You only need to look at the wall covered with $1 bills signed by customers from all over the world to know that Empa Mundo has fans everywhere. Empa Mundo serves only empanadas, a South American dough pastry stuffed with a savory or sweet filling. The eatery is small, and you can watch them cook up your empanada to order. Choose from the 18 different kinds of empanadas including favorites like the Texas Brisket and spicy “Chilipazinga” or the sweet Banana and Nutella.
For Nepali food, Everest Indian and Himalayan Restaurant is as authentic as it gets. On the day we dined, we were the only non-Nepali table there. Start with a handmade steamed Momo, dumplings stuffed with either meat or vegetables. The Chicken Shekwa platter served with spiced grilled chicken, pickled spicy vegetables, crunchy soybean salad and puffed rice is Nepal on a plate. Lovers of curry will notice that the Nepali version is less spicy than its Indian counterpart. The Nepali Thakali Thali, a rice plate surrounded by three different curries and pickled vegetables is a hot pick at this modest restaurant.
Shanghainese delicacies await at Fortune House Chinese Cuisine. The xiao long bao, soup dumplings filled with a pork or crab and pork filling are a must. There’s an art to eating these tiny morsels. First nibble the tops off the dumpling skins to let out the hot steam, then delicately suck out the silky broth before popping them into your mouth as elegantly as possible. Stir fried string beans and also the ma po tofu, spicy tofu with minced pork are popular picks. For a sweet ending, try the sesame stuffed rice balls.
The menu is so vast at Our Place that the lunch buffet is a great place to start for the uninitiated. Homemade pakoras (pastries in a spiced lentil batter), flavorful Tandoori chicken, spicy curries like Chicken Tikka Masala and a variety of vegetarian options like dal lentil soup and saag, spinach with homemade cheese reign supreme. I recommend the garlic naan, flat bread baked in a clay oven sprinkled with garlic and cilantro to sop up all that tasty curry. Cool everything down with a fresh mango lassi, a sweet yogurt drink flavored with mangos.
5. MR MAX
This cozy Japanese izakaya, or informal gastropub, serves casual tapas-style dishes and comfort food for the after-work set. While they do have a small selection of sashimi, diners usually come in for steaming bowls of ramen or udon curry rice with pork cutlets or grilled fish. My recommendation would be to order several dishes and eat them family style. Be sure to take your shoes off before dining in a traditional tatami table.
6. VILA BRAZIL
Ola! Serving authentic Brazilian churrasco or barbecue, Vila Brazil is a carnivore’s delight set in warm friendly surroundings. There’s a variety of grilled beef, pork loin, chicken and sausages. The different cuts of meat are slow-grilled and sliced tableside. The Picanha beef cut is the most popular, and don’t forget the roasted pineapple and flan dessert. The all-you-can-eat concept is surprisingly affordable as compared to other Brazilian steakhouses in DFW.
7. YUMMY THAI
When local Irving resident and Chino Chinatown at Trinity Groves chef-owner, Uno Immanivong invites you out for lunch, you follow her lead. She suggests, the casual Yummy Thai Restaurant where the flavor profile on dishes like the beef larb, a spicy minced beef salad, and green papaya salad reminds her of Thailand, where she was born. Immanivong who is ethnically Laotian also recommends Nalinh Grocery, a Laotian supermarket with a small eatery inside. “I get a double order of the fried riblets there. It’s the perfect blend of crispy, umami, and sweet,” she exclaims.
Zeytin Mediterranean Grill’s popular buffet does a swift business during lunch hours. There are many vegetarian options—hummus (chickpea) and baba ganoush (eggplant) dips and typical Mediterranean salads like tabbouleh made with parsley, cucumber and bulgur wheat are popular choices. Meat-lovers enjoy staples like grilled chicken, lamb or beef skewers and gyros wrapped in warm pita bread. Service is homely and casual like the décor.