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This wretched winter weather followed me to Dallas, and when I arrived it was below freezing with light sleet. Here in Dallas, that kind of weather closes schools and keeps people from work. So the ba

I ended up at: Emporium Pies:  Picked up a Drunken Nut pie (bourbon pecan w/ a shortbread crust) to take to the tailgate. Was a big hit. Smoke:  Met friends for lunch on Monday here before the tai

If you've eaten out in the Dallas area, you've probably tasted the work of Village Baking Company. For the last decade, the family-run business has added a French touch to the underdeveloped local bak

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Well Pappas Bros. steakhouse is in both towns (the only two). Good (not the absolute best) steaks, better apps and sides than most (non-Ray's) steak places, and a wine encyclopedia (Full disclosure: our wines will be on it sometime next month) that your expense account can pore over. Seems like a CEO kind of joint. Head wine guy Drew Hendricks is a really good guy.

If you want something more creative (and you want to drink great Burgundy at silly-good prices), go to Lola in Dallas.

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For Dallas:

III Forks is one of the best steak houses in the country. They have the best salad I have ever eaten. The meat is also very good. The best meal I have had in the city was at the Mansion on Turtle Creek. It is kind of like Inn at Little Washington with a Southwestern bent.

Another great meal I have had was at Nana (located in the Wyndham Annatole). It is one of the few restaurants that has both great food and a wonderful view.

Now if you are looking for something more down home, someone else will need to help since all my Dallas trips were for business.

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In either city, if you're looking for a good place to graze & grab a quick bite to eat, check out Central Market. It's far more than a grocery store (Houston location is on Westheimer approx. 5 minutes east of the Galleria, just over the railroad tracks, and the one Dallas location I know of is in Plano)!

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Last time I was in Dallas I had a really tasty vegetarian meal in a cozy old house -- not what I thought of as Dallas dining, but a friend took me there and it felt like a great little discovery.

Based on Google results for "vegetarian Dallas dining" I believe it was this place:

Cosmic Cafe

Charming restaurant in interesting old Oak Lawn home with meals served in the living room or on patio. All plant-based dishes, although many are heavy with dairy. Kitchen will work with you to remove dairy and limit fat. Eclectic 2912 Oak Lawn Av, Dallas. 214 521-6157 HHH-HHHH $-$$

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Central Market is from HEB and originated in Austin. For lack of a better description it could be called Wegman's Southwest. Arguably the only legitimate competitor to Wegman's for the title of best supermarket in the country. Their Plano location is the best in the Dallas area. The original (and largest) is in Austin.

For comparison the Austin store is about the same size as Wegman's Dulles. Flip a coin as to which is better.

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Central Market is from HEB and originated in Austin.  For lack of a better description it could be called Wegman's Southwest.  Arguably the only legitimate competitor to Wegman's for the title of best supermarket in the country.  Their Plano location is the best in the Dallas area.  The original (and largest) is in Austin.

For comparison the Austin store is about the same size as Wegman's Dulles.  Flip a coin as to which is better.

How do Raley's markets in Calif compare to CM and Wegmans? I thought they were in that league, but so far have not been able to visit one. Consumers Report is always high on them.

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[Dallas: Stephen Pyles New "Temple:" Anyone Been]

Or to Ciudad? The Dallas Morning News gives Pyles' namesake restaurant five stars. It also features a communal 18 seat table that is first come, first serve without a reservation. Really interesting concept.

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Considering that almost no one read the first post of mine on this thread I won't spend much time on this: perhaps the single best lobster dish I have ever had in my life was at Stephen Pyles on Monday night: Lobster in Coconut-Serrano Broth with Guatemalan Black Bean Mash. (fresh coconut, Serrano essence, country butter drizzled over intense mashed black beans with a shelled 1 1/2 lb. lobster). The arrangement had the claws vertical from the mash and charcoal grilled sweet white corn on the husk flanking this. Phenominal. Honestly, maybe the best lobster dish I have ever had. Anywhere on earth.) His new restaurant is superior to Star Canyon, AquaKnox, Routh Street Grill and Baby Routh. This was a GREAT dish in a great restaurant. At a minimum Dallas version of Citronelle with a Southwest flavor. In several years this will win the national Beard award. Yes, I know he has won the Southwestern but this will catapult him to the national. It is THAT good. And the 20 seat community table was a wonderful experience.

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In either city, if you're looking for a good place to graze & grab a quick bite to eat, check out Central Market.  It's far more than a grocery store...

Okay, that was impressive. Perhaps not *quite* as gargantuan as the Dulles Wegmans, but it's still pretty big. There are several shortcuts through the shelves like IKEA has shortcuts, and signs hang from the ceiling so you can locate them. Did I mention that it was impressive?

Five aisles in, and I'm still wandering through produce. We're talking a GrandMart level of variety, and then some...more produce choices than I've ever seen in a supermarket. My eyes immediately notice cardoons ($1.99/lb) packed in ice.

The seafood and meat sections are much like Wegmans, in variety, size, and quality. The wine section alone is six aisles, maybe 40' each, and six rows high. That's not including the beer section. Several racks of olive oils, including four different Colavita varieties in two sizes each.

I find the legendary Dublin Dr. Pepper and pay dearly for a six-pack. It's chilling now. Special bonus points: besides the usual "paper or plastic", they also have their own oversized sixpack totes at the checkout.

Unlike Wegmans, Central Market has a very limited selection of non-food knick-knacks. The international food section also seems small. Produce quality seemed to vary a bit more, too.

