It might be wise to try some of these out while they remain relatively hidden. After all, Jimmy’s Food Store was at one time considered a hidden gem, but have you tried to find parking there lately?
17721 Dallas Parkway, No. 104
E.B. Latin Bistro
6505 W. Park Blvd., Plano
469-892-5531 E.B. Latin Bistro is the paella, which comes in several varieties including seafood, vegetable, chicken and various combos. The Valenciana, a paella that comes with yellow rice, calamari, on-the-bone chicken, shrimp, chorizo, green peppers, onions, garlic and clam juice, is one of the stars of this menu.
El Portal Café
2810 E. Trinity Mills Road, Carrollton
almojábanas, alfajores, pandebonos, and guava and caramel-filled empanadas.
Fat Ni BBQ
2528 Old Denton Drive, No. 310, Carrollton
Fat Ni started as a food truck in New York City before expanding to a couple of standalone locations in North Texas, where a variety of Chinese street food is made in-house every day. The highlights are the skewers, which are priced at around $3 each, and the hand-pulled noodles. One of the draws here is that it’s open until 2 a.m., so instead of Jack In The Box tacos, next time hit up Fat Ni for a lamb skewer after your night of imbibing.
Aso Rock African Market
18110 Midway Road, No. 208
Aso African Market and cafeteria is in the northernmost part of Dallas, but it's worth the trip if you're craving some good beef suya, jollof rice or moi moi pudding. You'll find some grocery staples like akanozo amasaka flour here, along with some of the best jerk chicken around.
19004 Midway Road (inside the Shell station)
Montes Burritos, located in a Shell station, continues this tradition. The spot offers extremely affordable burritos with freshly made tortillas filled with a myriad of choices such as chorizo, egg, beef tips, sausage, barbacoa and potatoes.
El Arepazo VZLA
2661 Midway Road, No. 100, Carrollton
469-677-0177 El Arepazo has stepped up and provides some authentic fare. One can find empanadas stuffed with shredded beef or banana, as well as tostones (fried plantains topped with cheesy goodness), tequeños (savory deep-fried dough with a creamy cheese center) and delicious cachapas (corn pancakes stuffed with queso de mano and shredded beef).
2706 Manor Way
Huapango2971 Walnut Hill Lane
Hong Dumpling House
1901 Royal Lane, No. 105
Crown Grocery & Deli
1210 S. Hampton Road
2739 W. Northwest Highway
469-335-9055 El Tacaso has good breakfast tacos, pastor and asada, but the star of this show is always the barbacoa, slow-cooked meaty goodness served in excellent corn tortillas (or flour… if you must) accompanied by the requisite onions, cilantro, limes and two varieties of house-made salsa.
Big Daddy Convenience Store
4121 Colonial Ave.
214-428-6203 Big Daddy Convenience Store (not to be confused with Big Daddy’s Supermarket about a mile away) holds court in South Dallas and can be quite a challenging drive during State Fair season. Yeah, it’s a little neighborhood bodega, but the main draw is at the back of the store, where Big Daddy and company serve downhome fried food and burgers that are as inexpensive as they are delicious. The fried pork chop basket rang in at under $5 and included fries and toast, and the burger with fries was $3.99. The small parking lot can be a challenge, so eat in your car on a side street like a champ and everything will be fine.
Ly Food Market
4440 W Illinois Ave., No. 400
214-330-9616 Ly Food Market has remained a family affair where brothers, mom, dad and occasionally grandma help prepare and serve up some wonderful Lao and Thai food in the back. We found some of the richest pork green curry here, and the Lao sausages were a revelation. Also on the menu for about $10 is Thai-style menudo, which we have yet to try. Just be sure to order at the front of the store, not the back, and maybe you can look for a wok cleaning brush while you wait.
El Palote Panaderia
2537 S. Buckner Blvd.
972-807-2637 El Palote Panaderia must certainly be where vegan dreams come true. The proteins have not only the texture of meat but amazing flavor to match. At the counter is a case full of a dozen different vegan pastries. On the weekends, there are house-made tamales. And if you're really looking to go all out, try the Flauritto, which is a burrito filled with three flautas, rice, beans, jalapeños, tomato and queso — all vegan.