• tinkerbell

    I think one of the things that defines our strong suit is not necessarily a specific cuisine, but the people who own and run so many of our establishments. I know, this sounds a bit Pollyanna, but it’s true. Al Biernat’s does have great food, but it’s Al who makes the place! The Palm was the Palm because of Al many years ago.Salum’s, again has great food, but it’s Abraham who cares about every detail, makes every customer feel special, is always in a GREAT mood. Same for ShinSei with Lynae and Tracy, Neighborhood Services with Nick, etc., etc.

    I think our restaurant scene is wonderful and vibrant because of the food AND the people who are passionate about it – not in an arrogant, rock star way, but upbeat and humble. Think about it.

    Maybe that’s why Leslie just doesn’t get Dallas.

  • JI

    DFW’s strong suit is chain restaurants and fast food.

  • Stacy L.

    Fast food, based on the number of outlets and the sheer girth of north Texans. Sad, but true. That’s what we seem to do well.

  • JT42

    Agree with tinkerbell completely!

    Although I think Tex-Mex is huge here (and delicious, might I add…I’m from Florida and had never experienced such great Tex Mex until I moved here!), I don’t know that we have a specific “cuisine” that we are known for. All of my favorite restaurants here are all completely different, and I love them for different reasons…the atmosphere and environment, the people, the eclectic menu, the locally grown produce, etc. etc. It’s definitely the people who are passionate about our restaurant scene that make it so great!

  • TB

    We’re pretty good at chewing up restaurant critics.

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  • tom


  • Amy S

    “Cooking that speaks through an invented language saps the vitality of cuisines generated in a place rather than by a single individual. It erases a commonly told narrative, it undermines something that territorially evolved cuisines have historically nourished, our identities.” Marcella Hazan


  • Goodwin

    Nancy, that’s the post you should have written in the first place instead of bashing Brenner! Your nastiness discredits yourself.

  • James

    I still think Tex-Mex is a strong suit, but what about upscale comfort? Places like Tillman’s, The Porch, Brownstone, Screen Door (use to be good)… I’m sure I’m leaving out a handful of others here too.

  • Beda

    Tex-Mex. Have you ever eaten what passes for Tex-Mex in NYC? It definitely is a regional cuisine and we do a pretty good job with it. Other regions of the U.S. do BBQ, so I say Tex Mex.

  • Terroir

    How about Dallas steakhouses, we have more per square mile on the Tollway than any city. I would stand Pappas up to Peter Luger’s or the Old Homestead. And Barbecue/Soul Food (I’ve been to Lockhart, Llano, Atlanta, etc.) our’s is just as good-Smoke, Sonny’s, and of course Sweet Georgia Brown’s. Leave the Michelin’s to NY and LA. I’ll take our greens, ribs, chittlin’s, chicken fried steak and pinto’s any day.

  • Terroir

    And don;t forget La Calle al Dolce for Tex Mex and Mariscos

  • kindofabigdeal

    Think of a city. Think of the cuisine you associate with that city. Most the places you can find in said city for said cuisine will be rather boring (but a few are great). The “food niche” of a city is a myth. As if in some place the tortillas are magically better. Its the combination of a ubiquitous cuisine (check) and demand from the customer base that all food be great (fail). Dallas doesn’t demand its restaurants to be exceptional so they aren’t, regardless of the cuisine.

  • rubbercow

    Ok, concepts like “upscale comfort” sums up what keeps Dallas from being taken seriously as a food town.

  • Amy S

    I think it’s important to consider that our oldest restaurants are all Tex-Mex. They’ve stayed open because the people of Dallas enjoy the food. Otherwise the competition would have put them out of business instead of vice versa.

    No other cuisine here has such a long standing continual history spread among so many restaurants. So doesn’t that make this our food, our Dallas Tex-Mex with significant history and extremely likeable (greasy or not, please, visit New Orleans for God’s sake)?

    NOT like Austin Tex-Mex or Houston Tex-Mex (remembering the 2 former Ninfa’s rr’s that are history now).

  • kindofabigdeal, interesting thought. Must chew.

