A restaurant’s ambience can influence how we perceive the food and create memorable occasions out of meals from simple to sophisticated. Thoughtful food presentation makes everything from a burger to branzino taste better.
And while it’s true that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” it’s also true that context is important and perspective can change. When our options for dining out altered significantly this year, many of us saw things in a different light.
Reminiscing over a year’s worth of restaurant meals, I recall quite a few that were a delight to the eye, sometimes in unexpected ways.
Chimichurri324 W. Seventh St. (Bishop Arts District)
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, new restaurants opened and invited us in. Just before Halloween, Chimichurri debuted its menu of creative cocktails, empanadas and grilled meats served with the namesake sauce.
The decor here is best described as eclectic, with a panel of rough-hewn logs and tin signs decorating the bar pass-through and murals and memorabilia from the movie Evita in the dining room. Alternatively, you could call it electric, since neon signs throughout the space cast a wash of pink or purple over pretty plates of food.
The best-looking design element, however, are the wine bottle chandeliers and other glass bottle lighting in the foyer, bar and dining room.
Civil Pour8061 Walnut Hill Lane, No. 924 (Northeast Dallas)
Before the pandemic, a quest for an instagrammable S’morespresso could have led you to Civil Pour, a spacious venue with locally roasted coffee and beer on tap. High ceilings, white walls and a front wall of paned windows make it seem even larger, without diminishing the sense of warmth and welcome.
A larger-than-life elephant mural on one wall symbolizes the commitment owners Nellie and Chad Montgomery made to never forget their customers and their community.
With the dining room closed since March for the safety of both customers and employees, the shop created a small patio space and serves through a walk-up window. Visits to that walk-up window now are what will make our return to a beautiful gathering space possible in the future.
Desperado’s Mexican Restaurant4818 Greenville Ave. (Upper Greenville)
They say imitation is flattery, and in the case of this long-running, family-owned restaurant, we think it’s beautiful, too. In 1976, the Alamo-inspired facade at Desperado’s gave a new identity to a long-running Italian restaurant that had been there for decades.
A beautiful patio beside a stone fountain catches your eye when you enter, and there's stonework throughout the restaurant. Earth-toned print fabrics make the booth seating comfortable, not kitschy.
The food is beautiful, too, and while we crave the original Desperado’s tacos, fajitas travel better, and this place won’t forget your shredded cheese.
Fletcher’s Original Corny DogsMobile Food Trailer Pop-Ups
Fletcher's was already breaking out of its “only-at-the-fair” mode with a mobile food trailer early in the year. The company’s pop-up event schedule ramped up during the summer and went into overdrive when fair season arrived.
An official State Fair drive-thru event at Fair Park gave us the opportunity to get corn dogs from the familiar Fletcher’s booth. Earlier in September Fletcher’s announced a partnership with Golden Chick, which made the battered-and-fried treats available all over Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.
For the sentimental, no matter where we found it, the sight of a Dallas icon, the original corn dog, brought tears to our eyes.
Heim Barbecue3130 W. Mockingbird Lane (Love Field)
Heim’s Meat Force One food truck was a beautiful sight in the weeks leading up to the opening of the barbecue spot’s first Dallas location. Then things got even prettier when the doors opened in October.
Heim moved into the building with a church-inspired design that was formerly occupied by Mockingbird Diner.
After remodeling, the church pew seating is gone but the high rafters, distinctive light fixtures and sunny wall of windows remain. Cheery patio seating outside is a welcome sight for those who prefer to eat outdoors.
Jalisco Norte3858 Oak Lawn Ave., No. 470. (Oak Lawn)
At Jalisco Norte, you can enjoy some of the most beautiful desserts in Dallas in a restaurant where every area of the dining room is eye candy.
The decor leans toward modern, with warm woods and arched entryways throughout the space. Two rows of masks line all three walls of a room that also affords a view of the glass-walled wine room.
The “treehouse” room, a glass-enclosed patio nestled among trees with twinkling lights, is possibly the loveliest spot in town for a romantic date night.
Lavendou Bistro Provincial19009 Preston Road, No. 200. (Far North Dallas)
The bright yellow awning and large flower pots at Lavendou Bistro draw admiring glances from a distance, and it’s even lovelier on a summer night with its patio lights sparkling. A three-course takeout meal from the DFW Restaurant Week menu held a few pleasant surprises this past year.
Though plated in plastic, an appetizer of eggplant and zucchini on a pastry shell, followed by chicken in beer-infused cream sauce with pappardelle were both beautiful dishes. Lavendou’s chocolate cake was the prettiest thing this writer took out of a to-go bag this year.
May Dragon Chinese Restaurant4848 Belt Line Road (Far North Dallas)
On a list of beautiful places to dine, a nearly 40-year-old Chinese restaurant seems an unlikely entry. Yet this mainstay of Cantonese and Mandarin cuisine in a strip center near Addison’s restaurant row absolutely belongs on this list.
In May Dragon’s main dining room, wooden-lattice room dividers and painted murals bring traditional elements of Chinese design into the space alongside deep red leather booths and black-laquered round tables.
The large banquet room is especially beautiful when decorated for the restaurant’s annual Chinese New Year dinners. It was the perfect choice this past February for 10 members of a Meetup group to gather and experience a lion dance for the first time.
Such gatherings may not be possible by the 2021 Lunar New Year on Feb. 12, but I'm is eager to repeat the experience sometime in the future.
Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille2100 Olive St. (Uptown)
After 10 years in Uptown, Perry’s Steakhouse made a move to a new, larger location around the corner in late July. Views of the Dallas skyline and Klyde Warren park are just the beginning of the grand elements throughout the two-story open design.
A 30-foot wine tower flanks a stunning staircase sharing the spotlight with a mammoth, modern chandelier. On the lower level, oversized booths in bright blue face the island bar or the accordion doors, which can open the entire room to the patio on pleasant days.
Contemporary booth seating and light fixtures complement the floor-to-ceiling glass windows in the upstairs dining room and private rooms.
Taco Enzo1081 S. Akard St. (the Cedars)
A socially distant road rally and photo scavenger hunt hosted by Dallas by Chocolate led me to a like-it-or-love-it sculpture near the Lorenzo Hotel and stumbling upon a beautiful restaurant.
Adjacent to the hotel, Taco Enzo catches your eye with brightly painted storage containers and quirky art of its own. Grab some breakfast tacos or burritos in the morning, or visit on a Friday or Saturday evening for street tacos, quesadillas, burrito bowls and more.
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