Editor’s Note: Welcome to The Greats, a series on the restaurants around the country that define their cities. Here now, a guide to the Dallas Greats.
For years, Dallas’s top-notch dining scene was something of a well-kept secret, but in the last decade the buzz has increased in volume. Dallas celebrity chefs are cropping up, restaurants keep hitting national and international best-of lists, and once Bon Appetit magazine recognized Dallas as the 2019 restaurant city of the year, the hidden treasure had officially revealed its sparkle to the world.
What people outside of Dallas might not understand is that Dallas’s culture largely hangs on going out to eat. Therefore, the competition is high, so it’s hard to find a bad restaurant. It wasn’t easy making a “best of Dallas” list, because so many Dallas restaurants qualify. The ones on this list offer something for everyone—the fine diners, the barbecue lovers, and those who are all about ambiance. These are Dallas’s greatest restaurants.
When Jay Jerrier opened this Italian spot in Deep Ellum in 2011, pizza lovers lost their minds. Real Neapolitan pizza was hard to come by in Dallas back then (it’s still a commodity), and here Jerrier was with a wood-burning brick oven he built himself, authentic training in the Neapolitan pizza preparation style, and fresh dough made daily in-house with flour he imports from Italy. D Magazine named Cane Rosso Dallas’s best pizza five years in a row, and Jerrier opened four more spots around the city. When the chain expanded out of Dallas, the Houston Chronicle promptly awarded it best pizza in Houston. Dallasites know: If anyone asks, “Where should I go for good pizza?” the answer is Cane Rosso.
Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor dining.
Takeout: Cane Rosso’s website offers online ordering for both pickup and delivery.
In the land of Tex-Mex, Jose, founded by local entertainment and development firm Woodhouse, specializes in just the “Mex” part—specifically beautifully plated regional recipes from the Mexican state of Jalisco: aguachiles and ceviches reminiscent of Puerto Vallarta, elotes from Guadalajara, carne asada, tacos (of course), and oceans of tequila. No matter what’s on offer, Dallas diners know it will be good; executive chef Anastacia Quiñones-Pittman was Eater Dallas’s 2018 chef of the year, and she was recently named a James Beard Awards semifinalist for Best Chef. The restaurant’s décor is heavy on beautiful ceramics, and the wall-sized, hand-painted black-and-white tile mural functions as the focal point.
Dining at the restaurant: On the patio, string lights and heat lamps (on cool nights) light the romantic space. Indoors, diners share chips and salsa at cozy tables or belly up to the bar.
Takeout: Jose offers pickup through its website.
No Dallas restaurant is more iconic than “The Mansion.” Constructed in the 1920s, the grand mansion was once a home, inhabited through the years by various wealthy families companies, until 1979 when Rosewood transformed it into a hotel and then opened the restaurant. This pillar of Dallas fine dining has been graced through the decades by everyone who’s anyone—FDR, Tennessee Williams, Cindy Crawford, and Jay-Z, to name a few. Today The Mansion remains synonymous with haute cuisine, serving classic steak and seafood dishes in a setting that looks and feels like an opulent home. Seared diver scallops arrive with périgord truffles, the caviar is the rarest and most valuable kind (Platinum Osetra), and elegant details throughout the multi-roomed space include Renaissance-era decor and stained-glass windows.
Dining at the restaurant: Whether you sit by the hand-carved fireplace, on the patio surrounded by oak trees, or in the rich, dark leather of the Mansion Bar, The Mansion’s refined setting is the experience. Dress code: “smart casual.”
Takeout: The Mansion offers neither takeout nor delivery.
From the burger with brie fondue to the trout in lemon butter to the filet mignon, this Dallas classic with its hickory wood-burning grill has been making magic since it opened in a strip mall on Beltline in 2005. Kenny’s Wood Fired Grill is part of chef Kenny Bowers’s small but mighty dining empire. A native New Englander, Bowers has been opening restaurants in Dallas since 1992, and diners always feel the warm welcome in his laidback atmospheres and delicious, unpretentious food. Kenny’s Restaurant Group currently helms four other popular spots: Kenny’s Burger Joints in Plano & Frisco, Kenny’s Italian Kitchen, and Kenny’s East Coast Pizza.
