The State of Dallas Dining, As Told By Its Chefs

Starring Stephan Pyles, John Tesar, Katherine Clapner, Kent Rathbun, Teiichi Sakurai and a dozen other local chefs.

The State of Dallas Dining, As Told By Its Chefs
Allison V. Smith
Brian Luscher, The Grape

Pools of melted cheese, surfboard-sized steaks, plates with color wheels that range from beige to French beige: These, for the most part, are the images that come to mind when considering Dallas dining circa 2000. Now, though? Legions of diners, each armed with a WordPress app at the ready and a DVR full of food TV, have begun to scrutinize flavors and ingredients with the discernment of pro eaters — or at least they can fake it. And chefs, both the old guard and an ambitious crop of newbies, are increasingly answering the call of culinary thrill seekers.

Are Dallas and its famously fickle diners still lagging behind their coastal contemporaries? Sure. But in the pages that follow, its chefs sound (mostly) bullish on the scene, encouraged by its evolution, by our collective palate, and by a slow, yet deliberate, trend toward small, chef-driven, neighborhood restaurants that just might save us from wafting away in the chain-restaurant doldrums.


The Go-Tos: Where do you eat when you eat out?

David Uygur
Allison V. Smith
David Uygur
Katherine Clapner
Allison V. Smith
Katherine Clapner

Katherine Clapner, 47, Dude, Sweet Chocolate: Lucia, because Dallas has had exceptionally shitty Italian for so long. So when they opened it was spectacular. El Jordan for a Mexican breakfast. Eno's, Oddfellows, Veracruz and Gloria's are all great also.

Kent Rathbun, 50, Abacus, Jasper's, Rathbun's Blue Plate Kitchen, KB's Woodfire Grill: Maple and Motor, Thai Noodle and Rice, Meso Maya, Nonna and Off the Bone Barbeque.

Stephan Pyles, 60, Stephan Pyles, Fuego, Samar: I like Dean's, Local, Nosh, Bolsa, Hattie's, Private | Social. I like to do brunch at Smoke and Parigi. I get my Indian fix at Sutra and Taj Chaat House. And I like anything that Katherine Clapner, Tim Byres and Matt McCallister are involved with.

Teiichi Sakurai, 46, Tei-An: I love Bruno [Davaillon] at the Mansion — it's not about the Mansion, but more about Bruno's food. I'm from Tokyo and we have a lot of French and Italian culture influence, and every time I go to the Mansion, which is only on special occasions, I feel like I'm in Paris. And Royal Thai is the same way. When I go there I feel like I'm in Bangkok. For American food I really like Smoke and John Tesar at The Commissary — John's palate balance is absolutely perfect.

Mike Smith, 47, The Common Table: Right now Frenando's, Neighborhood Services and One2One. For burgers the Dairy-ette on Ferguson. And a great off the beaten-path place is a Lebanese place called the Hookah Pipe.

David Uygur, 38, Lucia: For Japanese, Tei-An and Yutaka. For Vietnamese, Pho Pasteur in Richardson. For tacos, El Si Hay. We recently had a fantastic meal at Nana at the Anatole. For pizza, Il Cane Rosso. And for Thai, Bambu Thai. Smoke for pretty much whatever Tim's cooking that night. And Jimmy's Food Store for fantastic sandwiches.

Matt McCallister, 30, Campo Modern Country Bistro: I really don't go out much. I prefer to cook at home, and by that I mean ham sandwiches and some vegetables. I'm usually tired when I get home and I eat fairly healthy, but if I do venture out, I like Victor Tango's, First Chinese BBQ, Nana, Teppo, Vietnam, Pecan Lodge, Jimmy's for the Cuban and Afrah.

Dean Fearing, 56, Fearing's: Bugatti's on Northwest Highway is one of the greatest hidden Italian restaurants ever. And all the Asian places, like Kirin Court for Chinese in Richardson. I can taste their Peking duck right now. You want to start with dim sum, then order the Peking duck, which they do three ways. First they bring it out and show it to you, then serve the skin with pancakes, plum sauce and spring onions, which is to die for. Next you get the meat and that's absolutely delicious. Lastly, they take the bones and make a soup with vegetables. It's the best ever and you feel like you're in downtown Hong Kong.

