Dallas Visitors Guide: Food and Restaurants
We've planned out a few days' worth of gourmet heaven. You can thank us later.
Welcome to Dallas, home to a range of dining experiences, from sitting on the trunk of your car and eating barbecue, to gorging on a two-fisted burger from Wingfield’s in South Dallas, to taking a seat at the sexy ceviche bar at Stephan Pyles downtown.
At the heart of our culinary soul you’ll find wondrous plates and platters of fine Tex-Mex, but Dallas also has a fine stable of rock-star chefs who can dazzle your palate with global creations. Also, “locavore” is not a term our restaurants take lightly. Dallas is filled with small, hip neighborhood spots where you can sample regional artisanal products. Whether you’ve got one day or one month in Dallas, you won’t go home hungry or unsatisfied.
Where to Stay
If you’d like to get an inside view on what the funky life is in Dallas, book a room at the oh-so-hip Belmont Hotel (901 Fort Worth Avenue. 214-393-4141). Almost every room has a view of the Dallas skyline, and the hotel is close to the Bishop Arts District, one of the hippest and most happening areas in town.
Day One: Goin' Local
Early morning: Roll out of bed and walk across the parking lot to Smoke, where you can linger over a cup of coffee and a newspaper and try one of the most ambitious locavore menus in town. We love the hot chicken tamales served with eggs and the blueberry and house-made ricotta cheese pancakes. The bacon is not to be missed; it’s cured on-site.
Mid-morning: Walk off your morning calorie intake by window-shopping in the trendy Bishop Arts District, home to more than 50 local restaurants, boutiques, and specialty shops. If you’re a true foodie, you’ll love The Soda Gallery, a unique shop that sells a variety of regional and international glass-bottled sodas, such as nostalgic favorites Nesbitt’s, Bubble Up, Squirt, and NuGrape, all still produced with the original ingredients. Don’t forget to try a bottle of the original Dr Pepper from Dublin, Texas.
Late morning: If you’re in town over a weekend, visit the Dallas Farmers Market in the southeast corner of Downtown Dallas. This spot is a mecca for Dallas foodies and chefs, who frequent the sheds for local produce, honey, meat, flowers, and local handicrafts. Don’t hesitate to taste some of Dallas’ finest street food, such as elote (roasted corn) served with mayonnaise and grated Parmesan cheese. You’ll find some unique independent food stalls in Shed 2. We recommend Pecan Lodge Catering for barbecue and Natsumi Kitchen for soy-based gelato.
Afternoon: Just a few miles north of the Farmers Market, you’ll find a vibrant area of Dallas known as Oak Lawn. In the heart of Oak Lawn is Parigi, a small neighborhood bistro dedicated to serving the finest local ingredients. The menu lists all of the local farmers and vendors supported by co-owners Janice Provost and Chad Hauser.
Late Afternoon: Why not spend the rest of the day shopping for foodie gifts? In Deep Ellum you will find Paula Lambert’s Mozzarella Company. Pick up one of Lambert’s creative cookbooks and a copy of her mail-order brochure. Her handmade cheeses (caciotta with Texas basil) have the unique taste of Texas; you’ll probably notice “Paula’s cheese” listed on local menus. Just around the corner you’ll find Calais Winery, where French winemaker Benjamin Calais crafts small batches of high-quality wines using Texas grapes and traditional French techniques. If you haven’t browsed the aisles at Central Market, be prepared to spend at least two hours roaming this foodie temple. To sample the specialties of the region, look for the GO TEXAN signs.
Evening: What’s the best restaurant for savoring Dallas’ finest freshest ingredients from small, owner-operated suppliers? It’s a toss-up between Lucia and Local. Sustainable, responsibly raised food lies at the heart of both restaurants. Each has a reputation much bigger than their tiny dining rooms.
Late Night: For a great night scene, head to Bolsa, just down the road from the Belmont Hotel. Chances are the place will be rocking with an eclectic crowd of locals hanging out on the patio or at the bar, where the shake-a, shake-a, shake-a sound of the bartenders mixing drinks is almost louder than the music. Or you could always have a nightcap at your hotel, in the BarBelmont, another local favorite.
Day Two: See-and-Be-Seen Dallas Chic
Morning: If your itinerary calls for a weekday breakfast, then graze among the city power brokers and visiting celebrities at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, where the dining room is as elegant as the service. Of course, you may choose to come back in the evening to sample executive chef Bruno Davaillon’s menu, and if you do, have an after-dinner drink on the twinkling—and romantic—terrace. The Mansion is the only five-star hotel in Texas for a reason.
Late Morning: Speaking of five-star, you must stroll through the charming Spanish-Mediterranean style buildings in Highland Park Village. Tucked among designer boutiques such as Chanel, Ralph Lauren, and Harry Winston is Molto Formaggio, a small shop dedicated to procuring hard-to-find artisan cheese. Recently we found chabrin, a goat’s milk cheese from the Pyrenees Mountains in France, and the unusual Sampietrino, a semi-firm Italian cheese made with a blend of cow’s and sheep’s milk and shaped like the pavement found in the historical center of Rome. For a taste of upscale Tex-Mex, lunch at local favorite Mi Cocina. A plate of beef fajita nachos and a Mambo Taxi—a frozen margarita swirled with sangria—can’t be beat. Then take a break from eating at Sur la Table, where you can browse the myriad kitchen gadgets, cookware, small appliances, and foodstuff that you never knew you always wanted.
