DALL July 2013 : Page 72

The FinesT 52 In a year that brought two new downtown landmarks, the city’s finest chefs and restopreneurs wasted no time in joining the bandwagon. Klyde Warren Park and the Perot Museum spawned a vibrant culinary scene, while big names continued to make big news. Dallas’ homegrown food scene has never been better, so what are you waiting for? Make a reservation, already! | By Nadia daBBakeh, CoNNie dufNer, Mike hiller, kiM PierCe aNd Mark Stuertz | PhotograPhy By JuStiN CleMoNS aNd Jill BrouSSard | SALAD DAYS Salad of tomatoes, celery hearts, picholine olives and caper berries, Spoon Bar & Kitchen

The Finest 52

Nadia Dabbakeh

In a year that brought two new downtown landmarks, the city’s finest chefs and restopreneurs wasted no time in joining the bandwagon. Klyde Warren Park and the Perot Museum spawned a vibrant culinary scene, while big names continued to make big news. Dallas’ homegrown food scene has never been better, so what are you waiting for? Make a reservation, already!<br /> <br /> 1. Lark on the Park<br /> <br /> Nested on the Uptown edges of Klyde Warren Park, nightclub impresario Shannon Wynne’s Lark on the Park doesn’t showcase what he dubs “cute food.” Instead, it features fresh dishes composed of seasonal ingredients. The menu is strategically designed to mesh with a lengthy slate of local and international craft brews. New American in genre, the menu exhibits finesse, exquisitely framing ingredients in unobtrusive simplicity, unleashing their natural sensuality in full force. It’s served in a vivid environment with clean lines, floor-to-ceiling windows and huge chalkboards for local illustrators to strut their stuff in classroom chalk. Every three months scaffolding is erected around the boards, the images are erased, and new works are recomposed by a fresh set of artists. This lark’s a Wynne win. 2015 Wood all Rodgers Freeway, 214. 855.5275, larkonthepark.com<br /> <br /> 2. Le BiLBoquet <br /> <br /> Quartered in the light splashed Travis Walk space that was home to L’Ancestral, Le Bilbouquet cuts a bright French bistro swagger. It’s a mimeo of the tiny neighborhood bistro of the same name on East 63rd Street in New York and duplicates the whitewash, the distinctive tile and marble floor synthesis, and the same sturdy well-designed rattan bistro seats. Some former NYC staffers have even settled here, including managing partner Laurent Lesort and longtime chef “Momo” Sow. Savor the terrine and steak au poivre and their famous Le Bilbouquet crab and avocado salad, plus endive with Roquefort cheese. At brunch feast on the steak tart are and frites while spying the Ferrari Spiders and McLaren MP4-12C’s wheeling by in guttural euphony. 4514 Travis St., Ste. 124, 469. 730.2937<br /> <br /> 3. StamPede 66 <br /> <br /> He done brung Texas kitsch back. At Stampede 66, Stephan Pyles’ newest creation, an authentic “bowl of red” is delivered to your table and disgorged from a can. Planted on the ground floor of a Dallas luxury residential high-rise, Stampede 66 features a large Phillips 66 sign: a reminiscence of the truck stop in Big Spring that was operated by Pyles’ family when he was a boy. And more than a few of the Stampede 66 dishes are derived from his mother’s handwritten truck stop recipes. Come for the kitsch. Stay for the Sonofabitch stew and the Modern Star Canyon margarita, prepared table side from a cart. Watch yer step. 1717 McKinney Ave., 214. 550.6966, stampede66.com<br /> <br /> 4. Ft33<br /> <br /> This Design District restaurant by tattooed wunderkind chef Matt McCallister (late of Stephan Pyles) has a code for a name: FT33. It means “Fire Table 33.” Think of it as a chef’s bark cueing kitchen crews to lock and load the next course for a specific table. McCallister brands himself “a thoughtfully progressive culinarian.” We think he crafts some of the most riveting noshes in Dallas. Simple. Straightforward. Sophisticated, yet edgy without dripping pretentiousness. McCallister’s ever-shifting, seasonal menu is exhilarating—with a wine list that screams for food instead of label snobbery. Yell fire! 1617 Hi Line Drive, 214.741.2629, ft33dallas.com<br /> <br /> 5. Spoon Bar & kitchen <br /> <br /> Spoon is uberchef John Tesar’s ode to seafood, in deliciously outré preparations. There’s smoked eel headcheese and the mind blowing possibilities that can be actualized with simple slabs of fish. Sturgeon, seared, roasted and crisped in a cast iron skillet and planted in a celery root puree, for instance. It’s all served in environs reminiscent of a beach cottage in the Hamptons, with marble-topped tables and bar, milk chocolate leather, silvery whites and hints of aqua sea foam, a chandelier over the chef’s table made of spoons. The check arrives in a gunmetal blue envelope: “The Damage,” it reads. Fish fixes ain’t cheap. 8220 Westchester Drive, 214.368.8220, spoonbarandkitchen.com<br /> <br /> Bromance in the kitchen Mentoring thrives in Dallas, as three great chef-protégé pairs can attest. Neighborhood Services’ Nick Badovinus worked at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek under Dean Fearing. Aaron Staudenmaier was Kent Rathbun’s right-hand man at Abacus before moving to a private golf community in Fredericksburg. Stephan Pyles took Matt McCallister under his wing at Stephan Pyles. Cool coincidence: Pyles and McCallister were both 31 when they opened their game-changing restaurants—Routh Street Café in 1983 and FT33 last year.<br /> <br /> 1,2 nick and dean<br /> <br /> Badovinus came to the Mansion on an externship from Western Culinary Institute in Oregon. Three days in, Fearing offered him a job at the bottom of the cooking line, and he worked his way up to sous chef.<br /> <br /> DF: Nick was green as a pickle but he had a way about him.<br /> <br /> NB: I had no business getting that job. It was definitely personality over skill.<br /> <br /> DF: It was heavy pressure. The Mansion was the place for fine dining in Dallas, and Saturday nights were always the test. When Daddy’s not happy (me), it could be a rough night on the line.<br /> <br /> NB: I remember one night I had a steak come back. “I’m a little off tonight,” I said. Dean’s on the microphone, and he says, “I don’t think the guy paying 60 bucks for that steak gives a (bleep).” But we also had so much fun, so many great after-hours Primo’s nights.<br /> <br /> 3,4 kent and aaron<br /> <br /> Under pressure to get Abacus open, Rathbun hired Staudenmaier days after his sous chef announced he was leaving.<br /> <br /> AS: Kent and I had a shared history. We were both at the Mansion when we were starting. Executing at that level, we had a clear idea where the other was coming from.<br /> <br /> KR: He was very young and so intelligent and so into food. He did like to experiment. I love the idea of playing with lamb’s tongue, but if I throw half away, it’s not good for business.<br /> <br /> AS: Eventually I always came around to finding out he was right, even if it took two years. It finally sank in.<br /> <br /> KR: Ask Aaron if he’s got a special nickname for me, and it’s not Big Daddy.<br /> <br /> AS: Kent is a big bear of a guy, and one day I was messing with him and I said, “At least I’m not fuzzy.” He banned the word in the kitchen. We couldn’t even say peaches were fuzzy. Of course, when he was in a really good mood, I called him Fuzzy.<br /> <br /> 5,6 StePhan and matt<br /> <br /> When McCallister went to work for Stephan Pyles, he hustled to compensate for his lack of knowledge by burying himself in Culinary Institute of America cookbooks and tagging along after the other chefs. Despite gaffs, he made an impression and ended up traveling with Pyles.<br /> <br /> MM: I’d grown up cooking in a small Italian restaurant in Scottsdale. I was pretty green.<br /> <br /> SP: His wife, Iris, who I had met socially, had to really convince me that I should hire him.<br /> <br /> MM: One night I forgot to season something, and Executive Chef Matthew Dunn made me get a long piece of Saran wrap and wear a box of salt for the duration of the service. Stephan saw it and said, “What the hell you doing with a box of salt around your waist?” Stephan said to Matthew Dunn, “I think he’s got the point.” <br /> <br /> SP: I could tell almost immediately that he had something that I’d only seen in a handful of chefs.