The Awesome Independent Restaurants That Prove Arlington Isn’t a Chain Food Wasteland

Tom’s Burgers is one of DFW’s best diners, as evidenced by their commitment to above-average breading.
Dallas Observer file photo
Tom’s Burgers is one of DFW’s best diners, as evidenced by their commitment to above-average breading.
In the last couple years, the suburbs of DFW have really stepped up their game when it comes to food and drink. Some of the best new breweries in North Texas have opted to open outside of Dallas proper, and big-name Dallas chefs and restaurateurs are expanding their concepts into cities like Plano, Frisco and Rockwall. And let’s not forget DFW’s robust international food scene, which exists predominantly in suburban cities like Richardson and Carrollton.

Even still, some suburbs like Arlington have had a reputation for being franchise-focused, to the detriment of the independent local businesses that give a city its own unique flavor.

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This burger joint inside a gas station is the unofficial king of Arlington drive-ins.
Courtesy of Collins Burger Mart
Collins Burger Mart
824 E. Park Row Dr., Arlington
Assuming that those fueling up outside will also fill up inside is a fairly safe bet. Locals familiar with Collins Burger Mart, located inside a filling station at the corner of Collins Street and Park Row Drive, pop in just for the burger — or perhaps it’s for the intimacy of watching their patty sizzle on a grill from one of Collins’ three tables. Either way, this no-frills burger joint is pretty much the unofficial king of Arlington drive-ins.

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Fork in the Road’s marshmalow white chocolate pie.
Courtesy of Fork in the Road
Fork in the Road
1821 S. Fielder Road, Arlington
This neighborhood cafe uses local produce to create comforting fare it describes as “freestyle, off-the-hip food.” Creamy reuben soup, marshmallow white chocolate pie, waffle burgers — there are some fun mash-ups on this menu. They serve pure cane sugar sodas and don’t miss the Jimmy’s S&P, a spicy Italian sausage made in Dallas and served on a ciabatta bun.

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David’s Barbecue in Pantego has been serving up solid smoked meats since 1988.
Courtesy of Randy D.
David’s Barbecue
2224 W. Park Row Dr., Pantego
David’s Barbecue is no secret among locals. Word of mouth does much of the advertising here, where the sandwiches are piled high and the soft-serve vanilla ice cream, all you can eat, is on the house. Its country meat market vibe will make you feel like you’ve left the Metroplex behind. David’s is open Tuesday through Saturday and has been serving in Pantego since 1988.

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Compadres’ Mexican/Caribbean fusion is a fun twist for Arlington diners.
Courtesy of Compadres Cafe
Compadres Cafe
1700 W. Park Row Drive
Compadres burst onto the local food scene a few months ago. This friendly neighborhood cafe serves up a fusion of scratch-made Mexican and Caribbean cuisine. Grab a Cuban sandwich or some enchiladas and settle in to catch a little classical guitar, since Compadres has hosted musicians regularly since opening.

The chicken-fried steak at Tom’s Burgers is damn near legendary.
Observer file photo
Tom’s Burgers
1530 N. Cooper St.
This classic diner has the look of a double-wide Airstream trailer from the outside, but inside, the barstools, booths and wait staff create a unique old-school vibe. The busy corner cafe serves up a decent burger, hefty portions of beer-battered onion rings and free draft beer, two per customer.