Dallas has a tendency to go a little nuts over the new and the now. This city has a serious reputation for what the industry calls the Fickle 500, an ever-evolving group of young diners and drinkers who hop-skip from one new place to the next, rarely spending time (or money) at any spot that's been around longer than six months.
If there's one thing the Fickle 500 loves — other than strategically placed selfie stations and themselves — it's talking up the hottest new thing. Local media, in turn, follows suit, and at times, we become a massive echo chamber yelling back and forth across the divide about what's "so hot right now."
But as our restaurant turnover has proven, just because something is popular now doesn't mean it has staying power. While we're always willing to give a new concept more than one shot as they work out the kinks, it's inevitable that some of the hottest spots are just not worth the trouble, which often involves long waits and high prices. Here are our thoughts on a few of the most talked-up new joints in Dallas right now.
The hot spots that live up to the hype:
8602 Garland Road (East Dallas)
By far one of the year's most anticipated newcomers, Smoky Rose opened in a gorgeous space across from the arboretum with a chef-driven smokehouse concept and a gorgeous garden patio that's finally available for al fresco diners. With chef David "Spoon" Gauthier running the kitchen, it has plenty of smoked meats. Dinner brings "more chef-inspired dishes, more composed dishes," Gauthier says. "A lot of stuff at night comes off the smoker, inspired by a lot of that heavy smoke, then I add smooth mashed potatoes and a demi-glace, then we have this nice dish."
The verdict: It's hard to nail it when you've got your feet placed firmly in two different worlds — in this case, a smokehouse that doubles as an elegant dining experience — but Smoky Rose pulls it off.
2069 N. Central Expressway, Richardson
The team behind Bbbop Seoul Kitchen launched a new eatery in the suburbs last month, and the menu is built around Bbbop's most popular dish: Korean fried chicken. The Bbbop team upped the ante by melding Korean flavors with Texas influences, a fun mix that is front-and-center in dishes like Korean elotes and soy-ginger fried chicken served on Texas toast.
The verdict: We may be overwhelmed by fried chicken right now, but Chicken Moto successfully elevated the concept and gave DFW something new.
2816 Elm St.
This new "cocktail laboratory" uses hidden technology like roto-vaporizers, lasers and centrifuges to make "cocktails clarified." While much of the technology at Hide has already been in use at places like FT33 and Filament, Hide built its theme around it, creating cocktails like an elegant flash-carbonated gin and tonic served in a Champagne flute.
The verdict: At first, the idea seemed dubiously gimmicky, but Hide quickly proved that its cocktails, while untraditional, are filled with flavor. Gimmick or no, these are some excellent drinks.
Zatar Lebanese Tapas & Bar
2825 Commerce St.
This new Deep Ellum restaurant ditches the word “Mediterranean” and presents a menu of foods that are difficult to find in DFW, like a Lebanese cheese board, sambousek (described on the menu as “empanadas filled with spiced minced beef") and paper-thin cigar-shaped pastries stuffed with feta and akawi. The cocktail menu is equally interesting with ingredients like rose water, oregano and Metaxa, a Greek liqueur.
The verdict: Zatar has great energy, an excellent Lebanese wine list, hookah and a fresh take on Lebanese food, which makes it stand out big-time in the ever-trendy Deep Ellum restaurant scene. With plenty of sharing plates, it's a great place for groups. If you're tired of the same-old same-old in Dallas dining, Zatar will shake you out of your dining doldrums.
Lovers Seafood & Market
5200 W. Lovers Lane
A few hundred feet from Shinsei, owners Tracy Rathbun and Lynae Fearing just opened a new place that's already getting a lot of attention: Lovers Seafood & Market, an intimate, laid-back seafood restaurant that also sells chef-selected cuts of fresh fish. The menu offers the expected — crab cakes, gumbo, fried oysters, a lobster roll — but the day-to-day menu at the restaurant will be largely dictated by whatever catch executive chef Aaron Staudenmaier is able to get his hands on at the moment.
The verdict: Seafood restaurants in Dallas tend to feel a little over-the-top — we are land-locked, after all — but Lovers doesn't price out everyone but the wealthy. The food is fresh and uncomplicated, and pastry chef Ty Bohoney has created a small but fun menu of must-try desserts.
The hot spots that don't live up to the hype — yet:
3113 Ross Ave. (Downtown-ish)
The team behind some of Dallas' most over-the-top bars — The Tipsy Alchemist, Truth & Alibi, Punk Society — transformed the former Three Sheets space on Ross into a kitschy tiki wonderland with a massive patio and characteristically kooky drink presentations. Along with a few food items dreamed up by Common Table’s Rodman Shields, Pilikia serves classic tiki drinks along with ridiculous creations like a group cocktail served smoking in a massive treasure chest.
The verdict: Tiki is undeniably popular again, but despite the concept, the group behind Pilikia has this knack for making all of their places, despite their differences, seem identical. How can a tiki bar like Pilikia and Truth & Alibi, a Deep Ellum speakeasy hidden behind a faux candy store, feel like the same place? It's all in the vibe (and the music), and this nightlife team curates an air that feels familiar at all of their bars. If you were looking for a real sense of tiki time and place — like what you'd find at Austin's uber-classy tiki bar Isla — you won't find it at Pilikia.
2404 Cedar Springs Road
As fried chicken and Southern food continue to sweep the city, Nikkei hit the scene last month with a refreshingly interesting concept: "exotic yet approachable Japanese Peruvian fare that is reflective of the cuisine’s own unique and traditional history." The name Nikkei refers to the people who left Japan during the diaspora. Many settled in Peru, where their cuisine picked up local flavors. The new Uptown restaurant sports a dark, intimate feel with a scenic rooftop patio and nightclub touches like bottle service.
The verdict: The proliferation of nightclub-restaurant hybrids in Dallas has created a scene of see-and-be-seen hot spots where the food, unfortunately, often feels secondary to expensive build-outs and convoluted themes. Nikkei has serious team behind the helm, so we're hoping that, with time, the food will become as interesting as the idea behind it.
8687 N. Central Expressway (inside NorthPark Center between AMC Theater and Nordstrom)
NorthPark's new "luxury candy shop" geared toward adults specializes in fancy, often imported candies like Champagne gummy bears, Japanese Kyoto Blossoms and even a single swizzle stick of rock candy, covered in edible 24-karat gold, that retails for $15 apiece.
The verdict: The words "adult candy shop" really got our motors running, but the only thing adult about this place is the prices. This candy does not come cheap, but then again, consider where it opened. If you're the type who wants to spend nearly $10 on a tiny box of imported candies selected with help from a "candy concierge," then by all means, go nuts. But if we're going to spend big money on candy, we're more likely to do it at local candy-makers like Kate Weiser Chocolate, Coco Andre or Dude, Sweet Chocolate.
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.