The question comes up a few times a week, and it's one we take seriously.
"Where should I eat in [insert city name here]?"
Typically, the city is of the "mid" variety.
A newly single man is looking for a suggestion of where to take his first online date in Southlake. Someplace nice, he says, but moderately priced -- "just in case, you know, it doesn't work out."
Or a 20-something asks us to pinpoint a cool ethnic spot not far from DFW Airport, because her friend is flying in for a conference and wants to stay close to her hotel.
And then there's the steady stream of burger and barbecue hunters, always on the prowl, as we are, for the next great gut-busting discovery.
Answering these questions is part of the job, but it's also one of our favorite pastimes. We like to think of ourselves as your de facto DFW.com-cierges -- always at the ready to offer sound advice. No tips required.
With that in mind, we've decided to dish up some unsolicited recommendations on where to munch in the mid-cities, because, while most chow hounds can quickly rattle off the buzzy new spots in Dallas (Stampede 66, Chicken Scratch, Spoon) and Fort Worth (Woodshed, Brewed, Rodeo Goat), finding a unique dining experience in Mansfield or Colleyville can stump even the most astute restaurant watchers.
The good news is that the dining scene in the suburbs is getting more vibrant all the time. Amid the chain jungles, more chef-driven and locally owned spots are cropping up every few months.
So, here are a few of our suggestions to your eternal question. These are certainly not the only spots to seek out in these cities. Or even the best. (You can find all of our reviews on DFW.com/dining.) But if you're looking for a relatively new option that you might not have tried or heard of yet, we hope you'll find these gems from our stuffed Rolodex useful. We've also included a few classic spots that sometimes get overlooked.
Finally, we know we're not the only ones who have made great dining discoveries. That's why we want to hear from you. Post your favorites on our Facebook page or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org, and the person with the best suggestions will win some sweet DFW.com swag.
Most of all, though, keep those restaurant questions coming.
FnG Eats: A terrific restaurant in an end-cap space at the Arthouse shops at Keller Town Center, FnG has a seemingly bulletproof pedigree. Running the place are Carlos Arevalo and longtime chef and restaurateur Bob Stephenson, who worked together for 14 years at the well-regarded Cool River Cafe in Irving (FnG is named for the first initials of their nicknames, Flaco and Gordo, respectively). Cool River followers will recognize their stylish, upscale comfort food: chicken-fried venison, roasted chicken with a chili-peach glaze, a turkey sandwich topped with gruyere.
There's so much to like and appreciate here. Ingredients are sourced from the nearby Keller Farmers Market, and there's a welcome emphasis on vegetables. The menu is likably short and concise, with less than 10 entrees. In addition, there are a half-dozen or so small plates and appetizers, such as gussied up burgers and tacos. Good wine list, too, along with several specialty margaritas, such as a tangy blood-orange 'rita.
We enjoyed FnG's version of fish and chips ($16), a pair of tubular-shaped pieces of cod cloaked in a light, grease-free batter made with Stella Artois beer; the snow-white fish was silky-smooth and had a pleasing, faintly buttery flavor. On the side came an excellent rosemary slaw and crisp plank fries.
The chicken-fried venison ($26) was well worth the price. Venison can be chewy and tough, but this cut was fork-tender, with a hearty flavor that wasn't overly gamey. The thick, crunchy batter held up well under a blanket of white gravy and atop a bed of skin-on mashed potatoes. A side of julienne vegetables -- zucchini, squash and carrots -- helped hit this dish out of the park.
201 Town Center Blvd., Keller, 817-741-5200; fngeats.com.
Bronson Rock Burgers and Beer: Opened in early 2012, this burger joint has become one of the most popular spots along Main Street in Old Town Keller, which has been undergoing a restaurant revival the past couple of years.
Bronson Rock gets its name from biker slang for any unusual tool used to repair a motorcycle (inspired by a scene in the late-'60s TV biker drama Then Came Bronson), so don't be surprised to see a bunch of bikes parked outside, but the place draws all sorts of people, and can get packed on Friday and Saturday nights, even with its huge patio that includes a margarita bar. Live music Thursdays through Sundays adds to the crowds, but you can find quieter dining during lunch and off-peak hours.
Burgers include the Bronson (cheddar cheese, smoked bacon, grilled onions and jalapeños), the Pig Sleeping on a Rock (translation: a bacon-cheddar burger) and the Duke (pepper-jack cheese, guacamole and smoked bacon). Obviously, this place likes its bacon, which is some of the best we've ever had. But as meat-loving as it is, it makes room for vegetarians with the Hippie Hallow, a veggie patty with pepper-jack cheese, roasted peppers and sautéed mushrooms. Hot dogs, other sandwiches and salads are also available, as are desserts supplied by nearby Texas Harvest Pie Co.
