Even still, some suburbs like Arlington have had a reputation for being franchise-focused, to the detriment of the independent local businesses that give a city its own unique flavor.
824 E. Park Row Dr., Arlington
Assuming that those fueling up outside will also fill up inside is a fairly safe bet. Locals familiar with Collins Burger Mart, located inside a filling station at the corner of Collins Street and Park Row Drive, pop in just for the burger — or perhaps it’s for the intimacy of watching their patty sizzle on a grill from one of Collins’ three tables. Either way, this no-frills burger joint is pretty much the unofficial king of Arlington drive-ins.
1821 S. Fielder Road, Arlington
This neighborhood cafe uses local produce to create comforting fare it describes as “freestyle, off-the-hip food.” Creamy reuben soup, marshmallow white chocolate pie, waffle burgers — there are some fun mash-ups on this menu. They serve pure cane sugar sodas and don’t miss the Jimmy’s S&P, a spicy Italian sausage made in Dallas and served on a ciabatta bun.
2224 W. Park Row Dr., Pantego
David’s Barbecue is no secret among locals. Word of mouth does much of the advertising here, where the sandwiches are piled high and the soft-serve vanilla ice cream, all you can eat, is on the house. Its country meat market vibe will make you feel like you’ve left the Metroplex behind. David’s is open Tuesday through Saturday and has been serving in Pantego since 1988.
1700 W. Park Row Drive
Compadres burst onto the local food scene a few months ago. This friendly neighborhood cafe serves up a fusion of scratch-made Mexican and Caribbean cuisine. Grab a Cuban sandwich or some enchiladas and settle in to catch a little classical guitar, since Compadres has hosted musicians regularly since opening.
1530 N. Cooper St.
This classic diner has the look of a double-wide Airstream trailer from the outside, but inside, the barstools, booths and wait staff create a unique old-school vibe. The busy corner cafe serves up a decent burger, hefty portions of beer-battered onion rings and free draft beer, two per customer.
1730 W. Randol Mill Road
Prior to opening this North Arlington hideaway, Moni operated two restaurants in Dallas during the ’80s and catered to Lorimar Productions and the TV show “Dallas.”
Moni’s brings “a little bit of the East Coast to the South,” serving everything from stuffed manicotti to cannoli. The flavors here are authentically Italian, and the portions are generous. Did we mention it’s BYOB?
1001 S. Bowen Road
4401 Little Road
Jay Jay Cafe’s two Arlington locations serve up home-style cooking, but they’re perhaps best known for their fresh fruit pies made in-house. Load up on pancakes at this happy diner, or order a pie for your next family get-together.
1724 W. Division St.
This roadside barbecue joint’s signature sandwich, the Jambo Texan, is an eight-inch stack of six smoked meats between Texas toast. Texas Monthly called it one of the best barbecue sandwiches in the state, and Jambo’s was also paid a visit recently by the Travel Channel. Besides barbecue, the pit masters also serve up the Sadie, a fully-loaded baked potato topped with meat and smothered in beans.
1202 E. Division Street
The Candlelite Inn, with its classic red and white checkered tablecloths, dim lights and private booths, has long been a romantic dinner destination. The restaurant first opened in 1957 and got an overhaul in 2014. The flickering flames gave way to LEDs, but the retro neon candle sign outside was salvaged, along with a few other items, to create a mix of nostalgia and something fresh.
Along with its lunch and dinner plates, the menu offers a wide selection including steaks, burgers, spaghetti, tacos, burritos and more.
419 W. Randol Mill Road
This unassuming Mexican restaurant serves up clouds of Spanish rice and chicken enchiladas that taste almost impossibly fresh. The thick, creamy sauces, lively wall art and homey atmosphere will warm you up on the inside.