John Tesar, 54, The Commissary: I love Royal Thai, Empire Szechuan and Teppo. I think Oak in the Design District is a fresh, new restaurant and Jason Maddy is a young chef with a great pedigree. And when I want a steak, I love Nick & Sam's; I just like everything about that place.

Jay Jerrier, 43, Il Cane Rosso: Maple and Motor, The Grape and Hibiscus for when we can plan ahead enough to make reservations. Same for Lucia. I had my 40th birthday dinner at Fearing's and that was amazing. We eat at Crossroads Diner at least once a week — best French toast and breakfast sausage. Jimmy's Food Store and Uncle Uber's for sandwiches. Pecan Lodge and Lockhart Smokehouse for barbecue. I love tacos, and [local taco blogger José] Maldonado will roll his eyes at my favorites for sure: Taco Joint, Torchy's (queso!), Velvet Taco, Rusty Taco, Taco Loco, even Tin Star. The Cowboys Cheese Steak at Cowboys Stadium! Why don't more people put queso on a cheesesteak?


Put a Fork in It: What restaurants and trends are you tired of?

Stephan Pyles: We do NOT need another steakhouse.

Kent Rathbun: We definitely need fewer chain restaurants.

Jay Jerrier: Instead of just putting up cold dark shells with metal studs and glass storefronts all over the place, how about rehabbing some of the spaces we have that are interesting? I think the organically grown projects will be more sustainable and successful in the long run. Less red tape in getting things done in the city would also be helpful.

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13 comments
OCfoodie
OCfoodie

Why is Brady Williams included in this panel? He is not the chef at Oddfellows...never has been. The Chef's name is Josh Childress.

Preppy6917
Preppy6917

I fully concur with Brian Luschner's comment of less elitist food snobbery and smoke and mirrors. Having moved here from New Orleans a year ago, Dallas dining seems to be more about the brands and status symbols (i.e. Kobe beef or Silver Oak wine) that can be associated with the meal as opposed to the true processes and ingredients that go into your meal preparation.

teresa
teresa

Wow. Real class act, singling out and chastising a customer publicly, in the Observer. You might want to remember who keeps those doors of yours open, Matt McAllister. Your menu isn't online, but my guess is she probably spent a lot of money on that dinner and it probably wasn't so big. I don't believe the customer is always right, but saying something like that publicly just comes off as petty and whiny. Chefs and their egos......

norahedward
norahedward

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G_David
G_David

I don't know what Jose thinks about Jay Jerrier's taste in tacos, but I for one find it to be borderline tragic (with the exception of Torchy's). He needs to venture about 3 miles east of his restaurant and see what a taco is supposed to be.

Kasey Thompson
Kasey Thompson

Great, now all I can think about is the hamburgers and onion rings at Maple & Motor. Mmmm...yummy burger with an egg on top...Mmmm. This is not good for my diet!

Matilda of Tuscany
Matilda of Tuscany

Great article--keep supporting the local growers and they will be able to support more growing!

OCfoodie
OCfoodie

Did you know that Oddfellows pre-cooks their fried chicken, hamburgers, and fish then simply warms it up before serving it to their customers.

Preppy6917
Preppy6917

Not only was it unprofessional to call out that customer, but to make a blanket statement that hushpuppies suck? It sounds like this "chef", and not his diners, is the poseur.

rubbercow
rubbercow

If your main concern while eating at a restaurant is the quantity of food per dollar, you have no business eating in a fine restaurant. Go to a buffet for christ's sakes.

Larry
Larry

I think DFW eaters and especially the contributors to this article are being incredibly myopic. The diversity of great and good food in the metroplex is incredible, from elegant Mexican and enchiladas to simply great chilli to great barbecue to elegant fine dining, to Jon Bunnell's exceptional Texas cuisine, to Mr. Pyle's and Fearing's talents; the list could go on and on. Be thankful Dallas and Fort Worth. You have the best of the best.

Chef
Chef

Tastes like it.

 
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