The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 41: This superb bakery in Richardson got its start turning out excellent samoon bread from Iraq and trays of delightful desserts like pistachio puffs and baklava. But for nearly a decade now Bilad has also had an excellent kitchen serving Iraqi specialties, including some of the region’s better shawarma and falafel, zhug (an acidic hot pepper sauce), fresh tabbouleh and garlicky hummus. Kebab meat may look charred on the outside, but the interior is still perfectly tender.
Top pick: The shawarma sandwiches, served in delightfully soft, fresh Iraqi bread, are $5.49 each, or you can buy five and get the sixth free.
The downside: If you’re planning to come for dinner, arrive early; Bilad closes at 8 p.m., and on slow nights service may wind down even earlier.
Fun fact: Grab a bag of the extraordinary Iraqi bread on your way out the door, or step into the small grocery store next door.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 1: If it was just a small Deep Ellum shopfront hawking tacos, Revolver Taco Lounge would already rank highly on this list. The front room is no ordinary taqueria; chef-owner Regino Rojas and his crew mix their interpretations of the classics with entirely new inventions, like a filet mignon taco topped with foie gras or the Kermit in Bangkok, starring curried frog legs. Every ingredient here is premium quality, most of all the tortillas themselves, made from scratch and so fresh that you can smell the corn on your hands after eating.
Yes, this taco shop and its single communal table would already be a top-10 place to eat in Dallas — and then there’s the reservations-only backroom. For a flat $120 per person, plus tip and drinks, Rojas and his mother Juanita Rojas will cook a fine-dining tasting menu in a tiny show kitchen. Just a handful of tables are seated in the backroom each night — this author and a friend were once the only two guests — to experience food that ranges from traditional (rabbit soup with Juanita’s whole-rabbit stock) to modern (a dab of salsa verde on a curlicue of perfectly tender octopus). The mole tasting, which pairs Juanita’s superb traditional sauces with Regino’s perfectly cooked meats, reveals both chefs at their best.
Top pick: Revolver serves the best tacos al pastor in Dallas.
The downside: Menu items in the front room sell out fairly frequently, so have a backup choice in mind.
Fun fact: Not only are we naming Revolver Best Restaurant, but in this year’s Best of Dallas we awarded them Best Hot Dog, too, for their Mexican-style dog wrapped in bacon and topped with a scoop of beans. How many cities can say that their most interesting restaurant serves a killer hot dog?
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 2: The most influential figure on the Dallas dining scene might be Teiichi Sakurai, who is doing his best to build one of America’s best Japanese food markets. Sakurai’s previous restaurants, Teppo and Tei Tei Robata, are both still open and still outstanding, and his ramen shop Ten is a cult favorite. But Tei-An is his masterpiece, one of the few restaurants in America to make its own soba noodles from scratch. The soba is spectacular however you try it, from plain noodles with a trio of dipping sauces in bowls to a “bolognese” riff that bridges the gap between Japan and Italy. Tei-An flies in fresh seafood daily straight from Tokyo, making sushi and sashimi essential orders. Tasting menus offer a good chance to try everything, including the excellent tempura. If one course is garnished with shrimp heads, expect to see the heads again later, fried.
Top pick: If you don’t save room for a bowl of black sesame mousse for dessert, then you’ll just have to go back. It’s this critic’s favorite dessert in Texas, period.
The downside: If you’ve been to Tei-An before, skip the basic tasting menu, a greatest-hits collection of menu staples, and spend more cash on a seasonal menu of Sakurai’s latest inventions.
Fun fact: This isn’t just a local favorite. Tei-An has a glittering reputation over in Japan, too. By the way, don’t miss the most luxurious bathrooms of any restaurant in Dallas.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 3: Vietnamese tradition meets modern, seasonal inspirations at Mot Hai Ba, a tiny neighborhood spot in East Dallas run by Serbian-born chef Peja Krstic. But that description doesn’t quite convey what’s so special about one of the most creative restaurants in town. As some of the city’s envelope-pushing chefs turn to more conservative concepts, or abandon restaurants altogether for the daredevil world of pop-up dinners, it’s rare to see a kitchen dedicate itself to a first-rate style all its own. At Mot Hai Ba, French imperialist history in Vietnam translates to a true dialogue between the two cuisines’ best natures. And the drinks program makes the most out of its limited space, with a short but appealing cocktail list and a handful of wines chosen to pair brilliantly with the food.
