clock menu more-arrow no yes
Stunning charcuterie awaits at Macellaio
Kathy Tran

Filed under:

An Eater's Guide to Dallas

An unofficial, highly opinionated guide to dining in the Big D

Since its portrayal in the eponymous and infamous 1970s-era soap opera, Dallas has seen an incredible amount of change. The home of Neiman Marcus, the legendary State Fair of Texas, and America's Team, the Big D also boasts a thriving and diverse culinary scene that can sometimes fly under the national radar. This guide will help you get to the heart of Dallas' unique culinary identity.


Welcome to the Land of Meat, Meat, and More Meat

Dallas is a city of legendary expectations — everything is bigger in Texas, right? Once the world’s capital of stuffy steakhouses and Southwestern cuisine, a bumper crop of scrappy chefs have drawn a new generation of diners to the big D.

If you have a day to spend enjoying the essential dining experiences Dallas has to offer, start off in Downtown for a perfect cup of coffee at Weekend inside the Joule Hotel, then venture over to Taco Joint for breakfast tacos smothered in jalapeno ranch. For lunch, take in the vegetarian Indian buffet at one of the city's shiniest hidden gems, Kalachandji's in East Dallas. If you've somehow got room, head to Uptown for macarons at Bisous Bisous Patisserie, then grab a happy-hour cocktail at the ritzy Mansion Bar. Come dinner, head to Eater Dallas 2018 chef of the year Anastacia Quinones’s Jose, one of the city’s best spots for Mexican cuisine. Wind down the evening with a classic cocktail at Clover Club.

Where to Start on Eater Dallas's Best Maps

As you may know, Eater Dallas puts together comprehensive guides to the city's best food and drink — whether you're looking for fried chicken, cocktails, burgers, or brunch. If you're starving and overwhelmed by all of these options, here are some top picks that are a solid bet every single time.

Have you ever seen Dallas from a DC9 at night?
Pecan Lodge Barbecue in Deep Ellum
Robert Strickland/Eater

Hottest Restaurant: The hottest table in Dallas right now can be found at Monarch. The ritzy Downtown eatery operated by Michelin-lauded chef Danny Grant boasts freshly made pastas like fire-roasted lasagna Diane, salt crusted whole fish, and splurge-worthy Japanese wagyu.

Essential Restaurant: There is plenty of steak and barbecue in Dallas, but consider hitting one of the city’s most beloved Chinese restaurants, Royal China. Open for more than 40 years, the eatery’s hand-pulled noodles and juicy soup dumplings are the best in the city.

Burgers: It's impossible to throw a griddled beef patty in Dallas without hitting an excellent burger. If you’re looking for something cheap and casual, hit the iconic Keller's Drive-In for carhop service, crispy tots, and thin, crispy burger patties served on poppyseed buns.

Barbecue: Dallas’ barbecue scene is thriving. In addition to local institution Pecan Lodge in Deep Ellum, smoked meat enthusiasts can now find Dallas' finest brisket, sausage, and massive beef ribs elsewhere, like Texas Monthly-approved spot Cattleack Barbeque. Looking for something a little more creative? Head to Zavala’s in Grand Prairie, where diners can tuck tender slabs of brisket into freshly made tortillas.

Brunch: In Dallas, pairing breakfast with booze is practically a religion. Head to Ida Claire in Addison for Southern eats and plenty of cocktails on a patio, or Henry’s Majestic in Uptown for a see-and-be-seen brunch experience with great drinks and waffles doused in Hatch chile gravy.

Tex-Mex: There’s nothing that Big D does better than plates of enchiladas, fajitas, and glorious, glorious queso. Head to Mia’s Tex-Mex for a locally beloved plate of brisket tacos (don’t forget the gravy!) or try the original, El Fenix, founded in Dallas in 1918.

Beer: Dallas is home to an incredible selection of breweries. Head to Peticolas Brewing’s Design District taproom for legendary brews like the locally-beloved Velvet Hammer ale, and don’t forget to stop by Deep Ellum Brewing Company, the local brewery that started it all, for a crisp and refreshing Dallas Blonde.

Ice Cream: Dallas’ has seen an ice cream boom of sorts in recent years. Visit Howdy Homemade for a few scoops of Dr. Pepper Chocolate Chip ice cream, a Dallas original.

Pizza: Dallas doesn’t have the pizza culture of, say, New York or Chicago, but there are plenty of fine pies to be found. Cane Rosso’s Neapolitan-style pizza is an obvious choice, as are the perfectly blistered pies at Downtown restaurant Partenope. Looking for NY-style slices? Get to Zoli’s in Addison, where you’ll find DFW’s best.

Iconic: For a true taste of Dallas, scope out the city's most classic dishes, like steak at Knife and fried chicken at the original Babe's Chicken Dinner House.

Tacos: From classic Mexico City-style street tacos to inventive, modern riffs, Dallas has no shortage of fine taco purveyors. Head to Trompo in Oak Cliff for killer vegetarian options and (of course) tacos de trompo, or head to Revolver Taco Lounge in Deep Ellum for some of the city’s finest tortilla-wrapped proteins, including tender pulpo (octopus) and perfect lengua (tongue).

