There’s no question that beautiful surroundings make dining experiences more memorable. After being relegated to takeout and varying capacity restrictions last year, we now more fully appreciate the beautiful spaces we can gather in to eat and drink in Dallas.
New restaurants opened and old ones were reinvented; floral and garden themes were favorites this year, yet spaces that incorporated modern elements are equally as stunning. While there are at least a dozen more we could have mentioned, these 12 Dallas restaurants and bars gave us some of the prettiest dining experiences of 2021.
200 N. Bishop Ave., Suite 113 (Bishop Arts District)
Casablanca in the Bishop Arts offers stunning settings both inside and outside.
Courtesy of Casablanca by Kelly Foster
The latest from a restaurant group that’s also given us stunners like Paradiso, Tejas and Botanist, Casablanca
gives us a tour of the Silk Road, both in its menu and its design. Warm-toned Arabian elements along with lounge seating areas both indoors and out add an exotic touch to a space that makes the most of natural light. Lush greenery and light fixtures incorporating natural elements add to the overall effect.
Dahlia Bar and Bistro
3300 Ross Ave. (Old East Dallas)
A a glimpse of the black-iron-gated garden patio at Dahlia beckons you to come inside. From the outside, it’s one more space in a multi-colored brick restaurant and retail strip. Inside, exposed brick and modern industrial elements combine with art vignettes on the walls to make it worth your while to look beyond the patio.
Flowers and plants courtesy of Ruibal’s Plants of Texas adorn the patio as well as the interior of the bar and restaurant. By far the most eye-catching element here is the bar: an inverted brass planter fixture brims with silk flowers overhead.
Roll-up windows at the back of the horseshoe bar open the space to the patio outside when the weather is pleasant, and clever cocktails with floral garnishes are right at home. The food, especially the weekend morning brunch options, taste as good as it looks.
600 N. Akard St. (Downtown)
The dining room at Dakota's
Dakota's Steakhouse/Kevin Marple
Many of us knew we’d miss dining next to the subterranean waterfall at Dakota's when they closed last year, but our hopes were raised when the restaurant reopened with a new owner after an extensive remodel. The literal tons of marble and art-deco flourishes remain in the New Orleans-inspired main dining room, and the underground patio is as stunning as ever.
Led by executive chef Ji Kang, the kitchen is serving beautiful food worthy of the restaurant’s elegance from hors d'oeuvres to exquisite entrées and desserts.
Ebb & Flow
Ebb & Flow in Deep Ellum
2651 E. Commerce St., #100 (Deep Ellum) and 7300 Lone Star Drive, C125 (The Shops at Legacy, Plano)
Hanging greenery outdoors leads into a bar with wood and brass elements and plush velvet seating inside both locations of Ebb & Flow
In the Deep Ellum space, a painting on a multi-panel mirror dominates one wall. At the Plano location, the words “Don’t worry about a thing” in neon contrast against a floral wall. All the elements come together in both spaces, making them very comfortable places to settle in for some lovely cocktails.
Ellie’s Restaurant & Lounge at the Hall Arts Hotel
At Ellie's Restaurant & Lounge at the Hall Arts Hotel, the design is, naturally focused on art.
1717 Leonard St. (Dallas Arts District)
In the parking lot across the street from the Hall Arts Hotel, John Henry’s giant yellow steel sculpture "Tatlin’s Sentinel
" lets you know you’re entering an art lover’s world. Inside the hotel, which was brought to life by noted art collector and financier Craig Hall, there are dazzling art pieces and installations, some of which are situated inside Ellie’s
Big works seem to be the theme here with a mosaic-tiled wall along the terrace and an installation overhead (“Asteroid” by Spencer Finch) that does double duty as a light fixture. It’s possible to immerse yourself in the art in the room, but there’s more that makes the space so pretty; floor to ceiling glass windows and a bar with the downtown skyline as a backdrop.