250 S. Main St., Keller, 817-431-5543; bronsonrocktx.com.
Mi Dia From Scratch: Opened in fall 2011, Mi Dia beautifully melds the tradition of authentic Mexican food with Santa Fe-inspired dishes. You'll be impressed by the innovation coming from the kitchen, dishes like duck carnitas tacos, banana leaf-wrapped salmon, and sopes topped with pork belly and queso fresco. The salmon comes rubbed in achiote and citrus, and the side dish of whipped potatoes is infused with morita peppers -- a perfect balance of sweet and spicy. Tortillas are made in-house and Mí Día also offers a large selection of tequilas -- so many that two pages of the drink menu are devoted to margaritas and tequilas. Cheers!
1295 S. Main St., Grapevine, 817-421-4747; www.midiafromscratch.com.
Grimaldi's: One of the oldest names in American pizza history now has a location in Grapevine. All of the Grimaldi's locations are like the movie version of a New York pizzeria, with kitschy subway signs, red-and-white checkered tablecloths and Frank Sinatra crooning in the background. Grimaldi's does a decent job of re-creating the flavor of the original pizzeria, with thin (but not too thin) crusts and a tomato sauce that's slightly sweet. Toppings are neither plentiful nor gourmet, but Grimaldi's makes its own chewy-firm mozzarella. Try this slice: Regular tomato sauce topped with artichoke hearts, anchovies, Italian sausage and ricotta cheese.
1401 William D. Tate Ave., Grapevine, 817-488-4547; www.grimaldispizzeria.com.
Sweet Basil Thai: This small spot near North East Mall is an ethnic-food oasis in an area dominated by chains. It has survived for more than a decade on impeccable food and friendly service, as well as word of mouth -- you can easily drive by it and never know it's there. For a small place, it has an extensive menu. Of course, there is excellent pad Thai and a collection of nicely spiced curry dishes. We're partial to the seafood hot pot ($13.95), which comes with mushrooms, tofu, napa cabbage and green onions, and the salmon ginger ($13.95), a salmon filet topped with mushrooms, onions, ginger and bell peppers cooked in brown sauce. But the menu has plenty for any Thai-food lover.
977 Melbourne Road (just east of North East Mall), Hurst. 817-268-2899; www.sweetbasilhurst.com.
Cafe Medi: A magnificent little spot in Hurst, Cafe Medi serves a hybrid of Middle Eastern and Greek dishes. Kefta kebabs and shawarma rub elbows with souvlaki, pastitsio and moussaka.
The hummus is pretty perfect, smooth and creamy, with just the right tinge of garlic and olive oil. The dolmas -- grape leaves stuffed with rice, parsley, onion and spices -- are delicious. The spanakopita is a mouthwatering (if mammoth) mound of puff pastry, filled with just the right amount of feta cheese and tender spinach, with a savory touch of mint. And the falafel was light with a nice crunchy texture. And that's just the appetizers.
The lamb chops were meaty, perfectly cooked and succulent, and the lemon and rice soup -- or avgolemono -- will remind you of Yia Yia's.
420 Grapevine Highway, Hurst, 817-788-5110; www.cafemedi.com.
Lizzano's: If you know Lizzano's, you probably know it for its pizza. Hand-tossed dough is the pride of the place: thick and soft with crispy edges. And as amazing as the pies are, there's actually more to Lizzano's. Be prepared for a carb-induced coma -- the pasta dishes stand up well against the pies.
The combination pasta ($5.95) includes cannelloni, lasagna and manicotti filled with ricotta and mozzarella and covered in a tangy, but not overwhelming, tomato sauce. It was the perfect portion for the price, and the sauce went well atop the house-made rolls. According to the restaurant's website, owner Tony Rika has been tossing dough and honing his skills for more than 40 years, first in Italy and then in New York.
And that's exactly why, if you know Lizzano's, you know it for the pizza.
2390 Fuller Wiser Road, No. 512, Euless, 817-571-9410; lizzanos.com.
North Main BBQ: Open just Friday through Sunday, North Main is hardly new. But after 20-plus years, it's still where you go in the mid-cities to fill up on spare ribs and brisket, courtesy of an all-you-can-gorge buffet.
