4714 Maple Ave., Oak Lawn
We may have found the home of the chimichanga. A mix of old family recipes and local flavors, Avila’s is a must for authentic Tex-Mex. Tacos, tamales, and quesadillas will satisfy any hankerings for Mexican, but if you want to get into the local realness, then go for the chili relleno, chicken mole, and guisado de puerco (pork stewed in a rich pepper sauce) served with rice and beans. Just give in to the queso and order extra chips. This is one hole in the wall you won’t want to miss.
614 W. Davis St., Bishop Arts District, Dallas
Surrounded by independent stores and galleries, this all-day eatery in the Bishop Arts district is kind of the perfect neighborhood spot. Housed in a restored historic building, it has a slightly industrial, patinaed vibe that runs through both the more casual cafe and the wine bar. We go in the day for great coffee, a generous Cobb salad, and the best turkey burger in town; and at night for dinner dates at the cozy restaurant/wine bar, which serves up hearty dishes—pork chops, merguez—complemented by a great wine list that delves deep into the Californian wine scene.
Bubba’s Cooks Country
6617 Hillcrest Ave., Highland Park
This is just like Grandma used to make—if your grandmother was from West Texas and happened to be famous for her fried chicken. Still in the same art deco converted Texaco Station where it opened in 1981, Bubba’s (the big daddy of the Babe’s Chicken boutique chain) retro diner vibe sets the perfect stage for a Southern comfort food feast with all the trimmings: Green beans, mashed potatoes, and black eyed peas. There's also a drive through.
4807 Airport Blvd., Hyde Park
Bullfight is a part of a string of spots that have popped up recently along Airport Boulevard making for an unlikely new restaurant row. Chef-owner Shawn Cirikel tackled Spanish cuisine with a pleasantly straightforward tapas menu, including tomato gazpacho, paella, and croquettes. The grilled branzino with cauliflower, eggplant, and pistachio is insanely good, too.
1530 Main St., Downtown
This gem at the Joule does far more than serve the hotel's own guests with a tight, well-edited menu of exactly what we all want at every meal: In the morning, it’s the frittata; at lunch, it’s a healthy quinoa bowl; and at dinner it’s pretty much anything that can be served with a side of their award-winning fries. Beyond feeding the hotel’s guests—and from very early in the morning until very late—it stands as one the best casual dining destinations in Dallas.
1602 S. Congress Ave., South Congress
The brass accents, black and white tiles, and sleek furnishings at South Congress Hotel’s American grill feel both modern and classic. The best dishes are indulgent, like the Central Standard’s cheeseburger, which is served with cremini mushroom butter, aged cheddar, and smoked bacon. The pastry chef Amanda Rockman (who was previously at Nico Osteria in Chicago) makes a compelling argument in favor of saving room for dessert, though: her tarts, cakes, and corn fritters can make eyes water. The warm wraparound patio has an enticing weekday happy hour, too, with half-off drinks and select food dishes.
Clark’s Oyster Bar
1200 W. 6th St., Clarksville
If they weren’t already, Clark’s cemented the place of restaurateurs Larry McGuire and Thomas Moorman (owner of the uber-popular Perla’s) as the utmost authorities of Austin’s seafood scene. The small space has a clean, nautical vibe that’s faintly reminiscent of the Hamptons, with a subtly East Coast menu to match; ideal for a more intimate dinner or brunch. Our suggestions? Cold water oysters (a must) and their famous fries, ceviche, the cooked kale salad, and the wood-grilled shrimp toast (a divine compilation of aioli, smoky shrimp, and crunchy sourdough). In our humble opinion, this is by far one of the best Bloody Marys in the city.
2027 Anchor Ln., East Austin
Contigo is a bit removed from the center of Austin, which adds to the ranch-like quality of the restaurant. A spacious outdoor patio with picnic benches and umbrellas makes it a fun place for Sunday brunch, and also a pretty space at night when the strings of outdoor lights are illuminated. The menu, which changes regularly, has a few game-inspired dishes and Texan twists on American classics, plus really good drinks.
Dive Coastal Cuisine
304 Rankin St., Highland Park
You’ll find clean-eats with a sunny disposition here. Chef Franchesca Nor keeps her fresh seafood and veggie-forward fare simple but never ever boring at this bright and cheery lunch and dinner destination in Highland Park. Pull up a chair to the communal table inside the super casual, mid-century modern space and share a few salads, ceviches, and tartares or dig into a hearty wrap or sandwich all to yourself. Bonuses: It’s very kid-friendly, and practically gluten-free.
Elizabeth Street Café
1501 S. First St., South Congress
Austin's South First is a gem of a street and this is one of the top highlights. A Vietnamese café plus French bakery, Elizabeth Street Café combines the best of two worlds. The bakery makes two different kinds of baguettes daily (order the bánh mì to try), croissants, and a variety of pastries including macarons. Stumptown is the house coffee, and you can get traditional Vietnamese coffees with classic café du monde chicory. In addition to bánh mì, the restaurant also serves spring rolls, pho, and spicy curries. The interior is exquisitely pretty, clean, and bright, decorated with oversized framed mirrors and divided by an open arch. The chic neon touches on the side patio follow suit.
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