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Cover Story

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

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Best Indian Restaurant

Mughlai Restaurant

Owner Javeed Khan’s menu is filled with the unique items that make exploring Indian cuisine thrilling, and he is happy to be your guide. Anybody who eats fajitas will enjoy murgh malai kebabs. The tender cubes of yogurt-marinated chicken are even served on a steaming skillet. Looking for a little excitement on your plate? Try the masaledar goat: tender meat in a shimmering tomato
sauce touched with cinnamon and curry. See, that wasn’t so hard.

Readers’ Pick: India Palace

Best Wine Shop

Since Harry Sigel opened his first store in 1905, it has morphed from offering premium liquors and cigars to a wholesale and retail purveyor of fine and rare wines. Sigel’s carries close to 5,000 wines, but each of the 11 stores is dedicated to educating customers about different wines. They host winemaker tastings and offer in-store samples. When they have too much inventory, they make stocking your cellar easy by slashing prices. Sign up for the email newsletters and you’ll be up to speed on the crop yield in Burgundy.

Readers’ Pick: SPEC’s

Best Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurant
Sundown at Granada 

Chef Patrick Stark’s menu makes it easy for vegans, vegetarians, and carnivores to share a meal. Enjoy a Buddha Burger, a quinoa veggie patty with avocado and chipotle cream slaw, or curried coconut chickpeas with brown rice, dried fruit, and crispy pappadam, and hang around on a great patio.

Readers’ Pick: Cosmic Cafe

[inline_image id=”2″ align=”r” crop=””]Best Burger
Liberty Burger

We satisfy our need for greasy burgers at Maple & Motor or Wingfield’s. We head to Liberty Burger to help save the planet and reduce our fat intake. They use tree-free compostable napkins and packaging, and each of the creative concoctions can be made with a beef, bison, chicken, turkey, lamb, or veggie patty. Also: the thick onion rings are steakhouse quality, and the custard shakes hit the spot.

Readers’ Pick: Twisted Root Burger Co.

Best Wine Bar
Mercy Wine Bar

Take a list with more than 100 wines by the glass, add lounges, throw in live music, and you come up with Mercy Wine Bar. This space is perfect for first dates and 50th wedding anniversary toasts. The glasses are crystal, the service is knowledgeable, and they offer flights of wine. If you like what you try, you can take home a bottle (or four) at the retail price.

Readers’ Pick: Times Ten Cellars

Best French Fries
Central 214

A year later, we still can’t get chef Graham Dodds’ triple-cooked fries out of our heads. That’s how long he’s been serving his golden crackling creations at Central 214. And, yes, they’re that good and memorable. Dodds boils, air-dries, blanches, air-dries yet again, and then crisps the potatoes to create a thicker, oversize steak-fry version of classic British chips. It’s a five-hour process that results in a thick, crispy exterior and velvety interior.

Readers’ Pick: Burger House

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Best Coffee
Cultivar Coffee

Owners Jonathan Meadows and Nathan Shelton make the most beautiful espresso in Dallas. Thick and syrupy with a rich, slightly honeyed tone, it’s one decadent sip that will ruin you for the thin, bitter brews that pass for espresso at other local shops. The pair serve their caffeinated creations at their East Dallas coffee shop attached to local favorite Good 2 Go Taco. They also roast their own beans (from farms in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and El Salvador) nearby every Tuesday and sell and serve them at shops and restaurants across the city. They even offer a seasonal single-origin espresso. Their philosophy—celebrating the best beans and letting them dictate how they should be roasted—shows in every bright and nuanced cup the duo brews.

Readers’ Pick: The Pearl Cup

Best Patio Dining
Chicken Scratch

When the weather’s right and the sun’s just setting, there’s no other patio we’d rather dine on than this Oak Cliff favorite. Hipsters and families alike flock to Chicken Scratch’s gravel lot to feast on fried chicken biscuit sandwiches and the best collard greens in town. Attached bar The Foundry serves locally handcrafted beers. On the weekends, live bands take to the ingenious band shell made of wooden construction pallets. Some people like to describe Chicken Scratch’s hip patio as “very Austin.” But we don’t think even Austin is this cool.

Readers’ Pick: Ozona Grill & Bar

Best Gourmet Shop
Bolsa Mercado

Bolsa restaurant recently suspended its lunch service, moving it next door to its sibling gourmet-to-go market. In the process, it made this popular neighborhood market even more so, expanding its sandwich and salad menu, remodeling Mercado’s interior to accommodate more seating, tightening its inventory of specialty goods, and improving its selection of freshly made gourmet delights. For those not in the mood to cook, the heat-and-serve $19-$24 Dinner for Two—salad, entrée, side, and dessert—is still one of the best deals in town.

Readers’ Pick: Eatzi’s

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Best Bakery for Sweets

Emporium Pies

Everybody loves pie. And from the look of the lines out the door at this quaint 1930s Victorian bungalow, they’ve all fallen hard for owners Megan Wilkes and Mary Sparks’ flaky creations. Rightfully so. Favorites include the Drunken Nut (Texas bourbon pecan in a shortbread crust) and the aptly named Lord of the Pies, a towering slice of apples baked in handmade caramel and topped with cinnamon streusel.

Readers’ Pick: La Duni

Best Sushi
Sushi Sake

The setting: intimate without feeling cramped. Energetic without feeling frenzied. The fish: beautiful presentations of pristine flesh. The service: at the conclusion of our meal, a dish of tempura ice cream arrived, unordered. One of the six chefs working had merely overheard us mention a birthday. Owner Takashi Soda has created one of the most delightful dining experiences in Dallas. 2150 N. Collins Blvd., Richardson.

Readers’ Pick: The Blue Fish

[inline_image id=”3″ align=”r” crop=””]Best Dessert
Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar

not order this dessert to share, or there will be trouble. Forks will
fly and hopefully only hit part of the sweet toffee cake loaded with
pecans soaked in bourbon crème anglaise sauce and topped with homemade
whipped cream. A common side effect of this dessert is a night of
uninterrupted sleep.

Readers’ Pick: Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar

Best Family-Friendly Restaurant

The weekend wait for a table here can easily approach an hour. No worries. Grab a beer and step outside to the giant sand-covered playground, where you can cream your kiddos in a game of cornhole or washers. Or go the more laid-back route and take a seat while they climb half-buried tractor tires and ride horses made out of oil drums. It’s all funky DIY design and very East Dallas.

Readers’ Pick: Babe’s Chicken Dinner House

Best Bar Food
Ten Bells Tavern

Teetering on the eastern edge of the Bishop Arts District, this tiny pub housed in a corrugated tin shell the size of a double-wide trailer is deliciously deceptive. Chef Carlos Mancera’s menu is packed with the usual suspects such as fish and chips. But it’s the culinary surprises that keep us coming back to this diminutive bar. Small plate favorites include beer-and-brown-sugar-braised short ribs and a four-cheese mac and cheese that had us swooning. Oddly enough, the most addictive bite at Ten Bells is its rotating selection of pickled eggs, a pub classic in daring flavors such as curry and jalapeño.

Readers’ Pick: The Holy Grail Pub