Readers Voice Awards – Dining

Posted on 20 Mar 2008 at 11:25am


ROCK STAR SERVICE: Michael Bradley wants clients to experience a magic carpet ride at Hector’s on Henderson. – BRYAN AMANN/Dallas Voice

MOST AMAZING SERVICE
Hector’s on Henderson
2929 N. Henderson Ave.
214-821-0432
Sun.-Thu. 5 p.m-11 p.m.,
Fri.-Sat. 5 p.m.-midnight
HectorsonHenderson.com

BEST WAIT PERSON
Michael Bradley — Hector’s on Henderson
2929 N. Henderson Ave.
214-821-0432
Sun.-Thu. 5 p.m-11 p.m.,
Fri.-Sat. 5 p.m.-midnight
HectorsonHenderson.com

Hector Garcia, the owner of Hector’s on Henderson, was endlessly grateful when he heard that his restaurant won several awards from Dallas Voice readers. But delighted as he was, Garcia was not really surprised by recognition for its amazing service, or for its waiter, Michael Bradley.

"I’ve known Michael maybe 18 years — we think we met when I went on the board of the Turtle Creek Chorale and he was an officer, around 1990," Garcia recalls.

They’ve known each other so long, in fact, that whatever restaurant Garcia has run — from the Riviera to Iris to his eponymous Uptown hot-spot — he’s always dragged Bradley along.

"The key thing that makes him stand out is he totally wants that client to have a magic carpet ride and will do whatever that takes," Garcia gushes.

It’s also why every new waitperson hired at Hector’s has to train with Bradley.

"Michael’s a rock star," agreed chef Blythe Beck. "As a chef, service is your Achilles heel, but he’s great at what he does — he goes above and beyond."

To be that good requires more than attitude. It’s about philosophy.

"You have to know how to deliver an A+ customer experience," Garcia says, "and our team can pull it off."

Which is why you’ll probably never hear, "Sorry, not my station," from a waiter at Hector’s — and why you probably will see Garcia himself pouring water and clearing tables. A boss who works as hard as the employees? That is amazing.

— Arnold Wayne Jones




FRESH AND APPETIZING: Omar Vindas masters the tableside guacamole made at Frida’s Mexican Cuisine. – DANIEL A. KUSNER/Dallas Voice

BEST NEW RESTAURANT
Frida’s Mexican Cuisine
4000 Cedar Springs Road
214-528-9911
Lunch: Tue.-Sat. 11 a.m.-3 p.m.,
Sun. 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m.,
Dinner: Tue.-Sat. 5:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m., Sun. 5 p.m.-10 p.m.
FridasMexicanCuisine.com

Many people outside of Texas, even foodies, probably think that Tex-Mex, Southwestern and Mexican cuisine are as interchangeable as Legos. But we know better — or if Monica Greene and Stephan Pyles have taught us anything, we should.

The closest you come to a filet mignon at most Tex-Mex joints is the skirt steak in fajitas, but real Mexican food is flush with non-tortilla-based entrees.

Which is one of the things we love about Frida’s Mexican Cuisine. Opening around the same time Greene’s Ciudad closed, Frida’s provided another Oak Lawn-area option for food beyond enchiladas and chimichangas — Frida’s offerings come from the center of Old Mexico.

Owner Jose Cruz named his restaurant after the bisexual artist, who was known for her hospitality (Kahlo’s image dominates the entrance), and the restaurant is as welcoming — and just as authentic. Oaxaca cheese, huitlacoche truffle, calabacita squash: Just try finding ingredients like that at a drive-thru.

From the carrot-jicama-chile sauce appetizer (complimentary when you sit down) to the efficient but unobtrusive service to its location just off Cedar Springs Road, Frida’s combines homecooking with a flair for the unexpected, exactly what we’re looking for in a favorite new restaurant.

— Arnold Wayne Jones





IT’S MY CHICK-EN THE BOX: Jessie Lugo serves up Buli’s Barbie-Q-Chicken Panini — in a lunchbox. – BRYAN AMANN/Dallas Voice

BEST SANDWICHES
Buli Cafe
3908 Cedar Springs Road
214-528-5410
Wed-Sun 7 a.m.-midnight,
Mon-Tue 7 a.m.-11 p.m.
BuliCafe.com

When Buli opened in September of 2004, a sandwich shop wasn’t what they had in mind.

The original plan focused on ice cream and coffee — sugar and caffeine buzzes were going to be their specialty. But after they renovated the space from a gift store to a café, it wasn’t long before they realized that their customers were hungry for something more substantial.

Enter the panini.

