Texas-Sized To-Do List: How to Dominate the Dallas Food Scene Like a Pro

From lick-your-lips barbecue to visionary vegetable-centric creations, Dallas is cooking up enough eats to satisfy even the most-outsized appetites.

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Photo By: Kevin Marple ©Kevin Marple 2014

Photo By: Kevin Marple ©Kevin Marple 2014

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Barbecue and Beyond

Like most of Texas, Dallas has earned a national reputation as a go-to location for barbecue and Tex-Mex. And while those are certainly pieces of the provisions puzzle here, this is a city with a well-rounded palate that welcomes chefs, cuisines and restaurants of all kinds. Here are a few to fuel a Dallas dining-out addiction.

 

Photo courtesy of Al Biernat’s

Hot Dog: Luscher’s Red Hots

What happens when one of Dallas’ most-beloved chefs puts his Texas twist on Chicago-style hot dogs? Luscher’s Red Hots happen. The Post Oak Red Hot is served with spicy brown mustard, piccalilli, onions, Texas tomato and sport pepper on a poppy seed bun. Failing to mention The “Uncle Herky” Burger located under the Taste Texas portion of the menu would also be doing the Dallas diner a major disservice.

Photo courtesy of Luscher’s Red Hots 

Go to: Luscher’s Red Hots

Fusion: Madrina

Madrina is a French-inspired Mexican restaurant that proves these two seemingly different culinary cultures can totally vibe. Standout dishes include the enfrijoladas with duck confit, cilantro tortilla, serrano chiles, black bean puree and queso fresco. The beverage menu showcases both countries’ signature spirits, as it includes an extensive selection of brandy from France, tequilas and mezcals from Mexico and a slew of signature cocktails categorized by their country of inspiration. Photo courtesy of Madrina

Go to: Madrina

Barbecue: Pecan Lodge

The best things in life are smoked. That’s Pecan Lodge’s motto, and the team has managed to keep lunch lines stretching out the door since opening inside the Dallas Farmers Market. Owners Diane and Justin Fourton eventually opened a much larger stand-alone eatery in Deep Ellum in 2014, offering more space to savor brisket that is moist, with the perfect amount of mesquite smokiness. In addition to the ’cue classics of brisket, ribs and pulled pork, the restaurant is renowned for its mac ‘n’ cheese and Aunt Polly’s banana pudding. Those diners craving something different should opt for The Hot Mess, which consists of a jumbo sea salt-crusted sweet potato, South Texas barbacoa, chipotle cream, cheese, butter and green onions. Photo courtesy of Pecan Lodge

Go to: Pecan Lodge

Vegetarian: Wayward Sons

While Wayward Sons is not a strictly vegetarian establishment, that’s arguably what makes this restaurant so impressive. Executive Chef Graham Dodds’ menu weaves between meatcentric dishes and plant-based ones, so even dining partners with diametrically opposed dietary preferences can experience a seamless dinner side by side. Carnivores may be converted, though, even if just for this meal, with substantial vegetarian dishes that showcase Dodds’ knack for culinary innovation. Though the menu changes with the seasons, be on the lookout for his intriguing riffs that reimagine the meatiest of dishes as plant-forward fare: vegetable charcuterie, beet chili and more. Even the sides are elevated with subtle tweaks: Carrots glisten with a grapefruit glaze and the grilled asparagus is swirled with lemon and garlic.

Photo courtesy of Wayward Sons

Go to: Wayward Sons

Burger: Remedy

This elevated 1920s soda fountain may not be a burger place specifically, but that doesn’t stop crowds from congregating in pursuit of patties. As its name suggests, the Remedy Cheeseburger represents the category in its purest form before fried eggs, pimento cheese and peanut butter came in and muddied the burger waters. Expect a perfect chunk of Kansas City Kobe beef topped with American cheese, house dill pickles, sweet onion, shredded lettuce, Texas tomato and creamy mustard on a grilled challah bun with fries. The result is a nostalgic combination that appeals to all ages. Executive Chef Danyele McPherson has wisely made this burger available for brunch, lunch and dinner. Photo courtesy of Remedy