<br /> <br /> Ramen–not Just for students Anymore<br /> <br /> Today the iconic Japanese noodle preoccupies the hippest cognoscenti, quietly slurping it up (it’s oK!) At tables across town. John tesar plies the Spoon (spoonbarandkitchen.com) crowd with an extreme seafood version, a world away from Marc Cassel’s brawny roasted pork belly ramen at 20 Feet Seafood Joint (pictured, 20-feet.com). Cassel loves ramen because “it’s the one Japanese dish that allows you to color outside the lines.” Meanwhile, sous chef and midnight-ramen rambler Justin holt, who recently segued from Lucia to Driftwood, may have taken a hiatus from his pop-up ramen nights at ten Bells tavern (tenbellstavern.com), but he’ll be back. And Andre Natera’s pushing the noodle-soup envelope at the village marquee texas Grill & Bar (marqueegrill.com), with laksa, a spicy Malaysian curry. Gentlemen, start your chopsticks.<br /> <br /> Pied and Gone to Heaven<br /> <br /> A peek inside the refrigerator at Emporium Pies says almost more than the fl aky, creamy pies lined up at the counter. Stacks of pie crusts ready to be fi lled. Heaps of butter. Gallons of heavy cream. “We make all of our pies by hand, from scratch and from Mary’s recipes, (she is a pie genius),’’ says co-owner Megan Wilkes, who opened the charming Bishop Arts shop with Mary Sparks last September. “We also stay away from hydrogenated oils and corn syrup, and try to make our pies as natural as possible, just like Grandma made them!” Th e decadent trio 314 N. of bourbon pecan with shortbread crust, deep-dish apple with cinnamon streusel and French silk chocolate with pretzel crust are always on the menu; four others rotate seasonally. Buy by the slice or indulge in a whole pie. You’ll be thrilled to pieces. Bishop Ave., 469.206.6126, emporiumpies.com<br /> <br /> FRIED PIPER<br /> <br /> Biscuits with cream gravy, fried okra, chicken-fried steak, gravity-defying cookies, better-than-sex chocolate cake—your doctor and your scale are wagging their fi ngers but the modern day Eve, Lisa Garza, is saying “c’mon, you know you want it.” Indeed, when nothing but classic, buttermilk-soaked and pressure-fried chicken will do, head to her devilishly delicious Sissy’s Southern Kitchen & Bar, the pretty dining room where waitresses wear vintage aprons and the menu makes no apologies for good old-fashioned grease. Of course, you could eat healthy there, with the pickled Gulf shrimp starter, the roasted redfish and an iced tea. But we say, take advantage of a perfectly good cheating opportunity with a menu that not only leans toward excess, but revels in it. In the words of another famous Southern temptress: “Tomorrow is another day.” 2929 Henderson Ave., 214.827.9900, sissyssouthernkitchen.com<br /> <br /> 1. BOULEVARDIER <br /> <br /> If we can’t get to Paris for Bastille Day, we know we can score a table at Boulevardier, the little French bistro that’s the next best thing in Dallas. Cool down with shrimp and oysters on ice, especially with a refreshing summer rosé from the restaurant’s outstanding, French-centric wine list. Add chef Nathan Tate’s cocktail and mignonette sauces for the perfect chill moment. 408 N. Bishop Ave., 214.942.1828 dallasboulevardier.com<br /> <br /> 2. BELLY & TRUMPET <br /> <br /> Executive Chef Brian Zenner turns humble caldo verde into a work of art, gathering the kale and chorizo that define the dish into a topknot above the garlic-and onion- scented chicken broth. It’s easy to see why it’s comfort food in Portugal and one of globally inclined Zenner’s favorite small plates that simply never goes off B&T’s oft-changing menu. 3407 McKinney Ave., 214.855.5551, bellyandtrumpet.com<br /> <br /> 3. CAFÉ DES ARTISTES <br /> <br /> After a Peter Pan Fly performance at the nearby Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, we can’t think of a more perfect coda than one of Café des Artistes’ alluring Mozart desserts. Built upon layers of hazelnut meringue, it’s like an iron-pumping macaroon fleshed out with chantilly crème and chocolate ganache, then pushed to the edge with chocolate sauce—and dazzling with a tawny port. 1722 Routh St., 214.217.6888, cafedadallas.com<br /> <br /> 4. VILLAGE MARQUEE TEXAS GRILL & BAR <br /> <br /> Alluring new dishes by Executive Chef Andre Natera keep showing up at Village Marquee, and we love these sassy little lamb planks with piquant South American inspired chimichurri sauce and ancho chile demiglace. Natera strikes an understated balance, delivering bright, distinct flavors that dance rather than compete. 