  • I’m afraid kindofabigdeal is correct – That’s what keeps me busy with my little hobby.

  • SAM

    I don’t think our strength is in one kind of food, rather what makes us special is that we have such a variety of food readily available, no matter what part of D/FW you live in. Stop and think about the number and variety of restaurants that are within 10 miles of your house. After spending time in several other large cities (in several different countries) during the past few years, I could not wait to get home so I could have choices! And getting all this variety won’t cost you a week’s pay for one meal (at 90% of the places anyway). Can’t say the same in many other places.

  • Terroir

    In Dallas, fashion over form, form over function. That’s why we treat our restaurants like fashion shows–this seasons’ or years’ “hot spots” are next year’s out of vogue, out of fashion-except the steakhouses, Tex Mex, barbecue and soul food which all have no cache from a fashion or form standpoint, just a culinary or business function. Locavore now, blackboard menu next.

  • logan

    For every city that is known for a certain cuisine, there are many restaurants serving that cuisine that don’t live up to the hype…and i bet for the restaurants that most people think do a stellar job of serving that particular cuisine, there are a fare number of bashers that consider the restaurant overrated. Why is Dallas so hard on itself?

  • 31858060

    1) Corporate chain food
    2) Tex-Mex
    3) Southern-influenced,restaurant-produced “home cooking”
    4) Hamburgers
    5) High-end comfort food
    6) Derivative cooking aka Southwestern Cuisine

  • Terroir

    We worry more about what we aren’t, rather than what we ARE! and not just restaurants, think bridges, arts, music, etc…. We could take a lesson from FW in this regard. Stop comparing our shortcomings with other cities strong suits and become comfortable in our designer boots instead of Prada.

  • RB

    It’s tex mex because we do it better than 99% of anywhere else. You can quibble that Austin (or Houston or San Antonio) is better, but if they are better it’s not by much, and they would be the only places that were better. No where else. Mediocre to bad spots in Dallas are as good as or better than the best spots in other cities around the country.

    I agree with those that say Brenner probably just doesn’t like the tex mex genre all that much in general. Even if there’s not a single tex mex place that’s one of the 20 best restaurants in Dallas (and I’m not saying that’s necessarily true), they as a whole, and especially the top tier, are all so much better than the tex mex places that visitors from all over the country are used to. To name a random name, Mi Cocina (which has its detractors and is not the best the city has to offer)would blow the mind of someone from Pittsburgh. Is Brenner comparing tex mex places in Dallas to high-end Dallas restaurants, or is she comparing Dallas tex mex to other tex mex around the country. I think she got a little bit sideways.

    Dallas has great steakhouses and japanese too, but there is a del friscos, capital grille, sullivans, mortons, flemings, ruth chris, etc. in almost every decent sized city now.

    I will say that I think Dallas has really good japanese, but i can tell you that the food I miss the most, and always eat first when I come home, is tex mex.

  • s.e.

    @Terroir – Awesome response. You summed up my thoughts better than I could.

    Tex Mex isn’t prestigious, but it is Dallas food. Anytime people are visiting from Canada (where hubby’s family lives), there is at least a trip for enchiladas and a trip for chicken fried steak, because you cannot get food like it up there. I’ve tried cooking Tex-Mex while visiting them, and I couldn’t find all the ingredients.

    Dallas has such an identity crisis in all cultural things, and can’t recognize the good things that can only be found here. Instead, the powers that be would rather us be like whatever city is the hippest, when we could try to be “that city” the all others imitate.

  • macpad

    I think a good way to define our strong suit is to think about what food you miss when you’re away from Dallas. When I lived out of state for 5 years, Tex Mex is what I missed — that’s it. Other cities have way better food than Dallas but few do Tex Mex like we do.

  • RidemCowgirl

    Macpad hit it on the nose.

  • Sarah

    I like Smoke and think the chef is blazing a trail.

  • Cuonzo

    Burgers. No question.

  • Gastronome

    OK intrepid readers, if you’ve been away from Dallas for more than ten days, upon your return is there a particular restaurant you always visit within a week, a day, or on the way home from DFW????

  • Gastronome

    Don’t be shy.

