There’s no mistaking that Dallas' dining scene has experienced a major transformational upgrade in the past decade. The city may still have some work to do, but finally, Dallas can proudly stand up as one of the great American food cities. Beyond its gastronomical progress, this city has landmark restaurants that have been around for decades, places that consistently offer dishes that make you happy for having eaten them, dishes you return to because they never get old. But there are also relative newcomers — many of them inexpensive, beautifully unhealthy everyday eats — that have found their way into the Dallas food lexicon.
These are the hallowed 10 — the most beloved dishes at some of Dallas' favorite restaurants. Whether you're a DFW native or just in town for the weekend, these are the dishes worth waiting in line for.
Uncle Uber’s Shaved Rib-Eye Steak
It’s probably proper that Uncle Uber's doesn't call this a Philly, because there’s nothing traditional about this sammich. It still has the thinly sliced steak and grilled onions like the classic Philadelphia cheesesteak, but the blue cheese, romaine and roasted garlic mayo create a flavor combination that will leave you wondering why they all aren’t made this way. The accompanying tomatoes are thick and crisp, and the baguette is soft enough to prevent tooth damage but substantial enough to avoid sogginess at the same time. Get a side of hand-cut fries for a complete coronary risk and you’ll happily buy a bigger pair of pants for this grinder.
Mot Hai Ba’s Braised Beef and Tenderloin Pho
This soup has been satisfying customers’ taste buds since the popular restaurant opened in 2013. It features both definitions of spicy — abundant with fragrant seasonings and hot enough to make you sweat. New chef Peja Krstic leaves just the tiniest sliver of fat on the unbelievably tender braised brisket and tenderloin because, let’s be honest, it's delicious. As a northern-style pho, the emphasis is on the flavor of the broth rather than added distractions like bean sprouts and hoisin. Chef Krstic’s broth is lovingly simmered in spices and other natural flavor-enhancing ingredients for 48 hours. When it hits your table, add house-made Sriracha, Thai chilis and enough fresh basil and cilantro to start a small herb garden, and you’re ready to slurp your way to Vietnamese nirvana.
Herrera’s Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas, aka the #17
This is not Mexican food, nor is it health food. It is, however, possibly Dallas’ most beloved Tex-Mex dish. With 40 years of loyal customers flooding this Dallas family establishment, Herrera’s has survived a major closing, splinter group reopenings with yet more closings and another resurrection — now it's here to stay on Sylvan Avenue. The spacious dining room and patio mean diners no longer have to line up for this sacrament of cheese, beans and salsa. Soon after ordering, the hungry receive two corn tortillas firmly swaddling moist shredded chicken. The dish is then baptized with thick, homemade sour cream sauce and consecrated with a few fresh-cut jalepeños.
La Banqueta’s Suadero Taco
Now this is Mexican food, or at least the closest you’ll get to it within the Dallas city limits. According to this taco stand’s full name, these are tacos puro D.F., short for Distrito Federal, otherwise known as Mexico City. Ever since the bastardization of the crunchy shell and nouveau tacos with odd fillings like fried chicken and curried shrimp, many Mexican-Americans insist this is the only true taco. Go with the suadero, similar to brisket, and avoid prime lunch hour unless you want to fight for a parking spot. If your taste buds lean toward gringo, go with the red sauce. The green sauce is only for those who can handle puro Mexicana picante.
Luscher’s Post Oak Red Hot
With a Bon Appetit nomination for “America’s Best New Restaurants of 2015," Luscher’s is churning out Dallas’ most famous Chicago-style dog. These dogs are so good, in fact, that some may argue they're better than Chi-Town's very own — though probably not anyone from Chicago. This showboat begins with a firm sack of seasoned beef and pork topped with finely diced onions, spicy brown mustard and piccalilli, Luscher’s own sweet and sour pickled blend of cucumbers and red bell peppers. A pillow-soft poppy seed roll from local bakery La Francaise embraces the wiener and all of its juicy toppings, including a marinated serrano pepper sprawled across the top. Get a side of their beer-battered onion rings and prepare to enjoy yourself so well that you may need a post-prandial nap.
Jimmy's Italian Stallion
This Jimmy's Food Store sub has been sinking deep into the paunches of Dallasites for 50 years now. Its seven Italian cold cuts, most of which end in “–la," will have you falling in l’amore with every bite. First, there’s mortadella — cured pork sausage with little chunks of pork fat. Capicola, made especially from the neck and shoulder of a sacrificial pig, comes next. Then, soppresatta, porketta and coppa, another unbrined version of capicola. Pepperoni and prosciutto layers follow. This meat orgy comes laced with soft mozzarella and provolone, slathered with mustard, topped with lettuce and tomato, and it's somehow all negotiated between a crunchy baguette. Finish the feast off with a house-made cannoli and espresso and enjoy the best of Italy in Dallas.
Jonathon’s Chicken and Waffle
This dish is a charmer of many audiences: lovers of soul food, brunch groupies, pregnant women, potheads. All these cliques and more line up on the weekends for this salty-sweet Southern classic. At Jonathon’s, the boneless chicken soaks in a buttermilk bath until ordered, at which point the bird is breaded and fried. A Belgian waffle serves as a sweet sponge that will soak up all the chicken juices, and the whole thing is slathered in chef Jon’s thick peppered gravy. A single strawberry garnishes the dish to give the appearance of a balanced meal. The best news about this waffle? You don’t have to wait in a brunch line to get it, because it’s served all day and all week long, excluding Mondays.
Pecan Lodge’s Brisket and Sausage
The days of sending tourists on a barbecue hajj to outlying cities are over. With Pecan Lodge, Dallas finally has a de facto barbecue capitol, and like anything good, you’ll have to wait in line to get what you want. Once that small metal tray arrives covered in sliced brisket and a link of house-made sausage, you'll forget about the line. This brisket is smoked for 18 hours and meets the most difficult of barbecue standards by being smoky but not dry. As for the sausage, it's obvious from the first bite that it’s never seen the inside of a factory. Slather it all with their Texas-style barbecue sauce, if you're not a strict anti-sauce purist.
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Cane Rosso’s Honey Bastard
Cane Rosso has been Dallas’ Neopolitan pizza savior since owner Jay Jerrier began with his first mobile oven in 2009. Two years later, the Deep Ellum location opened, spawning droves of new accolades and faithful followers. Devotees insist that the best pizza is off the menu, however, with the Honey Bastard winning an unofficial “Most Amazing Pizza That’s Ever Been Made.” The pie begins with Cane Rosso’s supple Neopolitan dough that's topped with house-made mozzarella, hot soppressata and bacon marmalade — think rendered bacon fat mixed with sugar — and drizzled with habañero honey. The result is a sweet and spicy triumph that will bring even the strictest of dieters to their knees.
Whiskey Cake’s Whiskey Cake
This dessert is for anyone who’s ever sucked from the nozzle of a whipped cream can or for those who like a little cake with their whiskey. Even people who claim they don’t like dessert find themselves making the trek to Plano for a treat that you’ll see on most every table in the restaurant. The “cake” is described by the restaurant as a toffee torte that resembles grandma’s spice cake. A bourbon-heavy anglaise sauce, along with a smooth toffee sauce, are poured over the cake until it puddles around the plate. Salted, spiced pecans stick to the top and, as if all this weren’t enough, it’s served with an entire bowl of homemade whipped cream. No one will judge you if you use your fingers to lick the remaining sauce or spoon up the entire contents of the whipped cream bowl, because chances are, they’ve done it themselves.