While El Tizoncito’s simple storefront will fool you with its fast food setting and lull of bright lights, inside the shop is quite serious about their authentic Mexico City cuisine. Located in the heart of Oak Cliff, the small operation shares a building with a bank, and offers on-the-go eaters a drive-thru for speedy service. But really, it’s best to sit inside the diminutive and sparse shop, soaking up the black bean soup and taking in as many street tacos as you can handle. Popoular drinks include hibiscus tea and horchata, along with fresh-made chips or a salty, grilled fried cheese known as chicharron de queso. The food is always fresh, and you shouldn’t skip on the sweet Mexican desserts, either.
A young, hip crowd frequents Oak Cliff’s Nova, a Kessler Park gastropub that features some of Dallas’ best brick-oven pizza. Nova is a standalone space with a 1950s-esque exterior, and a chic, unruffled interior. Nova offers daily and weekly specials from mini sliders to New York strip Vietnamese style with baby bok choy, chili peanuts, cucumber, mint and roasted tomato-ginger sauce or lemongrass vinaigrette. As much neighborhood hangout as weekend haunt, the bar comes complete with beer and a special cocktail menu. There are also regular menu changes, so if you eat at Nova once, it could easily be different the second time around.
When former owner Jason Laxon sold his pizzeria to his cook, David Ramirez, David kept it in the family by soliciting the help of brother, Juan. In the time since, the siblings have kicked up restaurant turf by renovating the digs, but the New York–style pizza stays true to the recipe that earned a nod for Best Pizza in the Dallas Observer's Best of 2010 list. Pizzeria guests can dine in for a 9-inch grinder sub, amply stuffed calzone, or homemade pasta with daily-made alfredo or marinara. Handy carryout and delivery options invite diners to nosh on a meatball- or eggplant-topped pizza from home, the office, or an extremely long roller-coaster line.
When Norma’s Cafe opened in 1956, it was the kind of homey breakfast spot where the food was as comforting as the waitresses were welcoming—they greeted their customers by name. One of those customers was Ed Murph, who later purchased Norma’s with the goal of keeping the down-home tradition alive. And according to the Dallas Observer, he succeeded. The paper voted Norma’s The Best Home Style Restaurant in 2010, claiming that “the recipes taste as though they haven’t much changed.” It’s those recipes that have made generations of diners—and even food critics—eager to wake up in the morning. Pillowy biscuits blanketed in gravy, chicken fried steaks, and omelets made with farm-fresh eggs are partially responsible for the countless amounts of press and awards Norma’s has earned. But credit the atmosphere for a good portion of the popularity. Norma’s continues to evoke feelings of a friendlier, simpler time, when the pies were made from scratch, the waitresses knew your name, and the jukeboxes didn’t heckle you for your poor music choices.
Victoria's Mexican Grill resides in a double-decker building, layered like much of the food served inside. To that end, cooks spread cheese over a bed of chips and fajita-style steak to make nachos, or stuff and deep-fry whole jalapenos for a delicious snack and easy way to prove someone is a fire-breather. Some of their most exciting layering occurs after dinner ends, though. They top flan with fresh wedges of lime and even make ice cream nachos. Rather than tortilla chips, they start with cinnamon-dusted pastries crowned with scoops of cinnamon ice cream and chocolate sauce, before adding dollops of whipped cream and maraschino cherries. Of course, liquids have layers in their own right, so the bartenders contribute by whipping together a pina colada fresca recipe made inside a hollowed-out pineapple.
After more than 35 years, the walls at Paperbacks Plus in Mesquite couldn't cope with all the books. So the owners expanded into the city proper, setting up two new shops under the name Lucky Dog Books. Shelf after shelf of volumes greets the eye at each location; alongside the paperbacks and hardbacks sit myriad other forms of media, from used CDs and DVDs to LPs, magazines, and comic books young and old. Chairs dot the landscape at all three bookstores, inviting customers to flop down and flip through the pages of a novel or pretend to read a comic book that conceals a history textbook. In addition to selling its wares, Lucky Dog Books also offers cash or store credit for used items and takes its services on the road with a Books at Home program.