2014 was good to us, Dallas diners. We saw the opening of some of the city's most exciting restaurants along with some pretty devastating closings, but overall, things seem to be trending up for the foreseeable future. As such, that means that there is going to be a lot of excellent food to eat in the coming year, and you should make a conscious decision to break out of your dining rut and try some new things.
And this is, of course, the time of year when we make New Year's resolutions immediately before breaking them a few days into January. This year, though, you should resolve to just eat better in Dallas. Losing weight and quitting smoking is so ten years ago, so try one of these ten resolutions for Dallas diners instead.
1. Give the suburbs a chance. For the longest time, the Dallas suburbs were a wasteland of chain restaurants and mediocre food, with a few notable exceptions. Now, this is entirely untrue. The migration of great Dallas restaurants, like Smoke, Dalat, EatZi's, and Lockhart Smokehouse, now means that there are plenty of great meals to be had north of I-635. You've always known about the excellent Asian and Indian food in Irving and Coppell, but now you have a few fine dining options for when you're meeting friends up north.
2. Eat some of John Tesar's old meat.
Chef John Tesar's 240-day dry aged ribeye was one of the most interesting menu items in Dallas this year, but it was relatively scarce. The process takes two-thirds of a year, which has meant that the beef has been really hard to come by. Now that Knife is finally hitting its stride after being open for most of 2014, you can look forward to much more of Chef Tesar's funky, flavorful beef in the New Year.
3. Keep the trend of small plates alive.
There is nothing better than sharing a bunch of great food with friends, and the rise of small, affordable plates allows a group of broke 20-somethings the opportunity to try most of a restaurant's menu without blowing their rent money. Whether or not you miss the epic portions of days past, there's no disputing that small plates have greatly improved the diversity, and maybe even the quality, of dishes on Dallas menus.
4. Explore the up-and-coming food neighborhoods in Dallas. There are more quality restaurants in Dallas than ever, and they're cropping up in places that have been in need of revitalization for a long time. As the Design District, West Dallas, and Greenville Avenue continue to see more and more openings, you have to actually go to those restaurants to keep them alive. Break out of your five-mile Dallas bubble, no matter what neighborhood you live in, and enjoy the new kind of variety that this growth has to offer.
5. Give weird new meats a chance. Chicken breats and sirloin steaks are immeasurably boring, which is why you're seeing more and more not-so-popular cuts on Dallas menus. Even fine steakhouses are offering "new-school" cuts like skirt steak, flap meat and beef cheek, all of which are worth trying for their rich, beefy flavors. The same goes for offal, which is continuing its popularity. If you're in need of a delicate entree into the world of weird meats, go to The Blind Butcher. You'll have no problem scarfing down a bowl of tripe and pig tails when Oliver Sitrin is doing the cooking.
6. Support up-and-coming chefs.
At this point, we're probably starting to sound redundant, but the point still stands. So many up-and-coming chefs, like Remedy's Danyele McPherson, Front Room Tavern's Michael Ehlert, have poured their talents and energies into breathing new life into the Dallas culinary scene. The Stephan Pyles, Kent Rathbuns and Shannon Wynnes of Dallas don't need your money nearly as much as the young chefs who are trying to get their restaurants up off the ground.
7. Have dessert at Gemma. Gemma is decidedly one of 2014's hottest restaurants, but too much emphasis has been on the restaurant's Napa-inspired food, undoubtedly because it is off-the-charts awesome. But pastry chef Stephanie Childress has created one of the city's best and most reliable dessert programs, from her seasonal fruit crumbles and tarts to the excellent selection of rotating sorbets. Gemma is open late, making it perfect for a post-dinner stop for some of that delicious sorbet and a cup of tea. This stop has an emphatic Scott Reitz stamp of approval.
8. Keep pushing the Dallas bar scene forward. Craft cocktails have never been bigger in Dallas, and that's a bandwagon that we're happy to stay on. Good spirits and good mixers make drinking even better, and we weren't even sure that was possible. Bar geniuses like Lucky Campbell, Michael Martensen and Alex Fletcher are all creating and shaking up insane concoctions across the city, and they're much more worthy of your dollars than (yet another) bottle of cheap wine.
9. Ignore the chef/critic beefs. Chefs and critics have been fighting since as long as journalists and restaurants have been around, but this was a particularly sticky year for that tenuous relationship. Dallas Morning News critic Leslie Brenner has been thoroughly raked over the coals in 2014, and it's just going to be too played out for next year. With any luck, we won't see any more late-night "fuck you" tweets or stupid mummy costume stunts as we head into 2015, which means good things for everyone who cares about the growth of the Dallas food scene more than petty bullshit fights between chefs and journalists.
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10. Drink more local beer
Dallas breweries really set a new standard for good local beer this year, and it looks as if they're just going to continue raising the bar. Expect big things from existing powerhouses Peticolas, Revolver, and Lakewood Brewing Companies in the next year, along with the exciting slate of new breweries scheduled to open in 2015. Literally all you have to do to accomplish this New Year's resolution is drink more beer, which shouldn't be difficult.