Afternoon: If you didn’t stop for nachos at Mi Cocina, then head north on Douglas Avenue and hang a left on Lovers Lane to get to Inwood Village. Recently Laura Bush and Condoleezza Rice were spotted among all of the other Dallas Ladies Who Love to Lunch at Rise No. 1. The French-inspired menu features savory (sun-dried tomato and pesto chèvre) and sweet (praline pecan) soufflés along with soups, cheese plates, salads, and a lovely list of wine-by-the glass. While you dine, note the one-of-a-kind, hand-embroidered sheets, pillowcases, tablecloths, and napkins on display. They are gorgeous and, of course, for sale. Also in Inwood Village is Empire Bakery, the best bread maker in Dallas. Grab a loaf of jalapeno cheese bread or Hippie Loaf to take home. If chocolate is your weakness, then head over to Paper & Chocolate, where you’ll find Wiseman Chocolates made in Hico, Texas, a charming little town about a three-hour drive from Dallas.
Late Afternoon: Head back downtown and take the elevator to the 50th floor of Reunion Tower, where floor-to-ceiling windows afford 360-degree views of Dallas at revolving restaurant Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck. Settle in at the bar and order a ginger mojito and perhaps a dragon roll from the fine sushi menu. Five Sixty is the best spot in town to people watch and catch the sun setting over the distant skyline of Fort Worth.
Evening: Elegant dining is at an all-time high in Dallas. Not only have world-renowned chefs such as Charlie Palmer and Wolfgang Puck opened eateries here, but there are also many local chefs gaining local and national attention. If you prefer to taste upscale Texas cuisine, then look no further than Dean Fearing’s eponymous restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton. Fearing’s offers seven different dining atmospheres and a menu that features Dean’s tortilla soup and Texas “mopped” barbecue rib-eye. Bonus: the Rattlesnake Bar is always packed with wealthy Dallas divorcés and the ladies who love them. If you prefer a little bit of Asian in your fusion, then book a table at superstar chef Kent Rathbun’s elegant restaurant Abacus. The dining room is warm and sexy, and the menu is full of Rathbun’s innovative global dishes, such as his famous lobster shooters, ancho honey-glazed quail with a jack cheese tamale and Shiner Bock barbecue, and soy-glazed wild salmon with stir-fried Brussels sprouts. Of course, if you’ve come here to eat steak—and why would you miss ordering a big slab of beef in Texas?—you must try a bone-in rib-eye and that famous glazed carrot at the original Bob’s Steak & Chop House on Lemmon Avenue. The scene at the popular bar is hopping by 5 p.m., and the restaurant is a famous watering hole and night-off spot for local professional athletes. The most unique dining experience in Dallas is at Tei-An, where veteran restaurateur Teiichi Sakurai showcases exquisite Japanese cuisine. While most Japanese restaurants in Dallas wrap themselves around sushi, Tei An specializes in noodles—spaghetti-like soba and the larger, though still wriggly, udon. The dining room is unlike any in Dallas: serene.
Day Three: Roll-Up-Your-Sleeves Dining
Morning: Today is a day that you must vow not to count calories—and be prepared to drive all over town to dig into the most delicious dives. Begin with a steaming cup of coffee served by a “Hi-Hun” waitress at The Mecca. Every morning the joint swells with cops, lawyers, and trade workers—probably because the house-made cinnamon rolls are legendary. If you’d like a little more of a Texas accent in your meal, try the huevos rancheros with a side of peppered bacon and biscuits and gravy at AllGood Café. For a true Mexican breakfast (or lunch), there is no place finer than El Jordan. Here, breakfast burritos, tacos, egg dishes, and flour tortillas are the real deal—and real cheap.
Afternoon: You may think that because you are in Dallas, you should eat barbecue. If the truth be told—and we will tell it—Dallas is not a great barbecue city. Everyone thinks Sonny Bryan’s is a must, but we beg to differ. Instead visit Meshack’s Bar-B-Que Shack, where the meat is smoked with pecan, the state tree of Texas. Brisket is moist, hot links are a must-try, and the sides—particularly the mustard-based potato salad—are divine. Chicken-fried steak is another must-eat in Dallas. We love the hand-battered-to-order version at Ozona Grill served with fluffy mashed potatoes and cream gravy. Also noteworthy: the make-your-own Bloody Mary bar is the best in town. Looking for a great burger? Wingfield’s in South Dallas. It’s a funky take-out only spot, but the half-pound burgers are worth the chance of dripping mustard on the seat of your car.
Late Afternoon: Have you ever eaten authentic Texas tamales? Then get over to Lower Greenville Avenue and grab a seat on the patio at Dallas Tortilla and Tamale Factory, where you can sample the fine Mexican street food they have been making since 1950: barbacoa tacos, tamales, and menudo.
Evening: If you haven’t had your fill of Tex-Mex, then head to Little Mexico, home of Avila’s and the best chiles rellenos in Dallas. For an all-you-can-eat gluttonous meal, try Babe’s Chicken Dinner House. All the dinners are served family-style and include monstrous pieces of crispy fried chicken, chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes, cream gravy, and Grandma’s corn.
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