  • Gastronome

    Be honest, where do you go to “get your fix”.

  • Borborygmus

    @ Gastronome – Mi Cocina or Tupinamba’s. And it’s delicious.

  • Terroir

    La Calle Doce, Sweet Georgia Brown’s or Jimmy’s

  • OzoneDude

    I’d say Dallas’s strong suit is service. No, it’s not a food, but it is a critical dining component. Service is generally a big fail in every other major food town but for New Orleans. It’s what keeps LA down, when it could be much more.

    Other than that, when I think of Dallas, I think of red meat and pork, across the spectrum, no specific cuisine. There’s no shame in that. Dallas does Steak, BBQ, Hamburgers, and Taqueria Tacos exceptionally well, much better than just about any other meat locale except Buenos Aires.

    As for 10 days away, when I come back I don’t want Tex-Mex, but I do want chicken fried steak (All-Good, Babe’s) and Keller’s. Honestly, I can get better Tex-Mex at La Cabana in Venice, CA, or Mexico City in East Hollywood, or a whole lot of other LA Tex-Mex kitchens. Maybe that’s why Leslie Brenner thinks that Tex-Mex is not a strong suit.

  • Go, Amy S!!!

  • allison

    @Macpad My sister has lived in the DC/Baltimore area for 8+ years and the ONLY thing she wants during her holiday trips is Tex-Mex. She says the Tex-Mex up there is horrible. She even has us bring CM’s butter tortillas on the plane. You don’t realize how good you have it until you move away.

  • tinkerbell

    I get to ShinSei within 48 hours back in town.

  • curmudgeon

    you know the saying”if you can make it in Dallas you can make it anywhere” tends to bring all the chain restaurants to this area and since we have more restaurants per capita than any other place in America it seems that we are guinea pigs for all that want to test their concepts to see if they can “make it” here then spread all over.
    If I had to pick a cuisine it would be fusion.

  • L.

    Macpad’s got it: it’s what you miss when you are away.

    When my plane hits the tarmac at D/FW once or twice a year now, I either go right to Herrera’s or to Mi Cocina for some tacos de brisket.

  • Jo Bennett

    Well it is NOT the pizza for sure because there is not one REALLY GOOD place to have it…but I’d have to say the strong suit here is it is eclectic!

  • You Knew This Was Coming

    By Borborygmus

    “No more poems for Leslie”, words now I regret,
    I just cannot stop when one sets up such a target.
    LesBren’s latest argument against Tex-Mex dishes,
    A punch in the face for those thinking “delicious”.

    It kept me awake, as I remembered some geometry
    And rules regarding the logical properties of equality.
    “Maybe she’s no mathlete,” I think as I decide
    To walk through the equation of her culinary suicide.

    Let’s start with the premise that a equals b,
    As in “Skip the Tex-Mex, it’s just not Big D
    Cuisine worth eating”, her statement loosely.
    Never mind that it’s eaten, citywide, profusely.

    So on to the next link, y’know, where b equals c,
    The local Tex-Mex places you can’t help but see.
    And successful? Many popular for decades or more
    But the fact that we love them doesn’t add to her score.

    Which leads to the final link, just so insulting:
    Then a equals c, do you see where I’m heading?
    If our TexMex doth suck, but we love it’s taste
    You’re saying we’re ignorant, a punch to the face.

    Never mind that thousands have loved this food,
    And most of us really, really consider it good.
    Not up to her standards, her measurement, what?
    Other city’s food, not Dallas’. This woman’s a nut!

    So let’s move on to a little Diophantine analysis
    Of writer, whose criticisms invite diner paralysis.
    But it’s obvious to me, and perhaps to you too
    She’d rather be elsewhere, it’s in every review.

    It’s sad that a person with DMN’s large platform
    Lacks a palate, yet opines, rating most “lukewarm”.
    But most of us recognize her power is waning
    Few read her reviews, they’re just not entertaining.

  • 31858060

    Jo Bennett, have you tried the Cavalli’s in McKinney or Irving? Granted, Dallas is a mecca for horrible chain pizzas; but there are a few places doing a good job.