Dining at the restaurant: The warm lighting and exposed-brick walls make for a cozy atmosphere.
Takeout: Curbside pickup is available and some menu items, such as the “adult” mac and cheese, are perfect for a relaxing night at home.
This sprawling four-story restaurant that has been a Fort Worth destination since 1996 is all Texas all the time—hunting trophies mounted on the walls, cowboy paintings, cactus glass art, lonestar bar stools. The menu, too, from the jalapeño and cheese elk sausage to the tenderloin tamales with pecan mash, pays homage to the state. Tourists know that Reata is a must, but locals love it, too, because the food is excellent, and from the rooftop, the view of Fort Worth is the best in the city.
Dining at the restaurant: The rooftop bar is the perfect place to sip a Cowboy Cosmo (orange vodka with Cointreau, lime, and cranberry).
Takeout: Reata offers both pickup and delivery.
Dallas diners’ go-to special occasion restaurant Al Biernat’s (named for its owner) opened in Oak Lawn in 1998 to rave reviews. Through the years, it remained so popular—collecting accolades including “Best Steakhouse” from D Magazine—that Biernat eventually opened a second location in North Dallas. Not only are the steaks flawlessly prepared, the white table cloths and dim lighting the picture of elegance, and the wine program (close to 700 bottles) among the city’s most impressive, but on Dallas’s dining scene, this is also the place for celebrity-spotting: Anyone who’s anyone winds up at Al Biernat’s. The bar is a work of art; belly up and check out the painting on the concave ceiling: spherical shapes that complement the drop lights and the curved shape of the bar itself.
Dining at the restaurant: Both the dining room (elegant casual attire) and the patio (dressy casual attire) offer unbeatable ambiance.
Takeout: Diners can order both pickup and delivery through the restaurant’s website.
Diners at Whiskey Cake know they’re getting the freshest ingredients possible: honey, fruit, salad greens, produce, herbs, and more are sourced from Texan producers. Helmed by Front Burner Group Dining, the rustic-hip Plano location—rustic thanks to warm wood, exposed brick, and farm-to-table recipes; hip because, for example, it’s the first full-service restaurant in Texas to install commercial electric vehicle charging stations—opened in 2011 and garnered an OpenTable Diner’s Choice Award because the food. Think roasted butternut squash turmeric hummus, pork brisket steak with pickled green tomatoes, and burgers. It’s all always tasty, especially the namesake whiskey cake made from toffee torte, bourbon anglaise, spiced pecans, and whipped cream.
Dining at the restaurant: Diners can make reservations through OpenTable and choose between indoor and outdoor seating.
Takeout: Delivery is available through third-party apps. Whiskey Cake offers curbside pickup.
In 2006, Tracy Rathbun and Lynae Fearing turned their longtime dream of opening a “little taco stand” into a reality—only it’s a far cry from a little taco stand. Their pan-Asian restaurant Shinsei is nothing short of an institution on the Dallas dining scene with its stylish décor, enticing flavor pairings (braised pork steam buns, crispy Brussels sprouts, hoisin baby back ribs), fresh sushi, and Asian-inspired cocktails such as the Toki highball (Japanese whisky, lemon, cucumber, mint, and a big ice ball). Rathbun and Fearing have since opened a second location in DFW Airport, as well as a popular seafood restaurant called Lovers Seafood.
Dining at the restaurant: Shinsei is open for reservations through OpenTable, and it’s always fun to make a stop for an after-dinner drink in the sophisticated upstairs lounge.
Takeout: Shinsei offers pickup through the restaurant and delivery through third-party apps.
In 2015, James Beard Award-winning chef Tyson Cole graced Dallas with his beloved Uchi, Austin’s favorite sushi spot since 2003. Inside the renovated two-story bank from the 1970s, tasteful lighting warms walnut and red cedar wood, creating a chic but homey ambiance (“uchi” is Japanese for “house”). Though diners can choose the classics they might find on any Japanese restaurant menu in the city (edamame, yellowtail sashimi), they can also enjoy wholly innovative recipes, including “walu walu”—oak-grilled escolar (a kind of snake mackerel) with candied citrus, ponzu, and Japanese ginger—and a one-ounce jar of caviar prepared with yuzu (an Japanese citrus fruit), cured egg yolk, chives, and sesame rice chips.
