo of crispy-fried perfection. The side dishes are limited: pickled radishes, coleslaw and a pitcher of Coors Light. You don’t need anything else.
6. Fusilli with brandy cream sauce at Sprezza
. I loved almost all the fresh-made pastas at Sprezza; the exceptions were a little over-salted. But the noodles’ textures are always springy and satisfying, and this seasonal preparation from spring — combining fusilli (corkscrews) with spicy Italian sausage and greens — was especially satisfying. The balance of spice, veggies, al dente pasta and that brandy cream sauce — mmmm.