406 N. Main St., Euless, 817-267-7821; www.northmainbbq.com.
Bizzi's Wine and Cheese Bistro: Mom-and-pop owners Elaine Vaught and Glenn Stokes started with cheese. Then they added the wine. Then artisan breads made in-house. Then salads, house-made pasta and an especially delectable brie in puff pastry with fig jam and maple syrup. The menu at Bizzi's is simple: tapas, salads, sandwiches, flatbreads and pasta specials, "while they last." If meat and potatoes are a requirement for your dinner, you will want to slide over to Texas Land & Cattle. But if flatbread with asparagus and pancetta has you salivating, then you're a Bizzi's body.
313 Harwood Road, Suite 100, Bedford, 817-281-9500; www.bizzisbistro.com.
Old West Cafe: The five-page breakfast menu lists corny Texas names like the "rancher," the "U.S. marshal" and the "panhandler." But all you need to know is that Old West is popular for its huge omelets, six kinds of pancakes (coconut, yum!), almond-coated French toast and a choice of syrups that includes peanut butter-maple. There's lunch, too, but that's another five-page menu. Highlights are the pork chops, pot roast and chicken-fried steak. Old West is open for breakfast and lunch and closes each day at 2 p.m.
2900 Texas 121, Bedford, 817-354-8000; oldwestcafe.us.
Chef Point Cafe: If you haven't tried the home of "Fine Dining in a Gas Station," it's time. A not-long-ago remodel alleviated what were once cramped conditions, and Chef Point, which was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives a few seasons ago, shakes off the "gas station" part from the moment you're seated.
Chef Franson Nwaeze, who came to the States from Nigeria in 1981, opened Chef Point in 2003, along with his wife, Paula Merrell, who handles the business side of things. Dishes range from a humble cheeseburger ($8) to a $42, 22-ounce cowboy steak; there are also several seafood dishes, including the seafood supreme ($22), which features Compass shrimp, George Banks scallops, New Zealand greenlip mussels, calamari and fresh mixed vegetables smothered in a blend of roasted bell pepper sauce over bowtie pasta. Plus, there are numerous pasta dishes.
Chef Point offers a good Saturday-morning menu (don't miss the $12 oatmeal brulee -- oatmeal sprinkled with brown sugar and caramelized until crispy, topped with fresh apples, blueberries, strawberries and toasted nuts; it's some of the best oatmeal we've ever had) and a Sunday comfort-food menu, including a must-try oxtail ($17) cooked in spicy African red sauce and served with coconut rice and greens. Gas station? This is for gastronomes.
5901 Watauga Road, Watauga, 817-656-0080; www.chefpointcafe.org.
Digg's Taco Shop: Digg's Taco Shop, a 2,900-square-foot, sleekly understated eatery in the new College Park District on the east side of the UT Arlington campus that opened in late 2012, brought a new combatant to the simmering taco wars of Tarrant County. (The first Digg's location debuted two years ago across from Southern Methodist University in Dallas.)
There are 10 main menu items, including tacos, burritos (roll-ups or bowls), tortas, nachos and quesadillas -- almost every one available with a choice of proteins, from chicken to roasted pork carnitas. The habanero jumbo Gulf shrimp taco ($3.50) is sparked by the sweet heat of a balanced habanero-papaya sauce. Each spicy bite of the chicken was slightly enhanced by the cool crunch of jicama strips. And the robust roasted pork carnitas-propelled burrito bowl ($7.25) is brimming with enough succulent pork, cilantro rice, black beans, guacamole, Monterey Jack cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and onion to feed a small dorm.
And don't skip the Digg's crispy jelly doughnut holes ($3) for dessert. They come spilling out of an overturned Chinese takeout container, each dusted in sugar and ready to dip in a tart strawberry jam.
445 S. Pecan St., Arlington, 817-274-2100; www.diggstacoshop.com.
Pho Pasteur: Along with Haltom City and Garland, Arlington -- specifically south Arlington -- is one of the hot spots for Vietnamese food in the Metroplex. Many of these eateries are off Center Street, near Arkansas Lane and Pioneer Parkway. If you're craving that rich, warm soup known as pho, then Pho Pasteur is the place to go. Its pho ga trang (chicken and vermicelli soup, $5.75 for a large bowl) and com ga pasteur (marinated grilled chicken with vermicelli, $6.50) are warmly filling without breaking the bank. The atmosphere is more storefront than elegant, but once you start eating, you won't care.
100 W. Pioneer Parkway, Arlington, Suite 158; 817 274-6232.
That Clucken Chicken: Fried chicken has been getting the chef treatment lately at such hot spots as Sissy's Southern Kitchen and Chicken Scratch in Dallas, and the rabid following for Babe's has placed this once-humble dish on a lofty pedestal. But at That Clucken Chicken in Rendon, just south of Mansfield, you'll get fried chicken the way it was meant to be: in a bucket or on a Styrofoam plate, incredibly juicy and delicious.