Top pick: It’s hard to say, because the menu changes with the seasons and with Krstic’s inspirations. Banana flower salad, grilled duck hearts and a low-and-slow braised lamb neck are reliable favorites.
The downside: The dining room is so small that a table can be hard to snag, and the “chairs” — they’re actually footstools — will punish any diner with even the slightest hint of a back problem.
Fun fact: Banh xeo, a crisp, savory crepe, is almost irresistibly tempting, but it’s so huge that it’s best ordered by either a hungry person who doesn’t want to try anything else or a very large group that wants to try everything.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 4: Sachet represents the style of restaurant dining we love most. The vegetable-focused, elegantly Mediterranean plates of food start from impeccable ingredients, and they’re served in portions small enough that we can try more. It’s possible to focus on a different aspect of this restaurant with each visit: Come once to sample Sachet’s seasonal house-made pastas — as good as anything at an explicitly Italian restaurant — then return to try a half-dozen or so of the vegetarian meze or to focus on meaty main courses from the stone oven Sachet imported from Tuscany. The menu’s influences range from Spanish Iberico ham to Turkish-inspired lamb, with a detour at the end for Tunisian doughnuts, but pastas like green garlic tortiglioni just might be best of all.
Top pick: Bring friends so you can try as many meze and pastas as possible. No, an order of fresh-baked pita bread is not free, but yes, it is well worth the cost and comes with a small bowl of outrageously good olive oil.
The downside: A few early visits yielded dishes that were slightly too salty; the problem seems to be fading as the kitchen matures.
Fun fact: In addition to an entire menu of different gin and tonics, Sachet boasts the best wine program in Dallas. The wine list notates natural, biodynamic and organic bottlings, and encompasses wines from Spain, Morocco, France, Italy, Greece, Slovenia, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel and Texas. Feeling a bit lost? Seemingly every employee on staff can tell you, with sincere enthusiasm, about their particular favorites.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 5: Lucia might just be the most beloved restaurant in Dallas. Its fans are fiercely loyal, and finding a detractor is nearly impossible. That might be because of the warmth of hospitality at this tiny Bishop Arts dining room, where new customers are treated like future regulars and regulars are treated like family. It might be because of the Italian-focused and generally affordable wine list. But it’s mostly because of the outstanding food, served from a menu that changes so frequently the website just lists a sample. Start with a $1 prune stuffed with foie gras, then move on to exquisite fresh salads and made-in-house pastas. Lucia is at its best during spring and summer, when the kitchen can smear ricotta on grilled bread and shower it with young peas or a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes.
Top pick: The menu changes constantly, but you will definitely want to score at least one bowl of pasta per person, whether it’s a well-known shape like ravioli or a more obscure regional noodle. Don’t miss the charcuterie, which often includes basturma, the cured ancestor of pastrami and a nod to chef David Uygur’s part-Turkish heritage.
The downside: The veggies and pastas are usually more interesting than the meaty main courses — which might be a good thing, since by the time the mains arrive, we’re usually already full.
Fun fact: The notorious difficulty of scoring reservations at Lucia scares people away from actually walking into the restaurant and asking for a seat, a strategy with a decent chance of success, especially in good weather when two outdoor tables are available. ly.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 6: In an industrial park in Farmers Branch — although the postal service oddly lists this address as Dallas — Cattleack Barbeque lives up to every bit of hype it’s received from Texas Monthly, which named it the third-best barbecue joint in the state, and matches the anticipation generated by its sometimes painfully long lines. Fabulous fatty brisket and massive, magnificent beef ribs are the stars of the show, and it’s a joy to bring an out-of-town guest to Cattleack, order them the Toddfather sandwich and watch the sheer glee on their face as they contemplate the Dagwood-tall stack of brisket, pulled pork and sausage between two buns. The vinegar-based coleslaw, from pit master Todd David’s mother’s recipe, is the perfect counterpoint to all that fatty meat. Grab another bite of slaw and you’ll be prepared to tackle that next slice of Texas hot link.
Top pick: On some weeks, the Cattleack crew smoke beef ribs rubbed with a pastrami spice mix. The ribs are jaw-dropping; order an extra, take it home and throw it in a pot of beans the next day.
The downside: Like all great Texas barbecue joints, Cattleack has a serious line at peak hours, even in bad weather.