Buli first offered six types of the Italian grilled sandwiches. Now they have about 25 combinations, including breakfast varieties. And just for fun, they began serving them in classic tin lunchboxes with a pickle, chips and a side item.

They still serve coffee and a variety of Blue Bell ice cream, as well as a large selection of decadent desserts. They offer free Wi-Fi to all customers and have a rotating collection of local artwork on the walls. But their sandwiches are what keep drawing people back.

Some of their more adventurous varieties include the Texas Brisket Panini — with smoked brisket, Muenster, spinach, tomatoes and mayo on focaccia; the Elvis Panini contains creamy peanut butter, bananas, strawberry jam on ciabatta; and the Five-Alarm Burger has Angus beef, chili, shredded cheese, jalapenos, tomatoes and spicy mustard on focaccia.

Lots of choices that customers all seem to have one word to describe, "Yum."

— Jenny Block




Gaybys welcome: Black-Eyed Pea server Frank Luera has crayons and kiddie menus ready on Tuesdays — that’s when the 12-and-under crowd can eat free. – BRYAN AMANN/Dallas Voice

BEST PLACE TO TAKE THE FAMILY
Black-Eyed Pea
(six Dallas locations)
3857 Cedar Springs Road
214-521-4580
Sun-Sat 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
TheBlackEyedPea.com

Although the Black-Eyed Pea has restaurants throughout the metroplex, let alone all across Texas and Colorado, the Cedar Springs location was the very first. Established in 1975, it has barely changed at all, from the décor to the menu. Although they are currently undergoing renovations, people need not fear that the beloved homey feel will be lost. They are merely freshening things up to keep in step with the rest of the Strip’s residents, they say.

People do come to Black-Eyed Pea for the feel, but more than that, they come for the comfort food, like pot roast, meatloaf, chicken fried chicken, and chicken fried steak. And although they add items to the menu every once in awhile, they leave the favorites alone. They are the foundation of the place. That and the "no worries" vibe, which is exactly why families feel so comfortable there.

No one’s going to get hollered at for spilling their juice or dropping their biscuit on the floor. The staff is friendly all around, but especially to kids. And they offer a great kids’ menu. Every option comes with a drink, dessert and crayons. Of course, the best deal is on Tuesday nights when kids eat free. After 5 p.m., get one meal on the kids’ menu free for every adult entrée ordered.

— Jenny Block




FLAVOR OF VIETNAM: Green Papaya’s staff, from left, Sean Ngo, Trinh Le and Homero Salinas, serve up Southeast Asian fare, like grilled salmon with veggies and steamed rice. – BRYAN AMANN/Dallas Voice

BEST VIETNAMESE
Green Papaya Café
3211 Oak Lawn Ave.
214-521-4811
Lunch: Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-3 p.m.,
Sat-Sun. noon-3 p.m.,
Dinner: Mon-Sat. 5 p.m.-10 p.m.,
Sun. 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m.

Green Papaya is as simple as it gets — nothing fussy. It offers outdoor seating that’s heated for winter diners and breezy for summer. The inside has simple two and four top tables. But people don’t seem to care much where they sit — at Green Papaya, it’s all about the food.

The menu is packed with Vietnamese favorites from soft rice noodle dishes to giant bowls of pho. The two most popular dishes are Ga Luc Lac, garlic chicken served with white rice and fresh vegetables, and Ga Nuone Xa, charcoal broiled chicken with lemon grass and fresh vegetables served with flat noodles.

They’re also famous for their Ca Phe Phin, a strong French coffee served in a press with condensed milk.

The prices at Green Papaya are prices are surprising low, and the portions are beyond generous. The service is attentive without being hovering, and from the cooks to the servers, most of the staff has been with the restaurant since they opened in May, 1999. They do a bustling in-restaurant business, but a third of their sales are take-out orders.

Since they opened, they’ve changed next to nothing and have no plans to do any renovations in the future. But they are working towards opening a second location at Mockingbird Station this summer: same menu, same atmosphere, same great service. Only now there will be two places where Dallasites can get their Vietnamese food fix.

And for anyone who’s never been to Green Papaya, the manager has only one thing to say to the virgins: If you dare to try it, you’ll become a regular. And if you ask any Green Papaya addict, they’ll tell you exactly the same thing.

— Jenny Block


The gayborhood restaurant that never closes: When the bars kick you out or when your insomnia and compulsive eating problems collide, you can always head to Cafe Brazil. – BRYAN AMANN/Dallas Voice

BEST 24 HOUR RESTAURANT
Café Brazil
3847 Cedar Springs Road
214-461-8762
Sun.-Sat. 24 hrs.
Cafebrazil.com

Café Brazil has nine Metroplex locations and has been around since 1991 when they opened in Lakewood. Strategically located near the gayborhood’s nightlife scene, the Cedar Springs haunt has been satisfying after-hours munchies since they first opened in September 1999.