Dining at the restaurant: This restaurant is wildly popular, so diners should reserve seating through OpenTable. Uchi does, however, take first-come, first-serve walk-ins at the sushi bar.
Takeout: Uchi offers both curbside pickup and delivery.
In Dallas, everyone has an opinion on where to get the best barbecue—and a lot of people’s opinion is Pecan Lodge. Texas Monthly listed it among the top four barbecue joints in the world. Named for co-owner Justin Fourton’s grandfather’s ranch in Abilene, Pecan Lodge started as a little husband-wife stand at the farmer’s market and is, as of 2014, one of Deep Ellum’s hottest restaurants. (Guy Fieri’s approval might have helped.) Justin and Diane Fourton make everything from scratch, down to grinding and stuffing their own sausage. Expect to stand in line in this sleek but casual order-at-the-counter spot, but also expect perfect brisket, a roll of paper towels on your table, cold beer on draft, an adorable back patio, and smoking techniques so precise, you could prove them with the scientific method.
Dining at the restaurant: Pecan Lodge offers both indoor and outdoor seating.
Takeout: Pecan Lodge offers drive-through pickup, as well as delivery through third-party apps.
Since 2007, Dallas celebrity chef Dean Fearing has dished up nothing short of opulence in the restaurant that Zagat named number-one in hotel dining in the U.S. and Esquire magazine awarded restaurant of the year—in short, Fearing’s is the crown jewel of Dallas fine dining. Fearing himself was already a television personality, cookbook author, and James Beard Award winner when he opened his eponymous restaurant inside the Ritz-Carlton, but he never rested on his accolades or choice location. The Southwestern recipes are both simple and elevated. Try the prime beef filet with chicken-fried Maine lobster, served alongside loaded whipped potatoes and a spinach taco with smoked tomato gravy.
Dining at the restaurant: Fearing’s is open for both indoor and outdoor seating and has seven spaces to choose from, including the Rattlesnake Bar with its rich wood paneling and sophisticated cocktail menu.
Takeout: Fearing’s offers pickup for those who prefer to enjoy a Texas Akaushi ribeye and crispy duck fat tater tots at home.
Named for the spectacular fire pit in this extravagant 6,000-square-foot space, Town Hearth is the 2017 addition to Restaurant Group Flavorhook’s collection of successful Dallas restaurants. Chef Nick Badovinus is known and adored for the wild, crackling energy he brings to his work: One of his restaurants has a bunch of cars parked inside; his list of pandemic-era pop-ups (or “side hustles,” as they’re called on Flavorhook’s website) were impossible to keep up with; and Town Hearth’s dining room boasts 64 crystal chandeliers and a giant glass-encased yellow submarine. As the name and fire pit suggest, Town Hearth serves up steak and seafood cooked over open flame. Go for the perfect filet mignon and oysters. Stay for the random motorcycle on display in the center of a fancy steak house.
Dining at the restaurant: Diners can call the restaurant to reserve a table. It’s worth dining in for the hearth and the artistic plating.
Takeout: Through Town Hearth’s website, diners can order carry-out or delivery.
It’s hard to imagine a restaurant that encapsulates the term “hidden gem” more than this simple Japanese spot set in an unassuming strip mall. Edoko Omakase slings the freshest sushi, a carefully curated selection of sake imported from Japan, and innovative dishes from the kitchen—tuna pizza (ahi tuna, black olives, onions, and anchovy aioli on a crispy tortilla); spicy miso soup brimming with shellfish, including scallops and shrimp caught off the Japanese island of Hokkaidō; and Kakuni buns (marinated brisket and Jidori chicken with shishito peppers and seasonal onions). The plating is spare and colorful and the ingredients are the highest quality—even the wasabi is grated fresh from the root.
Dining at the restaurant: For the true omakase experience, sit at the bar and go for the “chef’s choice,” when you trust the sushi master to surprise you with the most delicious melt-in-your-mouth cuts. Tables and a la carte ordering are also available.
