Maybe you're giving a visitor a ride to the airport and want to squeeze in one last meal, or perhaps you’ve landed at Dallas Fort-Worth airport and need some fresh air. There are few things that roll as sweet as a Texas breeze, so step out and get some food that doesn’t suck. We don’t know what the science is, but a cold beer after air travel tastes like jumping naked into a undisturbed river.
Despite the cliche, Dallas isn't just barbecue and tacos. You can easily eat like an adventurer within earshot of Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. Thanks to some seriously diverse food offerings nearby, you can eat like Anthony Bourdain and still make your connection. Here are 10 spots that will get you out and about and eating well.
Tom’s Burgers and Grill
1530 N Cooper St, Arlington
Time from DFW Airport: 20 minutes
One of the greatest Texas dishes of all time is also the easiest to botch. If you’ve got a layover in Texas, how in the name of Friday Night Lights could you not stop for chicken-fried steak? At Tom’s Burgers, which the Observer once boldly called the Greatest Diner of All Time, they do not mess around: The chicken-fried steak comes in an armored casing of ruffled potato chips that crunches when you put a fork to it. Tender fried steak is best when dipped into gravy, so take a deep breath of the white stuff and sink in. Beer-battered onion rings will also put you in the right place.
Taj Chaat House
1057 W Rochelle Rd, Irving
Time from DFW Airport: 15 minutes
Three important details to consider as you’re madly searching your phone for a restaurant: The Chaat house is lightning-fast, hugely flavorful and inexpensive. “Chaat” refers to “savory snacks,” typically served in food carts in India and much of South Asia. Actually, just stop your search for food: You need moon-sized dosas (masala is a sure-fire win) and potato curry. You also need cheese paneer hit with pickles and tangy, spicy chutneys from the condiment bar. Before you can say “635 traffic,” you’ll have a beautiful snack in front of you. Say it with me: Never go to Subway.
3977 N. Belt Line Road, Irving
Time from DFW Airport: 15 minutes
You could get a sad pretzel at the airport terminal, or you could get a flaky, meat-filled pocket, served in its own edible container. An empanada is made for the layover. Empa Mundo is one of the kindest, friendliest mom-and-pop spots in Irving, serving up nothing but meat-filled beauties. You can call ahead, and it’ll be ready for you. They come in convenient little plastic sacks, perfect for jamming 12 of them in your messenger bag. Get a cheesesteak, maybe the chorizo — popping with peppers and cheese — or the brisket-packed option and hit the road.
10045 N. MacArthur Blvd. Ste 113., Irving
Time from DFW Airport: 20 mins
According to a recent survey of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, there are 4.4 trillion burgers in the area. LA Burger is the only burger joint in binocular range of DFW airport that offers Seoul dogs. Burgers are topped with rich bulgogi or head-clearing kimchi. They’re quick and delicious. But their prize offering is the addictive Seoul dog, an all-beef hot dog heaped with bulgogi or sautéed kimchi. Melted cheese and flecks of onions take this into the comfort stratosphere. If you lay down for a nap, they’ll put a thick, fleece blanket on you. OK, not that last thing, but you should venture out to LA Burger.
3310 W. Rochelle Road, Irving
Time from DFW Airport: 16 minutes
Here’s what you need on a layover: Fried dumplings and beer. Garlicky goat dumplings ($4.99), fried enough to encase all those juices, and a friendly BYOB policy. This is life’s medicine. Everest, Irving’s Nepalese hole-in-the-wall, paints with a broad brush. Dishes range from “Szechwan chicken” to Nepali snacks. The goat momo, a dish worthy of any traffic you might endure between airport and restaurant, is also available in a bath of chile sauce.
2234 Irving Blvd, Dallas
Time from DFW Airport: 20-30 minutes
Slow Bone has Dallas’ best meal served on a cafeteria tray. Inhibitions and pretentiousness are not welcome at Jack Perkins’ barbecue spot. Leave them on the plane. Smoky, vinegary sauces pop. Creamy, blackout-good sides, like cauliflower gratin and mustard greens, are miraculously as good as the meats. Do not forget to order the fried chicken — it will ruin you on future fried chicken. Take note: Slow Bone is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It's a bit further than other options near DFW, but good Texas barbecue is well worth the drive.
Bachman Lake Tacos
3311 W. Northwest Hwy Dallas
Time from DFW Airport: 22 minutes
Bachman Lake Tacos is a taqueria in the heart of a Chevron. I’d a ditch my car on the side of the road if it meant a bite of their blistering trompo, red as a sunset, at this gas station. Stacked layers of pork spin around a vertical grill for hours until the meat sears and crisps. When you order a taco, the cooks saw off a section and toss it on the griddle, releasing a smoky hiss. It’s piled onto tortillas quickly after, doubled-up on a styrofoam plate, hot as anything. It won’t take long until you admit these tacos are spectacular, and then you’re back on the road.
Babe’s Chicken Dinner
1006 West Main Street, Carrollton
Time from DFW Airport: 20 minutes
It’s going to be OK; you’re at Babe’s. Nothing bad will happen to you here. The chicken-fried steak will be the size of an screen door, and there will be gravy and green beans. The crackle of a fork going into a chicken-fried steak at Babe’s should be the official sound of Texas. Armies of foodies tremble at the mere sight of this restaurant, and no hunger goes un-rewarded. Get extra biscuits or a homemade pie.
2851 Esters Road, Irving
Time from DFW Airport: 12 minutes
Like the cold beer, there’s nothing quite like a eye-opening spicy dish after a long flight. It clears the brush from your head. At Kasbah Grill, there’s comfort and relaxation in roasted, warm flavors. Same goes for the soothing Moroccan Mint Tea, a drink that receives repeated raves on Yelp. Lamb tagine, on the bone, is hearty and tender. Comfort is everything.
Cuban Dulceria International Bakery
2662 N Josey Ln #228, Carrollton
Time from DFW Airport: 20-25 minutes
The Cuban is one of the world's great sandwiches, and Carrollton’s Dulceria serves a stupendous one. The bread, baked in-house with with real lard, is impossibly cloud-light. A breeze during a storm holds more weight than this bread. A pop of a double-espresso and this simple Cuban — made with roasted and shredded pork, smoky and tender ham, a swipe of yellow mustard and thin pickles — will focus your mind like a laser blast. It’s good. Really good. It's enough to make you ditch your flight and stay in Dallas permanently.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.