33 Highland Park Village, 214.522.6035, marqueegrill.com<br /> <br /> 5. FIVE SIXTY BY WOLFGANG PUCK<br /> <br /> Tempura adds the crunch we savor in this frisky pivot on fried calamari, spiked with jalapeño and crowned by a tangle of pea tendrils tossed in pickled-ginger vinaigrette. Clean, dynamic flavors complement the calamari without overpowering it, leaving your brain free to contemplate the breathtaking Reunion Tower view that makes every occasion here special. 300 Reunion Blvd., 214.741.5560, wolfgangpuck.com<br /> <br /> Be Their Guest<br /> <br /> No-brainer alert: The restaurant at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek consistently dishes out world class dining, from the luxe, historic surroundings in a real mansion to Executive Chef Bruno Davaillon’s on-point kitchen. Service is nearly transparent: friendly without being familiar, crisp without being starched. The pampering extends to the pretty patio—inviting by day, alluring by night—and the hopping bar, where drinks, music and casual food are always at your fingertips. Also, we appreciate the gifted Wine and Beverage director Michael Flynn, one of the humblest sommeliers we know. Behind that demeanor is an Everest of knowledge tempered by a mastery of tact and a caring spirit. And if all of the other delights of the hotel are not enough, here’s one more: The Mansion valets are super nice—and there’s no fee for restaurant parking. Talk about a class act. 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd., 214.443.4747, rosewoodhotels.com<br /> <br /> CounT us In <br /> <br /> Jeana Johnson and Colleen O’Hare, the Good 2 Go Taco queens, have once again made 6047 Lewis St. destination dining. It’s not York Street, but their casual Mot Hai Ba (meaning “one,” “two,” “three”), complete with patio, is one hot ticket. They’re determined to turn Dallas on to Northern Vietnamese cuisine, with a menu inspired after a visit to the country. They don’t serve their deeply aromatic beef pho at dinner; it’s a breakfast-early lunch dish in Vietnam. With five-spice chicken wings, grilled pork belly banh mi and clever doughut holes with condensed milk ice cream, it’s a brave new world for Dallas palates. Time to dig in. 6047 Lewis St., 972.638.7468, mothaibadallas.com<br /> <br /> How the West is Won<br /> <br /> 1. Ellerbe Fine Foods With its tight focus on the thoughtful cooking of seasonal ingredients, you’ll swear there’s a farm out back. 1501 W. Magnolia Ave., 817. 926.3663, ellerbefinefoods.com<br /> <br /> 2. Grace Owner Adam Jones and chef Blaine Staniford are Cowtown’s consummate fine dining hosts, which makes Grace’s talented sommelier, Jenny Kornblum, the city’s wine angel. 777 Main St., 817.877.3388, gracefortworth.com<br /> <br /> 3. Lanny’s alta cocina mexicana Chef and owner Lanny Lancarte eschews Tex-Mex for Mexico’s high cuisine; it’s some of the best food—Mexican or otherwise—in the city. 3405 W. Seventh St., 817.850.9996, lannyskitchen.com<br /> <br /> 4. Waters Respected Fort Worth chef Jon Bonnell’s gratifying marriage of land and sea, the menu for the recently opened restaurant romps across the Southwest and through the Gulf of Mexico. 2901 Crockett St., 817.984.1110, waterstexas.com<br /> <br /> 5. Woodshed Smokehouse Beloved chef Tim Love’s wood-fueled take on a Texas Hill County roadhouse is a perpetually packed hot spot on the bank of the Trinity River. 