Fun fact: There’s usually still something good to eat around 2 p.m., as long as you’re not picky. Join Cattleack’s mailing list and you’ll receive an email anytime there are no lines — and you’ll hear about specials like boudin and pastrami burnt ends, too.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 7: With an in-kitchen hydroponic gardening operation, a collection of specially commissioned sculptures and a dining room that’s literally a gold bar on the side of a skyscraper, Bullion is one of the most ambitious restaurants Dallas has seen in years. It’s also one of the best, with a deep cast of talented chefs producing elegant but not pretentious updates on classic French foods. Dig through the superb bread basket, share maybe the city’s best beef tartare and revel in the exquisitely cooked seafood. (Grab a side order of crispy bistro-style pommes frites, too.) A superb all-French wine program, outstanding desserts and world-class people-watching complement the excellent dinners.
Top pick: Many of the best meals are rotating daily specials. Watch out for quenelles Lyonnaise on Mondays, extraordinary rabbit on Thursdays and an outrageous bison pot-au-feu in winter months.
The downside: Escargot seems to be absent from the escargot ravioli. Dining inside a gold bar on the side of a skyscraper feels peak Trump-era. More distressing, numerous industry contacts who have dined at Bullion report lapses in service quality. They don’t occur when this author visits — because Bullion staff are trained to watch out for critics. This is one of the few restaurants on the list to attempt to curry the author’s favor with freebies, a plate of madeleines for which we added extra cash to the tip.
Fun fact: The entrance, at the corner of Young and Record streets, is a grand spiral staircase direct from the sidewalk; ask the valet if you need an elevator.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 8: When Gemma opened, it was a Dallas pioneer, bringing along the dressy-casual seasonal cuisine from co-owners Allison Yoder and Stephen Rogers’ last home, in Napa. Since then, a dozen imitators have sprung up around town serving renditions of Gemma’s Mediterranean-accented California cooking. Even specific dishes, like braised rabbit on pappardelle pasta, have radiated out from Gemma onto other menus. But while those restaurants practice their sincere forms of flattery, Gemma maintains its high standard year after year and finds ways to keep separating itself from the pack. A recent, subtle redecoration has lightened up the atmosphere slightly, to its advantage.
Top pick: A just-right-chewy bucatini colored with squid ink and topped with morsels of lobster is one of the best Gemma has ever served and shows that the restaurant is still finding ways to make decadent food from seemingly simple ideas. And the snack bowl of fried olives and pecans is a mandatory order.
The downside: Gemma is more old-school, and more classically European, than its younger sibling, Sachet. That’s not a complaint, but it means that the restaurant faces stiffer competition around town from newer rivals.
Fun fact: The reverse happy hour, with discounted oysters and bubbly after 10:30 p.m., makes Gemma one of the best (and classiest) places in Dallas for a late-night meal.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 9: Mi Lindo Oaxaca is an extraordinary restaurant showcasing one of Mexico’s most complex regional cuisines. To make its mole from scratch, the kitchen starts by making its own chocolate. Breads and tortillas are made in-house too. But this isn’t a chef-driven fine-dining place — it’s a cash-only Oak Cliff institution that gets traditional foods right. This is one of the best places in Dallas to try chapulines (grasshoppers), either in a generously filled taco or on a toasted-masa memelita. The enmoladas and enfrijoladas are fabulous, too.
Top pick: Share the loaded-to-the-brim tlayudas, which some food writers call “Oaxacan pizzas” but which Mi Lindo Oaxaca serves folded, like gigantic quesadillas with a bit of crunch. This is one of the only places to get a tlayuda in North Texas.
The downside: Mi Lindo Oaxaca is still growing into its large new space near the Kessler Theater, but the recent move also means the restaurant is finally accepting credit cards.
Fun fact: The original location on Fort Worth Avenue has been spun off into a new restaurant with a slightly different menu, called El Comalito Oaxaqueño.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 10: The best steakhouse in Dallas has expanded with a Plano location. Meanwhile, the original, at the Highland hotel near Mockingbird Station, continues to successfully bridge the gap between casual-dining excellence and a posh steakhouse experience. You can get out of Knife for under $20 if you just want one of the city’s best burgers. Actually, all of Knife’s burgers are among Dallas’ best, from the legendary Ozersky, its thick patty adorned simply with American cheese and red onion with pickle on the side, to the Tail End with pork belly and collard greens. Or you can live it up with excellent seafood crudos, oxtail ravioli, an old-school aged rib-eye from a Texas ranch and perfect creamed spinach on the side. The choice is yours, but whatever experience you choose, Knife does it right.
