10 Best Restaurants in Dallas
Some say it’s been a turbulent year in the Dallas dining community, what with high-profile restaurant closings, lagging sales, and a seesaw economy. But we prefer to see the wine glass half full and declare 2008 one of the city’s most savory years yet. We’ve devoured memorable meals from Frisco to Oak Cliff and watched much of our homegrown talent nab national accolades. So put down the 401(k) statement for a bit and dig into
THE 10 BEST RESTAURANTS IN DALLAS
We know. You say, "Only 10? How is that possible?" Trust us: we could have easily named twice as many worthy restaurants to this list. But we cut to the core of eateries, the quintessential Dallas restaurants. Where, we asked ourselves, would we take an out-of-town visitor to eat to make sure she went home satisfied, smiling, and duly impressed with our dining scene? Which 10 restaurants give an outsider a complete picture of what Dallas has to offer? Here, in no particular order, are our 10 favorite places that are uniquely Dallas.
On Our Top 10 Because: It’s closer than Chez Panisse. And we like chick chefs.
York Street is the kind of place you’d expect to find in San Francisco or New York. Chef Sharon Hage walks the walk. She uses local ingredients and seasonal produce and makes every day a culinary adventure with her elegant, robust food and a worthy wine list to match. The dining room holds maybe 40 seats, but by keeping it small, she wields careful control, delivering one of the biggest dining experiences in the city.
On Our Top 10 Because: Everyone loves a party with great food.
This Bishop Arts District mainstay has evolved from sleepy neighborhood cafe into the place to sup and be seen south of the Trinity, if not all of Dallas. Every night is a Texas-sized party at owner Sara Tillman’s namesake restaurant, with blood orange margaritas flowing freely. Tillman’s business partners are party planner Todd Fiscus and interior designer Rob Dailey. Two years ago, they infused Tillman’s with a large dash of East Texas panache: brocade wallpaper, carved wood antelope busts, Murano chandeliers, Eames rockers in the lounge, and the movie Giant playing overhead. It’s all gussied up with gusto, as is chef Dan Landsberg’s roadhouse haute cuisine, including chipotle barbecue ribs, chicken-fried hanger steak, and venison Frito pie, an instant modern-day classic. For dessert, indulge and make your own s’mores with maple marshmallows and dark chocolate bark, or simply sit back and have another ginger lemon drop. This is one party you won’t want to leave.
On Our Top 10 Because: Stephan Pyles changes international spices as often as we change our hair color.
Chef Stephan Pyles is the Marco Polo of the Dallas dining scene. He loves to travel, and every time he returns from an exotic trip to a foreign land, the menu at his eponymous restaurant morphs to reflect his flavor discoveries. His New Millennium Southwestern Cuisine is more than just a fancy name. You can taste Pyles’ intense attention to detail in every bite. The dining room is stunning, sexy, and multi-purposed. If you don’t have a reservation, take a seat at the communal table for the full menu, or at the tapas-ceviche bar, where you can choose from a lengthy list of flatbreads, pizzas, tapas, and ceviche (we love the salmon Veracruzano with green olives and capers). If you insist on fine dining—and this is a place that begs for it—Pyles offers three distinctive dining spaces, including an intimate wine room and private dining room. If you’re new to the Pyles party, try his classic bone-in cowboy rib-eye with red chile onion rings, followed by a slice of heaven and hell cake. Otherwise, try the seasonal dishes—they’re created by a true master.
On Our Top 10 Because: There are seven different dining areas, one for each of our moods.
Ladies and gentlemen, step right up to Fearing’s, home of Dean Fearing, the quintessential Dallas chef and the greatest dining show in town. Like Big Tex at the State Fair, Fearing’s presence in the seven-area dining room is the main attraction. You can’t miss him—he’s the spiky-haired dude in chef whites struttin’ his custom-made-Lucchese-clad feet through the dining room like he owns the joint. Watch yourself, pardner, and don’t let that goofy grin fool ya. He can break your knuckles with a handshake and knock your teeth out with a swift backslap. That’s just his way of saying howdy to a uniquely Dallas breakfast, lunch, dinner, or Sunday brunch. The ever-changing menu is beefy—there’s buffalo, antelope, veal, and rib-eye steaks, plus a few fabulous fish items for wimps. All entrees come with accompaniments like the Gulf lump crab "succotash" covered with spicy Tabasco-bacon syrup and barbecued clams. Fearing’s is not your average upscale eatery. It’s truly Dallas—bold, brash, and sassy.
