Since its portrayal in the eponymous and infamous 1980s soap opera, Dallas has undergone 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, diverse culinary scene that can sometimes fly under the national radar. Dallas has always been a city of niches — if you want to fit in, you have to find yours. There might be whole parts of town that aren’t the right vibe for you, though some spots have the history and pull to rise above the fray. This guide will help you get to the heart of Dallas’ unique culinary identity.
Welcome to the Land of Meat, Meat, and More Meat
The old saying that “everything is bigger in Texas” might account for the number of steakhouses (and the massive steaks) in Dallas, as well as the Metroplex’s obsession with all kinds of heaping helpings of meats, including brisket, carnitas, and chicken fried steak.
Where to Start on Eater Dallas’s Best Maps
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 but overwhelmed by all of these options, here are some top picks that are a solid bet every single time.
Hottest Restaurant: Stepchild by Misti Norris in Downtown’s Exchange Hall is an unforgettable culinary experience. The Acadian-inspired menu is full of unexpected delights and clever ideas that Norris has made a name implementing. It won’t be there for much longer, so go while you still can.
Essential Restaurant: One of the outstanding new additions to the city’s dining scene this year is Restaurant Beatrice, a Cajun food fine dining establishment in Oak Cliff. Its chef is a New Orleans native who worked at Commander’s Palace, and it is owned by Michelle Carpenter of Sushi Zen, who comes from Louisiana. The food is terrific, as are its efforts to create a minimal waste kitchen that go way beyond the ordinary.
Burgers: When it’s time to come back down to Earth, Dallas does (and loves) burgers like no other city. Have a friendly neighborhood experience with an amazing smashburger at Goodfriend Beer Garden and Burger House in East Dallas. Or head to Dairy-ette for an old-fashioned carhop and countertop experience at an eatery that’s been rolling since 1956.
Barbecue: In 2021, Texas Monthly named Goldee’s Bar-B-Q in Fort Worth the best spot to eat in the state. The mention was life-changing for the owners of this spot, taking it from an off-the-rugged-trail stop to a place with lines daily that sells out before afternoon. Who could argue, with its delectable brisket, burnt ends, and free drinks while you wait in line? For another off-the-beaten-path favorite, stop at Intrinsic Smokehouse & Brewery in Garland and ask for help creating a custom pairing of their juicy meats with in-house brews.
Steak: A city this meat-obsessed doesn’t settle for run-of-the-mill steakhouses. Some of Dallas’ steakhouses are helmed by the greatest chefs in Texas and beyond, like Australian Curtis Stone’s Georgie or John Tesar’s Knife.
Italian: Most people don’t think of Italian food when they think of Dallas, but all that is changing. As a slew of new Italian spots open in town, consider a quiet evening at a long-running spot Lucia in Bishop Arts. The menu changes daily, based on what’s fresh and available, and a meal there is guaranteed to surprise with its inventive flavor profiles and unique combinations.
Dallas Food Neighborhoods 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 are, let this breakdown of the city’s most notable dining districts be your guide.
See and be seen roaming the streets of this arty South Dallas neighborhood. The food scene is booming with a gorgeous wine and apps menu at Written by Seasons, the Asian-influenced Cajun food at Krio, and a thin crust pie at Eno’s Pizza Tavern.
There are now many new places to eat and drink in this cool neighborhood that it’s hard to keep up. You can Terry Black’s Barbecue for a taste of Austin way outside of Austin. There’s also arguably the city’s best fried chicken at Brick & Bones. And what’s a night out in Deep Ellum without stopping into Revolver Taco Lounge?
When you eat here, you’ll feel like you’re part of the neighborhood. Hit up Sister for a cozy Mediterranean meal or Standard Service for a hip take on American fare. And sitting outside at Son of a Butcher for a trio of sliders and some people watching never misses.
There are multiple vibes to catch in Uptown, from over-the-top parties to some of the city’s toniest eateries to shockingly good fast-casual spots. Stop in at Crushcraft Thai Eats for kra pao with a side of insanely beautiful interior, or hang out at the Katy Trail Ice House with a bucket of brews.
Thanks to hoteliers opening fine dining restaurants, Downtown Dallas is a hot spot to eat. It’s almost impossible to curate them, but Catbird in the Thompson Hotel remains an obsession as does CBD Provisions in the Joule. The Adolphus is the prime place to stop for a cocktail, either rough and rowdy in its Rodeo Bar or upstairs in the French Room.
Dallas Glossary of Terms
Fletcher’s Corny Dogs: The only corn dogs that matter. Fletcher’s not only invented the corny dog, but perfected it. Anyone attending the State Fair is required by law to consume at least one. And you eat it with yellow mustard, not ketchup.
Frito Pie: It remains in dispute if Texas, or Dallas, is where Frito Pie was invented, but what is not in dispute is that eating it out of a Frito bag at a football game is what we consider living your best life. Hot chili on top of Fritos and sprinkled with shredded cheese, plus a few jalapenos, is a taste of heaven.
Drive-In: Far superior to a drive-thru as a location to eat your burgers (and hot dogs) — sorry Whataburger fans. Keller’s Drive-In and Dairy-ette are among a handful of old-school establishments keeping the drive-in tradition alive in Dallas.
Dr. Pepper: When ordering a soda in Dallas, one asks for a Coke. You’ll then be asked if you’d prefer Coke or Dr. Pepper. If you’re not asked, leave.
How to Spend a Day Eating in DFW
To those spending a day dining in the city, start with one of its most elegant coffee shops, Magnolias Sous Le Pont in the Harwood District. Then head over to Ascension Coffee in the Design District for brunch-y breakfast — double caffeinated with a horchata latte paired with a fried chicken sandwich with spicy ranch and pickles served on a brioche bun. For lunch, enjoy a plate of barbecue at Lockhart Smokehouse and ramble around one of the city’s new favorite neighborhoods for shopping and eating, Bishop Arts. Save room for pie because stopping at Emporium Pies for a slice is mandatory while you’re there. Greenville Avenue is the place to go for happy hour. Stop in at HG Sply Co. for a cocktail on their rooftop patio. For dinner, point yourself to Meridian, Dallas’s 2021 Eater Awards winner for Restaurant of the Year, where chef Junior Borges prepares stunning plates inspired by his Brazilian heritage.
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