The Best New Restaurants in Dallas 2011

Where to find some of the city's greatest bites to eat.

Pork Belly and Collard Green Sliders photography by Kevin Marple

Burgers | The Commissary

When you pay top dollar for food in a restaurant, you have the right to expect stellar service. Usually poor or inefficient service can ruin a dining experience even if the food is good. The Commissary has struggled with service issues. Yet here it is on the Best New Restaurants in Dallas list. Why? Because the food trumps the sometimes laughable service. Like the time I asked our waitress what was in the chopped salad and she replied, “Peas, I think.” Or the night we asked for a glass of Sancerre and we received a glass with maybe a sip and a half in it, and the waiter said, “This is all we have.” The service is like an old joke: it’s so bad, it’s good.

At least former Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek chef John Tesar isn’t creating haute cuisine in the tiny kitchen of this casual-chic burger spot in One Arts Plaza. Tesar is flipping ultra-gourmet burgers along with innovative salads, small and large plate offerings, and fine wine. The Commissary has a respectable wine program overseen by Scott Barber, a former Mansion sommelier.

The grass-fed beef burgers aren’t your backyard variety. The patties are steamed in a CVap machine and cooked until the meat reaches a medium-rare 140 degrees. When an order hits the kitchen, only then is the meat seared on a hot griddle, which creates a beautiful black char across the top. Take one bite and you’ll see the difference, a perfect reddish pink across the entire patty. It looks and tastes more like steak.

All burgers come with skinny fries that, like a supermodel, are too skinny. The fatter “disco fries” are more satisfying, as are the 2-inch onion rings. Put the fried avocado slices on my fantasy last supper list.

I love a good chopped salad. Tesar’s version at The Commissary is the best one I’ve found in Dallas. Yes, it does have peas, as our waitress guessed, but they’re English peas and chickpeas. Both are mixed with radicchio, Boston lettuce, roasted red and yellow peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, fresh mint, and feta cheese tossed in garlic-basil vinaigrette. As opposed to some chopped salads, this one actually is—almost diced, actually. Each compact bite delivers a satisfying mélange of color and tastes.

It might seem like a small detail, but that’s what it takes to rise above the crowd and become one of the year’s best.