There are some very famous Dallas-area restaurants missing from our Top 100 Dallas Restaurants list. Our ranking is radically different from those by critics at other publications, or from the ratings on websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. Why? There are two main reasons. One is that metro Dallas has over 100 restaurants with good things to eat, and some of them had to get cut.
The other is that some of the consensus favorites that have been topping "best of Dallas" lists for years fail to match their hype. A few of them are even genuinely bad. And I am naming names.
Here's our guide to some of the highest-profile snubs from our Top 100 ranking, and why they're missing.
1. Flora Street Cafe2330 Flora St. (Arts District)
Flora Street Cafe was designed by celebrity owner Stephan Pyles as a showcase for the city’s culinary identity. But Flora Street had consistency problems even before chef de cuisine Peter Barlow, the kitchen's real creative force, departed in summer 2018. Since Barlow moved on, staff turnover has sent the restaurant into a tailspin. I had a good lunch at Flora Street in August, then returned after Thanksgiving thinking this ultra-high-end spot was a safe bet to make the Top 20. After all, D Magazine ranks it the second-best restaurant in the city, and the last Dallas Morning News restaurant critic named it our only five-star restaurant.
But that most recent meal was a nonstop disaster. Service, slow even on good days, turned glacial. It took the staff 15 minutes to hand us menus and 45 to offer the bread basket. Between waits, we poked at dishes like "crispy lamb belly," which was actually soggy fat cubes in a bowl of sweet barbecue sauce, and "medium-rare salmon," which was actually overcooked salmon. Even good dishes, like the tartare, were too salty. Chocolate mousse was served in a tiny square box, with a spoon too wide to fit in. As a final insult, an employee took away our wine bottle — with wine still in it.
The bill, for two people: $300. Flora Street Cafe may someday be worth that price tag again. Right now, it's awful.
2. Teppo2014 Greenville Ave. (Lowest Greenville)
This is the opposite story: I feel bad about omitting Teppo. I like Teppo, one of the original and best Japanese bars in Dallas and a Greenville Avenue institution. It just got squeezed out of the list because our Japanese scene is especially strong — there were nine Japanese restaurants on the list already. (We crossed out a 10th contender, Hon Sushi, when its chef moved to a new business in Frisco.)
For the record, here are a few more places that made me wish our Top 100 was a Top 120: Bistro B, C Señor, Dallas Tamales Cafe (Grand Prairie), Dong Que, First Chinese BBQ, Intrinsic Smokehouse, Las Almas Rotas, Little Kaiping, Lockhart Smokehouse (Bishop Arts), Malibu Poke, Mario's (Lemmon Avenue), Momo Stop, No. 1 Plus Chicken, Off the Bone Barbeque, San Pedro's, Taco Stop, Tortillería La Nueva Puntada, Whiskers Fish and Burgers and Zeytin Mediterranean Grill.
3. Almost every steakhouse
Ugh. Steakhouses. Knife and Gorji set themselves apart with perfectionist cooking and hospitality, and Town Hearth has its iconic submersible. Too many of the rest are places for a certain kind of good old boy to show off his ability to buy Napa cabernet and eat meat. Most are wildly overpriced. As D Magazine critic Eve Hill-Agnus discovered earlier this year when researching her own steakhouse ranking, many foster cultures of sexism among their staff. And, to be perfectly honest, these days if I'm not going to Knife, Town Hearth or Gorji, I just go to the grocery, splurge on a nice hanger steak and cook it on cast iron at home. At my house, side dishes aren't an extra $15.
4. Fuel City801 S. Riverfront Blvd. (Design District)
Let's get this out of the way: Fuel City is awful. Nostalgia for Fuel City is unfortunate. There are at least 50 better places in Dallas to eat tacos, half of them at the same price point. I don't know how a taco joint can produce meat that is both dry and greasy at the same time, on flavorless tortillas, and preserve its reputation. The only thing Fuel City is good at is mythmaking.