Elm & Good
2551 Elm St. (Deep Ellum)
The bar and dining room at Elm & Good is a prime romantic spot.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact era of the eclectic modern look at Elm & Good — maybe if art deco met mid-century modern and they had a baby? Whatever its inspiration, the dining area and bar make an engaging setting for the inspired food of chef Graham Dodds.
Paned decorative glass panels sit atop tufted earth-toned banquettes in a long, narrow space that also makes room for high-top counter and table seating. Bright white walls bring the creative furniture arrangements center stage. The most interesting focal point might be an artfully arranged collection of black and white plates above the pass-through window.
5310 Junius St. (Old East Dallas)
When longtime Old East Dallas favorite Garden Café reopened
after months of closure during the pandemic, not much had changed in the way it looked. But maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder because the chance to return to its patio was a beautiful thing.
The patio was always gorgeous, flanked by a garden full of vegetables, which are used in the kitchen. Inside, a bar has replaced the counter where diners used to order, and that’s a welcome change because it means beer and wine are on the menu. A server bringing a mimosa with your brunch might be the loveliest sight of all.
The bar at Malai Kitchen
Photo courtesy of Malai Kitchen, Kathy Tran
6130 Luther Lane (North Dallas)
Ever since Braden and Yasmin Wages opened the first Malai Kitchen
in Uptown’s West Village 10 years ago, the wood pergolas on its patio have been a recognizable feature. Those and the bright orange patio furniture mark a restaurant that brews its own beers to drink with from-scratch Thai and Vietnamese cuisine.
The same pergolas (and signature orange) call out the newest location in the retail complex on Luther Lane, the fourth for Malai Kitchen. All locations have similar design elements, and each displays a custom artwork by local artist Michael Sutton. Photos taken by the Wages on their travels throughout Southeast Asia also figure prominently in each restaurant. Textured wood elements bring nature indoors, which perfectly suits the menu full of dishes made with locally-sourced, fresh ingredients.
5650 Village Glen Drive (Upper Greenville)
The open dining room and kitchen at Meridian
At Meridian, chef Junior Borges is deservedly being feted
for the incredible food inspired by his Brazilian roots. That it’s served in a brand new and ultra-modern space in The Village only makes it taste better.
Ceiling-high windows topped with planters overflowing with greenery serve as a backdrop for rounded banquette-style tables. The best seats in the house provide a view into the open kitchen, but every seat is a place where you can get lost in the joy of drinking a caipirinha or indulging in a dinner of whole octopus, blue prawn moqueca or Wagyu picanha steak.
2101 Cedar Springs Road, #150 (Oak Lawn)
A successful mix of contemporary design elements makes Ocean Prime one of the most attractive modern dining rooms in Dallas. Not an ounce of sophistication was spared in this restaurant where upscale cocktails, seafood and steak dishes are worthy competitors with the decor.
The over-the-top and truly amazing dining room at Town Hearth.
1617 Market Center Blvd. (Dallas Design District)
When Town Hearth opened in 2017, our then-food critic Brian Reinhardt called it
“a ridiculous love letter to a ridiculous city, a monument to Dallas-sized ambitions, cars, hair and egos.” Yet it remains one of the most beautiful places to dine in Dallas, with 64 chandeliers that are far from the only over-the-top focal points.
A real yellow submarine in a fish tank, two vintage motorcycles and a 1961 MG will likely steal your attention at first glance. Fine food served amid dark wood and mirrors makes this a great spot to splurge on dinner at a place where “spectacular” might be an understatement.
835 Exposition Ave. (Exposition Park/Fair Park)
The heavy black doors at Whiskeys on Exposition Avenue give you no indication of the 'oohs and ah's that follow when you swing them open. On one side of the intentionally dark space, paneling above a long, black leather banquette sports a reclaimed-wood chevron pattern that in itself is a work of art.
Facing that wall, a ceiling-high shelf behind the bar houses glittering decanters and bottles of every kind of whiskey you can imagine. Besides being a wonderland of whiskeys, this bar that opened in August is a spot-on visual representation of the character and the treasures to be found in this often-overlooked neighborhood.