This time last year, the restaurant industry was still shaking off the pandemic like a blindside blow from a middle linebacker. It was a slow, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other recovery from labor challenges, product shortages, crazy weather and inflation.
The ride through 2022 has been smoother, but not without its own set of challenges. Food and labor costs continue to hurt. Kelsey Erickson Streufert of the Texas Restaurant Association says that food commodity prices — the cost of basics like dairy, fresh vegetables and meat – are up 27.5% year-over-year. Labor, utilities and rent and mortgage payments are also up.
Inflation has sent wholesale food prices soaring, surpassing the highest point ever — the 1970s — in terms of cost.
Simply put, every single item used to create a dining experience costs more — the Association estimates as much as two to three times more than just two years ago. For an industry that runs on tight margins, these costs are hard to force down. And sometimes that means passing costs along to diners, but not too much for fear of losing business.
The chocolate soufflé at Knox Bistro.
But Dallas diners are a fickle bunch when it comes to a good time and an even better meal. It’s safe to say this city has a work-hard-play-hard quality. So as dubious as the data seems, the local dining scene is as vibrant as ever.
"Despite unprecedented cost increases, consumer spending in restaurants continues to tick up because restaurants offer an experience with tremendous value," Streufert says. "Menu price increases continue to trail grocery, 8.6% to 12.4%, and even more importantly, consumers value the time they can save and savor at a restaurant. Restaurants that continue to deliver a high-quality experience will remain competitive even in today’s inflationary market."
New restaurants have opened this year at a rapid clip, and high-end spots still have long lists for reservations, weeks out. Some people see eating out as their most basic form of self-care and would rather cut back elsewhere.
So when we took a broad look at restaurants to consider for our annual updated list of Top 100 Restaurants, a theme emerged: a good time. Despite the challenges, Dallas offers a bevy of beautiful spaces to dine with exciting food that makes passing on pedicures and Botox worth it. So we hear.
Perhaps after dining rooms closed in 2020, the industry and diners alike rolled back in with a renewed appreciation, even at a cost. And for that we are thankful.
Below are a dozen new restaurants we’ve added to our Top 100 list
this year. Each, in its own way, makes Dallas a diverse and exciting place to dig into.