5. Mirador1608 Elm St. (Downtown)
Our review was harsh on Mirador for its naked adoration of income inequality and the classism inequality produces. After that review, some readers told me to "stay out of politics," and gossip reached me that Mirador's leadership dismissed me as an attention-seeker. Indeed, shortly after the review came out, Mirador started serving a $25 caviar omelet at brunch. They've also got an $18 po'boy sandwich in their penthouse suite atop a luxury department store. But sure, giving ultra-rich people a place to spend $8 on a side of tots is a great way to make Dallas a better place. It keeps them out of our way.
6. Trinity Groves (and Nick & Sam's)3011 Gulden Lane (West Dallas)
If a Trinity Groves restaurant undeniably belonged in the Top 100, we'd have faced a dilemma. Most of the businesses at Trinity Groves are backed by Phil Romano, who recently settled a lawsuit from a former female employee who claimed Romano assaulted her on videotape and had his HR staff harass and threaten her to ensure her silence. Romano also part-owns see-and-be-seen Uptown steakhouse Nick & Sam's. Could we place a Romano-affiliated business in the Top 100?
Luckily, none of these establishments forced us to make that call. Having said that, some of the Trinity Groves restaurants serve solid fare, like Off-Site Kitchen's burgers. I love Kate Weiser Chocolates and Cake Bar, but those are shops, not restaurants. And I'll confess to having never tried the food at Luck, only the beers. (Sorry, Luck fans! Next time.)
7. The Mansion Restaurant2821 Turtle Creek Blvd. (Uptown)
The luxury hotel restaurant, which was once home to such great chefs as John Tesar and Bruno Davaillon, is now scrambling to rebuild its reputation after several years of leadership turmoil. A brand-new executive chef, Sebastien Archambault, hopes to bring The Mansion back to relevance. Archambault arrived in Dallas too recently for us to consider for the Top 100; I'll be visiting in 2019.
For now, though, here's a little teaser for this week's big feature story: I surveyed more than 60 Dallas chefs, restaurateurs, sommeliers, bartenders and food writers on their own top restaurant recommendations. Nobody mentioned The Mansion.
8. Front Burner Group
The parent company of Haywire, Ida Claire, The Keeper, Legacy Food Hall, Mexican Sugar, Sixty Vines, The Ranch at Las Colinas and Whiskey Cake comes up with a total of zero restaurants in our Top 100. I like the wine program at Sixty Vines, and their pizzas have mighty fine crusts. Ida Claire's burger gets top marks. I'm rooting for some of the small business owners who have stalls at Legacy Food Hall. But other than that, there's not much to say about any of these businesses except that if you're trapped in the suburbs, you can probably have an Instagrammable meal at whichever is nearest. If possible, stick with the Sixty Vines pizzas or Ida Claire burger.
Oh, and here's one more back-handed compliment: Front Burner's current crop of restaurants beats their previous concept, Hot Joy.
9. Bolsa614 W. Davis St. (Oak Cliff)
This 10-year-old Oak Cliff institution has stayed solidly decent through years of kitchen turnover. But a recent meal there for Top 100 research left me disappointed in excessively salty quail and a bruschetta sampler served on cheap little cardboard-ish flaps of toast. The pork chop is good and the service is still excellent, so I'll give Bolsa more chances in the future, but for now, it'll have to wait.
10. Fearing's2121 McKinney Ave. (Uptown)
Fearing's made the Top 100 — in the unranked section at the bottom, well outside the top 50. For the Ritz-Carlton's prestigious restaurant, headed up by nationally renowned chef Dean Fearing and praised (wrongly) by Eater as one of the 38 best restaurants in Texas, being left out of the top 50 is a snub already. But Fearing's is definitely resting on the laurels it earned in past decades, coasting on the profit it gains from $9 waters and gimmicky Southwestern cocktails so weak they come with a "free" mezcal shot on the side. There's plenty of good food here, but we're hoping that this ranking will be a wake-up call to the restaurant leadership. In fact, I'm already regretting not handing Fearing's spot to Teppo. What was I thinking? Darn it.
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.