It's been a big year in Dallas dining, and it's only half over. Local concepts are expanding, big-name chefs are betting big on the Dallas market, hot neighborhoods like Deep Ellum are seeing greatly expanded dining options and the city's international food offerings are growing to include food from countries that haven't always had a presence in DFW.
As we head into the second half of the year — with a crop of highly anticipated new restaurants opening over the next few months — we look back on the first half of 2017 and the new restaurants that are putting out delicious, inventive fare. From tacos to Peruvian seafood to traditional Filipino fare and trendy poke, these are the best new DFW restaurants of the year to date. (See the full slideshow.)
Revolver Taco Lounge
2701 Main St.
There are a lot of taco places in Dallas but only one that makes specials like Kermit in Bangkok, with frog legs in housemade Thai curry sauce, or a birria guisado of 30-day-old kid goat. Revolver Taco Lounge is a defiant challenge to the rest of the Dallas taco scene: Up your game and get creative.
It's getting the basics right, too, like terrific housemade corn tortillas just thick and cushiony enough to support the generous heaps of filling. But what makes Revolver exciting are the twists, like a ceviche menu almost as long as the taco list, including a great scallop crudo and some killer oysters. The back room, Purepecha, is a reservations-only seven-course tasting menu ($85), which might feature phenomenal lobster tacos, seared duck breast in a rich mole rojo and a tres leches cake prepared by chef-owner Regino Rojas’ mother, Juanita.
621 W. Plano Pkwy, Plano
One of the region’s quietest restaurant openings of early 2017 was Lima Taverna, a Peruvian restaurant on the south side of Collin Creek Mall in Plano. This is a reboot of an earlier cafe with a different name and the same ownership, but we’re hopeful that the crowds that didn’t find the original will find Lima Taverna now.
Start with one of the diverse and ultrafresh ceviches, which can get fiery with lime and hot peppers. Then it’s on to culinary riches like a great seafood combination stew, pescado a lo macho; grilled beef hearts; or one of Plano’s best grilled pork chops. Add in ultrafriendly service, stylish plating and terrific pisco sours, and Lima Taverna transcends its humble strip-mall setting.
1617 Market Center Blvd.
Dallas has a new special-occasion hot spot. Town Hearth is loud, raucous, hard to get into, deliriously fun and kitted out with 1970s Ducatis, its own private barrel of Eagle Rare bourbon and a decommissioned minesweeping submersible in a giant fish tank. Town Hearth boasts more chandeliers than a French chateau and a 1961 MG in the kitchen.
Also, the food is pretty killer. It’s a meat-heavy menu, from the enormous Lenox (a bone-in prime rib for $95) to crispy-fried oysters and tater tots loaded up with lump crabmeat. Steaks are grilled perfectly to order, the tots have great crunch and the beef carpaccio is gaining a citywide following. There’s a well-maintained dry-aging program for steaks, a robust cocktail list and even the occasional vegetable.
Junction Craft Kitchen
2901 Elm St.
Kitchen LTO started in Trinity Groves with an ambitious goal: to completely swap chefs, concepts and decor every several months, effectively launching a new restaurant several times a year. Over time, LTO started keeping chefs and artists on a little longer than originally planned, but it struggled in the West Dallas restaurant incubator Trinity Groves. In July 2016, the restaurant closed. In October 2016, LTO was resurrected in Deep Ellum in the former home of Twenty Seven. Its first chef: Josh Harmon, whose menu focused on a fusion of Asian and Southern fare.
LTO has always been flexible. So when Harmon's menu struck a chord with both diners and with LTO owner Casie Caldwell, she scrapped the limited-time-only concept and made Harmon her partner. Junction Craft Kitchen still pulls a lot from Harmon's LTO menu but expanded, giving Harmon more room to experiment.
And at this space, experimentation is necessary: Junction has neither a walk-in nor a freezer, so Harmon has to get creative. It also means everything coming out of the kitchen is impossibly fresh, with complex flavors resulting from Harmon's experiments with fermentation.
With a little room to stretch, Harmon's food sings. The fusion of Asian and Southern flavors has proven to be a perfect calling for him. Housemade black kimchi, boudin bao, shrimp and grits with sous vide octopus, warm potato salad with smoked kimchi — Junction's menu is a fun dive into the magic that can happen when the flavors and textures of Southern and Asian dishes come together. On Monday, June 26, Harmon is teaming up with fellow fermentation aficionado Misti Norris for a Petra and the Beast pop-up that's guaranteed to get funky in the best possible way.
1601 Singleton Blvd.
The westernmost and smallest of Singleton Avenue’s new taco restaurants, Taquero has already earned a place in the Dallas pantheon next to Trompo and Tacos Mariachi. Seating is outdoors-only and the space is tiny, but the Olmeca ($5), a huge, meaty combo in a striking blue corn tortilla, is well worth sitting through the summer heat. Taquero’s got good seafood tacos, too, like the Carmen ($2.50) with grilled shrimp and poblano peppers, plus a range of eccentric experiments like a bowl of Mexican brussels sprouts with jicama slices and a smoky-spicy sauce, or a ceviche feature with generous sliced avocado.
Just be prepared for a wait: Taquero’s tiny operation is led by chef-owner Fino Rodriguez, and on our last visit, there were only ten chairs.
300 N. Coit Road, Richardson
Carrollton and Richardson are famous for their extensive array of Korean and Chinese restaurants, but until recently, DFW was sorely lacking in Filipino food. That changed earlier this year with the arrival of Koya's Place, a no-frills eatery serving classic Filipino dishes and specializing in the traditional gamatan, a feast serving up an assortment of seafood, meats and vegetables served communally atop a banana-leaf-covered table, no plates or utensils required. This is no chef-driven restaurant; it's Filipino home cooking served in a relaxed atmosphere, and that's what makes it so special. Don't leave without trying the lechon, a roasted suckling pig that's widely considered the national dish of the Philippines.
5629 SMU Blvd.
The late-night dining scene around SMU gets a big boost with Sumo Shack, a restaurant that plays with bao and Japanese-style hot dogs at a price drunken college kids can afford. A little more than $5 nets the excellent Tokyo dog, a juicy all-beef frank buried in dried seaweed slices, bonito flakes and kewpie mayo. The bao (steamed buns) come with an array of creative, well-made fillings, ranging from traditional pork belly and shiitake mushrooms to a burger bao and pieces of fried chicken covered in American cheese.
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It’s the attention to detail that elevates Sumo Shack; it takes care to toast hot dog buns, avoid oversalting the ramen and treat the fried chicken bao like it’s more than mere stoner food. But just when things threaten to get too classy, a box of chili cheese fries hits the table, or a fried bao with a humongous scoop of green tea ice cream straining to escape. College bars weren’t this cool when we were kids.
Pok the Raw Bar
3699 McKinney Ave.
Poke is everywhere in DFW right now, with a glut of new fast-casual restaurants specializing in fresh takes on the traditional Hawaiian seafood dish. One of the city's best new poke spots looks impossibly trendy but serves up stellar poke nonetheless: Pok the Raw Bar, a West Village eatery that sources local produce and features a matcha bar serving up modern takes on the refreshing green tea beverage. Whether ordering a bowl off the menu or building your own, Pok's poke is bright, healthy and beautifully fresh, and the bowls pair well with Pok's iced and hot matcha offerings.