At the tiny counter-service place, the deep-fried chicken is cooked to order by owner/cook Michael Perkins. We ordered a two-piece dinner ($6.49), served with a roll and a side. A combination of a Krispy Mix recipe and Perkins' own seasonings, the batter had a light texture, good crunch and snappy seasoning. It clung tightly to the tender, juicy meat and barely dripped a drop of grease. Among the sides, we liked the mac and cheese, accented, strongly, with white ground pepper; slightly sweet coleslaw; and simple mashed potatoes and peppered white gravy.
Waits can be long and the place is so small, situated on a little gravel lot between Mansfield and Burleson, you might miss it. If it's packed, you may have to wait outside for your food. But it's all worth it; this is some Clucken good chicken.
5460 E. Farm Road 1187, Rendon, 817-563-4746.
Mojo's Tex-Mex Smokehouse and Grill: Open since January 2012, Mojo's may make barbecue purists shudder. There are no ribs, sliced brisket or sausage at this joint. But everything at Mojo's is done the hard way, and it shows in the quality of the food. The brisket is smoked over mesquite for up to 20 hours. It's then chopped and mixed with a house-made ancho chile sauce. Pork shoulder is smoked, too, then shredded and mixed with a house-made Dr Pepper barbecue sauce.
You then choose how you want it -- in a taco, bowl or burrito or on nachos. Finally, you choose your toppings from such choices as guacamole, pico de gallo and house-made salsas. The flour tortillas are made when you order and they're excellent, with a firm texture and light, airy flavor.
The tender brisket had a wonderfully smoky taste and a splash of heat that took a few seconds to kick in. Quite a few pieces wore jackets of black crust, giving them a nice peppery crunch. Pulled pork was silk-tender and had a good, slightly sweeter flavor.
Mojo's doesn't look like much; it's a small place, with about a dozen cafe tables. But this little restaurant is doing interesting things that skew tradition very well.
545 S.W. Wilshire Blvd., Burleson. 817-447-4646; www.mojossmokehouse.com.
Next Wood Fired Bistro & Vino Bar: Chef Ying Aikens opened Next Wood Fired Bistro in an old Taco Bell in late 2011, and the place has been a smash. The vibe is like a quirky tea room with homey decor and quaint paintings on the wall. That's part of its charm. So are the Mediterranean-fusion food and affordable prices. Pizzas and flatbreads are among the most popular items; you can see them being slid out of a wood-and-gas oven that overlooks the dining room, and they include such gourmet toppings as serrano ham, fig and goat cheese. The menu also has appetizers, soup, salads, entrees and pastas, including a ravioli of the day whose fillings change with the seasons.
It's intriguing and unexpected that the chef would go for Italian food rather than her native Chinese. She makes the desserts, too, including creme brulee, panna cotta and an Italian cream cake so popular that it's the first to sell out.
5003 Colleyville Blvd., Colleyville, 682-325-4046; www.nextwoodfiredbistro.com.
Tribeca Americana Bistro & Lounge : Owner-chef Sage Sakiri has a local following, and he has brought his unique culinary perspective to this new restaurant, fusing gourmand standards like foie gras with flavors from the Middle East and Africa. He's able to execute basics like the wonderful thin-crust flatbread pizzas, but it's his use of ingredients like tahini and couscous that gives Tribeca its unique panache. His signature is a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds and bean sprouts over almost everything he serves.
Oxtail goulash ($19) served with polenta and tomato marmalade was a standout. Two meaty chunks of oxtail were as big as baseballs, but slow-braised for hours until they were so tender that the meat slipped out from pockets in the cartilage. Tomato sauce kept them moist. This is comfort food with an exotic flair.
62 Main St., No. 200, Colleyville, 817-788-3998; www.tribecaamericana.com.
Duff's Famous Wings: One of New York's definitive stops for Buffalo wings is coming to Southlake. Duff's is expected to open this month in a strip shopping center that formerly hosted Cheeburger Cheeburger and San Francisco Oven. It will be the first Texas location for Duff's. We're betting it won't be the last.
2787 E. Southlake Blvd., Southlake; duffswings.com.
Malcolm Mayhew, Teresa Gubbins, Bud Kennedy, Robert Philpot, Heather Svokos, Cary Darling, Andrew Marton, Joseph Daniel and Rick Press contributed to this story, which includes material from DFW.com archives.