Big changes are stirring in Dallas’ food scene. Seemingly every week, glamorous new restaurant openings arrive, borne on tidal waves of hype. At the same time, the coronavirus pandemic is still claiming victims, small businesses that couldn’t survive declining sales and endless painful attempts to pivot to new menus and models.
It’s the beginning of a new era, and a lot is riding on how well we adapt to our new world. Before coronavirus arrived, Dallas was finally gaining new national respect for our culinary diversity. We’d enjoyed a bounty of kickass new places to eat food, from Lao noodles and Japanese handrolls to taco superstars and Nepali sports bars. Then, well, you know what happened.
Now the momentum is back. The future of Dallas food is what we choose to order up. And I’ll be here, as D Magazine’s dining critic, to cover all of it.
A quick introduction: I’ve been writing about and reviewing Dallas restaurants for six years now, first at the Dallas Observer as its food critic, then as a columnist for the Dallas Morning News. That work was freelance, done for love of city, for love of food, and to earn some beer money. Now the folks at D have asked me to report on and assess our city’s food full-time, taking the place of longtime (and award-winning) dining critic Eve Hill-Agnus. I’ll continue Eve’s work, painting a full portrait of our region’s food culture as it grows more quickly than ever before.
I had a global introduction to good food as the son of a Midwestern father and a Turkish immigrant mother. At home, we ate a mixture of their cuisines, and at restaurants, we preferred to try new things rather than seek out luxury. Selfishly, I believe that multicultural kids make for better food writers, because we were taught from the very start that there is no main culture, no one “normal” kind of food. (This is where my mom would interject: “Only once you learned to eat vegetables!” As a toddler, spitting out various baby foods and making revolted faces over exotic delicacies like roast beef, I earned the nickname Non-Verbal Food Critic. This is not a joke.)
After graduating from the hapless stupidity of childhood, I grew up surrounded by burgers, baklava, hot dogs, and halva. In high school, I spent a summer making and toasting sandwiches at Quiznos. But I fell into food writing by mistake after years writing on other subjects. It stuck. I’ve written over 150 restaurant reviews, and visited 212 Dallas-area eateries in the year 2021 alone.
We have big plans for D’s food coverage. As hungry as the city is to devour new trends and restaurants, we’ll be there for them. But we’ll also look well beyond the big headlines. I will be reporting from all corners of Dallas and its suburbs, chronicling delicious finds, doing investigative reporting, and bringing behind-the-scenes looks at food industry subjects most diners don’t ever see or think about. And we will always be honest: although I always go into a restaurant hoping it will be great, there is no more pandemic amnesty on critical words.
You can join our plans, too. D is hiring an online dining editor to cover more food stories and keep our website freshly updated with our latest news and recommendations. The online dining editor is ideally a curious, inquisitive person who chases down leads and story ideas, raises a skeptical eyebrow at press release hype, loves to organize a thorough dining guide, and jumps in the car with uncontrollable excitement the moment they hear about a new dumpling place in a gas station. The ideal candidate has an insider’s knowledge of where to eat, coupled to an outsider’s bluntness about Dallas’ culinary culture and values. If that’s you, join me.
While we’re here, let’s go over a reminder on how our reviews work. D Magazine critics do not accept freebies or any other considerations. I do not know which food businesses run ads in the magazine. At high-profile restaurants likely to know my name or have my photo, I book tables under fake names. In the rare cases where a restaurant recognizes me and sends out free food, I add the cost to the tip line. (Workers of the world, unite!) I may be inconsistent (possibly), irrational (probably), swayed by my upbringing (definitely), or easily manipulated by a good black sesame dessert (indisputably), but my views will be sincere and independent of any outside influence. Except the influence of black sesame mousse. Can’t help that.
If we disagree sometimes, consider it a plus. Nobody’s taste is the same. Hopefully, our reviews will help you understand whether you’d like a place, independent of whether or not we did.
And in any case, reviews are only part of the deal. In the coming months, we’ll tackle the ways that food culture is influenced by politics, race, and immigration, but we’ll also tell you where to find a nice lunch.
How will gentrification and market forces affect some of our beloved, decades-old institutions? Who has the best blue cheese burger? Where can you find good Ecuadorian food? Could a $28 cup of elotes possibly be good?
Everything is on the table. I’m thrilled to have the chance to serve it up.