Top pick: If you haven’t tried dry-aged steak before, look out for a cut of beef that’s been aged around 90 days — just enough to really deepen and enrich the flavors without getting too funky. The impossibly soft ribbons of steak taste as if they contain a thread of mild blue cheese.
The downside: A bacon-flavored old-fashioned helps to atone for a wine list, presented on iPad, that lags behind the local competition.
Fun fact: Don’t leave without peeking into the dry-aging room to ogle the cuts of meat stowed away for future diners.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 11: Quite possibly Dallas’ best sushi bar, Yutaka has been an Uptown staple since 2006. Chef-owner Yutaka Yamato oversees a mouthwatering list of fresh sushi and sashimi that changes with the seasons and with new shipments flown directly from Japan. His sushi rolls hew to traditional styles, with the emphasis on simplicity and good ingredients; none of the rolls here are Instagram-bait monstrosities with silly names and a dozen different fillings and toppings. Yutaka’s cooked items may not be the focus, but the salads are exquisite and the small handfuls of grilled and tempura veggies are perfect accompaniments to the fish.
Top pick: You could have a satisfying meal without ever straying from the day’s specials, especially fresh sushi and sashimi.
The downside: The Japanese bar two doors down, which used to act as a waiting area, is unfortunately long closed, so make reservations.
Fun fact: This is the best restaurant in Uptown, and especially good for date night.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 12: Like Revolver Taco Lounge, Petra and the Beast is two restaurants in one, but the kitchen here is divided by time rather than space. On Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday, Petra is a casual counter-service spot serving charcuterie boards, noodles and assorted other snacks in its homey building, a 1932-built Sinclair filling station. Made-from-scratch noodles, wontons and charcuterie are always an enticing combo, but especially so when chef Misti Norris and her colleague Tony Ibarra — at the time this was written, they were the entire kitchen staff — are producing the best charcuterie in Dallas. Luscious slices of mustard-rubbed beef tongue, spicy 'nduja spread on grilled toast, pork and garlic chive terrine: It’s all here. And then there’s the second side of Petra: On Saturday nights, the restaurant offers a reservations-only seven-course tasting menu of some of the most innovative food in Dallas. Courses change each week based on what Norris and Ibarra forage in the wild.
Top pick: The best charcuterie board in Dallas, period.
The downside: Like many of the most experimental and interesting restaurants in the city, Petra is extremely small. Also note that, due to scheduling issues, this author has not yet been able to attend a Saturday tasting dinner. The ranking here applies to the counter service on other nights.
Fun fact: Simply the best BYOB experience within Dallas city limits.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 13: Few Dallas-area restaurants are making cheffy, inspired twists on classic foods in the lowest price bracket. Tacos Mariachi, with its brilliant riffs on seafood tacos, is one of them. Where else in Dallas can you find a smoked salmon taco, the fish folded into a griddle-melted blanket of cheese? Other offerings showcase octopus and shrimp, the shrimp taco noteworthy because, unlike many rivals elsewhere, it’s not smothered in a mountain of slaw. The fillings at Tacos Mariachi are always well-balanced — there’s just enough of everything — and the tortillas, made down the street, are some of the best in Dallas.
Top pick: Get to know the daily special tacos, like Tuesday’s fish battered in chicharrones and fried, or Wednesday’s Vicki Oh, a divine chorizo-mushroom combo.
The downside: If you just order the typical taco-joint offerings, like asada or pastor, you might leave Tacos Mariachi without any idea of what makes this place special.
Fun fact: A second location just opened on Greenville Avenue, across from Trader Joe’s, making this the best restaurant in Dallas with multiple locations. Greenville bar-hoppers can soak up the booze with a menu item not available at the original Tacos Mariachi: carne asada-loaded cheese fries.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 14: Is any restaurant in Texas more fun than Ddong Ggo? Let’s put it another way: Can you imagine a better night out than a Korean bar with blaring pop music, an angry cartoon chicken mascot, “Nacho Cheetos french fries,” spectacular chicken wings, a whole list of different dishes that involve hot skillets full of gooey melting cheese and a happy hour special of six pints of Deep Ellum beer for $18? Ddong Ggo, with its Hennessy bottles and kimchi cheese pizza pancakes, is a Korea Town miracle in Carrollton, and what makes it so special is that all of the food, from the everything-goes-in Korean army stew to the ultra-juicy fried chicken, is legitimately outstanding. Just don’t expect any healthy choices.