3201 Riverfront Drive, 817.877.4545, woodshedsmokehouse.com<br /> <br /> 1. ABACUS Kent Rathbun’s 14-year-old flagship bellows modern vitality, with sweeping curves, muscular appointments and deliciously distinctive Asia-Tex cuisine. Specialty sushi rolls. Tortilla soup. Buffalo pot stickers. Contemporary oils on canvas. A stunning wall of Texas stone. Lobster shooters. Abacus counts up all of Dallas’ dining buttons. And pushes them. 4511 McKinney Ave., 214.559.3111, kentrathbun.com/abacus <br /> <br /> 2. AL BIERNAT’S For some 15 years, Al Biernat’s milky yellow steakhouse has acquitted Dallas with uncommon grace and finesse. Steaks and chops rule here (Niman Ranch all-natural steaks), but there are also fine, plump escargot, wicked halibut—even calves’ liver for those dining on the steak and chop offal periphery. Plus, Al Biernat is the consummate host—a hospitality maestro with an Energizer Bunny drive. 4217 Oak Lawn Ave., 214.219.2201, albiernats.com <br /> <br /> 3. BOLSA It bloomed from an old Oak Cliff auto garage in 2008. Bolsa is a hybrid of sorts: wine bar, boutique grocer and bustling restaurant with aromas and culinary clatter from a wide-open kitchen. It’s the ultimate in earthy hip. Delicious charcuterie platters feature delectables such as duck rillettes and housemade country pâté. Fueled by a menu that drips with seasonal dynamism, Bolsa is always a depot of surprises. 614 W. Davis St., 214.367.9367, bolsadallas.com <br /> <br /> 4. LOCAL Chef Tracy Miller’s sleek, Mad Men-ishly mod Local has been resting comfortably in Deep Ellum since 1998—in the circa-1908 Boyd Hotel. The Boyd was a frequent layover for Bonnie and Clyde, and groundbreaking musicians such as Blind Lemon Jefferson and Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbtter. These spirits haunt Miller, as she breaks the laws of classic cookery to animate her innovative craft of recipes with a laser focus on seasonal ingredients and refined simplicity. 2936A Elm St., 214.752.7500, localdallas.com <br /> <br /> 6. NONNA Dallas is brutal on authentic Italian regional cookery. Those few chefs who have attempted it have come away bruised, welted and broke. That Julian Barsotti’s tiny, intimate Nonna (with a woodburning oven) beat the odds and survives (since 2006) in hostile Ital-terrain is more than heartening. It’s transcendentally delicious. Turnip gnocchi. Duck prosciutto. Rabbit sausage. Deliciously regional wine list. What more does a yearning belly need? 4115 Lomo Alto Drive, 214. 521.1800, nonnadallas.com <br /> <br /> 7. RISE NO. 1 It’s heartening that a restaurant anchored on this egg-and-air masterpiece of French cuisine was contrived (2008) and continues to thrive in Dallas. Serving both savory and sweet soufflés, Rise No.1 is billed as a 92-seat salon de soufflé and wine bar—the first of its kind. And destined never to collapse. 5360 W. Lovers Lane, Ste. 220, 214. 366.9900, risesouffle.com <br /> <br /> 8. SEVY’S GRILL “Classic” doesn’t do it justice. For more than 15 years, chef Jim “Sevy” Severson’s Park Cities power player haunt has been shelling out straightforward and solid simplicity: steaks, seafood, stellar Caesar salads and pasta. All with unfussy New American flair in mirrored arts- and-craftsinspired environs. Sevy’s lustrous backlit bar showcases some 36 scotches and offers a list of 30 wines by the glass so you won’t ever go parched. 8201 Preston Road, 214.265.7389, sevys.com <br /> <br /> 9. TEI-AN Call it buckwheat poetry. Chef Teiichi Sakurai’s Japanese soba house is an artistic streak of alluring panache in One Arts Plaza. Renowned for its superb handmade soba, Tei An has a continuously evolving menu driven by seasonal ingredients. Savor a variety of tormentingly delicious grilled, braised and raw presentations. From spicy shrimp and scallop tomato soba, to short green soba Bolognese with Washu beef, Sakurai is always tweaking his buckwheat with fleshy regalia toward the unexpected. 1722 Routh St., Ste. 110, 214.220.2828, tei-an.com <br /> <br /> 10. YUTAKA SUSHI BISTRO Chef Yutaka Yamato’s intimate Uptown sushi bar is a pearl in the landlocked urban surf. Serving meticulously sliced sea life since 2006, Yutaka crafts creamy uni, rich Bluefin toro and Japanese antipasto. Don’t miss a visit to the Sharaku sake lounge with shabu shabu (thinly sliced boiled beef and vegetables served with dipping sauces) for washing it down. 2633 McKinney Ave., Ste. 140, 214. 