Dallas is the booziest city in America. We spend more of our income on drinking than any other city, and it’s not just our thriving craft beer and cocktail scenes that are keeping the locals happy. Local restaurants have developed deep, interesting and affordable wine lists to pair with the city’s delicious food.
It’s hard to choose only 10 from Dallas’ many great wine lists, but we did, adding a couple honorable mentions and a clear Worst Wine List winner/loser: The Old Warsaw. Here, without further ado, is our top 10.
Honorable Mention for When Somebody Else Is Buying: The Mansion at Turtle Creek
Nothing in Dallas, and maybe nothing in Texas, can top The Mansion wine list for sheer glamour. The list clocks in at 36 pages, even more if you count the bonus pages for items like $50 cigars. The fanciest thing in stock must be either the six bottles from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (some call it the most prestigious winery on earth) or the $10,000 bottle of Bordeaux from 1949. Yes, The Mansion has wine older than Rick Perry.
For plebeians like us, The Mansion’s wine list is a handy resource because, if it’s on their list, it is probably pretty awesome, and it is also probably a lot cheaper elsewhere in town.
Honorable Mention for Texas Wine: Stampede 66
Stephan Pyles’ homage to Texas is the perfect place to indulge in some Texas wine, and he knows it. Even the wines from California are listed as “imports,” and given the diverse and well-chosen stock of Texas bottles, you don’t need to import anything. Most of the Texas reds pair especially well with great big slabs of meat, which is also a Stampede 66 specialty. What a coincidence!
10. Lounge 31. Much to a Champagne lover’s dismay, most menus limit bubbly to two or three by-the-glass options. Lounge 31 stands out by offering nine sparkling wines by the glass, ranging from an $8 cava to the always-excellent $22 Moët & Chandon rosé. The rest of its wine list isn’t shabby either, mixing in Old World and New World, big names and lesser-known ones, mostly by the glass. The only downside is price: the markup is steep, and alcohol isn’t discounted during happy hour.
9. Bolsa. Most restaurants have love affairs with Californian and French wines, so it’s refreshing to see a relatively short, diverse, global wine list. Bolsa offers chenin blanc from South Africa, Spanish verdejo, an Alsatian blend, a couple of Texas whites and an unusual Italian “orange wine” (color caused from contact with grape skins, not made from oranges). The reds are no less interesting, with Greek, Texan, Chilean and Portuguese selections amidst varied and exciting French, Italian and American West Coast wines. There are almost as many whites as reds, giving you a great selection for any weather and mood. Or split the difference and go for the lightest, breeziest red there is, gamay, a house specialty.
8. Boulevardier. “Wine you can afford” is right there in Boulevardier’s slogan, and they take care to live up to that standard. Sure, you can grab a $175 Chateauneuf-de-Pape if you want (and it’s great stuff), but there are a wealth of intriguing options on this menu for under $50. Complementing the bistro food, Boulevardier focuses on French wine, with an eye to bargains from out-of-the-way wine regions like the Alsace and Provence. Off-menu bottles, seasonal or rare, are available until they sell out. Start your meal with one of our favorite bubblies-by-the-glass, Lucien Albrecht’s dry, pink cremant.
7. Victor Tango’s. You go to Victor Tango’s for the cocktails, right? That’s how it’s supposed to work. Except that VT’s tiny wine list is actually exciting. There’s nothing ordinary about any of the wines, and they’ve smartly chosen to stick with only one or two examples of each style. The result is two dozen bottles that are, for the most part, dramatically different from each other. Contrast that with steakhouses that serve 40 cabernet sauvignons, where you give up on telling them apart and just buy the one that has the coolest name.
Victor Tango’s also gets major points for offering almost everything by the glass, and for going exclusively with small operations rather than giant corporations. So next time you stop by, skip the cocktails. Or just drink a lot more than usual.
6. Carbone’s. Restaurateur Julian Barsotti has opted for all-Italian wine lists at his Italian restaurants, Carbone’s and Nonna. Both places provide your liver with a comprehensive map of Italy’s best. But we’re giving the edge to Carbone’s, which is slightly more affordable and offers a few outstanding by-the-glass options. Plus, if you like what you drink, Carbone’s is also a grocery, so you can buy another bottle to take home for 45% off the restaurant price.
5. Rapscallion. Yes, Boulevardier’s sister restaurant also makes the list. America the beautiful, Rapscallion pays homage to thee. Rapscallion crafts a wine list entirely with American wines, celebrating our country’s sheer diversity of adventurous winemaking. Your patriotic heart will swell as you gaze upon a list that ranges from Napa cabernet sauvignon to Virginia cabernet franc, from Texas tempranillo to Monterey malvasia. Trust in longtime legends like Merry Edwards sauvignon blanc or go off the beaten trail and try charbono, a red grape planted on only 80 acres in the entire country. Whatever you do, you’re celebrating ‘Murca, which Rapscallion contends might just be the most exciting wine country on earth.
4. Proof & Pantry. These guys have one of the best and most in-depth wine-by-the-glass lists in town. The “Other/eclectic” category hides some great value bottles, too. But Proof & Pantry has earned our eternal love for stocking barolo chinato, a fortified dessert wine infused with spices and sometimes grappa. It’s like port and your favorite herbal liqueur had a baby. Pairs well with dark chocolate, winter weather and happiness.
3. Lark on the Park. The best restaurant in Dallas for drinking wine by the glass. Period. With 30 different options, Lark on the Park lets you taste-test your way through pink bubbly from France, citrusy white from Austria and great malbecs to go with your hanger steak. It’s almost a shame that the wine-by-the-bottle list is great too, because there are a dozen glasses to try first.
By the way, Lark on the Park prides itself on finding cool, underrated bargain wines, so if your date buys you the cheapest thing on the menu, give the bottle (and the date) a chance.
2. FT33. FT33 is the only restaurant in Dallas to make Wine Enthusiast’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants, and it’s been that way for three years. With a strong focus on the best small producers from wine regions slightly out of the spotlight, you may need help figuring out what is what. That’s where the outstanding service comes in: The waiters know their food and drink intimately, they suggest inspired pairings, they’re full of enthusiasm and they are very considerate about the subject of money. You can drink an affordable bottle and love it so much you search on your smartphone for where and how to order more. We know because we’ve done that.
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1. Gemma. Balance is Gemma’s mantra. Balance of prestige and affordable bottles, balance of styles and balance of Old World and New. Gemma’s extensive wine list is a global expedition, laid out primarily by country and region rather than varietal. For those who know they want a barolo or feel like adventuring into Australia, this makes the wine list easy and fun to navigate. For those who are up for something new, there’s plenty of that, and a sommelier on hand to help you choose. And if traveling the wine world makes you nervous, Gemma still makes it easy to find a unique, small-production Napa cab, or white Burgundy to pair with your oysters. (Although co-owner Allison Yoder says her pick with oysters is an affordable Claudio Morelli bianchello.)
Reasonably priced half-bottles, still too rare on Dallas menus, mean you can try a white wine with your appetizers and a red with dinner. That feature, combined with the restaurant’s impeccable balance and the sheer impossibility of ordering something that isn't good, elevate Gemma to the top of our list.