Takeout: Edoko Omakase offers both pickup and delivery.
Since its opening day in March 2021, this 49th-floor modern Italian restaurant helmed by award-winning chef Danny Grant has dazzled Dallas diners with its stunning bird’s eye view of the skyline, impeccable service, and ever-changing seasonal tasting menu with wine pairings. Quickly joining the ranks of the city’s top special occasion spots, Monarch won the CultureMap Tastemaker Award for Best New Restaurant and was listed as one of D Magazine’s Best New Restaurants, too. Menu highlights include wood-fired meatballs with buffalo mozzarella, house-made spaghetti with a whole Maine lobster, and a 40-ounce porterhouse prepared Florence-style: coal-charred with lemon, arugula, olive oil and sea salt.
Dining at the restaurant: Plush booths, white tablecloths, and picture windows lend the dining room its elegance. The craft cocktail list offers monarch-themed drinks (try the Sovereign made with whiskey, amaro montenegro, amontillado sherry, and orange bitters), and even the bar is photo-worthy.
Takeout: Monarch offers neither takeout nor delivery.
Go for the coq au vin recipe that shot owner Kevin Ashade to celebrity chef status (he won Beat Bobby Flay in 2016 with it); stay for…all the other amazing dishes on the menu in this unlikely suburban hideaway. That Ashade opened Pangea’s doors at the most inopportune of moments—January 2020—yet has maintained such a beloved destination on the city’s dining scene is testament to his talent. The chef, who has lived all over the world, offers Cajun dishes, international flavors, and a raved-about dessert menu. There’s the famous coq au vin, braised in red wine, bacon, carrots, onions, and celery; lobster mac and cheese loaded with five cheese and a four-ounce roasted lobster tail; and a sopapilla cheesecake that’s a must-order.
Dining at the restaurant: Diners can pile into cozy indoor booths or opt for patio seating.
Takeout: Pangea offers both pickup and delivery.
Every neighborhood needs its go-to Chinese restaurant, and in Plano, that’s the strip mall favorite Yao Fuzi. “Yao” is the family name of the father-son owners, while “fuzi” means “father-son” in Mandarin. Since it opened in 2008, Yao Fuzi has become a staple not only for Plano diners, but also for Chinese food-lovers all over the Metroplex—D Magazine has named it the city’s best Chinese restaurant several times. The Shanghainese menu honors the cooking style from Shanghai with a wide selection of familiar favorites such as handmade dumplings as well as a few delicacies that are tough to find in Dallas, like the jellyfish appetizer.
Dining at the restaurant: Don’t let the strip mall fool you. Inside, the space is elegant and simple, with white linen tablecloths, dim lighting, and deep reds and blacks. Among the many marvels of booking a table at Yao Fuzi is the selection of 350-plus wines.
Takeout: Yao Fuzi offers both pickup and delivery.
Mesero (Multiple locations)
You know the kind of restaurant that’s so consistent, so pleasing to all palates, it becomes the locked and loaded answer to “Where should we go for dinner?” With six locations around the Metroplex, as far north as Legacy West and as far south as Fort Worth, Mesero is that restaurant. Trey Dyer caters to Dallasites’ discerning Tex-Mex palates—the food is always tasty, the atmosphere both festive and stylish, the margaritas ever-flowing. Well loved Tex-Mex favorites (tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, chile rellenos) mingle on the menu with a few American comfort foods (hamburgers, hot dogs smothered in cheese, chicken fingers with fries). Cinco leches cake and chocolate flan provide a sweet end to the evening.
Dining at the restaurant: One perk of grabbing a table, whether indoors or outdoors, is that as soon as you sit down, warm chips with three kinds of house-made salsas appear.
Takeout: All locations offer both pickup and delivery.
Mesero – Preston Hollow Village
Mesero – Victory Park
Mesero – Clearfork
Mesero – Inwood Village
Mesero – Prestonwood
Mesero – Legacy West
Diana Spechler is a novelist and essayist whose work appears in The New York Times, The Guardian, Washington Post, Harper’s, and elsewhere.
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