969.5533, yutakasushibistro.com<br /> <br /> MARQUEE PLAYER<br /> <br /> After an early rough ride as the new kid at Village Marquee Texas Grill & Bar, Executive Chef Andre Natera is finally vanquishing the ghost of Tre Wilcox. Plus, he’s on the verge of opening his very own “global Asian” room upstairs. “I’ll be able to have a dual personality as a chef,” he says, and that’s a good thing for this 35-year-old pistol. Downstairs, he pays homage to Wilcox with modern Texas cuisine, while gently coaxing diners down a more refined path. Upstairs, he’s rolling out casual digs for his pan-Asian chops, with fun, sharable food: Tokyo chicken wings, Thai papaya salad and a sushi bar with influences of Italian crudo. Bottom line: “We’re going to have a lot more fun, especially since I’ve gotten my team in place.” And we’re ready to play. 33 Highland Park Village, marqueegrill.com<br /> <br /> 3 TOP WINE SPOTS<br /> <br /> Sip. Sav or... Sigh<br /> <br /> Venue besides its online retail vino, the Wine Poste provides a smart, contemporary Design District space perfect for private tastings or cozy entertaining. Catering partners: bolsa Mercado and Kent rathbun. 2001 irving blvd., ste. 145, 214.272.3221, wineposte.com<br /> <br /> Shop pedigreed, big-wine-biz defectors James Moll and Lance storer put the personal touch back in wine-buying with their superb boutique domaine Wine company. 3610 oak Lawn Ave.,214. 219.3177, domainewinecompany.com<br /> <br /> RESTAURANT An extraordinary staff led by Master sommelier barbara Werley plus one of the best wine cellars around make Pappas Bros. Steakhouse an oenophile’s dream. Thrilling finds in every category. 10477 Lombardy Lane, 214. 366.2000, pappasbros.com<br /> <br /> Neighborhood Alerts<br /> <br /> AddiSon With warm popovers, polished wait staff, massive bar and generous wine pours, Kenny’s Wood Fired Grill is constantly buzzing. 5000 Belt Line Road, 972.392.9663, kennyswoodfiredgrill.com Park citieS Seven-year-old Shinsei still delights with its famous sushi rolls, Pan-Asian entrees and classic desserts. Regulars have a special “off the menu” menu. 7713 Inwood Road, 214.352.0005, shinseirestaurant.Com Plano For 10 years, Kent Rathbun fans have coveted a table at Jasper’s, the “gourmet Texas backyard cuisine” hot spot, where specialties of slow-smoked baby back ribs and rotisserie roasted prime rib never disappoint. 7161 Bishop Road, 469.229.9111, kentrathbun.com richardSon From students to neighbors wanting an easy night out, Bambu is known for consistently good riffs on Thai cuisine. We love the pad thai and crying tiger beef with sticky rice. 1930 N. Coit Road, Ste. 100, 972.480.8880, bambuasiancuisine.com uPtoWn Hotel ZaZa’s stylish Dragonfly sets the bar high for hotel dining. New for summer nights: roasted sea scallops and jerked Amish chicken breast. 2332 Leonard St., 214.468.8399, hotelzaza.com<br /> <br /> 5 WAYS TO LOVE YOUR LATIN<br /> <br /> 1. UPTOWN: meSomaya We loved this upscale Mexican restaurant when it opened in 2011 at Preston Forest. So we lifted our ’ritas in gratitude when a second location opened in December within walking distance of Klyde Warren Park. Enjoy the restaurant’s creamy guacamole with drinks on the courtyard patio that feels more New Orleans than Dallas. A house specialty: the budin Azteca, with cheesy layers of house made tortillas enveloping chicken, shrimp or beef. 1611 McKinney Ave., 214.484.6555, mesomaya.com<br /> <br /> 2. NORTH DALLAS: NAZCA KITCHEN Healthy and south-of-the-border need not be an oxymoron.Named for an ancient agricultural community of Peru, the restaurant emphasizes authentic South American flavors. No chips and salsa here—instead go for the hummus with yellow chili pepper drizzle, the fish tacos served in butter leaf lettuce (tortillas if you choose); roasted chicken marinated for 24 hours and glazed with an aji pepper sauce; and sides including quinoa and butternut squash. 8041 Walnut Hill Lane, Ste. 854, 214. 696.2922, nazcakitchen.com<br /> <br /> 3. OAK CLIFF: MESA Next door to a pawn shop on busy Jefferson Boulevard is an oasis of Veracruz coastal cuisine, by hosts and owners Raul and Olga Reyes. If there’s room left after the house made chips and standout guacamole, try a dish made with with Olga’s signature mole, passed down by her mother and made with more than 20 ingredients. Olé to mole! 118 W. Jefferson Blvd., 214. 