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I spent over an hour in the Plano Central Market yesterday and talked to the manager for a bit. Their largest store is their San Antonio location. Plano (one of two in the Dallas area with the other on Lovers Lane) is about 65,000 square feet. I did NOT like this as much as their original in Austin nor was it quite as large. I believe San Antonio is about 80,000 square feet and the Austin original 75,000 or so. This store was very different from Wegman's in both Sterling and Fairfax which are 130,000 and 125,000 square feet respectively. (Jungle Jim's in Middletown, OH is 280,000-the largest in America.) Also, in my post above I noted that their Austin location was almost as large as the two local Wegmans. It is not, not nearly as large, although it does SEEM large as does Plano. I think part of this is because there is no traditional grocery area which take up almost half of Wegmans. Also, spending a lot of time and having been in Wegmans Fairfax on Sunday-48 hours apart-allowed me to really think about different features of both stores:

1. In many ways its content was more similar to a very large Whole Foods.

2. Cement floor, exposed metal ceiling, the store was a kind of maze with areas devoted for produce, meat (Plano was NOT as large as the two local Wegmans nor was their seafood area), cheese (MUCH smaller than Wegmans), wine (Unbelievably HIGH prices-on par with Giant in VA suburbs but the selection was excellent.), excellent Mexican section with tortilla press and outstanding selection of salsas, prepared salads and salad bar, much smaller eat in store area than Wegmans, bakery (samples of many artisan breads although I thought Wegmans overall was better and had a MUCH larger selection), dairy (inferior to Whole Foods-no pasteurized cream or cream top milk, limited selection of butters), frozen foods (1/2 the overall area of Wegmans but again, this is NOT intended to be a store that is a complete grocery), etc.

The real comparison for Central Market is a modern twist on city markets such as the Lexington Market, Eastern Market, etc. Take Dean and DeLuca and multiply by 6 or 7 and this is Central Market although the top end stock overall is not as deep. Balducci's comes to mind for some of their locations although Central Market is still at least three times the size of, say, the McLean store. Larry's Markets in Seattle is actually the grocery store that I've been in which is most similar to Central Market.

3. As you note produce was excellent-I thought on par, perhaps even superior to Wegmans. Much of the produce was displayed packed in ice, much of it on shelves which had wheels and could be moved. The selection was larger than Wegman's.

4. Volume: they had 16 registers. Wegmans has 30 in the grocery section in Sterling plus 5 or 6 more in their prepared foods area. The Vienna Whole Foods is about 50% the size of the Central Market I was in and has eight registers: in many ways the "feeling" inside the building is similar minus the maze like layout of Central Market.

I liked Central Market a lot. But, for me, it does not compete with Wegmans larger stores. Again, it is not intended to. And, again, I think Balducci's, Whole Foods and a very, very large Dean and Deluca would be a much better analogy with features of Eatzi's thrown in.

I should also note that some of the newer Whole Foods are AS LARGE as most of the Central Markets. 60,000+ square feet. I have not been in one but my expectation is that they will be very, very similar.

Last: Central Market WAS EXPENSIVE. In league with Dean and Deluca or Balducci's. Really spending time in the store, really walking through the aisles and looking at a lot of groceries, deli, cheese, wine, etc. I found myself almost shocked at some of the prices.

This is an outstanding grocery store,clearly standing above all others in Texas and much of the U. S. But I think here it would be hurt by Wegmans. This is not a store that you would use for everyday shopping; it serves the same kind of purpose as Whole Foods, Balducci's or Dean and Deluca. I was wrong when I said above that this store was most similar to Wegmans. It had seemed that way but on this visit, this store I've changed my opinion.

Edited by Joe H
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Had a solo dine at the Tapas/Ceviche Bar at Stephen Pyles last night, and had a fantastic experience, along the lines of what Joe H describes. I saw the communal table, looks like an trend-worthy concept, but elected to dine right up at the Tapas Bar instead, with its sushi bar-like feel (easy conversation with the three cooks assembling tapas and ceviches in front of you) and great view of the open kitchen.

I started with the Halibut Ceviche, with avocado and tomatillo, and it set a very high bar for the entire meal. Sushi grade halibut cooked in key lime juice, the fish was perfect and I loved the avocado/tomatillo mixture it was combined with. I moved on to probably my favorite dish of the evening, recommended by the friendly chef behind the bar. I had the Potatoes with Quail Egg and Foie Gras, a wonderful take on meat, eggs, and potatoes. Cooked right in front of me in the wood-fired oven, it was delicious, with the delicate egg slowly continuing to cook in the heat of the dish.

My last two dishes were the Flatbread stuffed with Spicy Lamb and the Suckling Pig with Peach Empanada. The lamb was good but not up to the level of the Pork/Empanada, which was tremendous and the equal of the first two dishes I tried. I finished with their take on Coffee and Donuts, essentially home-made donuts with a coffee brulee and a cajueta sauce.

The tapas I had were easily the equal and generally surpassed what I've had at Jaleo and Zaytinya. Not sure I'll be back in Dallas any time soon, but I would certainly make it a point to return here.

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I "entertained" at Stephen Pyles on Thursday night and it was NOT the restaurant of my dreams. Certainly not what I remember from a post above. The "vanilla" lobster was not on the menu nor available as a special. Nor was the ice cream. I also discovered that there are several dining rooms "hidden" near the rear of the restaurant which must stretch the overall capacity to well over 200 seats. With approximately 15 or 16 in the open kitchen cooking this was/is not a formula for consistent excellence. In fact we found that several dishes realized the lofty level I'd experienced last June while others were very real disappointments!

Pyles has a curious layout: when you walk in the bar is to the left, the tapas/ceviche bar directly in front flanked by a 20 or so seat communal table and to the right of this, the dining room. What I discovered on my second visit is that what I thought was "the dining room" was only the first room of what totalled three dining rooms which are not visible from the front of the restaurant. We were led back through what seemed like a warren of rooms to the Odessa room...that's the Siberia of a Texas restaurant (if you will....). Anyway, for the first time I realized just how big this place really is.

