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Best of Big D: Food & Drink 2013

Our annual selections for the finest beverages and bites in Dallas.
By D Magazine |
Photography by Kevin Marple

Photography by Kevin Marple

Best Margarita
Stampede 66

Thank you, Stephan Pyles, for bringing back the Modern Star Canyon Margarita. We have been craving it since Star Canyon closed. The deliciously refreshing blend of cactus fruit purée, fresh lime juice, agave syrup, Patron Citronage, and a Herradura Tequila made and aged especially for Stampede 66 is now available two ways. We prefer it on the rocks, but our modern friends love the tableside version that is frozen with liquid nitrogen and topped with warm passion fruit bubbles.

Readers’ Pick: El Fenix

Best Steakhouse
Al Biernat’s

This tony steakhouse serves the most gorgeous 14-ounce filet you will ever eat. The menu also boasts impressive salads, fresh seafood, and a coconut pie like no other. The dining room is packed every night, but success hasn’t gone to Al Biernat’s head. Since opening his upscale steakhouse in 1998, he has hosted more celebrities than any other restaurant in town. And he’s at the front door every night, ready to treat you like one.

Readers’ Pick: Bob’s Steak & Chop House

Best Fish Market
TJ’s Seafood Market

This family-owned fish market opened in Preston Forest in 1989. Since then, TJ’s has not only survived the competition from the massive seafood display cases at Whole Foods across the street, it has grown to two locations. The second shop offers a sit-down, eat-in area and a full catering menu. Owner Jon Alexis sends emails, tweets, and Facebook posts to announce the arrival of every fish.

Readers’ Pick: Central Market

Photography by Joshua Martin
Best Brewery

Peticolas Brewing Company

always delivers on taste and craft. If it’s not winning national awards
for its Royal Scandal English Pale Ale, Peticolas is keeping our taste
buds delighted at nearly every tap in town with its sumptuous, yet
highly drinkable, Velvet Hammer Imperial Red Ale. It is locally divined
craftsmanship like this that has helped transform the craft beer scene
in Dallas into something magnificent. Just remember to enjoy slowly.
These bad boys can tip the 10-percent alcohol scale.

Readers’ Pick: Deep Ellum Brewing Company

Best Chinese Restaurant
Yao Fuzi Cuisine

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: this intimate Chinese restaurant hidden in a strip mall in Plano serves sophisticated and unique food. Chef Alex Yao and his son, Chris, are hands-on co-owners. They make sure the service is smooth and the food is hot. Chris offers tips on wine pairings while Alex mans the kitchen. Alex trained at the Shanghai Hilton and many of the items are “Shanghainese,” but you’ll also find familiar regional Chinese offerings.

Readers’ Pick: Royal China

Best Pizza Place
Cane Rosso

Jay Jerrier’s mission to bring authentic Neapolitan pizza to Dallas has been accomplished. His successful Deep Ellum spot is now joined by a sister restaurant near White Rock Lake. He has a cult of pizzaholics who follow his every tweet and Facebook post. Like glassy-eyed zombies, they wait for hand-stretched pies topped with house-made mozzarella and too many options to count. Gluttons go for the s’mores calzone; wimps stick to gelato.

Readers’ Pick: Campisi’s

Best Italian Restaurant

Coming back to dallas after touring Italy is never easy. Your palate is used to a daily dose of fresh pasta, cheese, subtle sauces, and Italian wine. Until 2006, we drowned our sorrows in marinara sauce. Now we head to Nonna for owner/chef Julian Barsotti’s remarkable handmade pastas (loved Siena!), pizzas and bread from the wood-fired grill (just like Tuscany!), and fried baby artichokes (ah, the glories of Rome). Whatever the season, Barsotti’s menu will transport you back to a place you wish you’d never left.

Readers’ Pick: Lucia

Best Fried Chicken
Babe’s Chicken Dinner House

Fried chicken is having its culinary moment, popping up on menus by celebrated chefs. But for roll-up-your-sleeves, lick-your-fingers, old-fashioned fried chicken, we always head to Babe’s in Roanoke. Though it has expanded to nine locations over the years, we still prefer the original Babe’s, housed in a 1908-era historic building in the northern suburb’s downtown. Its no-frills yet expertly fried chicken features a thick crispy crust and succulent meat.

Readers’ Pick: Babe’s Chicken Dinner House

Photography by Kevin Marple

Best Food Truck
Easy Slider

slingers Caroline Perini and Miley Holmes serve 3-ounce Angus beef
sliders with crazy good toppings. The Sweet & Lowdown features
strawberry jam, bacon, and goat cheese. The Roadside is made with onion
strings, barbecue sauce, and grilled jalapeños. The buns are baked daily
and the sauces are made in the truck.