  • Matt Monday

    First thing I do is go to all good cafe or maple and motor, most def a cheap date here.

    I agree with the first person to comment. Its about the individuals inspiring to do it there own way and not fitting into some lame category.

  • JTT

    I agree with “SAM” 100%, as I have also lived and worked in different countries and cities. Salsa in other places is marinara sauce. It’s foul and they don’t know the difference. “Jaah-lop-peen-nos” and “Fah – Jeet-tahs” ? Have you eaten BBQ or Mexican in Europe or on the Eastern Seaboard? Have you tried Italian in Asia? Or how about anything other than Chinese in most European countries?

    You have the entire globe of options at varying price ranged in Dallas… We have great Chinese, great Thai, great Vietnamese, great Mexican, Tex-Mex, Spanish, French, great Japanese, world-class steaks, Greek, Korean, respectable BBQ, Southern, great burgers, great tacos, etc.

    Dallas people are so spoiled they don’t even realize how lucky they are to live here. The cost of living is low and immigrants have fewer barriers to open low to mid-range restaurants that are affordable to everyone. Think of how many decent ethnic restaurants you see in D/FW that are affordable and authentic.

    @ “kindofabigdeal” – there is truth to what s/he observed and that happens everywhere. Do most trained chefs want to serve mediocre low-cost cuisine? Probably not. But the demand for “molecular gastronomy”/ haute cuisine and the like from Dallasites is too low. Richard Blaize’s restaurant in Atlanta closed shortly after it opened although he is praised frequently for his culinary talent. Dropping $150 on dinner 1-2 times/week isn’t something that most people can afford. Maybe it’s not because people don’t demand it, but because they can’t afford it. There’s a larger middle and upper middle class here, but perhaps not the concentration of millionaires/billionaires like there is in Manhattan or California…. I’m just thinking out loud. High end cuisine requires a high end clientele who patronize frequently not just on special occasions.

  • Usually North Texans love seasonal food. Ofcourse fast foods are awlays a sidedish 😉

  • Melster

    When we have been out of town, we come home and go directly to Blue Goose, Chuy’s or El Fenix. For real! Ain’t no shame!

  • Gastronome

    Thanks Melster, there is a pattern here – most of us head to “our” Tex-Mex joint. As for you Borborygmus – great – almost as good as a burger at Wingfileds!

  • cbs

    I’ll put Dallas steakhouses up against any in the country (based on my personal comparison NYC pales and oddly only Las Vegas comes close to competing).

    When I think Dallas, I think steak.

  • food&winelover

    Tex-Mex,hands down. When I was away at college and now that my sons are away at college (as in out of Texas), always had to have my Tex-Mex fix. Herrera’s or Joe T’s in Ft. Worth were always my 1st stop before I even arrived at my house.

  • SAM

    When my daughter returned from South Asia last summer, the first thing she wanted was fajitas. Then, she had to have a barbecue sandwich.

    Some of our family now lives in the U.K. and they miss the tex-mex, especially the fresh tortillas and margaritas.

    When I come home after extended time away I hit up the taqueria and then, a day or so later, go to Babe’s for a chicken fried steak.

  • JakeH

    As a native Dallasite who went to school in New York and Chicago, I always missed Tex-Mex. Even Taco Bueno is better than the crud they sell up north.

    Leslie Brenner is Batsh*t Insane!

  • DGirl

    I’m so late to the party here. To answer Gastronome’s question – I hit Mia’s or Chuy’s post haste. And I agree with so many who’ve said – don’t focus on what we aren’t, focus on what we are. I sure wish someone would have done an exit survey of all the Super Bowl visitors to get their insights, such as: where did you eat? what was your favorite experience in NoTex? Was this your first visit to Dallas? Did your perception of Dallas change after spending time here? etc. etc.

  • Twinwillow

    Tex-Mex for sure. When I first arrived in Dallas from New Yawk back in ’63, I soon became addicted to huge combo Tex-Mex plates at places like El Fenix and El Chico. To this day I’m still addicted to cheese enchiladas with chili con carne sauce and extra onions and cilantro.