Pyles is good. Perhaps very good. If I were Tom I would give it two and a half stars, reaching for three. But there are opportunities here for a great meal and a very real opportunity to leave wondering what all of the fuss is about. The Dallas Morning News calls this the best restaurant in Texas and, for me, the potential is there in some dishes. Unfortunately, I've now discovered that it is so large that your chances of having a dinner like this are like a real crapshoot: it all depends on which of the 15 or 16 in the kitchen are preparing your dish how good it is going to be. On my first visit I fell in love with this place. But in my defense I hadn't seen all of the restaurant-I had only experienced a "side of it." Stephen Pyles' has much more than what appears on the surface. His restaurant has layers of outright excellence as well as layers of very real disappointment.

Two hundred + seats goes a long way towards supporting this kind of manic depressive dining experience.

He also now has a 200+% markup on wine.

Overall, still well worth a visit. But this is not on the level of Citronelle which I once thought it was. Black's is the better comparison: a very good restaurant but not a great restaurant worthy of being called "the best." Moments, yes. But not overall.

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I'm heading to Dallas in the morning, and staying near the Galleria. Where should I eat? It doesn't need to be the fanciest, most involved meal. Just something I'll enjoy (probably at the bar) after one long day of travel and meetings and before another long day of watching someone shoot a dull commercial (which won't be 1/10 as amusing as this HEB spot). No Thai, no sushi. Moderately priced would be better than expensive.

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Hi Everyone,

I am looking for a good (but affordable) recommendation for a friend for Dallas. Does anyone know of any hole-in the wall great places? Below the Stephen Pyles price point level.

Thanks all!

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Hi Everyone,

I am looking for a good (but affordable) recommendation for a friend for Dallas. Does anyone know of any hole-in the wall great places? Below the Stephen Pyles price point level.

Thanks all!

I was down there a little while ago, but unfortunately didn't come up with much to recommend. Monica's Aca Y Alla in Deep Ellum would be my pick for decent, cheap Tex-Mex.

It's maybe a bit more expensive than what you're looking for, but the one real highlight was Lola. The regular prix fixe menu is a good deal and the amazing wine list has some of the lowest prices I've ever seen. I thought the high-end places like Fearing's and Stephen Pyles were very expensive disappointments.

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Hi Everyone,

I am looking for a good (but affordable) recommendation for a friend for Dallas. Does anyone know of any hole-in the wall great places? Below the Stephen Pyles price point level.

Thanks all!

This may be a bit far afield from what you're looking for, but the food at this Hari Krishna restaurant is excellent and cheap:

http://www.kalachandjis.com/

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Thanks for all your responses. I got a little more clarification from her- probably anything under $25 for entrees. I appreciate everyone's help, its her one meal away from a stressful wedding weekend!

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I'm going to be in Dallas for about 48 hours in November. Traveling for work so not a huge budget. Staying at the Fairmont downtown but I'm willing to hop in a cab for a $10 or so ride to someplace wonderful.

1) Is there edible food at the Fairmont?

2) Stephen Pyles has gone downhill and isn't worth it anymore, right?

3) Are there any fun markets or chocolatiers or bakeries downtown?

Thanks!

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The French Room in Dallas. I had a fine dinner at the French Room in Dallas last night. The service was exemplary, the wine list well chosen with some good wines at reasonable prices. As an older woman, dining alone, I especially appreciated the care -- and that I was not treated as an oddity in any way.

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Bump!

I'm heading back to Dallas and looking for a mid-week dinner spot pretty much anywhere between the Galleria and Plano. There will be 8-10 of us. It's a business dinner so price isn't a big deal, but convivial atmosphere and good food are.

Suggestions?

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Add me to the list of folks looking for a place in Dallas.

I'm trying to arrange a dinner on a Saturday night for a group of roughly 20 with a tab of <$20/person, (not including EtOH) within walking distance or an inexpensive cab ride from the Hyatt Regency on 300 Reunion Boulevard (it's near Union Station). The food will need to be something that works for vegetarians, but otherwise no real limits.

It pains me beyond belief to be charged with this responsibility. Any help very gratefully accepted.

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Add me to the list of folks looking for a place in Dallas.

I'm trying to arrange a dinner on a Saturday night for a group of roughly 20 with a tab of <$20/person, (not including EtOH) within walking distance or an inexpensive cab ride from the Hyatt Regency on 300 Reunion Boulevard (it's near Union Station). The food will need to be something that works for vegetarians, but otherwise no real limits.

It pains me beyond belief to be charged with this responsibility. Any help very gratefully accepted.

Asked a long-time pal in Dallas what he would recommend. Here's his intel:

"...In that area, it is VERY touristy. Mostly a choice between Tex-Mex and Steak houses. Not very many vegetarian places. Cab rides aren't too expensive, but not as many cabs as you'd think for a city. Everyone drives or takes the trains....there are a few decent places nearby, Pei Wei is decent and has vegetarian dishes (and serves mango dishes--even better) but is of course nothing to write home about. If you want the 'much' better and locals known places, you are going to have to get a little ways out of the city proper else you will be spending an arm and a leg. In that area, it is either tourist trap or high end expensive. There is the aquarium and they have a restaurant although I have never eaten there..."

That sounds bleak! Hopefully others have ideas.

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Add me to the list of folks looking for a place in Dallas.

I'm trying to arrange a dinner on a Saturday night for a group of roughly 20 with a tab of <$20/person, (not including EtOH) within walking distance or an inexpensive cab ride from the Hyatt Regency on 300 Reunion Boulevard (it's near Union Station). The food will need to be something that works for vegetarians, but otherwise no real limits.

It pains me beyond belief to be charged with this responsibility. Any help very gratefully accepted.

I mentioned this above but will repeat http://www.kalachandjis.com/ . (I haven't been there in several years but had a good experience there.) It's cheap and vegetarian, with an interesting ambiance. It's a buffet. It appears to be 4-5 miles from where you'll be, and I don't know how expensive a cab ride that is. I ate there in a group but not as large as yours. You might need to make advance arrangements for 20 people to sit together. No alcohol, if that's an issue.

