Simplicity is not exactly trendy in Dallas dining right now.
Somewhere along the line, specialization was replaced by book-length restaurant menus that wildly run the gamut. At Nick Badovinus' new hotspot Town Hearth, you can get everything from Blue Point oysters on the half shell to house-made pasta, ahi tuna with ponzo, shepherd's pie and gourmet tater tots. Even the humble fried chicken joint, proliferating madly across DFW in recent months, stretches well beyond just fried chicken; at the new Fat Chicken at Trinity Groves, you'll also find a bone-in pork chop and kale salad alongside house specialties like fried chicken and doughnuts.
And, of course, there's the burger, which you'll find on almost every single menu in town, regardless of whether the restaurant is serving Asian-Southern fusion, Cuban fare or high-end Pacific Northwest seafood.
But there are still a few restaurants in Dallas that have committed to doing one thing and one thing only, cooking creative variations on a single dish day in and day out. These restaurants aren't trying to appeal to everyone, nor are they willing to cater to the whims of patrons accustomed to endless variety; these restaurants devote their energy to perfecting a single item, and it shows in the finished product. You'll notice a common theme in the eateries on this list: Many have already opened (or are in the process of opening) second or third locations, several of which are spread through the Dallas suburbs.
Customers are obviously responding to these highly focused menus, and there may be psychological reasons why: Study after study has shown that, the more choices consumers are given, the less likely they are to be happy with the choices they make.
Escape the decision fatigue and try out the best kind of one-trick pony at these Dallas restaurants that specialize in one thing and one thing only.
1888 Sylvan Ave., Dallas; 5808 Windhaven Pkwy., The Colony
Dining at Ten Ramen, a tiny eatery tucked into Sylvan Thirty in West Dallas, is an experience. There are no chairs at this restaurant, modeled after traditional Japanese noodle shops, nor are there servers or the possibility of ordering food to go. Upon arrival, when you'll likely find yourself packed into the crowded space like a hungry sardine, you'll order from a small menu using a computer screen then wait for your name to be called. And once it is, you're in for a treat. Tei-An's Teiichi Sakurai – along with head chef Matthew Hoa – are turning out the best ramen in North Texas, and this food is well worth the time you'll spend crammed into a little room with fellow noodle-lovers. Their spicy lobster miso ramen is damn-near famous, and you'll also find traditional tonkotsu ramen and fun specials like chicken curry ramen, lemon pepper chicken shio and Japanese Neapolitan spaghetti made with a tomato-based sauce, onion, green peppers and pork belly. If you're dying to try Ten but would rather do it sitting down, this week, Ten opened a second location adjacent to a dog park in The Colony.
314 N. Bishop Ave. and 2708 Main St, Dallas; 107 S. Tennessee St., McKinney
No matter the location, Emporium Pies has a cult following. On weekends, long lines wind out the cute Bishop Arts pie cottage, with tourists and locals alike excitedly waiting slices of handmade pies in flavors like Dr. Love (red velvet chess pie), Smooth Operator (French silk chocolate with a pretzel crust) and Drunken Nut (bourbon pecan on a shortbread crust). With such a loyal legion of fans, Emporium could certainly get away with expanding to other sweets, but they stick to what they know: beautiful, from-scratch pies that diners love to eat outside on a breezy afternoon.
839 Singleton Blvd.
Trompo's menu is as simple as it gets, just tacos and open-face quesadillas made with one of three fillings: trompo (pork), bistek (beef) and a robust vegetarian option made with roasted poblano peppers and paneer. Aside from salsas, that's all you'll find on the regular menu at this beloved taqueria, which is about to open a second location in Oak Cliff. Trompo42 will serve alcohol and may boast a more complex menu, but for now, Trompo's original location focuses on juicy, perfectly seasoned meat lovingly roasted on a vertical rotisserie.
Whisk Crepes Cafe
1888 Sylvan Ave.
Another offering in the Sylvan Thirty development, Whisk is a tiny creperie that serves nothing but sweet and savory crepes and a small selection of wine. Created by Paris native Julien Eelsen, Whisk offers either buckwheat or flour crepes topped with offerings ranging from locally smoked turkey to basil cream, Belgian cookie spread, imported Gruyere and French chestnut spread. The specialty crepe menu runs the gamut, with Shakshuka (Israeli-style tomato sauce with sunny side up eggs, feta cheese and harissa cream), smoked brisket with queso fresco, and barbecue cream and fresh goat cheese with dried figs and walnuts. Whether you're going with just butter and sugar or a creative special swimming in poached plums and orange-port reduction, you won't go wrong.
2558 Royal Lane and 2540 Old Denton Road, Carrollton
Korean fried chicken is an addictive indulgence. Rather than standard wheat flour, the chicken is dredged in rice flour, which creates an extra-crispy exterior that's thicker and crunchier than American fried chicken, and the breading keeps the interior shockingly moist. At Rice Chicken, go for the No. 6, a whole chicken divided between just-fried and pieces dunked in a sweet and spicy sauce that caramelizes when it comes in contact with the hot chicken.
1717 N. Harwood St.
Last summer, the Dallas Museum of Art opened an outdoor pavilion with a crepe cafe specializing in a chickpea-based savory pancake popular in the far south of France. The naturally gluten-free crepe is then topped with offerings like roasted grapes, fresh herbs and house-ground almond butter. You can also order an assortment of meats and local cheeses to snack on with a fresh socca (pronounced SOAK-uh) while you sip wine or local beer.
3977 N. Belt Line Road, Irving
If you're in Irving and in a hurry, you can't go wrong at Empa Mundo, a restaurant devoted to Argentine crepes with a Texas influence. When entering, saunter up to the register and mark your order with a grease pencil on a laminated menu and you'll receive a basket of hot empanadas filled with brisket or chorizo or sweet potato. If you opt for a savory crepe (there are ample sweet options, too), don't leave without some of Empa Mundo's killer chimichurri sauce.
Pok the Raw Bar
3699 McKinney Ave.
Nestled in the hustle and bustle of West Village, Pok the Raw Bar looks unforgivably trendy. But once you try this poke, a traditionally Hawaiian dish made with raw fish and fresh vegetables, you won't even notice all the SoulCyclers wandering by on their way to Kendra Scott. With an eye on sustainable and sometimes local sourcing, the menu is based on poke bowls made with wild-caught Japanese albacore, responsibly farmed Scottish salmon and wild-caught yellowfin tuna. Go with a signature bowl or build your own with components like cauliflower rice, spicy ponzu, shiso and togaroshi. Technically, Pok does specialize in a second item: matcha. Using ceremonial-grade Japanese matcha, Pok serves up beautiful bright green pick-me-ups made with options that include cacao mint almond milk and yuzu lemonade.
Quoc Bao Bakery
3419 W Walnut St., Garland
This is one of the greatest banh mis in North Texas, and that's all you'll find on this menu, unless you're in the mood for baked goods, as Quoc Bao bakes their own bread and a few other offerings. Not only are these banh mi fresh, authentic and outrageously flavorful, they're all under $4, which makes this one of the cheapest lunches in DFW.
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