There are a handful of great ways to sample the radiant food — an array of new and old mainstays that glow brighter than any fill-in-the-blanks fried food — throughout the suburbs of North Texas. One road to finding the best food in the suburbs of North Texas is to actually visit the suburbs of North Texas.
Recently, a food guide in The Atlantic titled “What to Eat in the Texas Suburbs” seemed to accidentally not visit the suburbs of Texas. It tapped such fresh, unexplored humor wellsprings as “Texans don’t enjoy vegetables,” and “Texans, surprisingly, enjoy salmon.” It was a guide to suburbs viewed through the forever-hilarious lens of “There are a lot of fast food places in Texas.”
In the piece, “In-and-Out,” the California-based burger chain (we can only assume this because the name was misspelled in The Atlantic's piece) was noted as a must-go. In-N-Out: A Texas classic! Worth noting: Whataburger was ignored for reasons that defy logic and most intelligence.
So how do Texans really eat in the suburbs? If you're in North Texas, chances are it involves a lot more than just In-N-Out. Here's just a sampling of what our suburbs have to offer. (Note: Yes, we realize that technically Preston Hollow, Far North Dallas, Lake Highlands, etc. are not suburbs in the sense of being their own cities, but they are in every other sense.)
850 S. Greenville Ave., Richardson
Fuad Al Dawyma sheers beef shawarma from the vertical grill with an electric shaver. It’s calming to watch. The meat cone twirls hypnotically. The bread pipes steam into the air like a heat mirage as he lacquers on tahini sauce. Welcome to Bilad Bakery, where every sandwich is good. Each is less than $6 at Dawyma’s 7-year-old restaurant. It’s joined with a grocery store that’s been in his family since 1978. The meat is tender, loaded with its own juices and encrusted at its edges.
400 N. Greenville Ave., Richardson
You need dumplings. The craving for a bamboo steamer filled with soup-laden, pork-studded purses can come on like a North Texas thunderstorm: strong and loud. Jeng Chi, which opened more than 30 years ago, has some of Dallas’ most affordable and stupendous dumplings. They’re steamed with chili and garlic or soy-ginger. Jeng Chi delivers if you’re stuck in an area where the only food in view is Doritos Locos.
Sky Rocket Burger
7877 Frankford Road (Far North Dallas)
There are four items on the menu: a single, double and triple cheeseburger and a grilled cheese. On Scott and Tio Wagner’s 4-foot griddle, there’s little room for anything else. Angus beef, a mix of chuck and brisket is ground in house. The fresh patty, a quarter-pound, balls up and presses into the hot flat-top grill for a thick sear. It’s seasoned with salt and pepper. A local bakery sends over a fluffy sesame-seed bun, which gets real butter and a hard toast. They are, bar none, some of the best damn cheeseburgers in DFW.
5940 Royal Lane (Preston Hollow)
Food is in the chef’s bloodstream at Arepa TX. Chef Mary Anne Allen has lived all over: Guam, Bolivia, even a brief stint in Vanuatu after her husband got a construction gig. Growing up in La Paz, Bolivia, she and her mom, two sisters and two brothers shopped together for groceries at the market. Allen’s one-of-a-kind arepas are one of the suburb's great new and inexpensive sandwiches. For the carne mechada, shredded beef is cooked for hours and tossed into a sharp, vinegary sofrito of leeks, onion and garlic. A neat nest of shredded cheddar tops the pocket after it’s stuffed in the corn shell. Add crispy, hot yuca fries on the side if you’re wise.
9191 Forest Lane (North Lake Highlands)
On a bed of sponge bread sits a vivid array of vegetables that’ll sizzle and crackle in your head like Fourth of July sparklers. Lalibela, which serves unpretentious, family-style Ethiopian food, is warming down to the bone marrow. Yesemir wot, lentils bathing in an electric, near-neon berbere sauce, are heartwarming with a thick fold of injera. Dallas, as it turns out, has spectacular lentils. If you’re not in the mood to dine, the coffee service will light you up like a Christmas tree.
India Chaat Café
18101 Preston Road (Far North Dallas)
A minute ticks away after your order. Moments later, a bowl of fast food, a symphony of creamy-salty-spicy-sweet shows up in front of you. It’s chaat, the Indian fast food group that’s represented with all of the speed and brightness of a flash of lightning at this spot, and you want this. You need aloo tiki chat, potato patties loaded with hot chili pepper, chickpeas, chutney and a zap of spices, or buttered naan and yogurt dip. Get adventurous with your order, and you’ll be rewarded.
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1915 Central Expressway, Plano
It’s something to remember. The flavor that erupts from mantu dumplings, near-bursting with sauteed ground beef and onions, cooling garlic and mint yogurt sauce lashed against a tomato-butter sauce, finds its way deep into the memory center of your brain. You’ll find it familiar and new at the same time. Express Kabob is family cooking. Its owners are Reahim Budri and Naim Budri, brothers who project the dishes that their mom made. The best fast food, the stuff that aches when you think about it, is food mom made for you when you had little time to appreciate it. We do now.
Legacy Food Hall, 7800 Windrose Ave., Plano
No, your burger is not missing any ingredients. It just needs two slices of American cheese, melted until they're a blanket, a freshly ground beef patty seasoned heavily with salt and pepper, and red onion transparently sliced. The beef’s juices run into the squishy bun. It’s a burger that’s replicated in Dallas — the Ozersky — at Knife. It tastes even better in a casual, food hall setting. Get fries and extra pickles.
1301 N. Tennessee St., McKinney
Let’s put it this way: If your barbecue is handed over the cash register at an airport, it’s just sauced beef. It's gourmet salisbury steak. Hutchins, established in 1978, is a different planet of good. Baked and split potatoes are top-loaded with tender, juicy meat. The burnt ends are god dollops, gems from the great heavens that deserve their own hieroglyphics on the great pyramids of humanity. Let us take you there. When all you know is Dickey’s airport barbecue, Texas narrows. Ribs, real Texas barbecue ribs, open up new portals.