Dallas Food 'Hoods to Know

Dallas-Fort Worth is seriously massive, sprawling across more than 350 square miles of North Texas. As such, it's easy to find a decent meal pretty much anywhere in the metroplex, but certain neighborhoods have developed unique culinary identities. Wherever you're at, let this breakdown of the city's most notable dining districts be your guide.

Now a bustling restaurant district, Deep Ellum maintains its grimy edge.

Deep Ellum

Once in decline, Deep Ellum’s restaurant scene has boomed over the past few years. Now, it’s packed with concert venues, boutiques, bars, and (of course) excellent restaurants. Grab cocktails and Hungarian cuisine at Armoury D.E., or park on the patio at Braindead Brewing for excellent people watching, a solid burger, and locally brewed beers. If a quick lunch is in order, snag a burger at Uncle Uber's Sammich Shop.

This walkable 'hood is chock full of swanky restaurants.
Uptown Dallas Inc./Facebook

Uptown

You’ve likely seen this shiny, swanky ‘hood on The Real Housewives of Dallas, and for good reason — this is where to see and be seen. For those looking for a chic locale for a business meeting or date, Uptown definitely fits the bill. Stop in at Nick & Sam’s Steakhouse for celebrity-watching (Dallas Cowboys players or Owen Wilson could be at the next table) and classic steaks, or sip Old Fashioneds at Parliament, the innovative cocktail bar known for its towering Ramos gin fizzes.

Downtown Dallas hosts – and feeds – millions of travelers each year.

Downtown

Dallas’s Central Business District is bustling with travelers from all over the world, and there are plenty of restaurant options to service them. If you’re near The Joule Hotel, it’s a veritable culinary wonderland — grab a latte at Weekend, get pizza and Aperol spritzes at Americano for lunch, and enjoy happy hour at chic basement cocktail lounge Midnight Rambler. For an excellent dinner that will literally change lives, take the DART to Cafe Momentum, a non-profit restaurant that serves as a real-world crash course in the restaurant business for at-risk youth.

Lower Greenville

This revitalized former entertainment district is now home to some of Dallas’ finest eateries. Score great cocktails and a unique riff on Nashville-style hot chicken at Rapscallion at dinner, or spend an afternoon hanging out al fresco at the Truck Yard while scarfing down cheesesteaks and sipping frozen cocktails.

Dallas Glossary of Terms

Melted cheese is a Dallas food group
Mi Cocina/Facebook

Queso

In Spanish, "queso" means cheese. In Dallas, "queso" means "neon-yellow blend of Velveeta and Ro-Tel that you’ll find in every single Tex-Mex restaurant." Served with chips and occasionally crowned with guacamole, sour cream, and ground beef, queso is Dallas’ favorite dish. Find a guide to the city’s best bowls of melty cheese here.

Dean Fearing

The godfather of Southwestern cuisine, Fearing was formerly chef at The Mansion at Turtle Creek and now helms his eponymous restaurant Fearing's at the Ritz-Carlton just down the street.

Beef rib

This ain’t your average baby back. Considering that a cow is significantly larger than a pig, these massive slabs of beef look like something you’d see on the side of Fred Flintstone’s car. Pecan Lodge’s beef rib is an absolute Dallas must.

Whataburger

Texas’ favorite late-night eats come through a brightly-hued drive-thru window. Whataburger technically started in Corpus Christi, TX, but it's a favorite of every Texan. Just follow the bright orange lights to greasy, deep-fried heaven.

Reservations to Make in Advance

It may surprise you to learn that you can, in most cases, make a reservation at Dallas' hottest restaurants with just a week's — or even just a few days — notice. The key exception to this rule is tiny Bishop Arts Italian eatery Lucia, which just reopened in its more spacious home. More than six years after opening, it's still one of the most coveted tables in town.

The majestic Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.

Follow the News

Eater Dallas is updated multiple times every weekday with breaking news stories (restaurant openings, closings, etc.), features, guides and more. Here are a few ways to stay in the loop:

  • Bookmark the Eater Dallas homepage. New stories will always show up near the top and flow down toward the bottom of the page as they get older, while important recent stories will stay pinned right at the top. Also, check out our big sister, Eater.com, for national and international food news.
  • Subscribe to our newsletter, which goes out every weekday evening and includes links to the day's top stories.
  • Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for updates on new stories and more throughout the day.
  • Interested in upcoming restaurant openings? Here's our guide to the fall's most anticipated new spots.

Get in Touch

Have questions not answered here? Want to send in a tip or a complaint or just say hello? Here are some ways to get in touch with the Eater Dallas staff:

The Minds Behind a Beloved Dallas Italian Restaurant Will Open a New Mediterranean Eatery

Former Dallas Morning News Dining Critic Dotty Griffith Dies at 71

A Hot New Pop-Up Bar Debuts Inside Downtown Dallas’s Fairmont Hotel

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Eater Dallas newsletter

The freshest news from the local food world