Readers’ Pick: Easy Slider

Best Seafood Restaurant
Spoon Bar & Kitchen

The dining room filled with shimmering tea lights, Bernardaud china, and crystal stemware provides the perfect backdrop for chef John Tesar’s elegant seafood creations. Razor clam tartare, eight crudo offerings, butter-poached Maine lobster, and an exotic seafood ramen highlight the menu. David Collier’s desserts are three-course wonders. The scene is glamorous without pretension, and the cuisine is refined and approachable.

Readers’ Pick: Fish City Grill

Best Sandwich Shop
Off-Site Kitchen

If sloppy sandwiches oozing quality ingredients are your thing, this casual counter-service spot is your Mecca. Example No. 1: pork shoulder is slow cooked, placed on a Village Baking Co. roll, and piled high with griddled onions, pickles, and a mound of Carolina slaw. Example No. 2: the 48-hour brisket—slathered with cherry pepper mayo and topped with caramelized onions and thick melted Swiss cheese—requires two large hands and five napkins.

Readers’ Pick: Jimmy’s Food Store

Best Breakfast
Crossroads Diner

The light and fluffy buttermilk pancakes get all of the press, but this diner offers a list of fancy frittatas, along with house-made corned beef hash, granola, sticky buns, and muffins. Eggs? They do eggs any way you want them. But don’t forget to add a side of pancakes. You know, the light and fluffy buttermilk pancakes you read about all of the time.

Readers’ Pick: Cafe Brazil

Best Thai Restaurant
Royal Thai

Most dallas diners were not familiar with the centuries-old flavors of Thai food when Royal Thai opened in 1992. Now dishes scented with galangal, kaffir lime, and turmeric are scarfed down regularly. We come to Royal Thai for the food, but we stay to bask in the warm ambience of the dining room with warm wooden walls, ornately carved gold panels, and festive yellow parasols.

Readers’ Pick: Royal Thai

Best Cheese Shop

Karen and Rich Rogers do not make their own cheese or carry the largest selection in town. Whatever assortment they do have on hand, however, is always intriguing, and the couple is dedicated to educating cheese lovers of all ages and levels. They not only host classes, such as “Charcuterie and Cheese” and “Texas Cheese and Beer,” they organize tours of local dairy farms. With their help, you can achieve an unofficial PhD in Brie.

Readers’ Pick: Central Market

Photography by Kevin Marple

Best Brunch

delicious French bistro in Oak Cliff’s Bishop Arts District offers far
more than your typical brunch standards. Poached eggs rest atop a rich
blend of bacon, bone marrow, and red wine sauce. Crispy duck leg confit
is topped with huckleberry sauce and served with sunny-side-up duck
eggs. Buttermilk biscuits—a Southern brunch staple—are given a French
kiss with the addition of a flaky croissant, baguette, and house-made
jams. No, you won’t confuse the Trinity River for the Seine. But
Boulevardier’s Left Bank-like charm offers much to toast. Le magnifique.

Readers’ Pick: Blue Mesa Grill

Best Barbecue Joint
Pecan Lodge

Worshippers show up early and are happy to wait up to two hours. They bring blankets and folding chairs and inch along a line inside of Shed 2 at the Dallas Farmers Market. When they reach the counter, they hope the burnt ends are still available. If not, they’re content with a plate of luscious, red-ringed brisket and a side of fried okra, or an order of mesquite-smoked beef ribs, pulled pork, or house-made sausage. Sooner or later, somebody is going to come along and knock this joint from the top of the heap. Until then, we are faithful to Diane and Justin Fourton’s outrageous meat.

Readers’ Pick: Pecan Lodge

Photography by Kevin Marple
Best Ice Cream/Gelato
Carnival Barker’s Ice Creams

only problem you’ll have with a pint of Carnival Barker’s is its
disappearance rate. We love the Munchies flavor (peanut butter ice cream
with chocolate-covered potato chips) so much that we cried when our
spoon scraped the bottom. The other whimsical flavors, such as Hatch
Chile Chocolate and Peppermint Bark, will vanish before you know it,

Readers’ Pick: Paciugo

Best Regional Mexican
Mesa Veracruz Coastal Cuisine

Chef/owners Olga and Raul Reyes have worked hard to present Dallas with authentic food from their hometown of Alvarado, Veracruz. Everything—from a starter of snook or shrimp ceviche mixed with tomato, onion, cilantro, and avocado to Olga’s incomparable mole poured over a tender duck leg—is top-notch. Don’t skip dessert. The flan de naranja is not to be missed.

Readers’ Pick: Javier’s Gourmet Mexicano

Best French Restaurant
Lavendou Bistro Provençal

French food is enjoying a revival in Dallas. Casual bistros and modern French restaurants are au courant. We love Boulevardier, but we’re a little old-fashioned, so we give l’edge to Lavendou, whose owner, Pascal Cayet, is actually from France. His menu at Lavendou showcases the delicacies of southern France. The ambience is festive, the service attentive, and the wine list is tous les

Readers’ Pick: Boulevardier

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