On Our Top 10 Because: It’s the perfect Tex-Mex primer. The people-watching is a bonus.
Who serves the best Tex-Mex in town? The question has likely led to more than one barroom brawl. Anyone who has lived here longer than a month has an educated opinion, and everyone has his own tried-and-true hole-in-the-wall joints like Mia’s, Herrera’s, Avila’s, and El Jordan’s. It’s not that we don’t agree. They all offer something special, whether it’s a combination plate, the thinnest chips, or the spiciest salsa. But when it comes down to one restaurant that hits every menu component on the sweet spot, we have to pick Mi Cocina. There is no better place in this city to take a nacho newbie for his first bite of Tex-Mex and no better restaurant to hit time and again for the flavors you crave. Each outpost of the Mi Cocina empire has it all: fine handmade enchiladas, generous portions of chunky guacamole, to-die-for nachos topped with top-of-the-line ingredients, and stiff margaritas—all served in high-style, high-energy settings. Go ahead, start your e-mails and letters now. We will defend our choice right down to our last Mambo Taxi.
Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek
On Our Top 10 Because: New chef John Tesar restored and reinvented a culinary icon.
Executive chef John Tesar has erased any memory of his predecessor at the Mansion. No small feat. He’s won the hearts of local diners and the national press by taking the starch out of the Mansion and transforming it into a vibrant dining experience. From the exclusive Chef’s Room to the garden off the patio to the pilgrimages abroad designed to re-ignite his creativity, Tesar broadcasts the fact that "foodie" is definitely spoken here. Now we ask: Dean who?
On Our Top 10 Because: Dallas does sushi, and Shinsei does it best.
Dallas does not lack for sushi joints, but famous Dallas chef wives Tracy "Mrs. Kent" Rathbun and Lynae "Mrs. Dean" Fearing take the concept to unprecedented heights. Top Chef finalist Casey Thompson may be gone, but Shinsei still has sushi master Shuji "Elvis" Sugawara, known for precise rolls and creative combos such as tuna with Japanese mustard and sriracha sauce. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Kent and Dean squeeze in consults when not in the kitchens at their own spots, Abacus and Fearing’s.
On Our Top 10 Because: We love a two-fisted slice of pizza.
Fireside specializes in pizza, but it’s more than just "great pies." It not only ignited a pizza revolution in Dallas, it embodies the artisan movement wherein ingredients are stringently selected and painstakingly prepared. That means basil torn by hand, ragged hunks of sausage, and tomatoes sliced extra thick. You can smell and taste the human touch. That said, this is some fierce pizza, with robust toppings and the most flavorful, pliable-yet-crispy crust around.
On Our Top 10 List Because: When we want fried, we don’t want to feel guilty.
With shiny high-rises and urban villages galore, it’s easy to forget that Dallas is a city in the South. But we’ve got the home-cooking restaurants to prove it. Norma’s, Mama’s Daughters’ Diner, Dixie House, Celebration—these are our versions of a deli or a diner, serving honest food at an affordable price. Babe’s sets the standard: impeccable fried chicken, tender pot roast, chicken-fried steak, fragrant biscuits, mashed potatoes, and Grandma’s creamed corn, all served family style. It’s comfort food to keep it real for the condo dwellers.
Chamberlain’s Steak and Chop House
On Our Top 10 Because: Sometimes we want refinement with our rib-eye.
We could have picked 10 steak restaurants for this list, but instead of choosing a Bob’s or an Al’s, we’re going with a Richard—as in Richard Chamberlain. Not that we don’t love the high-testosterone, guy-friendly restaurants that populate this beef-obsessed town. It’s just that sometimes we crave a little—okay, a lot—of finesse with our filet. And finesse is what sets Chamberlain’s Steak and Chop House apart from the rest of the pack. Chamberlain, an award-winning chef, cut his chops in some of the finest restaurants in America before hanging out his own shingle in 1993. So when you order a filet, you can expect a maple-balsamic glaze instead of herbed butter. Sure chef Chamberlain offers the usual bigger-than-a-shoe baker, but he will urge you to stretch your palate with a side of broccoli baked in Vermont cheddar or a bowl of fresh-off-the-cob creamed corn. Other gourmet touches include an Asian-style dipping sauce for the lobster and stellar seared ahi tuna scented with soy and ginger.