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.

Teiichi Sakurai: I love that restaurants are using more local ingredients. America has always been influenced by food from different countries: French, Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese. But we have all our own vegetables and local produce, like Texas peaches and tomatoes. So why don't we cook the way Mom used to cook? I think it's an absolutely beautiful culture, and it's about time.

Brian Luscher: I like the trend of dining simply, without it being dumbed down. A lot of times, until recently, it seemed like it was taco trucks or formal dining if you wanted something great; now we can go out on a weeknight, have a great experience and not drop a ton of coin, like at The Meddlesome Moth, Il Cane Rosso, Whiskey Cake, Smoke, Neighborhoods Services, and so many more that I haven't been to yet.

David Uygur: I'm quite happy that more restaurants are producing their own salumi. Other ethnic restaurants that have opened in the last few years are really producing some unique and interesting foods as well. There seems to be a bit more of a whole-animal ethic that is coming up, which is more culinary interesting, and less wasteful.

Brent Hammer: I like the fact that John Tesar opened a burger restaurant. I like that it's a simple food that's been knocked off a thousand times, but there are places devoted to doing it really well. I also like the fact that a lot of restaurants are leaning toward comfort and warmth in terms of their atmosphere and serving great food.


On the Scene: How has Dallas' restaurant scene evolved over the last several years?

Jay Jerrier: [We're seeing] a lot of "back to basics" and traditional items re-thought and elevated: pizza, tacos, burgers and Mex-Mex. I suppose someone needs to really get after Chinese.

Brady Williams: From the industry side, the people I gravitate to are really trying to change the food culture of this city and provide the types of dining experiences that can be found in other, more progressive or developed cities. There's a lot of camaraderie and support among the current generation, stemming from the realization that in order for the food culture in this town to really make some positive strides, we need to be supportive of each other, whereas the old guard seemed to be more anti-competition and not celebrate each other's successes. The more successful we can become, the sooner the paradigm will shift and the culture begin to change, which in turn will ultimately mean a demand for more of these types of places and a consistently higher quality product.

Stephan Pyles: There is much more competition and the quality and diversity of restaurants have greatly improved. Also, and primarily because of the healthy competition, it's rare that a really good restaurant is hard to get into. Diners don't make reservations weeks or months in advance like they did in years past. In the Routh Street, Baby Routh and Star Canyon eras, the better restaurants would actually do less covers than they had reservations for because no one came without reservations and the no-show factor was not balanced by people coming in without them. Today, if I start the evening with 150 reservations, I know I will do at least 175. It's common practice today to come without resies.

Dean Fearing: After I left the Mansion seven years ago, I knew that I needed to get out of strict fine-dining and have great food served with real glassware, Rosenthal bone china, German silver, and have the ambiance, but forget the rules with how you need to come. It used to be that customers wore sport coats and they were told how to sit in the dining room, what to eat, and "No, the chef doesn't make any substitutions." It was a strict atmosphere. All of that has gone away.

Katherine Clapner: We're seeing more independents — chefs that worked for other people are going out on their own and doing very well. That's a great thing to see. People are starting to go outside of main areas, like Highland Park Village, to eat. They're leaving their comfort zone to come to restaurants here in Oak Cliff.

John Tesar: When I first got here, there was just me, Dean and Stephan and then Nick and Sam's, Al Bernait's, then Tristan Simon's world exploded on Henderson. Now we're seeing real chef-driven restaurants everywhere.

Brian Luscher: Diners are savvier now more than ever, and chefs are able to showcase some culinary wizardry on their menus.

David Uygur: When I first moved to Dallas, there were few restaurants that featured local produce. Now that is much more of a focus, despite our difficult climate. I also believe that our customers are more aware of interesting ingredients and preparations, are willing to try more adventurous things.

Braden Wages: More often people want to know where food is from and the quality of the ingredients used in their meal. And, increasingly, Dallas restaurants are able to provide that information. Craft cocktails, pho and sushi are officially mainstream, and diners have established cravings and appreciation for them. In the near future, I think you will see a strong preference for healthy, flavorful dining options such as Asian and slow-food restaurants.

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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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