Even if you’re getting your caffeine fix at some weird time of the day, like 4 a.m., the coffee bar allows customers to whip up their own original libations. And breakfast, lunch and dinner are round-the-clock menu items, so order that Mexican omelet at 8 p.m., and build your own feta-spinach crepe in the afternoon.

The key to Café Brazil’s success is that it’s operated like a mom-and-pop biz, despite being part of a chain. Employee turnover rate is surprisingly low, with some workers at the Cedar Springs location having been there almost 10 years. Not everyone fits the team they say, but if you do, they give hash slingers little reason to leave.

And they keep expanding — a new 10th location is expected to open in 2008.

— Jenny Block




DATE DINING: Intimate and candle-lit — The Grape is the place for romantic rendezvous. – BRYAN AMANN/Dallas Voice

BEST ROMANTIC RESTAURANT
The Grape
2808 Greenville Ave.
214-828-1981
Sun. 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m.,
Sun.-Thu. 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m.,
Fri.-Sat. 5:30-11 p.m.
TheGrapeRestaurant.com

If you own it, you can decide to be an Italian restaurant, or a fast-food restaurant or a dinner-only restaurant. But you can’t declare yourself a romantic restaurant. You have to earn it.

And after 35 years as Lower Greenville’s premiere dining option, The Grape certainly has.

It definitely has the trappings of romance: Small, intimate tables; a dark, grotto-like space (candlelight is de rigueur when it comes to romance); a quiet atmosphere where you can actually hear each other talk. But those descriptors could as easily apply to a prison cell if not for fine food. And The Grape serves some of the finest.

It’s former chef, Brian Luscher, recently returned as both chef and owner. And he’s retained its rotating menu of seasonal specialties and extensive wine list. The French bistro-style cuisine (steak frites, Scottish salmon, haricot verts) comes in portion sizes that are plenty for one, but work just as well when shared. And isn’t that what romantic dining is all about?

— Arnold Wayne Jones



BEST COFFEE HOUSE
Starbucks
(58 Dallas locations)
Mon.-Thu. 5:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.,
Fri.-Sun. 6 a.m.-9 p.m.
Starbucks.com

BEST BREAKFAST SPOT
Café Brazil
(five Dallas locations)
3847 Cedar Springs Road
214-461-8762
Sun.-Sat. 24 hrs.
Cafebrazil.com


BEST BRUNCH
Bronx
3835 Cedar Springs Road
214-521-5821
Tue-Sun 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.,
5:30 p.m.-10 p.m.

BEST ROMANTIC RESTAURANT
Hector’s on Henderson
2929 N. Henderson Ave.
214-821-0432
Sun.-Thu. 5 p.m-11 p.m.,
Fri.-Sat. 5 p.m.-midnight
HectorsonHenderson.com

BEST CHEAP DATE
Hunky’s
(two Dallas locations)
4000 Cedar Springs Road, 214-522-1212
321 N Bishop Ave., 214-941-3322
Sun.-Thu. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.,
Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Hunkys.com


BEST HOME COOKING
Black-Eyed Pea
(six Dallas Locations)
3857 Cedar Springs Road
214-521-4580
Sun-Sat 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
TheBlackEyedPea.com


BEST FINE DINING
Hector’s on Henderson
2929 N. Henderson Ave.
214-821-0432
Sun.-Thu. 5 p.m-11 p.m.,
Fri.-Sat. 5 p.m.-midnight
HectorsonHenderson.com


BEST STEAK HOUSE
Bob’s Steak & Chop House
4300 Lemmon Ave.
Mon.-Thu. 5 p.m.-10 p.m.,
Fri.-Sat. 5 p.m.-11 p.m.
214-528-9446
Bobs-SteakandChop.com


BEST BARBEQUE
Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse
(10 Dallas locations)
5519 W Lovers Lane
214-351-2024
Sun.-Thu. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.,
Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
SonnyBryans.com


BEST SEAFOOD
Pappadeaux’s
(five Dallas locations)
3520 Oak Lawn Ave.
214-521-4700
Sun.-Thu. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.,
Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Pappadeaux.com


BEST ITALIAN
Patrizio
(three Dallas area locations)
25 Highland Park Village
214-522-7878
Sun.-Mon. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Tue.-Thu 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Fri-Sat 11 a.m.-midnight

BEST MEXICAN
Uncle Julio’s Fine Mexican Food
(four Dallas locations)
4125 Lemmon Ave.
214-520-6620
Sun.-Thu. 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.,
Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
UncleJulios.com

BEST CHINESE
Panda’s Restaurant & Bar
3917 Cedar Springs Road
214-528-3818
Sun.-Sat. 5 p.m.-4 a.m.