ETA: I should mention its Hare Krishna affiliation, just because I guess I should.

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Thanks, Pat and KMango. I'm going to be in Dallas with a professional society conference. This is a regular request of mine (you could look around this time in the Atlanta thread and find a similar request) and is never an accomplishable goal--there are never good, low key, inexpensive restaurants within a cheap taxi ride of major convention/downtown type areas.

I ended up choosing some place called Iron Cactus Mexican Restaurant and Margarita Bar. I'm so pained by needing to routinely (if only annually) accomplish this impossible task that I shouldn't have even posted here. I knew that there was nothing chow-ish that would fit the request of the crazy person who assigns me this task.

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I'm headed to Texas on Friday for a long weekend. Staying with a friend who lives in Plano, although we will be in Austin for the day/night Friday. I will check the Austin thread for recs there, but any can't miss places in the Plano area? I'll be with a group of friends who aren't all foodies and may be more budget conscious than me so I'm thinking less upscale dining and more local cuisine, something as simple as good BBQ, that sort of thing. Thanks!

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I'm headed to Texas on Friday for a long weekend. Staying with a friend who lives in Plano, although we will be in Austin for the day/night Friday. I will check the Austin thread for recs there, but any can't miss places in the Plano area? I'll be with a group of friends who aren't all foodies and may be more budget conscious than me so I'm thinking less upscale dining and more local cuisine, something as simple as good BBQ, that sort of thing. Thanks!

I don't know that it's a "can't miss," but I went with some locals for the lunch buffet here a few years ago and enjoyed it: http://japanhouseplano.com/ The also have a dinner buffet, which is more expensive, but it shouldn't be a deal breaker.

It seems kind of cheesy on the surface, but they have quite a selection on the buffet(s), and the service was great. I'd go back. (I know the person who selected it from a foodie mailing list I've been on it seems forever.)

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I’ve got nothing for Houston, but this reminded me to post some places I’ve eaten after a few months in Dallas. In no order of preference:

Italian

Cane Rosso (Deep Ellum) -- Remember Dino Santonicola from Pizzeria Da Marco? He’s here, front and center, manning the Neapolitan oven in this very busy restaurant.

The "Delia" pizza seems standard enough (mozzarella, roasted grape tomatoes, arugula), but is worth ordering for one reason: bacon marmalade. Sweet, smoky, and coupled perfectly with the arugula, the only complaint would be there wasn’t more of it. Guess it’s a food cost killer.

Crust-wise, it was excellent. Char, texture, chew…it’s all there. I never made it to Da Marco, but this pizza was better than 2 Amys, very comparable to Pizzeria Orso before Edan MacQuaid left, and just a shade behind Pupatella.

One interesting note: They've been running a special "Industry Night" on Mondays, where a Dallas chef comes to the kitchen and invents his or her own pizza. Dean Fearing and Tre Wilcox were recent guests, while toppings have included burnt ends, beef tongue and tater tots (not all at once). It’s a fun idea, and something that’d be cool to see in one of the D.C. pizzerias.

Mexican

Meso Maya (North Dallas) -- You couldn’t tell by the strip mall location, but this is a stylish restaurant serving modernized Tex-Mex, with an emphasis on Mexican. Broad appeal items receive a little twist: Yes, those are brisket enchiladas, but they’re topped with roasted tomatillo sauce instead of chili con carne, and come wrapped in homemade blue corn tortillas.

There’s also more “authentic” fare, like cochinita pibil and queso fundido. Simple is best here: elotes, pozole and the aforementioned tortillas arrive with more grace than the average street cart. Come with your quesadilla-loving friends and order something interesting for yourself.

Fuel City Tacos (West Dallas) -- Yes, another taqueria inside a gas station. The actual “Fuel City” is more akin to those oversized rest stations, and located as such. Still, it was steadily busy during lunch despite not being a convenient detour.

Most known are the picadillo tacos, filled with ground beef, (mushy) diced potatoes and “green sauce”. Good flavor, but I preferred the moist barbacoa. All the better with a Jarrito and cup of elotes.

They’re open 24 hours, so mileage will vary depending on blood alcohol level and the consistency of their heating trays. Whether you think them great or not, eating here seems a rite of passage for any Dallas food lover.

El Tizoncito (Oak Cliff, North Dallas) -- The Starbucks of taquerias inside -- an actual sit-down, casual restaurant with servers in uniform, tables and chairs made after Y2K, and multiple flat-screen televisions. But despite two separate locations in Dallas, it’s not a cookie-cutter franchise (yet).

Everyone gets a gratis starter of black bean soup served burning hot, which is cilantro-forward and quite tasty. For tacos, I’d stick with the pastor. They actually have a trompo you can see, which most places serving pastor do not. Everything else is up to code: double corn tortillas, minutely diced onion, pineapple and cilantro. Cheap and satisfying.

Mariana’s Taco Shop (Frisco) -- Smells good from the parking lot. If five tables, old paintings, a majority Mexican clientele and no air conditioning signal authenticity, this place has it.

All the basic Mexican tacos are here (carnitas probably being their best), but the rest of the menu suggests transplanted Californians running the place. Hard-shell tacos are fried to order, with shredded beef or chicken -- crispy, juicy deliciousness. Burritos are also San Diego-style (no rice, most with no beans, no sauce). Taquitos arrive on the bland side, but take advantage of the salsa bar -- good pico, tomatillo salsa, and hot pickled carrots.

If you’re going to a FC Dallas soccer match (and there’s no reason for a visitor to be in Frisco otherwise), make a stop here.

American

Lockhart Smokehouse (Oak Cliff) -- Many would say that real barbecue is not to be found in The Metroplex, and I’m not in a position to argue otherwise. My only brush with authentic barbecue was a half decade eating pork and vinegar in North Carolina (which I loved…a pig pickin’ is culinary nirvana).

