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An underground atrium with a large waterfall descending form the street level Kevin Marple

15 Classic Restaurants Every Dallasite Should Try

Where to feast on a piece of local history

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Dallas is known as a trend-obsessed city, especially when it comes to dining, but there are plenty of local eateries that have stood the test of time. From Tex-Mex icons open since the early 1900s to cozy diners and beloved barbecue joints, these 22 classic Dallas restaurants should be on every local’s bucket list.

— Updated by Adele Chapin

Is your favorite classic Dallas restaurant missing from this map? Shout it out in the comments.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Tolbert's

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Believe it or not, chili — not barbecue — is the state dish of Texas, and Tolbert’s serves up the city’s most iconic bowl. Originally opened in 1976 in downtown Dallas by journalist Frank X. Tolbert, who's largely credited with helping chili achieve Southwestern stardom, it's now located in a downtown Grapevine building that dates all the way back to 1911.

Royal China

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A Preston Hollow staple since 1974, Royal China is a must-visit for Chinese and Taiwanese dishes in North Dallas. Patrons can watch their noodles be made at the bar, and eat some of the best soup dumplings in town.

Tupinamba Cafe

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The oldest family-owned Mexican restaurant in the city, Tupinamba was first opened back in 1947. It’s moved several times, but manages to retain an old-school vibe and a loyal clientele that comes back for the deep-fried “Tupy tacos” and more classic Tex-Mex fare.

Dunston's Steakhouse

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Opened in 1955 and originally called Gene's, Dunston's is the steakhouse that time forgot. Don't expect Nick & Sam's-caliber steaks, but there's a certain charm to the dated vibe and weird iceberg salads.

Campisi's Egyptian Lounge

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Established in 1946 and moved to Mockingbird Lane in 1950, there's absolutely nothing Egyptian about Italian restaurant Campisi's, it was just cheaper to keep the original sign. Cracker-crust pizza, including a unique muffaletta version, makes this Dallas icon a must-visit at least once. Hey, if it's good enough for Jack Ruby, it's good enough for us.

Cafe Pacific

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Swanky Cafe Pacific has been a Park Cities mainstay since 1980, this place is a power-lunch haven for one-percenters who wish to dine on fine seafood. Just don't show up in shorts and flip-flops — there is a dress code, and it is enforced.

Javier's

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Beloved Park Cities staple Javier's opened back in 1977 and continues to draw crowds nightly for its upscale take on Mexican food, suave service, and strong margaritas. Be sure to stop by the taxidermy-laden cigar room for a post-dinner drink.

St. Martin's Wine Bistro

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The building dates back to 1925 and once housed the very first air-conditioned bar in Dallas, though it didn't become St. Martin's until 1977. This cozy little French bar touts itself as being "the most romantic restaurant in Dallas," and given the grand piano, dimly-lit nooks, and the grand back room replete with ornate art and a fabulous chandelier, it's easy to see why.

Sonny Bryan's

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Local barbecue legend Sonny Bryan's was founded way back in 1910, though the "original" Inwood location didn't begin serving until 1958. The restaurant, located just across the way from UT Southwestern, features vintage school desks at which to chow down on brisket sandwiches and huge onion rings 24 hours a day.

Gold Rush Cafe

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Classic diner breakfasts await at this Lakewood staple, where folks have been eating since 1980. Founder Virgil Sanchez Sr. died in 2017, but his family is keeping the grill going. Be sure to try the John Wayne, a hangover-alleviating concoction of eggs, cheese, salsa, hash browns, bacon, and tortillas. Gold Rush is open every day but Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Jimmy's Food Store

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East Dallas icon Jimmy's first opened back in 1966 and eventually evolved into the city’s most beloved Italian market and deli. Though famous for their giant made-to-order sandwiches, shoppers can also find plenty of imported Italian gems inside, from fresh pastas to exotic olive oils and regional Italian wines. And of course, there’s always Jimmy’s famous Italian sausage...

S & D Oyster Company

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The stately McKinney Avenue building that now houses S&D Oyster Co. was originally built in the 1890's as a grocery; in 1976, Herb and Mary Kay Story turned it into a Louisiana-influenced seafood restaurant. People still flock here for po'boys and shrimp cocktails.

El Fenix

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Originally founded in 1918, El Fenix moved to McKinney Avenue in 1925. Cheap, strong margaritas at happy hour and a very cool old building make visiting the original Downtown location a Dallas bucket list essential.

Dakota's

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This Downtown Dallas icon, known for its subterranean garden and 20-foot high waterwall, originally opened in 1984, serving steaks, wedge salads, crab cakes, and other power lunches. It closed in the early days of the pandemic, but was recently resurrected (and renovated) by Dallasite Meredith McEneny, who also has a hand in restaurants like Jalisco Norte and Cedar Grove.