Top pick: Ordering “Cheese Island,” a skillet full of molten cheese topped with a literal island of fried chicken, should be a mandatory rite of passage for every newcomer to the Dallas area.
The downside: Things can get loud, but that’s as it should be in a bar whose name translates roughly to “Butthole.” And while we’re happy that someone invented a “cocktail” that’s a pint glass of watered-down booze with a popsicle dunked in, we don’t actually like drinking it.
Fun fact: Seriously, though, the kimchi cheese pizza pancake is magic.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 15: Gorji is very nearly a one-man show, with chef-owner Mansour Gorji buying the ingredients, answering phone calls for reservations, greeting each table and cooking dinner with the help of a tiny handful of waiters and kitchen staff. The dining room is small, the atmosphere is intimate and each table is booked for only one party per night, which makes this one of the most romantic restaurants in Dallas. The food reflects Gorji’s background as both an accomplished grillmaster and an Iranian-American immigrant; sample Persian-inspired appetizers and then go for a flawlessly cooked steak or a cut of wild game.
Top pick: With a meat whisperer in the kitchen, any protein that hits the grill is going to be exceptional.
Fun fact: This is grown-up fine dining, literally: Gorji does not allow children. The restaurant also does not allow tipping; living wages for the staff are built into the prices.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 16: As the only Sri Lankan restaurant in North Texas — and one of maybe a half-dozen anywhere in America outside of New York and California — SpicyZest would be notable even if it weren’t especially good. But it is especially good. Run by husband-and-wife duo Nimidu Senaratne and Chamari Walliwallagedara, this tiny Farmers Branch storefront produces outstanding food, ranging from fusion snacks like the “spicy pancake bomb” to traditional special occasion meals like lamprais, a generous helping of rice, meat and vegetables rolled into a banana leaf and steamed. The owners are all too happy to help first-timers get to know Sri Lankan food, and their hospitality is first-rate.
Top pick: We especially love the seafood curry and kottu, a stir-fry of flatbread strips, a meat of your choice, carrots, greens and enough spices to make the whole dish a bold yellow.
The downside: It’s one of the smallest restaurants on this list, with only around 30 seats.
Fun fact: Thanks to some years in Singapore, Senaratne can also cook a handful of Indonesian specialties, like nasi goreng.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 17: A more casual younger sibling to Bishop Arts institution Lucia, Macellaio took no time fitting in to the neighborhood after it opened in spring 2018. Its focus is on salumi (cured meat), with not a noodle in the house. The airy, window-walled dining room, focused on a small bar with an outsized collection of amaros and other Italian liqueurs, already feels like a focal point for the Oak Cliff dining scene. Snack on ricotta toast and snails or turn your table over to the chef’s suggestions — either way, delights await, especially cured meats and grilled lamb cuts with Turkish influences.
Top pick: If a board of meat isn’t indulgent enough, grab the white bean salad onto which a chef spoons a molten, gooey pot of warm Gruyere and lima bean puree.
The downside: Signage for pedestrians is not especially good. If you’re walking from Davis Street on the west side of Bishop, you’ll actually pass Macellaio before seeing a sign in the window.
Fun fact: Macellaio has some of the friendliest, most down-to-earth service in the city. Oh, and it’s pronounced “Mah-chel-LIE-oh.”
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 18: Cattleack Barbeque, with its limited opening hours, may be the cult favorite among Dallasites who can sneak out of the office at lunchtime on Thursdays. But the best all-around barbecue joint in the area that’s open on a consistent basis is Hutchins, with locations in Frisco and McKinney. The appeal here is that everything across the board is excellent, from the thick slices of fatty brisket to the banana pudding for dessert. And, unlike some of its fellow barbecue joints, Hutchins doesn’t act like it’s aware of its glowing reputation. Even after some recent construction, the original McKinney location is a no-nonsense, old-school dining room that doesn’t have the circus-like atmosphere of some of the bigger, more famous Texas barbecue destinations.
Top pick: Everything — all the meat, all the sides — is good. Hutchins might be the most well-rounded smoked meat joint in the region.
The downside: We wish they’d open a location farther south. Like, say, next to our office.
