Food News

Two DFW Spots Make Bon Appetit's 50 Best New Restaurants List

A plate of colorful tacos from El Rincon del Maiz.
A plate of colorful tacos from El Rincon del Maiz. Lauren Drewes Daniels
In 2019, the culinary magazine Bon Appetit listed Dallas as the Restaurant City of the Year. The magazine's culture editor, Hilary Cadigan, born in Dallas but raised in Massachusetts, spent some time with the Observer's then-food critic Brian Reinhart. She was enchanted by Petra and the Beast and the now-closed Khao Noodle Shop, both of which were put on that year's list of best new restaurants. She also had Jalisco-style flautas and gas station fare, writing about "the confluence of strong immigrant communities that dot and surround the city."

For this year's best new restaurants list, Bon Appetit highlights two North Texas spots, both of which bear the same cultural "confluence" that Cadigan noted a few years ago: a seafood restaurant with house-cured smoked fish in a town founded on the beef market, and a colorful tortilla spot in an old Sonic that is a vegan-haven, where a demure cook with no previous experience or training is pushing out bright Mexican dishes.

First let's look at La Onda in Fort Worth, a fresh seafood restaurant by chef Victor Villarreal and his wife Misty. Victor went to Semback culinary school in Germany, and his resume includes Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek and two Fort Worth restaurants, Grace and Clay Pigeon. La Onda has a raw bar, ceviches, oysters and roasted whole or smoked fish. Choices are written on a chalkboard because the menu changes so often.

A shark-cuterie board comes with a house-cured gravlax, half an ounce of house caviar and a chef's choice of smoked seafood (but no shark). There are also dry-aged steaks, for good measure.

Bon Appetit writes:

Here, you might find locally caught, dry-aged, golden-seared wahoo bathed in smoky salsa, or Villareal’s signature “sharkcuterie” board, which features no actual shark but plenty of his creamy smoked fish dip, salt-cured gravlax, and a little jar of seafood and pickled veggies floating in chili oil. Oysters are served with mezcal-infused mignonette and ceviche features Ora King salmon and watermelon.

El Rincon del Maiz ("the corn corner"), is on Belt Line Road in Garland. While the reviews for its vegan fare are stellar, it's also prized for its carnivore-friendly food.

This past Saturday afternoon, the bright restaurant with an inviting patio was busy. This is Gerardo Gullien and his wife Michelle Torres' first restaurant; Torres is responsible for the entire menu and all the recipes, which includes breakfast, five different flavors of house-made tortillas, tacos, tortas, birria and a feast of vegan fare.
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El Rincon del Maiz, along Belt Line Road in Garland, is housed in a former Sonic.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
Torres, who grew up in Tabasco, Mexico, has no formal culinary training. Asked if her mother or father had taught her how to cook while growing up, she shrugged and smiled behind her mask, shaking her head no. The shy 39-year-old is completely self-taught, and this is her first time working in a restaurant, much less running a kitchen.

Torres isn't vegan, but started creating meatless recipes after her husband said he wanted to lose weight. She became intrigued and found a vegetable substitute for almost every protein on the menu. A vegan birria and pastor is made with jackfruit, chicharron de coco uses coconut skins, and cauliflower and hibiscus tacos are one of their most popular items.
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There are about six tables inside, with a couple of TVs to watch a game, plus this patio for dining outside.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
Gullien emphasizes that all the recipes are based on the couple's far-southern Mexico roots in Tabasco and that all dishes are made from scratch. The counter offers a great view into the large, open kitchen where several employees were plating to-go orders and one was rolling balls for fresh tortillas.

On Saturday they said they didn't even know about the announcement from Bon Appetit until D Magazine called them for an interview. Friday their restaurant was much busier than usual, and that trend held steady through Saturday.
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The colorful tortillas and vegan tacos get a lot of chatter, but don't sleep on the torta.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
We ordered a plate of five different tacos with a variety of flavored tortillas. The plate is a vibrant combination of vegetables and mounds of flavorful protein, speckled with dollops of guacamole and cubes of mango. We also got a  Puerto Rican-style torta de pernil with slow-roasted pork that was a sandwich we won't soon forget.

Beware of the habanero mango salsa — it is fire.

Torres and Gullien said they were stunned that their little spot in Garland received recognition from a national magazine, but after a plate of vibrant tacos with an almost-stunning amount of care put into each ingredient, and a fall-apart amazing torta, it certainly seems worth it.

Bon Appetit will announce its final Top 10 best new restaurants in America on Sept. 14.
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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.