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2020’s Most Exciting Restaurant Newcomers

These are the spots that made the biggest impression on the city’s top chefs and food writers this year

an overhead show of several dishes, the central is which is a large turkey leg on a bed of greens
Bishop Arts newcomer Encina definitely turned some heads this year
Kathy Tran for Encina
Amy McCarthy is a reporter at, focusing on pop culture, policy and labor, and only the weirdest online trends.

Even though this year was positively packed with terrible news, the crop of exciting new restaurants that opened their doors over the past twelve months have been a welcome bright spot during a truly tumultuous 2020.

A shocking number of new restaurants made their debut in Dallas and beyond over the past year, ranging from major international chains like Eataly and Jollibee to homegrown newcomers like Encina, Thunderbird Station, and Ngon Vietnamese Kitchen. With so many new contenders, Eater reached out to some of the city’s top chefs and food writers to find out which new restaurants were the year’s most exciting.

Amy McCarthy, editor, Eater Dallas: Even though it’s a chain, the opening of Tiger Sugar in Carrollton was super exciting because those brown sugar boba lattes are seriously incredible. Also very exciting to have Heim Barbecue in Dallas, and I don’t know how long I lived this long without the dial oil noodles at Uncle Zhou’s in Plano.

Erin Booke, food and entertainment editor, Dallas Morning News: Thunderbird Station.

Ji Kang, chef, Sloane’s Corner: Definitely Eataly! I worked two and a half years in the Union Square Area, just a few blocks away from Flatiron District, so I went there so often. It’s so awesome they set up shop here. I can’t wait to get my hands on those incredible dried pastas again.

Rachel Pinn, contributor, Eater Dallas: It’s fresh in mind of course, but Eataly coming to Dallas has been huge. The jobs they created, the local products on their shelves, and just the excitement was so very needed in this shit sandwich of a year.

The salumi and cheese counter at Eataly Dallas
Everyone is seriously stoked to browse the meats, cheeses, and more at Eataly
Eataly [Official Photo]

J. Chastain, chef, the Charles: Encina. Their team has always been big supporters of us and I watched everything they went through to open their dream in the toughest time ever. They did a great job and I’m excited to see them succeed.

Brian Reinhart, food critic, Dallas Observer: Ngon Vietnamese Kitchen. It’s so good. My 2021 goal is to eat every single thing on the menu.

Matt Balke, chef, Encina: Palmer’s Hot Chicken.

Andrea Meyer, chef/owner, Bisous Bisous Patisserie: I’m hopeful I can check out Eataly sometime soon. I’ve been in NYC and loved it, I’m looking forward to seeing what local options they’ve picked up here in Texas.

Teresa Gubbins, senior editor, CultureMap: Marugame Udon — one of the many new international Asian concepts to debut in Dallas (Hinodeya Ramen, Ebesu, Jollibee, etc.).