Fun fact: Peach cobbler, banana pudding and soft-serve ice cream are free — yes, free — for dine-in customers. There’s also an all-you-can-eat dine-in option for $23.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 19: There’s no better place in Dallas to dress loudly, talk loudly and see a fashionable crowd of socialites, political operatives and in-the-know tourists. Town Hearth has taken over the “peak Dallas” title from previous generations of see-and-be-seen tributes to excess, run by chefs like Dean Fearing and Stephan Pyles. They never thought to put a formerly operational submarine in the middle of the dining room, like Town Hearth does. Behind the submarine, a massive kitchen turns out enough Battle Axe steaks, carpaccios and veal chops to keep up with the crowds. And there are crowds.
Top pick: Ask about “tots du jour,” a platter of tater tots slathered in some sort of luxurious topping, like beef bourguignon or poached crabmeat.
The downside: In addition to seeing City Council members, real housewives and on-the-town country boys, you will probably also catch a glimpse of the bill.
Fun fact: At $75,000, a 1974 Ducati Sport is the single most expensive “side dish” on any Dallas menu.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 20: This might just be the best Sichuan restaurant in the area, one that can dial up the numbing spice or showcase a more subtle side. After polishing some superb spicy wontons, look for the dishes featuring Sichuan peppercorns, especially if they involve seafood, like the spicy fish listed as the very first item on the menu. If you don’t want peppercorns sending your tongue and lips tingling, there are plenty of milder options, too, including simply prepared green veggies and a comforting bowl of noodle soup topped with pork and mustard greens.
Top pick: Anything involving the words “spicy” and “fish” is probably a hit, but if you’re not sure, ask one of the servers; they’re happy to make recommendations based on your preferences.
The downside: Bring a large group, ideally including one or two people who have been to Sichuan Folk before, because the menu is enormous and descriptions are often vague.
Fun fact: If you have a hankering to eat frog, this is probably the best place in Dallas to reliably get it, and Sichuan spicy bullfrog, bones and all, will thrill your taste buds.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 21: This Japanese bar on Henderson Avenue specializes in robatayaki, the technique of grilling food over hot charcoal. Chefs at the bar tend to the grill, turning out excellent skewers of meat and vegetables, as well as crisp-skinned and fork-tender whole fish. There is sashimi on offer too, and it’s at the same high standard of quality. Once part of Teiichi Sakurai’s empire, Tei Tei Robata is still living up to that legacy of perfectionism, and the entrance, tucked away from Henderson in a small garden terrace, contributes to the feeling of stepping into another world.
Top pick: Sit at the robata bar and order anything on the specials board — especially a perfectly smoky grilled salmon collar.
The downside: Reservations aren’t easy to snag, and waiting for a table is practically a guarantee.
Fun fact: A very limited menu is available at the bar, which is good, because there is a long wait for tables even midweek.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 22: Born in 1972, The Grape is Dallas’ quintessential bistro, a warm, cozy, even slightly cramped dining room where the walls are decorated with old wine cases and the food is creative but still comforting. The recipe for the superb mushroom soup, in which the mushrooms are diced just finely enough to still have texture and the creamy sherry broth is divine, is as old as the restaurant itself. But when chef Brian Luscher bought the place in 2007, he started tweaking other plates in beneficial ways, always with the goal of doing classics like steak frites and mustard-crusted salmon the right way. And the brunch service he introduced is a runaway success.
Top pick: Right now we’re in love with a plate of pork collar, fork-tender but with crispy, herb-crusted edges, served alongside Italian sausage and on a bed of outrageously rich polenta. There’s gardiniera to add some acidic kick and broccoli rabe to make us feel healthy. It’s perfect. Oh, and notice the praise for the burger, which appears in seemingly every framed newspaper clipping? That burger deserves every good word ever said about it.
The downside: For a restaurant that prides itself on well-chosen wines — look at its name — The Grape surprised us by recently serving a bottle of red at the temperature of a very well-heated room. Also, the restaurant’s legendary weekend brunches offer pleasures similar to dinner, but with double or triple the crowd size.
Fun fact: The Grape is the oldest restaurant on this list. It’s also one of just four restaurants in the Top 50 to have opened before 2001, along with Royal China, Tei Tei Robata and Dal Dong Nae.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 23: Targeted at Asian-American millennials, Big Claw’s menu encompasses Chinese street foods, noodles and stir fries. The fare spans numerous regional cuisines, but it’s all delicious. Using a pencil, mark your order directly onto the paper menu, and be sure to choose at least one rice noodle dish — the noodles are perfectly tender and served in a rich, meaty broth — and a stir-fried veggie or two. More adventurous eaters can jump into a bowl of sour fish soup with numbing Sichuan peppercorns.
