4714 Maple Ave., Oak Lawn
We may have found the home of the chimichanga. With a menu that features 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 café and the wine bar. Go in the day for great coffee, a generous Cobb salad, and the best turkey burger in town. At night, it's great 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 converted Texaco Station where it opened in 1981, Bubba’s (the big daddy of the Babe’s Chicken boutique chain) has a retro diner vibe that 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.
400 S. Record St., Downtown
Everything about Bullion is dazzling, from the gold-scaled building (designed by Swedish architect Martin Brudnizki) to the French menu by Michelin-starred chef Bruno Davaillon. Get drinks in the lounge (may we suggest ordering the French 75?), then continue to the gilt-intensive dining room for classic and contemporary French dishes. The canard à l’orange, roasted duck with orange marmalade, is especially good. The restaurant has a hydroponic farm in the building next door—pretty spectacular if you can sneak in a tour.
1510 Pacific Ave., Downtown
The entire team at this beautiful New American dinner spot is made up of teenagers released from juvenile delinquent facilities. Their yearlong internships at the Café give them both life and job training. The seasonal, local menu from head chef Chad Houser is fresh and original, and the vibe is in every way uplifting: One wall is devoted to a collaborative art piece titled the “I’m Thankful Plate Project,” where past interns have written about gratitude on plates from the restaurant.
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.
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