BEST THAI
Chan Thai Restaurant
312 W. Seventh St.
214-948-9956
Lunch: Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.,
Dinner: Mon.-Thu. 5 p.m.-9 p.m.,
Fri.-Sat. 5 p.m.-10 p.m.


BEST SUSHI
Sushi Zushi
3858 Oak Lawn Ave.
214-522-7253
Sun 12:30 p.m.-9 p.m.,
Mon-Thurs 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.,
Fri 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.,
Sat 12:30 p.m.-11 p.m.
SushiZushi.com


BEST VEGGIE
Cosmic Café
2912 Oak Lawn Ave.
214-521-6157
Mon.-Thu. 11 a.m.-10.30 p.m.,
Fri.-Sat 11 a.m.-11 p.m.,
Sun. Noon-10 p.m.
CosmicCafeDallas.com

BEST PIZZA
Campisi’s Restaurant
5405 W. Lover’s Lane
214-350-2595
Sat.-Thu. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.,
Fri. 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Campisis.us


BEST BURGER
Hunky’s
(two Dallas locations)
4000 Cedar Springs Road, 214-522-1212
321 N Bishop Ave., 214-941-3322
Sun.-Thu. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.,
Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Hunkys.com


BEST ICE CREAM PARLOR
Marble Slab Creamery
(four Dallas locations)
6333 E. Mockingbird Lane
214-821-2299
Mon.-Sat.-11 a.m.-10 p.m.,
Sun.-noon-10 p.m.
MarbleSlab.com

BEST HABIT FORMING — TIE
Hunky’s
4000 Cedar Springs Road, 214-522-1212
321 N Bishop Ave., 214-941-3322
Sun.-Thu. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.,
Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Hunkys.com

Hector’s on Henderson
2929 N. Henderson Ave.
214-821-0432
Sun.-Thu. 5 p.m-11 p.m.,
Fri.-Sat. 5 p.m.-midnight
HectorsonHenderson.com

BEST TAKE OUT
Eatzi’s Market & Bakery
3403 Oak Lawn Ave.
214-526-1515
Mon.-Sun. 7 a.m.-10 p.m.
Eatzis.catertrax.com

BEST DINING PATIO
Hector’s on Henderson
2929 N. Henderson Ave.
214-821-0432
Sun.-Thu. 5 p.m-11 p.m.,
Fri.-Sat. 5 p.m.-midnight
HectorsonHenderson.com


MOST OVERRATED
Bronx
3835 Cedar Springs Road
214-521-5821
Tue-Sun 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.,
5:30 p.m.-10 p.m.

NEVER AGAIN — TIE
Avanti Ristorante
2720 McKinney Ave.
214-871-4955
Lunch: Mon.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.,
Dinner: Sun.-Wed. 5 p.m.-10:30 p.m.,
Thu. 5 p.m.-midnight, Fri.-Sat. 5 p.m.-3 a.m.
Moonlight breakfast: Fri.-Sat. midnight-3 a.m.
AvantiRestaurants.com


Bellini’s Café & Pizza
3810 Congress Ave.
214-528-2844
Lunch: Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-3 p.m.,
Dinner: Mon.-Fri. 5 p.m.-10 p.m.,
Sat.-Sun. 5 p.m.-11 p.m.
Belliniscafe.com


Frida’s Mexican Cuisine
4000 Cedar Springs Road
214-528-9911
Lunch: Tue.-Sat. 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.,
Sun. 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m.,
Dinner: Tue.-Sat. 5:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m., Sun. 5 p.m.-10 p.m.
FridasMexicanCuisine.com


BEST GREEK — TIE
Stratos Greek Taverna
2907 W. Northwest Hwy.
214-352-3321
Sun. 11 a.m.-11 p.m.,
Mon.-Thu. 11 a.m.-midnight,
Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-2 a.m.
ClubStratos.com

Ziziki’s Restaurant & Bar
4514 Travis St.
214-521-2233
Lunch: Sun. 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.,
Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-4 p.m.,
Dinner: Sun.-Sat. 4 p.m.-10 p.m.
Zizikis.com


BEST FAST FOOD — TIE
Chipotle Mexican Grill
(14 Dallas locations)
4330 Lemmon Ave.
214-520-7650
Sun.-Sat. 10:45 a.m.-10 p.m.
Chipotle.com

McDonald’s
(75 Dallas locations)
4439 Lemmon Ave.
214-522-0697
Sun-Sat. 24 hrs.
McDonalds.com


These articles appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 21, 2008

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