The brisket here, though, has changed how good I thought beef barbecue could be. Meltingly juicy, with neither fat or salt overpowering the taste. A deep smoke flavor throughout, and a candied, peppery bark. It needed nothing.

Shoulder clod is the same price as brisket -- $15 a pound, although they’ll gladly slice you a quarter-pound portion -- but is explained as leaner and beefier-tasting. It’s certainly leaner, to the point of needing some sauce to waken it. Might try it again, might not. Haven’t bothered with any sides yet, although they do serve Kreuz sausages.

Is it great Texas barbecue? I couldn’t say. It’s certainly great to me, and will serve in place of a four-hour trip to Hill Country for now.

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse (Northwest Dallas / Love Field) -- A classic steakhouse experience, without feeling like you’ve intruded on a private CEO club. Dimly lit and romantic, yet energetic and comfortable enough for family and friends.

Dry-aged steaks were cooked exactly to order. Well-trimmed, seasoned with salt and pepper, finished with butter, no complaints. Family-style sides were also memorable, including a crab macaroni and cheese that was the richest bite of the night. The only dish to be missed was the Caesar salad; a lifeless edition that might have been crafted by one of Olive Garden’s Tuscan culinary artists.

I can’t speak on the quality of the wine list, but it is extensive at a glance and should have something for everyone. Our waiter helped us find a very enjoyable bottle that met our modest budget.

The rest of the service was old school but not condescending; requests for Bordeaux or booster seats are met with the same attention. A small platoon of hostesses stand ready at the front -- ask where the bathroom is, and one will break from the pack to lead you there. If you’re in the mood for a steak and have the disposable income for some coddling, I can’t see this place being a disappointment.

Maple and Motor (Oak Lawn) -- Reminiscent of a southwest Ray’s Hell-Burger (although not as good). Huge lunch crowds, order-before-sitting policy, and a charismatic, on-site owner who dislikes hostile customers -- note the bottomless “suggestion box” above a trash can. Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives just filmed here in December, but don’t hold that against them.

Burgers are six ounces but seem thinner, with a salty crust from the flat-top. It’s a tasty, messy affair (the butter-glossed bun disintegrates before finishing) that’s much better when you ditch the lettuce, out-of-season tomato, and red onion for bacon, grilled jalapenos and a fried egg instead.

Fries are frozen but McDonald’s-style perfected. You can really embrace Texas and have them covered in cheese, bacon and jalapenos, with dipping ranch on the side. Fried bologna and brisket sandwiches available for those with burger burn-out.

Twisted Root Burger Company (Deep Ellum) -- The original location is here, but they’ve since franchised across Dallas and the suburbs. It’s a decent burger, with decent sides and house-made root beer. Works in a pinch.

In-N-Out Burger (Multiple locations) -- Awesome. A double-double, animal-style, is likely the best fast food burger in America. Also the friendliest and most efficient service I’ve seen in its category, one-upping Chick-fil-A. This is what Five Guys and Shake Shack wish they were.

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Pecan Lodge (Dallas Farmers Market, Shed 2) -- Either the best or second-best barbecue in the Dallas, depending on the day (alternating with Lockhart Smokehouse).

I've had brisket ($7.50 / half pound) here that was merely good, but a recent edition was closer to phenomenal. Opposed to their namesake, they actually use mesquite for smoking, a divisive choice that's pronounced in the final product. It's never been acrid to me, but I realize many dislike the flavor.

Regardless, the crust was pure smoked candy (the dry rub flavor still shined through), and the perfectly rendered fat running through the meat was sublime. I’m strictly a fan of their fatty brisket, and had a lesser experience when ordering lean…then again, I'm not much for lean brisket in general.

The rest of the menu varies in quality. Pork ribs and homemade sausages are worth trying, and they also offer a few non-traditional items: a barbacoa-topped sweet potato and brisket tacos being two examples. Sides are inconsistent; my last order of fried okra ($2) was over-breaded, unseasoned and left in the fryer too long.

That aside, the reason to eat here is the brisket. It should be noted that a recent appearance on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives has raised their profile -- gone are the inconspicuous waits, replaced by a forming line of 30 before they even open. Not exactly a Franklin Barbecue situation, but try and get there early (11:00 a.m., Thursday through Sunday).

Hypnotic Donuts (Lakewood) -- If you're looking for a Gourdough's experience in Dallas, this is your place. I find these Voodoo derivatives more nauseating than hypnotic, but don't let me discourage you from getting a donut with peanut butter, bacon and sliced bananas on it.

In fact, to a degree I admire their ingredient perversity. Serrano peppers, crumbled Pop Tarts, Captain Crunch…they have clearly pushed their chips all in. Fortunately, they offer simpler versions (both cake and yeast) for the traditionalists. I had a great cinnamon bun my last visit.

They also do a pretty good fried chicken biscuit ($6), which dabbles in the same overzealousness as the donuts but comes plainly if asked. Cooked to order, it's like a supersized version of Chick-fil-A’s chicken biscuit…almost overwhelmingly so. Tasty though.

It's a little expensive, a little over my head, but I enjoy the regular donuts and the owners are friendly. Worth support if you're local, and maybe a stop if you're a visitor who enjoys these kinds of saccharine creations.

Babe's Chicken Dinner House (multiple locations) -- A family restaurant chain that is quintessentially Texan. Originally started two decades ago in Roanoke (about 20 minutes from DFW Airport), the set-up at every location is charmingly simple: Pick an entrée, gorge on the unlimited sides, eat lots of biscuits and finish with a slice of homemade pie. All for $12 (minus dessert).

The majority of patrons will order fried chicken or chicken fried steak, and you should too. Each are delicious, and benefit from being so popular -- I assume that there's very little time for product to sit around or be under-prepped. I'm not to say whether either is the "best" of their kind, but that's not really the point of Babe's.

