If you haven't heard, next month's Bon Appetit will name the 20 most important restaurants in America. Dallas didn't make the list. Texas got two nods -- both Uchi and Franklin BBQ in Austin were mentioned -- but instead of celebrating Lone Star Pride, I'd rather examine why Dallas was not included.
Let's look some of these restaurants on the list and see what they say about the restaurant scene in Dallas.
Momofuko opens in the number one spot with an amazing online video I'm sure will get your salivary glands working. What's most interesting to me about the spot is that not only is chef/owner David Chang's cooking new and innovative, but also he's been creatively spinning classic flavors at the restaurant since 2004. Longevity is an important part of establishing a solid dining scene. Diners need to know they can depend on a place. La Bernadine, which is also featured in the list, opened in 1994.
Of the three five-star restaurants currently operating in Dallas, two are currently just over two years old. Lucia and Tei-An are definitely restaurants that can stand on a national stage. Will they be here in 2020?
Husk, in Charleston South Carolina, has been earning national attention for taking farm-to-table to the next level. Chef Sean Brock simply grows what he can't find, while also using his garden to help preserve rare heirloom crops that might otherwise sit dormant in a seed bank.
In Dallas some chefs make use of gardens. There's even an East Dallas café named after the plot sitting behind the restaurant. But none of these places uses their garden as a primary source of ingredients for their menus. An herb garden and the occasional okra dish is not enough to grab anyone's attention outside of the loop. Though, with the weather and soil here, maybe we should focus on other ways to grab the spotlight.
Alinea, in Chicago, pushes boundaries of creativity. It's one of the first restaurants to use the volcano vaporizer (I'm not sure what else these are used for ...) for extracting the aromas of herbs without combustion. The restaurant uses scent and sight like an abstract pallette to support the dishes. Alinea isn't a place you'll want to eat every night, but it will change the way you think about eating.
Roberta's, meanwhile, offers pizza and $180 tasting menu within the same restaurant group in New York. Oh, and a tiki disco party. I don't know of any restaurateur in Dallas willing to take risks like this, but honestly, I have to wonder if such a quirky concept would work here.
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If you think all these restaurants made it into this list simply because of their PR Machine? Mission Chinese Food in San Fransisco doesn't have one, yet they're still featured in at least 13 major magazines last year, from The New Yorker to Playboy. Let's ignore how these restaurants get into magazines and lists and instead check in with the restaurants that have the best chance of being noticed outside of Dallas.
I've already mentioned Tei-An and Lucia. And while the Mansion on Turtle Creek is known for impeccable execution, I don't think they're doing anything inventive or new enough to get attention outside of Dallas.
That leaves me with FT 33, Spoon and Oak. These restaurants are starting to wake up the Dallas dining scene with new concepts and new takes on cuisine, while exhibiting the tight execution it takes to stand on a national stage. Now they have to stay in the game. They have to stay excited and work continuously to improve with every dinner service.
And Dallas diners have to keep rewarding those restaurants with repeated business. It's on all of us to recognize what is truly good and has staying power, while ignoring flash-in-the-pan restaurants that contribute nothing to the unique potential within in our dining scene. Dallas has to not only want to be a true culinary city, but it has to want it collectively and consistently for a very long time.