Go to: Remedy

Brunch: Top Knot

Top Knot has set itself apart from standard brunch spots serving eggs Benedict and bottomless mimosas, thanks to an ingenious menu dreamed up by Chef de Cuisine Angela Hernandez. The menu traverses the globe, with international influences that shine through in selections that include Vietnamese iced coffee and a miso-caramel cinnamon pull-apart nabe. The main courses at Top Knot are equally memorable, with options that include daily onigiri, brown butter beets, potato shishito hash and a hot fried chicken Benedict. Photo courtesy of Top Knot

Go to: Top Knot

Kid-Friendly Friday Night: 18th & Vine

This family-friendly spot is sure to tease a smile out of even the tiniest food critic, as the menu is filled with comforting dishes that make dining out with the kids a cinch. Along with Kansas City-style barbecue — including ribs and burnt ends — there are plenty of satisfying sides, such as jalapeno cheese grits and collard greens that can be ordered in family-size portions. With such succulent dishes dished out by Pit Boss Matt Dallman and Chef Scott Gottlich, even the grownups in your group may be licking their fingers by the end of the meal. Photo courtesy of 18th & Vine

Go to: 18th & Vine

Mexican: Komali

If Tex-Mex is what you crave, you’re likely never far from a joint that’ll do just fine, but if it’s authentic Mexican food that you’re after, there is no other spot that’ll satisfy like Komali can. Chef Geovanny Arredondo brings together ancient culinary traditions with modern Mexico City trends to create dishes such as Cochinita Pibil and Mahi Mahi al Pastor from scratch daily. And don’t sleep on the specialty cocktails. A highlight is the Komali Margarita, which uses prickly pear puree, mango, fresh lime juice and more to set the frothy-beverage bar as high as it’s ever been. Photo courtesy of Komali

Go to: Komali

Steakhouse: Al Biernat’s

Loyalty to this steakhouse runs as deep as the rich marbling running through the impeccable steaks that Al Biernat has been serving at his namesake restaurant since 1988. Here you can find a stellar array of cuts, including two sourced right in Texas: a Wagyu dry-aged rib eye from Local Yocal in McKinney and a Wagyu wet-aged filet mignon from Gearhart Ranch in Fort Davis. While the steaks get star billing, the sides are not be overlooked, with standouts that include lobster risotto, au gratin potatoes and spinach-artichoke agnolotti. Adding to the dining experience is the service itself, as the focus here is on treating each guest like family. Photo courtesy of Al Biernat's

Go to: Al Biernat’s

Asian: Uchi

This contemporary Japanese and sushi restaurant is arguably the toughest place in town to score a reservation, with diners clamoring for a chance to taste Uchi’s clever combinations that bring together fresh seafood and locally sourced ingredients in unexpected ways. Executive chef and owner Tyson Cole continues to reinvent the sushi wheel by plating innovative daily dishes (think hama kama that consists of yellowtail collar, miso, pineapple and serrano) and staple Uchi menu items like the diver scallop hot rock, tomato katsu and fried milk. A 10-course chef’s tasting is also available for the most adventurous of diners. Photo courtesy of Uchi

Go to: Uchi

Salads & Wraps: Unleavened Fresh Kitchen

Unleavened slings healthier fare than your standard fast-casual spot, and all without sacrificing on taste. Wraps and salads dominate the menu, with a total of 10 different combinations that can be served either way. Each selection is composed of a protein that’s paired with an array of vegetables and the like. For instance, the Seaside brings together a lightened-up version of tuna salad with a veritable rainbow of add-ins: arugula, garden sprouts, tomato, pickled onions, carrot and spicy avocado. Heartier options include the Havana, which features both ham and guava-glazed pulled pork, along with a vibrant mixture of chopped horseradish pickle, sliced red cabbage and Swiss cheese, all served with honey mustard. Optional sides such as grilled sweet corn complete the meal.

Photo courtesy of Unleavened Fresh Kitchen

Go to: Unleavened Fresh Kitchen

Worth The Drive: Patina Green Home and Market

This charming restaurant along McKinney’s historic downtown square draws the crowds from Dallas, who are willing to make the trek to the burbs for Patina Green Home and Market’s seasonal menu of pressed sandwiches, soups and sides made from impeccable, locally sourced ingredients. The special market dinners, which require advance tickets, are a particular treat. They showcase the culinary talents of Chef Robert Lyford, who is a champion of the local food movement, via a five-course, farm-inspired tasting menu, with optional beer and wine pairings to boot. Photo courtesy of Patina Green Home and Market

