Denton's Hidden Dining Gems, 2017 Edition

Add dumplings to your ramen at The Taste for an extra special bowl of comfort.
Add dumplings to your ramen at The Taste for an extra special bowl of comfort. Courtney Jacobs
Welcome to the newly updated 2017 edition of Denton’s dining guide, bringing you insider advice on the best places for eating and Dentoning at some of our lesser-known establishments. We lost some beloved spots this year (tip one out for our dear friends at Rasoi/The Hangout), but our perennial favorites remain (high five, Taqueria Guanajato). Some hot new additions include an innovative juice bar and an excuse to visit Golden Triangle Mall.

Taqueria Guanajuato
1015 E McKinney St.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Counter service, $

Everyone will tell you that their taco joint is the best taco joint. They're not wrong; they've just never been to Taqueria Guanajuato. Small and unassuming, this taqueria makes some of the best food in Denton. A recent expansion into the adjoining convenience store opened up more tables, and its new liquor license means you can enjoy a michelada with your meal.

Counter service is quick and friendly; most of the employees are bilingual, so don't avoid the place if you're worried about a language barrier. Our favorite menu items are the adobo-marinated al pastor, housemade chorizo and barbacoa. Tortillas are made in house. The menu is in Spanish, but here's what we love: the al pastor tacos con piña with everything, the chorizo sopes (again, with everything), the shrimp cocktail and — once the cold weather hits — a giant bowl of pozole. Wash it down with a housemade horchata because you deserve it. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Taqueria Guanajuato also makes a massive breakfast burrito stuffed to the brim with beans, rice and your choice of meat.
Boca 31
207 E. Mulberry St.
Lunch and dinner. Counter service, $
A relative newcomer to Denton, Boca 31 took up residence in the eclectic shanty-shack at the corner of Bell Avenue and Mulberry Street about a year ago, bringing Denton something it sorely lacked: Peruvian street food. Chef-owner Andres Meraz relocated with an impressive pedigree as one of Miami’s celebrity chefs. He makes his empanadas using his mother’s recipe; the pork chile verde dipped in garlic crema is intensely rich and might require a postlunch tooth brushing. Reminiscent of a butifarra, the Peruvian sandwich features slow-roasted guajillo pork and charred sweet potato slices with sweet potato slaw on a crispy bolillo. The chicken pastor tacos, spiced with pungent adobo and topped with aji amarillo slaw, are a tasty lunch bargain at $2.50 each. His daily specials run the gamut; he'll offer everything from a pulled pork burrito to a crispy breakfast hash or a roasted fish entrée, and he features exciting, off-menu items like house-smoked chicken or the occasional mole dish.

click to enlarge Juice Lab is a stellar place to grab a vegan meal or fresh juice. - COURTNEY JACOBS
Juice Lab is a stellar place to grab a vegan meal or fresh juice.
Courtney Jacobs
Juice Lab
508 S. Elm St., No. 104
Breakfast, lunch, dinner. $-$$
When it opened in 2015, the family-owned and operated Juice Lab was a somewhat small juice bar with a massive menu of cold-pressed juices, elixirs and baked goods. It expanded over the winter, gaining a roomy dining area and a full kitchen for ramping up the food menu. What started out as Denton’s healthiest snack option is now your go-to destination for a healthy meal, especially if you’re in the mood for something local, vegan or gluten-free. Specials change daily, but standard options include a burger with your choice of protein (grass-fed beef, black bean or falafel), artisanal grilled cheese creations and an intensely satisfying vegan nacho plate. Juice Bar still stocks a great selection of ready-to-eat snacks, so it’s a good place to grab a healthy bite on the go. And, of course, the juice menu is insane. We recommend the Yum Zinger: a sweet treat of apple, lemon and ginger, but we add apple cider vinegar and cayenne pepper for some extra zing.