As interpretations of southern food become more haute, I love the throwback atmosphere here. The friendly waitresses, incredible kitsch on the walls (I spotted a swordfish painted like a cow, which was amazing), pineapple upside down cake and generations of families eating Friday dinner together. Very classic.

Good 2 Go Taco (East Dallas) -- You can't drive a half mile around Dallas without seeing a couple taquerias, but this is not one of them. Rather, it's an alternative taco shop, with scant Mexican influence (i.e., for white people). Think lamb and tzatziki tacos with whimsical names.

I'm mostly here for the breakfast tacos, which are available all day and a bit more restrained than their lunch items. It's nothing earth-moving, just well-done combinations of fresh spinach, eggs, cheese, and a protein. Both the "Paris, TX" ($4), with hanger steak, and "Honey Bear" ($3.50), with honey bacon, hit all the right notes of sweet-salty-cheesy. Arriving on the larger flour tortillas, each are sizable enough as a light meal.

Most importantly, everything here is (usually) cooked properly. I realize that sounds like a backhanded compliment, but for a fast-casual place serving hundreds a day, simple done right is worth commending. Hell, a lot of sit-down restaurants are struggling with that.

Stackhouse Burger (East Dallas) -- I know, another necessary addition to the burger food pyramid in America. No points for the creative concept, but Stackhouse does achieve some things worth visiting for.

Firstly, they take a pragmatic approach to burger ($5.95) assembly. Pickles, tomatoes and onions are all sliced to a uniform, mechanical thinness, which makes for awesome layering. Everything in every bite; none of that slip-and-slide of toppings when flair overtakes sensible eating technique. The profit margins are in the extra toppings, so I'd skip most of those (they also upset the aforementioned ratios). And if you order a double, disregard everything I typed and get a fork.

Bypass the fries here. They're not bad, but the potato chips ($2.75) are that much better. Made in-house and fried until golden, these are crispy, thin, and non-greasy. A quality sour cream dip, flecked with chives and roasted garlic, comes on the side.

In addition to those positives, this is just a cool place to relax. Since it was built inside an old house, it achieves this amalgamation of a neighborhood bar, quick-serve restaurant, and patio hangout. Fits a lot of moods.

Meshack's Bar-B-Que Shack (Garland) -- I'd say the pilgrimage for great barbecue is part of the fun, at least until you check your gas receipts. A short trip to Garland hardly counts, but driving into the suburbs and looking for an un-GPS-marked, roadside smokehouse can be a bit exotic for city folk.

Anyway, once you find it, the small building has all the earmarks of deliciousness: piles of pecan wood outside, haphazard unmarked parking to ward off the timid, and a constant billow of meat-scented smoke.

Get in line at the screen window, and make sure to order the pork ribs or sliced brisket ($8.50). Both have that deep smoke flavor, and the pecan differentiates it from the many oak-based joints. If there's a dry rub being used it's scant, and there appears to be some East Texas (?) influences as well -- meats come sauced unless otherwise noted. The sauce itself is homemade and tasty, I just prefer my brisket without.

Bring cash, plan on eating in your car, and come early.

Paciugo Gelato (multiple locations) -- I've eaten a lot of Dolcezza, and this is definitely not Dolcezza. It’s less expensive, however, and really the only prevalent gelato option around Dallas. A decent indulgence as long as you avoid some unfortunate concoctions. The "tre vaniglie" is one such misfire -- supposedly a mix of Tahitian, Mexican and Madagascar vanilla beans, what I tasted was closer to cake batter. Other flavors (coconut, chocolate, hazelnut) fared better, so just remember to sample before committing.

----

My ability to describe coffee with nuance is limited, but I do enjoy the stuff, and have been sampling the various offerings around Dallas. Highly subjective notes to follow:

Cultivar Coffee (East Dallas) -- A four-seat coffee bar inside of Good 2 Go Taco (they'll gladly combine your ticket if you want to order food) and my favorite cup in Dallas. They roast on-site every Tuesday and Wednesday, with a rotating choice of beans (most recently a Guatemalan blend). Brewed via French press, they take a lot of care with roasting and I've always had very balanced, delicious coffee here. The owners are usually the working baristas, which is a bonus if you want to pester them with inquiries.

Oddfellows (Oak Cliff) -- Not a coffee house, rather a full-service restaurant with an emphasis on their coffee program. A standard cup is done with the pour-over method, using beans from Cuvée (Austin). I'm not obsessed with pour-over, but I appreciate the effort.

I'm also not much for espresso, but they do have a La Marzocco Strada here -- just in case you wondered what caffeine from a $15,000 machine tastes like. Thanks to the larger space, they feature a number of cupping classes and other events if that's your thing.

Mercantile Coffee House (Downtown Dallas) -- More pour-overs here, using Intelligentsia for their house offering. As good as Oddfellows to my undiscerning palate, and the standout option for those downtown.

Pearl Cup (East Dallas) -- Parking here is a pain in the ass, although that's relative to what city you drive in (it's probably just standard for areas in DC). Anyway, no gold-plated kettles or clockwise pours here, just regular coffee via the automatic drip warhorse. Not as memorable as the above three places, but good on its own. They also have a kiosk downtown, which comes with a sterile lobby atmosphere but is the same otherwise.

Murray Street Coffee House (Deep Ellum) -- More of a nice hangout than serious coffee house. Downstairs is cramped but the second floor is quite comfortable, reminiscent of a trendy refurbished loft. Although if it wasn't independently owned, I'm not sure the coffee would seem much different from Starbucks. Which is fine; I like Starbucks in a lot of instances.

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Saw this thread pop up and it reminded me that I never posted a review of my one meal out while in the Dallas area. It's technically in Plano, TX, but we had a really great meal at Whiskey Cake.Unfortunately a lot of time has passed, but I remember really liking the pulled pork slider app and the pork chop entree and the whiskey cake the restaurant is named for was one of the most amazing desserts I've had. I also had a great cocktail.

