Fast Casual Vegan Junk Food Is Now a Thing
Chinese: Royal China
A step above your delivery-only go-to, Royal China is more than just a pretty place -- there’s serious regional Chinese fare being whipped up here. In addition to dishes like five-spice duck, steamed buns, and gon bao pork, a popular feature is the dumpling bar, where pork, chicken, shrimp, and veggie soup dumplings are created by hand by the so-named “Dumpling Ladies.” There’s even a gluten-free version steamed in leaves.
Don’t let its location in a strip mall food court deter you from discovering incredible Filipino food favorites. From fried chicken to lumpia to adobo, the classics are represented at this family-owned spot. And at $7.99 for two entrees and a scoop of rice, a taste of the Philippines won’t break your bank.
Far North Dallas
This suburban retreat covers all the bases of any French food craving: coq au vin, steak frites, crusted rack of lamb, even duck a l’orange. A fine wine list and desserts round out the menu, served in lush digs reminiscent of a cozy brasserie.
German: Bavarian Grill
You know you’ve found an authentic German experience when you almost need Google Translate to read a menu. So it is at this beloved Plano spot that turns out Bavarian-style salads, soups, seafood, and, of course, sausages and schnitzel in a number of varieties.
Greek: Stratos Greek Taverna
This blue neon-lit, two-story behemoth is part restaurant, part performance hall, and all party. Alongside the spanakopita, lamb chops oreganatto and pastitsio, you can experience a lively belly dancing show on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. They’re part lesson, too, so put down that saganaki and get to moving.
Guatemalan: Guatelinda Cafe
Locals swear by the handmade Central American food at this super-low-key storefront, so if you’re looking for pupusas, tostadas, and enchiladas way off the beaten Tex-Mex path, this home-cooking haven should beckon you.
Indian: India Palace
Sleek, modern décor meets scratch-made Indian cuisine at this North Dallas destination. Feast on the lunch or dinner buffet, or order entrees like tandoori classics, kebabs, tikkas, and six types of naan, and pair them all with Indian beer or sips of Indian rum or whiskey.
This is the toughest table in town for a reason: Lucia plates the finest Italian cuisine in town. Tables book month by month and are usually full by the middle of the first or second day of that month. The cause for fanaticism includes exec. chef-owner David Uygur’s house charcuterie program and a rotating assortment of meats and homemade pastas. Can’t snag a rezzie? Don’t forget that the bar seating is first-come, first-served.
Teiichi Sakurai’s homage to his native country soared to the top of the local Japanese-cuisine heap when it opened, thanks to seafood, rare regional delicacies, and super high-grade steaks shipped in from all over the world. Not to be forgotten is the top-notch drinks program, with standouts like sake, shochu, and Yamazaki whiskies.
Savvy lunch lovers know a visit to this hub of Middle Eastern cooking gets them incredible bang for their buck. For $12.95, you enjoy a buffet spread packed with favorites you know and love -- falafel, shwarma, tabbouleh -- and entrees you will come to love, like za’atar pies, the incredible roasted chicken and magmour, similar to moussaka. Afrah also serves dinner in a la carte form and stays open at least till midnight -- a fine alternative to post-bar junk food.
Korean: Seoul Garden
Far North Dallas
This Koreatown eatery is great for gastronomic exploration, even if you’re a newbie to Korean cuisine. The restaurant can accommodate large parties -- including at hibachi-like Korean BBQ tables -- so you can get the best taste of the staggering variety here by dining with a group of friends and ordering a ton of bibimbop, noodles, and hot pots to share.
Mexican: Mesa Restaurant
When celebs from Beyoncé and Jay Z to Conan O’Brien make it a point to stop by one particular restaurant when visiting, you have to take notice. The stars align at this family-owned, Veracruzean purveyor for the stellar mole, but the seafood dishes are a highlight, too. Signature drinks like the boozed-up horchata draw in tipplers.
Spanish: Casa Rubia
Chef Omar Flores has earned rave reviews for drawing on Spanish food traditions in crafting the popular menu here. Happy hour montaditos, tapas galore, paella, and Mediterranean coast-inspired mains served in stylish, low-lit digs evoke a Spanish café dining experience, with a sherry menu, sangrias, and cocktails thrown in for good measure.
Tex-Mex: Pepe’s & Mito’s Mexican Cafe
Most Tex-Mex joint have every staple of the genre represented on their menu, but few do so many of them as well as this joint on the corner of Elm St. Lunchtime is an especially busy time here, as workaday warriors load up on enchiladas, tacos, tostadas, and chimichangas. House specialties like guiso, ribeye a la Tampiqueña, and catfish Veracruz soar, too.
Thai: Kin Kin Urban Thai
Fort Worth and Oak Lawn
Chef Eddy Thretipthuangsin and his mother dreamed up this mini-chain’s menu of authentic Thai food with modern notes. Think traditional eats like pad Thai and curries, but also Thai beef jerky, fried Brussels sprouts, and the Kin Kin burger, all boasting the flavors of the region.