Yummy's Greek Restaurant
210 W. University Drive
Lunch and dinner. Counter service, $-$$
Open since 1986, Yummy's is older than most graduate students and has garnered quite a loyal following in its 30 years of operation. The dining room is small and sparsely decorated. The cuisine is standard Greek diner fare, nothing fancy, but Yummy's does it surprisingly well.

The hummus and baba ganoush are silky-smooth and ultrarich, obviously made with care using a family recipe. The gyros are solid, a peppery mix of spit-fired beef and lamb carved onto a grilled pita with fresh veggies and crunchy pickles slathered in tzatziki sauce. The falafel sandwich is the best in town, and the chicken souvlaki sandwich is a hot mess made in heaven. Both are served with a heaping dollop of creamy garlic sauce that will seep out and eventually soak into everything else on your plate. If you're lucky, you ordered french fries to sop it all up.

The Bowllery
901 Ave. C, No. 101
Lunch and dinner. Table service, $-$$

Beating all restaurant survival odds, The Bowllery remains one of Denton's best places to score fresh, health-conscious food, and it's just south of the University of North Texas campus. This spot touts eclectic, globally inspired food, though many dishes lean towards Asian-inspired fusion. A recent menu expansion added a variety of interesting, shareable plates and entrees such as tempeh bánh mì, miso ramen and a build-your-own bowl option with endless combinations.

Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options abound, but meat lovers won't go hungry either. Try the Denton bowl, a bed of warm soba noodles topped with avocado, crunchy veggies, grilled sweet potato and a gingery carrot miso sauce. The Bowllery makes a good portion of its sauces in-house, including a scratch-made Sriracha sauce that will have you questioning your allegiances to the token red rooster bottle. Because of the quality ingredients, The Bowllery can wander toward the pricey side when you tack on sides, add-ons or specialty drinks, but the fresh flavors are worth it.

Add dumplings to your ramen at The Taste for an extra special bowl of comfort. - COURTNEY JACOBS
Add dumplings to your ramen at The Taste for an extra special bowl of comfort.
Courtney Jacobs
The Taste
408 N. Texas Blvd.
Lunch and dinner. Counter service, $

Despite its convenient location just west of UNT (in a strip mall adjacent to its West Dorm), The Taste doesn't seem to get much foot traffic from the general student body. That's a shame since it offers a number of affordable Korean dishes that fill you up without breaking the bank. The space has changed ownership a few times the past five years, but it's usually been some iteration of a fast-casual Korean spot.

What was once Bulgogi House became Czen (leading some to believe it was a Hungarian restaurant, apparently), but the change in name and management hasn't altered much; even the menu options stayed pretty static. The best deals by far are the Eagle bento boxes ($10-ish), each a well-balanced meal with your choice of protein accompanied by rice, miso soup, tempura vegetables, cabbage salad and assorted kimchi. We also love the sizzling bibimbap — warm rice, bulgogi beef and seasoned vegetables served in a sizzling hot stone bowl with an egg on top.

click to enlarge Le Macaron French Pastries. - COURTNEY JACOBS
Le Macaron French Pastries.
Courtney Jacobs
Le Macaron French Pastries
Inside Golden Triangle Mall, 2201 S. I-35 E.
Dessert. Counter service, $-$$

In Texas, it’s often important to distinguish the Southern macaroon cookie from the more delicate French macaron pastry. Although both are confections that derive their names from the Italian word ammaccare (to crush), we have yet to come across a coconut macaroon so tasty it was worth a trip to the mall. A French macaron, on the other hand, is a delicate, nougatlike meringue pastry made from almond flour, beaten egg whites and sugar sandwiched together with French buttercream to create a slightly crunchy yet weightless flavor bomb of culinary divinity. Until recently, you couldn’t buy one fresh anywhere in Denton.

Owner Fabien Daure opened a Le Macaron franchise location this summer in the Golden Triangle Mall, where he and wife, Bibiana, serve more than a dozen flavors of macarons along with extra-creamy gelato, French crepes and an assortment of French pastries and chocolates. Top marks go to the delicate, floral flavors of both the lavender and rose macarons, and don’t forget to try the salted caramel.

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