Go to: Patina Green Home and Market

Dessert: Emporium Pies

This specialty pie shop in the Bishop Arts District is the go-to place for a hefty slice of handmade dessert fresh from the oven. Popular picks include the Smooth Operator (French silk chocolate atop a pretzel crust), Lord of the Pies (a deep-dish apple with cinnamon streusel) and Ebony and Ivory (a buttermilk chess pie rippled with chocolate hazelnut swirls). Patrons can sit to savor a slice in the shop or take their orders to go. Whole pies are also available for pickup, and a second Dallas locale opened in Deep Ellum to satisfy demand (there’s also a shop in McKinney). Photo courtesy of Emporium Pies

Go to: Emporium Pies

Tasting Menu: The Mansion Restaurant at Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek

Though a menu of contemporary American cuisine sounds simple enough, the offerings at this romantic restaurant housed in a luxe hotel are far from ordinary. The tasting menu is a particular standout, as it brings the flavors of the season to the forefront via inspired touches, such as the appearance of apple marmalade alongside lamb belly as part of an autumnal lineup. The focus is on impeccable ingredients sourced from local purveyors, a tradition that is expected to continue under Executive Chef Tom Parlo, who was tapped in October 2016 to helm The Mansion Restaurant’s kitchen.

Photo courtesy of The Mansion Restaurant

Go to: The Mansion Restaurant

Food as Art: FT33

Culinary wizard Matt McCallister proves that the farm-to-table movement still holds plenty of magic, as he deftly transforms locally sourced meats, vegetables and herbs into the most striking of creations at his Design District restaurant. With a menu that changes daily, one can never be sure exactly what to expect for dinner at FT33. But every meal comes together like a carefully curated art exhibit, with each dish meticulously constructed down to the very last detail. Photo courtesy of FT33

Go to: FT33

Farm to Table: Mudhen Meat and Greens

Under the leadership of restaurateur Shannon Wynne and Executive Chef Suki Otsuki, the team at Mudhen Meat and Greens is pushing the boundaries of its collective culinary imagination, with the restaurant’s Build Your Own Bowl option alone offering 40,000 possible combinations. A large board displays the vegetables offered at the restaurant, with check marks indicating which are being served on any given night. They can be paired with 44 Farms beef, fresh seafood or other proteins to create a customized bowl. Juices, smoothies and bone broth are also made in-house. And for those who want to add a bit of kick to their beverages, liquor is offered as an optional add-in.

Photo courtesy of Mudhen Meat and Greens

Go to: Mudhen Meat and Greens

Cheap Eats: Tacodeli

Arguably the best bites to be bought in Dallas on a strict budget are tacos, specifically the ones served at this outpost of the Austin-based Tacodeli chain. Fillings include beef, pork, seafood, chicken and vegetables, all wrapped up in organic corn tortillas and topped with the spicy signature sauce known as Salsa Doña. There are also a slew of breakfast tacos for those who want to fuel up for the day without breaking the bank. No matter which menu you choose from, each taco is priced at under five bucks.

Photo courtesy of Tacodeli

Go to: Tacodeli

Pizza: CiboDivino Marketplace

A wood-burning oven creates Neapolitan-style pizza at this market run by Chef-Owner Daniele Puleo, who leans on his Sicilian upbringing to bring genuine Italian cuisine to Dallas. Each month, CiboDivino Marketplace features five gourmet pizzas based on seasonal ingredients. Though the monthly specials are where the magic happens, true pizza aficionados can opt for the build-your-own pizza option. Ask Puleo to suggest one of the 350 wines (which he selected from vineyards in both California and Italy) specifically to best pair with your pizza. Photo courtesy of CiboDivino Marketplace

Go to: CiboDivino Marketplace

Wine Bar: Times Ten Cellars

Locals head to this spot to sip Tempranillo, Syrah and other wines that Times Ten Cellars has been producing for the past decade, many of which are made from grapes grown right in-state (at the Cathedral Mountain Vineyard just outside of Alpine). Crowds congregate in the winery’s elegant tasting room and lounge, and spill out onto the spacious, dog-friendly patio. Along with the standard varieties such as Merlot, Malbec, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay, Times Ten Cellars also offers special anniversary blends (in both red and white) on occasion. Cheese plates and other small bites are also available, with the special addition of pizza on Wednesday nights, when Urban Crust Pizza slings slices from its mobile oven.

