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: Dallas loves the most challenging places to get into. This season, Tatsu is that spot. The omakase service only restaurant is in the Continental Gin Building in Deep Ellum and seats a mere ten diners per service, and reservations take extremely hard to come by. They are released twice a month, on the 1st and 15th, on Tock, so plan ahead or sign up for the waitlist. There are two seatings per evening from Tuesday through Saturday, and the cost is $170 per diner, which is pre-paid before any alcohol or extras are added. Topping off its co-signs is the longlist recognition of the restaurant by the James Beard Awards, which has it on the best new restaurant list for 2023.
Essential Restaurant: One of the outstanding new additions to the city’s dining scene this year is Restaurant Beatrice, a Cajun food fine dining restaurant in North Oak Cliff. Its executive chef is a New Orleans native who worked at Commander’s Palace, and it is owned by Michelle Carpenter of Sushi Zen, who hails from Louisiana. The food is terrific, as are its efforts to create a minimal waste kitchen that go way beyond the ordinary. It’s another on the James Beard long list for best new restaurant in 2023.
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 smash burger at Goodfriend Beer Garden and Burger House in East Dallas. And one of our top restaurants, Meridian, serves Junior Borges’s take on modern Brazilian cuisine, added a must-try burger to its bar menu. It’s not on the menu because the kitchen only makes a limited amount daily. Ask for the X-Tudo burger, loaded with shallot jam, Gruyere cheese, and a maitake mushroom aioli on a house-made sourdough roll.
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: We love our steakhouses, and there are scores of new chef-driven spots from which to choose. But some classics still deserve the attention of diners in the city. Al Biernet, opened by a former manager of The Palm in Hollywood, Houston, and Dallas, opened his eponymous steakhouse Oak Lawn location 25 years ago. Its North Dallas location followed nearly two decades later, in 2017. Al Biernet’s is as well known for its seafood and wild game as it is for its steaks, so make it an Air, Land, and Sea night. Among the newly opened with an old-school feel, check out Brass Ram from prolific Dallas restaurateur Nick Badovinus. It’s rife with steak, martinis, and Marilyn Monroe memorabilia.
Mexican: Head over to Fort Worth for a meal at Don Artemio, where plates of northeast Mexican food are made with a modern flare and using local ingredients from Fort Worth and northeastern Mexico. The menu includes kid goat, nopales, red hawthorn, an array of tomahawk steaks, and a wine list rife with great Mexican wines. It’s another spot on the James Beard long list of 2023’s best new restaurants.
Brunch: Dallas is a city of power brunchers, so don’t expect to show up at any old place on the weekend and get seated. Knox Bistro offers a superb French bistro experience of classic brunch dishes with a bakery full of pastries that should not be missed. Sadelle’s in Highland Park has quickly become a brunch and breakfast favorite, with a deli counter where guests can stop for coffee, bagels, and every kind of schmear.
Italian: Most people don’t think of Italian food when they think of Dallas, but all that is changing. As many new Italian spots open in town, consider heading Downtown to try Sassetta. The Tuscan-inspired location serves house-made pasta, including decadent lobster spaghetti; traditional preparations of foul, steak, and seafood; and thin crust, Roman-style pizzas in one of the city’s most beautiful spaces.
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. Stop in to enjoy a gorgeous wine and apps menu at Written by Seasons, the Eater Dallas award winner for Best New Restaurant in 2022. Visit one of the city’s long-running favorite eateries, Lucia, for Mediterranean-inspired Italian dishes — it’s tiny, so make a reservation. Or grab a drink at Bar Eden and escape into a heavenly experience.
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?
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. Uchi is a much-loved stop for modern Japanese food, from sushi to steak. Fearing’s in the Ritz-Carlton is where one of Dallas’s premiere chefs, Dean Fearing, serves the Southwest cuisine for which he’s so well known and admired.
Thanks to hoteliers opening fine dining restaurants, Downtown Dallas is a hot spot to eat. It’s almost impossible to curate them, but Kessaku on the top floor of the Thompson Hotel offers sushi and prime views of the city. The Joule’s Midnight Rambler will delight cocktail enthusiasts, while The Adolphus’s Rodeo Bar is the spot for a Texas-themed night out.
Hit up Sister for a cozy Mediterranean meal at a neighborhood restaurant noted by the New York Times as one of the best in the country on its 2022 list. And check out Quarter Acre, an intimate spot for New Zealand-influenced dishes full of whimsy.
What was once an industrial wasteland hosts some of the city’s best dining destinations. El Carlos Elegante, a Mexican-ish restaurant, has been on the lips of most Dallasites since it opened in the winter and is a must-visit. Carbone Dallas and its sister restaurant Vino also opened here the last year, driving mass traffic to the area as locals battled it out for reservations.
Dallas Glossary of Terms
Frozen margaritas: Did you know that a Dallas restaurant owner invited the frozen margarita machine, and was inspired by 7-Eleven’s Slurpee machine? We’ve since perfected the art of making the best frozen margaritas around.
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.
Cafe: If you’re looking for diner culture, you’re in the wrong state. In Dallas, as is the case all over Texas, they’re cafes. A good cafe should serve breakfast all day and have a mean chicken fried steak on the menu.
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.
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.
How to Spend a Day Eating in DFW
To those spending a day dining in the city, start at Ascension Coffee at any of its many destinations around the city 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 to take in one of the great views of Downtown. For a relaxed dinner, drop into Escondido Tex Mex Patio, where you’ve gotta try the frozen margs and the Tex-Mex pizza on its expansive outdoor patio — gotta enjoy the Texas weather while its nice. Or, if you want something fancier but distinctly Dallas, make reservations at the restaurant at Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek. Make sure you also stop at its bar for a cocktail and a glimpse at a version of the city’s social life that can only be found there.
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