By Steven Doyle
Dallas is chock-full of burgers, pizza and steaks, and everyone has their own opinion where to find the best of each. But when it comes to the bit more exotic fare, you need to scratch the surface to find some of the more interesting and unusual.
This month we searched the city for the best biryani, kick-ass dumplings and matzo ball soup that will make your grandmother cry. Be prepared to dine in high fashion on a budget, these items historically cost very little.
Our list not only will save you a few bucks on your next date, but also will impress your dining partner. Be adventurous and try the items on the menu that you have never tried before. It is always fun to make a great new discovery. Also, it is generally proper etiquette when visiting a true “mom-and-pop” restaurant, as many of these on the list will be, to pay in cash. Often times that is all they accept, so it is good to be prepared. Good dining!
Chameli: Who doesn’t love a good hearty and economical biryani, especially when one bowl can feed a family of six rather easily? Chameli has been a long-time favorite. Biryani is a flavorful Pakistani rice dish packed with choice ingredients such as chicken or mutton, kicked up with a delicious sauce and topped with an egg. This dish starts at $4 a bowl. Also while at the restaurant try the superb butter chicken or others such as the tikka masala or korma with a side of naan bread. Located in Richardson at 201 South Greenville Avenue.
First Chinese BBQ: Duck Soup not only is one of our favorite movies, it also tops the list of our favorites at this tiny neighborhood restaurant. The English spoken word can sometimes be precarious at this Richardson restaurant, and the menu can sometimes be confusing (many of the dishes listed in Chinese have similar descriptions), but you will walk away satisfied with a hearty smile on your face just the same. Be prepared for sightings of large haunches of pig and hanging ducks in the entry way. It is your passage to another time and place where the food was king. The food is meant to be shared, thus the portions are large. You will find your typical orange chicken on the menu, but please order one of the specials for a better experience. And the duck soup is divine. Located in Richardson at 111 South Greenville Avenue.
La Me: This strip-mall favorite is the perfect spot for soup and a sandwich. But in this case the soup is pho, and the sandwich is the best banh mi in Dallas. A banh mi is the Vietnamese sandwich made with a delicious baguette stuffed with slices of roasted pork, a slathering of pork pate, and innumerable crispy vegetables such as daikon radish, carrots and pickles. The sandwich costs but a few dollars, and you can buy a bag full for less than the cost of a pizza. Order a banh mi and a small bowl of pho for less than 10 bucks. Located at 9780 Walnut Street in Dallas.
Maharaja: Plano is steeped up in some pretty fantastic Indian restaurants, but Maharaja has stood the test of time. The owners have had this restaurant, and one located in Fort Worth, for the past 25 years. That is like a century in restaurant years. Throw a dart at any menu item and you will not lose. For the Indian uninitiated start with the tandoori platter. This is a combination of meats, including kabobs and chicken, cooked in the charcoal tandoori oven. The dish comes out sizzling and surrounded by onions and peppers. Call it the fajita of India. Instead of tortillas, wrap your food in naan bread, also made in the tandoor. Order from the list of many sauces including masala (slightly spicy and smooth tomato), saag (creamy spinach), korma (very creamy curry), and vindaloo (the spiciest of all the sauces in house). The breads are amazing. We mentioned naan, but also look for roti (puffier bread) and parantha (buttery crisp bread that can be stuffed with tasty ingredients). Find Maharaja at 4152 West Spring Creek in Plano.
Kirin Court: Kirin is a beautiful restaurant that serves all day, seven days a week, some of our favorite Chinese dishes. However, the best part of Kirin is during the day up until 3 p.m. where dim sum is served. These are the rolling steamer carts filled with dumplings of all sorts, steaming vegetables, and interesting bits of meat and pastries. Most items come in bites of three or five, and are meant to be shared. Be sure to ask what each cart has available, they will all have something different. Grab as many as will fit on your table, be willing to share with your mates, and realize that each dish costs between $3 and $6. During the week it is half price. On weekends the better dishes are serviced instead of the standard fare, and the lines to gain entry can be horrid. Go very early, or very late. Weekdays it is a snap to get in. The English spoken word is difficult at best, so pointing is just fine. Be sure to order the sticky rice stuffed with bits of Chinese sausage, wrapped in a banana leaf. Kirin Court is located at 221 West Polk in Richardson.
Royal China: Very mainstream, but considered the oldest Chinese restaurant in Dallas. The look is very modern as it was recently remodeled with the addition of a noodle bar. Be sure to grab a seat at the bar, or within eye shot to watch the noodle master at play. Dinner and a show! The soups are large and amazing, and you cannot miss with any dish, especially if it has fresh noodles. We are sending you here this month for the xiao long bao, or soup dumplings. These are tiny mouthful dumplings filled with a meatball and a load of soup. The trick is to load a dumpling in a large spoon, nibble a bit off the top, slurp out some of the soup (and release some steam), douse a bit of the black vinegar into the dumpling, then shove the entirety into your mouth. Repeat. Royal China is located at 6025 Royal Lane in Dallas.
Kalachandjis: Visit this beautiful temple with respect, but enjoy the cuisine which actually is vedic. This is a healthy take on Indian with similar flavors. The dishes all are either vegetarian or vegan, but meat eaters will not miss cow for this one meal. In fact, you will go away surprisingly happy and content. The menu changes daily, and is listed on the website. Lunches are served buffet style which is perfectly fine since everything is kept fresh. It also is a great way to discover what you like best. Enjoy the crispy pappadams, pumpkin sabji, pakoras, dal soups and much more. Afterward, be sure to stroll through the Krishna temple. You will be very welcome. Located at 5430 Gurley in Dallas.
Deli News: Many people bemoan the fact that Dallas is lacking in a true New York-style deli. This is true, except Deli News is pretty amazing. Enjoy the mile-high pastrami sandwiches here, along with one of the finest bowls of matzo ball soup. The matzo balls are huge and light, with a savory clear broth that skyrockets this meal to heavenly heights. The breakfasts at Deli News are superbly special as well. Deli News is located at 17062 Preston Road in Dallas.
Kuby’s Sausage House: It’s a meat market, a grocery, and a restaurant. It’s really a slice of old world German deliciousness. Kuby’s is known for its many, many handmade sausages which truly are the very best in Dallas. Kuby’s serves breakfast, lunch, Sunday brunch and dinner and the most popular dish is the the Wurst teller (sausage plate) with homemade sauerkraut, hot German potato salad and red cabbage. Other popular items include Oma’s Potato Pancakes, schnitzel, Reuben sandwiches and homemade soups that change daily. The dinner menu changes monthly and features traditional favorites such as Rouladen, Schweinebraten and Bayerische Spaetzle. Kuby’s is located at 6601 Snider Plaza, Dallas.
Monkey King Noodles: Rounding off our list, which could literally go on forever, is the new guys on the block, Monkey King Noodles. Located in Deep Ellum at 3014 Main, this small noodle house has the very freshest of noodles made in front of you while you wait. Try the spicy beef noodle soup with a side of the soup dumplings. The beef noodles also can be ordered without both and is laced with a spicy sauce. Either way, it all spells delicious. Grab a seat on top of the roof, or take to go in case of unsavory weather.