Photo courtesy of Times Ten Cellars

Go to: Times Ten Cellars

Beer Selection: The Meddlesome Moth

Like moths to a flame, beer aficionados are drawn to this gastropub aglow with a dazzling array of craft brews. With more than 40 draught beers and 85 bottled selections available, the minds behind The Meddlesome Moth pride themselves on the bold and exciting pours offered here, meaning you likely won’t find a mainstream brand in the bunch. Renowned beer destinations such as Germany and Belgium are represented, as well as craft breweries closer to home, including ones based in California, Oregon, Colorado and Oklahoma and ones right here in Texas. The suds may be the main draw, but it’s worth noting that the food is excellent too. Photo courtesy of The Meddlesome Moth

Go to: The Meddlesome Moth

Wine List: Gemma

It's not hard to find a delicious glass or bottle of wine in Dallas, but what makes the wine list at this chic eatery so memorable is its sense of balance. Owners Stephen Rogers and Allison Yoder moved to Dallas from California’s Napa Valley, where they had plenty of exposure to wine during their years working together at the Press restaurant in St. Helena, Calif. Their expertise shows through in Gemma’s extensive wine list that they have personally vetted, with stellar selections to suit virtually every price point. Wine by the glass, wine on tap and half bottles are also available. Photo courtesy of Gemma

Go to: Gemma

Patio: HG Sply Co.

The energy at this popular patio is exhilarating, and the ambience is further enhanced by a dazzling view of the Downtown Dallas skyline (an unexpected bonus, given its location along Greenville Avenue). The HG Sply Co. patio is large and features a separate bar from the restaurant, along with a plethora of tables where patrons mix and mingle. Pro tip: If you plan to socialize with a large group, arrive early in the evening. This place tends to fill up fast and stays packed well into the night with 20-somethings sipping Moscow Mules and Shiner Bock. Photo courtesy of HG Sply Co.

Go to: HG Sply Co.

Cocktail Bar: Quill Bar and Lounge

This chic spot in the Dallas Design District channels the cocktail bars of New York, London and Paris with its swank European-inspired decor and sophisticated menu of signature drinks. From behind a stunning green marble bar that stretches along one wall, bartenders mix up specialty cocktails such as the Butterfly Effect, which brings vodka together with the bright flavors of fresh grapefruit and lemon juices, then sweetens it up with the floral notes of St-Germain and tops it off with a delicate egg foam. Drinks can be paired with delectable bites that include bigeye tuna made with ginger soy and chili pop rocks, Wagyu steak frites, and truffle mac 'n' cheese. Photo courtesy of Quill Bar and Lounge

Go to: Quill Bar and Lounge

Iconic Restaurant: The Grape

This cozy bistro feels a world apart from bustling Greenville Avenue, where it has stood for more than four decades. A European influence is evident in details such as the blackboard menu, which was a novel element in the Dallas dining scene when The Grape first opened in 1972. These thoughtful touches have remain unchanged throughout the years, even after Chef Brian Luscher took the reins from The Grape’s original owners in 2007.  Luscher has stayed true to the restaurant’s roots, offering a solid menu of bistro classics, including steak frites, wines, cheese and charcuterie. Weekly specials include a stellar burger served on Sundays and Mondays. Photo courtesy of Sam Rosen

Go to: The Grape

Late Night: Victor Tangos

Located on one of Dallas' hottest blocks, this Henderson Avenue gastropub is always abuzz with fantastic energy, which doesn't wind down until the doors close at midnight. The stellar drink list includes craft cocktails such as the Passionfruit Gimlet, the Hipster Elixir and The Dapper Dan. And patrons in need of a late-night bite don’t need to settle for basic bar fare. Victor Tangos has established itself as a small-plates destination with sophisticated dishes that include ahi tuna nachos, grilled lamb chop lollipops and spiced caramel popcorn with bacon and peanuts. Photo courtesy of Victor Tangos

Date Night: Le Bilboquet

This Knox Henderson hot spot is modeled after the classic New York bistro of the same name, right down to the exquisite French fare and the exceptional customer service. For those who want to impress on date night, Le Bilboquet provides the ideal setting, complete with white tablecloths, candles and romantic lighting. The menu is rife with impeccable selections, including Filet au Poivre and a crab and avocado salad. Take the decadence up an extra notch with champagne and an indulgent dessert.

Photo courtesy of Le Bilboquet

Go to: Le Bilboquet

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