Sorry I'm short on specifics, but I would definitely recommend it if you're in the area. They focus on farm to table cuisine and grow a lot of their own herbs and produce. I loved the design, including a really nice lounge area around the bar and some very cool porch swings. Very hipster vibe overall, and great service.

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Lucia

From all accounts, the closing of Lola (mentioned up-thread) was a lamentable affair. To Dallas’ relief, however, Lola chef David Uygur converted the demise into opportunity -- staying within the city to create his own Italian-inspired venture, Lucia.

Lucia opened in December of 2010, and a month later was proclaimed “the best new restaurant in Texas” by the New York Times (via Texas Monthly). Reservations have remained booked since then, although four bar seats are always held for walk-ins, and quite obtainable on a weeknight whim. I actually prefer these seats, as they are right on top of an appetizer section and overlook the pass.

Despite such popularity, Lucia counters many preconceptions about Dallas dining. It’s comfortable and unfussy, with a homey appeal that assuages the tight space (just 36 seats, mostly spanning two banquettes). Uygur’s gregarious wife Jennifer runs the front of house and wine program, along with an attentive but not overbearing staff. The clientele is also from all walks; you may see suits, you may see jeans, and neither seem out of place.

While the menu changes daily, the focus is on rustic Italian (although not limited to just that). A recent meal:

House-baked bread and warm olives -- Dinner starts with this duo, the former being a delicious no-knead version and the latter served simply.

Crostini with n’duja, soft scrambled eggs and chives ($11) -- Uygur’s proficiency with charcuterie is not to be missed. A wonderful board of salumi misti is always available, but this version of n’duja is a separate treat. The spreadable n’duja (a fiery-tinted mix of fatty pork and red chili) is smoky, spicy, and balanced perfectly by the eggs. Apparently the original Calabrian recipe calls for three times as much heat -- Uygur first pared it down to half its potency, but that was still too much for customers.

Spaghetti with sea urchin, Aleppo, chives and toasted garlic breadcrumbs ($15) -- Of the daily pasta choices, spaghetti and gnocchi remain constants on the menu. You’d be lucky to have this version. There’s not much to expound upon, because everything was as good as it reads.

Salumi caramelle with brodo Parmigiano and cavolo nero ($15) -- A new variety to me, the caramelle were small pasta wrappers filled with salumi and twist-tied at the ends. Reminiscent of Bit-O-Honey candy in appearance, while far superior in taste.

Duck breast with lady cream peas, pickled cherries, foie gras butter and dragoncello ($26) -- The secondi seem to be the safety net of the menu, and sized only in proportion to a full Italian meal progression. If you skip a course, it may not be a filling entrée on its own. Regardless, the duck was cooked properly and paired reliably with cherries. My favorite part was the foie gras butter, which made an excellent sauce for the peas.

Fennel pollen gelato with canary melon and candied fennel ($8) -- Desserts at small restaurants, sans a more complete pastry department, can often seem throwaway. Although Uygur does keep his dolci simple, there are twists that show a savory chef’s influence. Nothing is overly sweet or manipulated, his one chocolate dish is a bittersweet budino, and in winter he’ll put a blood-thickened pudding on the menu. This particular example was for licorice lovers only, as the applications of fennel could not be more intense. Aggressively perfect for my taste and the unending Texas heat.

As mentioned, Lucia is as esteemed a restaurant as Dallas can boast, earning the highest reviews from the Dallas Morning News (although I think very little of their standards: http://eater.com/arc...m-a-blogger.php), D Magazine, and crazy people on Yelp. I would concur with such placing. It’s not a revelatory experience, but an immensely comforting one, and worth seeking out for any visitor.

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Cavalli Pizza Napoletana, 3601 Regent Blvd #115, Irving, TX 75063

A nondescript strip mall in Irving houses Cavalli, one of the three VPN-certified pizzerias in Texas.

The venue is small, casual, inexpensive, and easy to find near the DFW airport.  Twenty or so mesh wire tables combine with another half-dozen outdoor sets, which seems insufficient to seat the droves of fans during peak times.  Irving is one of two Cavalli locations, and this one provides fast casual ordering at the counter followed by table delivery.

What They Tell You:  Jalapeno and Artichoke Dip $7, served with Crostini; a bland description on the brief menu.

What They Don't Tell You:  The crostini is from a freshly-rolled, elongated loaf of pizza dough that puffs in the blistering oven right in front of you, then is cut and crisped back in the oven just before serving.  They don't tell you that it will be graced with the fruity and full palate experience of a top-notch olive oil.  Or that the dip is mousse-like in texture, rich with chopped artichoke heart, accented by the spicy pep-kick from seasonally bursting jalapenos, and topped with the brow-raising sharpness of exceptional Parmigiano.  And they certainly won't tell you this is one of the best artichoke dips you will have ever had, they'll let it be the sleeper of the menu.

Those crazy Cavallis!

They also won't tell you that a $7.25 12-inch (personal size) Margherita will not be enough.  So you'll need to order more than one pie, or choose a larger pie, because leftovers would be an honorable thing.  The brightness of the tomato and absolute majesty of the ideal amount of house-made mozzarella make this classic a must-have.

Parking is ample.  Unlike beloved Pupatella in Virginia, there is no designated waiting area for takeout orders, so you'll wind up bumping against bussers and patrons.  Minimize waiting by calling ahead and choosing from the menu ahead of time.

And order a lot.

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My friend and I will be traveling to Dallas in early November for a Cowboys game.  We will be arriving on Saturday afternoon and flying back on Monday morning.  I'm not worried much about restaurants now, but I am interested in what people have to say about good areas in Dallas to stay.  As I said, we will be staying there on Saturday and Sunday night.  Both of those nights we will likely stick close to the hotel for some drinks, so having nice bars close by would be nice.

Any suggestions?  Hotel suggestions would be nice, but if I just got some ideas of nice areas of town that would be good too.