An underground atrium with a large waterfall descending form the street level
The Dakota’s below-ground dining room and waterwall.
Kevin Marple

Norma's Cafe

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Oak Cliff institution Norma's opened in 1956, and still maintains its old-school diner flavor courtesy of red vinyl booths, veteran waitresses, and of course, the bakery case filled with famous Mile-High Pies.

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Tolbert's

Believe it or not, chili — not barbecue — is the state dish of Texas, and Tolbert’s serves up the city’s most iconic bowl. Originally opened in 1976 in downtown Dallas by journalist Frank X. Tolbert, who's largely credited with helping chili achieve Southwestern stardom, it's now located in a downtown Grapevine building that dates all the way back to 1911.

Royal China

A Preston Hollow staple since 1974, Royal China is a must-visit for Chinese and Taiwanese dishes in North Dallas. Patrons can watch their noodles be made at the bar, and eat some of the best soup dumplings in town.

Tupinamba Cafe

The oldest family-owned Mexican restaurant in the city, Tupinamba was first opened back in 1947. It’s moved several times, but manages to retain an old-school vibe and a loyal clientele that comes back for the deep-fried “Tupy tacos” and more classic Tex-Mex fare.

Dunston's Steakhouse

Opened in 1955 and originally called Gene's, Dunston's is the steakhouse that time forgot. Don't expect Nick & Sam's-caliber steaks, but there's a certain charm to the dated vibe and weird iceberg salads.

Campisi's Egyptian Lounge

Established in 1946 and moved to Mockingbird Lane in 1950, there's absolutely nothing Egyptian about Italian restaurant Campisi's, it was just cheaper to keep the original sign. Cracker-crust pizza, including a unique muffaletta version, makes this Dallas icon a must-visit at least once. Hey, if it's good enough for Jack Ruby, it's good enough for us.

Cafe Pacific

Swanky Cafe Pacific has been a Park Cities mainstay since 1980, this place is a power-lunch haven for one-percenters who wish to dine on fine seafood. Just don't show up in shorts and flip-flops — there is a dress code, and it is enforced.

Javier's

Beloved Park Cities staple Javier's opened back in 1977 and continues to draw crowds nightly for its upscale take on Mexican food, suave service, and strong margaritas. Be sure to stop by the taxidermy-laden cigar room for a post-dinner drink.

St. Martin's Wine Bistro

The building dates back to 1925 and once housed the very first air-conditioned bar in Dallas, though it didn't become St. Martin's until 1977. This cozy little French bar touts itself as being "the most romantic restaurant in Dallas," and given the grand piano, dimly-lit nooks, and the grand back room replete with ornate art and a fabulous chandelier, it's easy to see why.

Sonny Bryan's

Local barbecue legend Sonny Bryan's was founded way back in 1910, though the "original" Inwood location didn't begin serving until 1958. The restaurant, located just across the way from UT Southwestern, features vintage school desks at which to chow down on brisket sandwiches and huge onion rings 24 hours a day.

Gold Rush Cafe

Classic diner breakfasts await at this Lakewood staple, where folks have been eating since 1980. Founder Virgil Sanchez Sr. died in 2017, but his family is keeping the grill going. Be sure to try the John Wayne, a hangover-alleviating concoction of eggs, cheese, salsa, hash browns, bacon, and tortillas. Gold Rush is open every day but Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Jimmy's Food Store

East Dallas icon Jimmy's first opened back in 1966 and eventually evolved into the city’s most beloved Italian market and deli. Though famous for their giant made-to-order sandwiches, shoppers can also find plenty of imported Italian gems inside, from fresh pastas to exotic olive oils and regional Italian wines. And of course, there’s always Jimmy’s famous Italian sausage...

S & D Oyster Company

The stately McKinney Avenue building that now houses S&D Oyster Co. was originally built in the 1890's as a grocery; in 1976, Herb and Mary Kay Story turned it into a Louisiana-influenced seafood restaurant. People still flock here for po'boys and shrimp cocktails.

El Fenix

Originally founded in 1918, El Fenix moved to McKinney Avenue in 1925. Cheap, strong margaritas at happy hour and a very cool old building make visiting the original Downtown location a Dallas bucket list essential.

Dakota's

An underground atrium with a large waterfall descending form the street level
The Dakota’s below-ground dining room and waterwall.
Kevin Marple

This Downtown Dallas icon, known for its subterranean garden and 20-foot high waterwall, originally opened in 1984, serving steaks, wedge salads, crab cakes, and other power lunches. It closed in the early days of the pandemic, but was recently resurrected (and renovated) by Dallasite Meredith McEneny, who also has a hand in restaurants like Jalisco Norte and Cedar Grove.

An underground atrium with a large waterfall descending form the street level
The Dakota’s below-ground dining room and waterwall.
Kevin Marple

Norma's Cafe

Oak Cliff institution Norma's opened in 1956, and still maintains its old-school diner flavor courtesy of red vinyl booths, veteran waitresses, and of course, the bakery case filled with famous Mile-High Pies.

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