941.4246, mesadallas.com<br /> <br /> 4. PARK CITIES: JAVIER’S A beloved neighborhood hang for 36 years, Javier’s touts a true Mexico City menu with Continental flair, and for added authentic ambience, a lounge and cigar bar. Longtime faves include shrimp diablo and beef tenderloin with black pepper sauce. 4912 Cole Ave., 214. 521.4211, javiers.net<br /> <br /> 5. OAK LAWN: AVILA’S If you find yourself craving Tex-Mex on Maple Avenue west of the Dallas North Tollway, fret not. Jalapeño heaven awaits. Bottomless chips and salsa. Refrieds just the way you like them. Mellow Mexican rice. Cheesy enchiladas and crispy beef tacos. Kitsch, patio, friendly wait staff. Is it any wonder that Tex-Mex has achieved cult status? 4714 Maple Ave., 214. 520.2700, avilasrestaurant.com<br /> <br /> 3 BEST COCKTAILS<br /> <br /> Drink Me!<br /> <br /> “This bottle was not marked ‘poison,’ so Alice ventured to taste it, and finding it very nice, (it had, in fact, a sort of mixed flavour of cherry-tart, custard, pineapple, roast turkey, toffee and hot buttered toast) she very soon finished it off.” – lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland<br /> <br /> Let’s all close our eyes and pretend cocktails are good for us, agreed? With hG Sply co.’s Double under (pictured below), it’s an easy argument. An electric, deeper-thanmagenta, beet-infused tequila is mixed with fresh lime, ginger beer and turbinado syrup for a rare, lip-smackingly good moment. Sounds downright healthy, no? It’s at least good for the soul. 2008 Greenville Ave., 469. 334.0896, hgsplyco.com<br /> <br /> For a modern twist on the classic el Diablo, Pozo mercado’s Brian mcCullough’s house cocktail replaces creme de cassis with Huckleberry Shrub— huckleberries, sugar, water and red wine vinegar—for a tangy zip and bright berry color. Along with Dulce Vida blanco tequila, lemon juice and ginger beer, you’ll feel newly refreshed on a scorching day. 2908 McKinney Ave.,214. 624.3555, pozodallas.com<br /> <br /> Everything is more mysterious after dark, demanding our drinks to be more complex in fl avor. Omar yeeFoon at Smyth knows just how to add a bit of excitement to droll summer evenings. A lou Brawls is equal parts dry chocolate Brugal viejo (sweetness), Carpano antica vermouth (body and spice), and Hennessy (fruitiness). With a dash of tiki bitters and a pretty orange peel garnish, served on the rocks, you’ll be tempted to steal your date’s drink. 4513 Travis St., 214. 520.0900<br /> <br /> 12 O’CLOCK HIGH<br /> <br /> Lunch is alive and well in Dallas. Here are five spots worth taking the time for. &gt;&gt;&gt; Th e Lot has captured the hearts of Lakewood diners, with its beer garden and seriously casual menu developed by Sharon Hage. Make a meal of interesting starters, including black pepper spiked guanciale almonds, yucca fries, fried cauliflower and bison blue cheese meatballs, then move to “Th e Chicken,” a rotisserie bird served with dipping bread and salad. Juice enthusiasts, note: Fresh-pressed juices are available with a shot of spirits. Great choice for a Friday, especially if you don’t have to go back to the office! 7530 E. Grand Ave., 214.321.1990, thelotrestaurant.com &gt;&gt;&gt; Now with three locations, each with slightly different menus, Nick & Sam’s Grill has staked a claim on midday. Choices range from hearty salads and sushi to filling sandwiches, hot entrees and steakhouse sides. Claim a shady outdoor table in Uptown; enjoy the expansive dining room in the Park Cities and await your movie in comfort at the new Look Cinemas. Uptown, Park Cities, Preston wood, nick-sams.com You can’t beat Parigi, Oak Lawn’s doyenne of sophisticated bistro dining. A proponent of local sourcing long before it became fashionable, Parigi keeps reinventing itself through constantly changing seasonal menus. Grab a patio perch or sunny window spot. 3311 Oak Lawn Ave., Ste. 102, 214.521.0295, parigidallas.com

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