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Daan Asian Sushi Bistro & Bar, 2805 E Grapevine Mills Cir, Grapevine, TX 76051

Tucked away in the corner of the Grapevine Mills parking lot, Daan Sushi met the three-fold early-dinner criteria check:  (1)  less than five minutes away from a 6PM appointment, (2)  open for dinner at 5PM, (3) rated highly by numerous social media outlets.

Alas, it met three checks to get in, and swung three flavor strikes to get out.  I won't be back.  The décor was clean line/black lacquer, the service friendly and efficient, but food quality edged just past food court and a stop below convenience store.  Hot and Sour Soup was warm in temperature only with assertive salt preventing any semblance of tang.  Dolsot Bibimbap ($13.95) arrived in a sizzling pot with lower-end stoneware insufficiently warm to enable crispy rice.  Components of sliced cucumber, seaweed, soybean sprouts and julienned carrot were off-the-supermarket-shelf pedestrian and worse, neither pickled nor seasoned.   This was bland in a bowl that no amount of squeeze-bottle hot sauce would salvage.

The much-revered Ahi Tuna Tower (spicy tuna, rice, three types of caviar, avocado, other components, $14.95) soared high above the plate, appearing promisingly flavorful.  Once mashed to a monotone pulp by the server, however, it looked and tasted far less than the sum of its parts.   The metallic marker of surimi dominated the palate, with no textural intrigue and a glaring lack of specificity of what one was tasting.  This would be a much better dish if re-conceptualized, served with a stack of Nori leaves to punch up salinity or as a dip for a newly conceived Asian-fusion dipping vessel.

Why the social media rave reviews of this place?  For one, it can be inexpensive; two for $20 for generous-quantity maki; two for $24 for massive specialty rolls.  Another secret to success is the maki menu's eye-popping selection of toppings guaranteed to mask any flavor of fish, with more baked and bizarre rolls than a Denver marijuana dispensary.  I can see groups having a fun time here, finding this an exotic reprieve after a long day of shopping at the adjacent Mills.  It's a specific target market, I am not in it, thus my search continues for memorable-quality sushi and sashimi in the DFW area.

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The Bar at Cool River Café, 1045 Hidden Ridge, Irving, Texas, 75038

Yes, it's an excessive, expansive cathedral disguised as a dark wood bar.

Yes, that is likely the largest sports screen you've ever seen outside of a stadium.

Yes, that was last year's linebacker and this year's safety who just walked by.

Yes, the nighttime cocktail waitresses wear little clothing, and look fresh off a photo shoot.

It's Texas, ya'll.

From the street, you would never know that this outpost of the Cool River Café chain is the place to see and be seen in Irving.  One hint would be that valet parking is available most nights, and necessary, as crowds can easily fill the lots on a random mid-week evening.  Once you enter, the restaurant looms to the left, the bar to the right.  The left offers an upscale steakhouse, created with careful attention to atmospheric details, a dimly lit leather and wood retreat.  The usual suspect beef cuts are cooked as expected ($25 - $40), a la carte vegetables steamed, sautéed, or baked as expected ($7.50), the white linen table crumber deployed after the main course as expected.  The only thing unexpected was the Cajun-fried rock lobster tail (market price), a miracle of shatter-crisp seasoning with moist and briny meat, an unusual offering for this setting.  Crispy crustacean aside, the real draw here is the bar for the carnival of pretty people in an impressively refined setting.

Unlike the restaurant, smoking is allowed in the bar and in the adjacent cigar room reminiscent of a billionaire's library.  Powerful filtration and ionic-boost air filters prevent an offending cloud cover, a triumph of expensive technology.  The lingering scent will still make you launder your clothes and wash your hair, but you won't notice in the moment that others are celebrating their right to choose poorly.

The bar menu ($9 - $20) offers the obligatory carne asada tacos, quesadillas, and a flavor-packed chipotle "mud" black bean dip.  What it misses in imagination it makes up in quality, food composed carefully from solid ingredients, and easy to enjoy while you hit a few cue balls or cheer a few long throws.

Yes, the speaker system will awe you with crystalline sound that somehow does not diminish your companion's spoken airwaves.

Yes, the depth of by-the-glass wine and infinite cocktail options are impressive.

Yes, Tuesday is cigar night where you can learn to roll your own.

Yes, this is Dallas.

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[You guys keep this up, and we're going to have a Dallas forum sooner rather than later. I know of three valuable dr.com members who have moved to Dallas within the past few months, and if the three of you agreed to be forum hosts, I'd be just about ready to pull the trigger. Can you talk amongst yourselves? I'd very much like to give you three the credit you deserve.]

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My friend and I will be traveling to Dallas in early November for a Cowboys game.  We will be arriving on Saturday afternoon and flying back on Monday morning.  I'm not worried much about restaurants now, but I am interested in what people have to say about good areas in Dallas to stay. 

Not sure if you're flying to DFW or Love, but where you stay depends on your priorities. Arlington is great for location to the stadium, there's a number of average bars, but you'll be driving to them and everything else there is nondescript.

Irving / Las Colinas is close enough to the stadium and even better for airport proximity (DFW), but can be a ghost town after 8 p.m. depending on where you stay. There are probably more restaurant options than Arlington (see KMango's posts), but again, you'll still need a car.

That leaves downtown Dallas. You'll spend more time getting to and from the game, but you'll have the most options for entertainment. Downtown itself is sleepier than you'd imagine, but centrally located to other popular neighborhoods and with decent access to I-30 for your trip to JerryWorld. Several stand-out restaurants will be open Sunday night too, if that's part of the plan.

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More of an observation than a specific reflection/review...

Parmesan-spiked polenta croutons are a popular menu ingredient in this town.  Not sure if it's the gluten-free focus, ubiquity of corn, or a quiet uprising of alternative grain/vegetable/pseudocereal choices in the culinary Artist Formerly Known As Wheat.

Whatever the cause, I am a fan.

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