The Best Things We Ate This Year

The Charles pastrami sandwich at Brown Bag Provisions
The Charles pastrami sandwich at Brown Bag Provisions Angie Quebedeaux
Spotify is dinging us with our most listened to songs of this year, but our sweat pants keep reminding us how much great food we ate. So, we reached out to our writers to see what their favorite finds were across North Texas. 
click to enlarge A familiar sight at the State Fair this year. - DOYLE RADER
A familiar sight at the State Fair this year.
Doyle Rader
Doyle Rader has a side-hustle job at the State Fair during the fall. For 24 days this year he was surrounded by fair food and sampled a number of incredible dishes, fried or otherwise. “While there are a number of standouts — deep-fried seafood gumbo balls, the armadillo, smoked turkey wings, deep-fried Frito pie — it's Fletcher's Corny Dogs that I returned to day after day. In fact, I ate one every day of the Fair. Seriously.”

Wow. That's an inspiring level of dedication. 'Atta kid.
click to enlarge SeaBass, potatoes and pork jowl at Ebesu - FELICIA LOPEZ
SeaBass, potatoes and pork jowl at Ebesu
Felicia Lopez
Felici Lopez sent us her three top favorites. Coming in at No. 1 is the grilled sea bass and crispy potatoes at Ebesu in Plano. “The sea bass steak perfectly separates like an accordion of buttery and slightly sweet goodness,” Lopez says. “Pair it with the fried baby red bliss potato, an unassuming but shockingly delicious starter served with a side of truffle mayo.”

She also loved new sweet street fare in Deep Ellum: jo he bag o’ donuts at Hawkers in Deep Ellum. “An elevated doughnut hole experience with a slightly crispy exterior and the fluffiest interior served with coconut jam. If you must travel with this wonderful bag of doughnuts, they will not make it home. Instead, you will find yourself covered in powdered sugar as soon as you put your car in park, like I did on a day I wore all black: worth it."

Lopez took us to her Boodle Fight at Kanin in Arlington earlier this year. While there she had buko (coconut) pie and sisig. “Sisig at Kanin is probably the best sisig I've had in the DFW area so far. The pork is perfectly grilled with onion and peppers, the mayo and a squeeze of lemon cuts the spice level, and the fried egg provides a smooth finish,” Lopez says.

Owner and chef Tita Vilma serves an amazing buko (coconut) pie at Kanin. “The crust is similar to a flaky buttery American pie crust, but the filling is 100% Filipino: shredded baby coconut in creamy and 'not too sweet' filling in your choice: original, ube, pandan, or jackfruit. Call ahead to order a whole pie, because you will end up eating five or six slices anyways,” Lopez says.

Angie Quebedeaux swears The Charles pastrami sandwich at Brown Bag Provisions changed her life (based the photo up top, we believe her). Here the meat is brined for seven days with brown sugar, mustard, salt, juniper, caraway, fennel, garlic and pepper. It’s then rubbed agains with spices, smoked, and then cooked sous vide for two days. They miso-glaze it and serve it in a traditional Reuben-style on marbled rye, garnished with horseradish pickles, Swiss cheese and whole-grain mustard.

Alyssa High recommends 85°C Bakery Cafe in Carrollton. “I, myself, am a big fan of bakery and brunch foods, so you can’t go wrong with the blend of Taiwanese, Japanese, Danish and European baked goods combined with boba from the 7 Leaves Cafe next door. It's the perfect Saturday morning brunch.”
click to enlarge The hot chicken and waffle sandwich from La Casita Bakeshop is here to fill the sweet-savory-spicy hole in your life. - CHRIS WOLFGANG
The hot chicken and waffle sandwich from La Casita Bakeshop is here to fill the sweet-savory-spicy hole in your life.
Chris Wolfgang
One hot August day we sent Christ Wolfgang on an assignment to snag one of the special menu items at La Casita Bakeshop and after the hundreds of miles he traveled for smoked brisket this year, this hot chicken and waffle sandwich was one of the best things he had all year. At the time Wolfgang wrote:

“The chicken has a thick batter that was still the right level of crunchy even after our 20-minute drive home, and the chicken breast underneath was plenty moist. With the first bites, the tingle of heat is readily apparent, accented by the hot sauce drizzled on top of the chicken cutlet. The modest burn is tempered nicely with a healthy dose of pickles on top, in true Nashville style.

“Then there's the waffle, which stands in perfectly for the bread of the sandwich. It's fluffy and just ever-so-slightly sweet and holds the chicken and pickles in place nicely.”

Watch La Casita’s weekly menu drop (through email or their social media) to possibly catch this again.
click to enlarge Detour Donuts, the creme brulee on the right, is also sold at Foxtrot Markets. - LAUREN DREWES DANIELS
Detour Donuts, the creme brulee on the right, is also sold at Foxtrot Markets.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
Didi Paterno has helped us discover some wonderful hidden-in-plain-sight dishes this year. She prefers desserts that aren’t too sweet, which she says is a challenge in the South. However, she’s found that treats from Detour Doughnuts and Sugar Pine Creamery hit the spot.

“The best thing I had from Detour Doughnuts is their staple Creme Brulee doughnut, where the bitterness from the Brulé on top perfectly complements the creamy custard center,” Paterno writes.

And she was “blown away” by the Buckwheat soft-serve at Sugar Pine Creamery. “I never imagined this earthy grain that is base for savory Japanese soba noodles and crêpe Bretonne would make a sweet and palate-cleansing dessert,” Paterno says.

As for me, it’s like picking a favorite kid. Of course, there are favorites. Meals that stick out include the miso lobster ramen from the small counter at TEN Ramen at Sylvan Trinity with an Asahi beer on draft. The silky-smooth broth with heat from the miso warms from the inside out and the flavor of the lobster cuts through. Plus, eating outside in the somehow-quiet courtyard is lovely. The bocce ball courts nearby are a bonus.
click to enlarge Honestly, that bun doesn't stand a chance: Loro's brisket jam burger. - LAUREN DREWES DANIELS
Honestly, that bun doesn't stand a chance: Loro's brisket jam burger.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
The chachachimi fried chicken sandwich from the Dominican pop-up Picadera was a crispy wonderful mess that is hard to forget. But, the best of the best was the brisket jam burger at Loro. Goodness. In tandem with the beef patty, the soft bun and delicate leaves of lettuce are forced beyond their capacity to hold this creation together. So at some point while eating, you just stuff it all in your mouth like how Will Ferrell eats his breakfast spaghetti in Elf. Breathe it in.

For desserts, our office is a five-minute walk from Le Tarte Tropézienne near The Joule and their raspberry Breton tart (or Tarte aux framboise) is like a siren call every day. It’s a fresh, light treat that’s not too sweet; a delicate delight. Now if the Ted Lasso bars from Lemma’s Bakery were available within walking distance, the sweat pants metaphor at the top of this story might be a problem rather than a joke.
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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.