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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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- Interested in upcoming restaurant openings? Here's our guide to the fall's most anticipated new spots.
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