The 50 Most Interesting Restaurants in Dallas

Slowly back away from the fajitas. This ain't your childhood's Dallas.

The 50 Most Interesting Restaurants in Dallas
Catherine Downes

We all spend time hunting down the best in life, but as a food critic I'm inordinately slammed with requests for superlative restaurants. If I'm out in the world, at the bar or the grocery store or a really long stoplight, and someone finds out that I eat and write for a living, they invariably want to know: "What's the best place for Mexican food?" or "Where's your favorite sushi spot?" or the ever-popular, incredibly vague and impossible to answer: "What's the best restaurant in Dallas?"

Hunting for the best resonates with what's left of our primal instincts. We're hard-wired to find the best mate, build the biggest nest, and in matters of nutrition, to seek out and consume the best foods to fuel us. But while our desire to find the best restaurants might be partly a matter of survival, that ignores the intangible benefits of sitting down at our favorite restaurants.

It's the creative elements and traditions of the culinary arts that stir our emotions. Meals cooked with artistry stay with us long after we have relinquished our napkins and signed our checks. Dishes prepared with soul replace our hunger with a desire to share our experiences with our friends. Passionate eating is more about creating memories — and that's something that can't be fully realized by simply finding the best.

Pecan Lodge brisket.
Catherine Downes
Pecan Lodge brisket.
Teppo
Catherine Downes
Teppo

Which is why, over the last several months, I went looking for something that Dallas' food scene is often said to lack: restaurants that are interesting. Restaurants that throw curveballs when diners are waiting on a fastball, that know life doesn't always begin and end with a cheddar-draped bacon burger. The 50 restaurants that follow, in no particular order, all serve great food, make for great stories and ultimately offer something that will stick to more than your ribs.

50. Joyce and Gigi's

1623 N. Hall St., joyceandgigis.com

There wasn't much in the way of Bolivian cooking in Dallas before Joyce and Gigi's opened on Hall Street last December. Gigliola Aguilera, a Bolivian native and former line cook at Fearing's, partnered with her mother, Joyce Stenvall, to offer a modern twist on South American cuisine. Now they're contributing something truly unique to the Dallas dining scene. Where else can you get a brilliant escabeche of sea bass brightened with apple cider vinegar, with onions, fennel and sweet currants, alongside empanadas filled with duck or beef or a blend of cheeses?

49. East Hampton Sandwich Co.

Multiple locations, ehsandwich.com

Too often, the sandwich is an afterthought — something to be picked up and eaten on the run, or stuffed into a bag and consumed long past its prime. But East Hampton Sandwich Co.'s creations reinvent the game. Owner Hunter Pond and his team of sandwich constructionists have created a menu filled with creative twists from the classic playbook, and Dallas' sandwich scene is all the better for it.

48. 20 Feet Seafood Joint

1146 Peavy Road, 20-feet.com

Most fish shacks serve up clam chowder, and 20 Feet is no different, but not many offer the occasional coconut soup with shiitake mushrooms. Mussels flavored with ginger and lemon grass, and ramen loaded with thickly sliced pork belly point to a casual seafood restaurant with worldly aspirations.

47. Taj Chaat House

Multiple locations, tajchaathouse.com

The best way to attack Taj Chaat House is with as little restraint as possible. Bring friends so excess food does not go to waste, then order with reckless abandon. Check out the pictures on the menu board to determine what looks good (it all is) and approach the counter, where a pile of pencils and paper slips wait to help conjure your meal.

46. Mot Hai Ba

6047 Lewis St., mothaibadallas.com

Grilled pork vermicelli is seldom this good. The kitchen chars pork belly aggressively and pairs it with slightly pungent fish sauce. Crab legs are served on top of noodles dressed in a sauce made from the crab tomalley, and frogs' legs are fried in batter flecked with dill. It's impossible to get bored with the menu here.

45. La Nueva Fresh and Hot

9625 Webb Chapel Road

The tortillas are soft and pliable with a pillowy consistency that's rare in corn tortillas. They're light, almost ethereal and perfect when stuffed with a hearty guisado verde stew. Don't worry about the lack of seating. Your taco will disappear long before your feet get tired while you eat off the trunk of your car.

44. Pera Turkish Kitchen

17479 Preston Road, peraturkishkitchen.com

Don't miss the dolmas, which are rolled by hand and have lots of texture compared to the paste-filled grape leaves you're used to. Don't miss the ezma, either, a small plate of diced soft vegetables swimming in pomegranate and thick, black molasses. There's cacik, a savory yogurt with cucumbers, garlic and mint, and a shepherd salad loaded with tomatoes, pepper, cucumber and onion, too.

43. Tom's Burgers and Grill

1530 N. Cooper St., Arlington, tomsburgergrill.com

The quaint little restaurant, housed in a retro building that used to be home to a Classic Style Denny's, is likely to ruin your go-to diner pick forever. It's not just that they have a potato-chip-encrusted chicken-fried steak that will stoke your desires, it's also that they serve beer. For free. Every night.

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8 comments
Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

Please never delete this article, at least not until a replacement/update article is written

username.neil
username.neil

Si Lom is twice as good as Bambu and even listing Bambu makes me question your other choices. Please respond. lol

BurpBacharach
BurpBacharach

@username.neil You are a rogue. A maverick. You contribute richly to life's pageant and I am made a better person for having read your words.

Thank you, username.neil. May your day as colorful as your eyes.

username.neil
username.neil

@BurpBacharach @username.neil I am not sure if you agree or if you are making fun of me. lol

I am just going to assume it was intended to be complimentary.

BurpBacharach
BurpBacharach

@username.neilP.S. I cannot help that my dear mother was simultaneously a fan of Burt Bacharach (he's a second cousin of hers) and a poor speller.

Please respond. lol

BurpBacharach
BurpBacharach

@username.neil "Way to bring me down to your level."

This victory is better by far than anything on the menu at Si Lom. Thank you, username.neil. You have nourished me this fine grey morning.

username.neil
username.neil

@BurpBacharach @username.neil 

If you believe you can make the determination that I am without intelligence from our brief interaction then i'm afraid you are the one who is ignorant sir. You have made so many assumptions of absurdity it's comical thus I do not feel the need to argue with you. Try Si Lom and then you will be enlightened. And may I also add that you are commenting on this article too therefore you are no better than I, not to mention this is not a news article as it's a listing for restaurants. If this qualifies for you as news then the reason behind your lack of intelligence is shockingly apparent.

On top of everything i'm being criticized by someone so stupid that his username is Burp Bacharach. I guess I am stupid too for entertaining this conversation with you. lol. Way to bring me down to your level. Good thing you are anonymous that way nobody has to realize the mentally challenged person behind the curtain.

BurpBacharach
BurpBacharach

@username.neil You go ahead and do that. Assume it was intended to be complimentary as you assume all day that your words and actions are approved of by those around you. Because if for one gleaming second you could understand how stupid everyone thinks you are and how little value your opinions (which are without number, I am certain) hold, you would sink into a deep depression and find relief in only the most base of pleasures. Chief among them, commenting on news articles.

 
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