Top pick: The spicy-sour sweet potato noodles are translucent, slightly wide and served in a sauce that lives thrillingly up to its description.
The downside: There’s just too much to try here. Bring friends.
Fun fact: The restaurant was originally meant to serve crawfish — hence its name — but quickly pivoted after discovering that out-of-season crawfish is not so great.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 24: Frisco’s best restaurant is the kind of place that every neighborhood should have. Set in a century-old Victorian house, The Heritage Table devotes lavish care to a comforting menu of classics. Everything here is house-made: the salty tortilla chips, the rather fabulous hummus, even the day’s special ice cream (though they have Blue Bell, too). Owner Richard Vana stops by every table, making sure guests are loving their pimento cheese dip, hand-rolled pastas and fried pies. The beer list is tiny but very well-chosen (and all Texan). Just about everyone wants to be a regular at a restaurant like The Heritage Table.
Top pick: Hanger steak, garnished with chimichurri and a splash of good olive oil, is flawlessly cooked. Alongside, a handful of potatoes get smashed and crisped up in the pan.
The downside: Being too full for dessert can be rather heartbreaking.
Fun fact: In good weather, the enormous patio beckons. It’s also a short but pedestrian-hostile walk to the FC Dallas game.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 25: Probably the most famous barbecue restaurant in Dallas, Pecan Lodge started as a farmers market stall before finding a permanent home in Deep Ellum. Now the stall is a memory, and it feels like Pecan Lodge has been here forever; like there has always been a line snaking around the corner, back to where the smokers warm the restaurant’s side wall. The barbecued meats here are extra-heavy on smoke flavor, compared with the less interventionist offerings at Cattleack and Hutchins. It’s simply a matter of taste as to which barbecue joint you prefer (they’re all great), and this ranking reflects our taste. But be careful, because any time you rank Dallas barbecue restaurants, you’ll provoke the wrath of partisans who are all too eager to declare that your favorite place has “gone downhill.” Contrary to rumor, Pecan Lodge is as good as ever.
Top pick: Save room for dessert cobbler and a side of mac and cheese topped with bacon.
The downside: Would it surprise you to learn that there are lines?
Fun fact: You can skip the line by sitting, and ordering, at the bar.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 26: Boulevardier may be the best casual French restaurant in Dallas. That’s not saying much, since many of our French joints are a little stuffy and old fashioned, but Boulevardier is a genuinely wonderful place to meet friends or go for date night, situated in the heart of Bishop Arts. Take a look at the oysters on ice at the bar, then polish off a dozen and choose among traditional temptations like a superbly cooked steak frites, which comes with both the usual basket of fries and a lightly-dressed salad, or seared scallops on a rich bed of pureed cauliflower and browned butter.
Top pick: Don’t ignore one of the city’s best wine programs. The blackboard specials include both nightly meals and rare bottles to drink.
The downside: The only reason Boulevardier isn’t ranked more highly is that the restaurants above it often show an extra measure of creativity. But, honestly, with execution this good and an atmosphere this welcoming, that’s not a flaw at all.
Fun fact: On Fridays until 6:30 p.m., Boulevardier is the most affordable high-end oyster bar in the city. Oysters are discounted and every bottle of wine is half-price.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 27: You’d think that Royal China, situated near Preston Hollow and catering to a mostly American clientele since 1974, would have been surpassed many times over by the new wave of Chinese restaurants in Plano, Richardson and other northern suburbs. But this Dallas institution is more than keeping up with the times. Chefs pull noodles and roll dumplings before customers’ eyes at a bar added in 2008, and the menu now expands well beyond Americanized favorites to include specialties from Wuxi, Sichuan and Shanghai. Dan dan la mian noodles are one of the city’s most essential bowls, and many of the pork and seafood specialties, like slow-braised Wuxi pork ribs, are just as good.
Top pick: Coming to Royal China and not ordering noodles is tantamount to sacrilege. Choose between the cold bowls of dan dan noodles or go for the meaty, super-savory lu rou mian.
The downside: Like many non-specialist restaurants, Royal China can be one-upped on individual dishes by other restaurants, like the superior soup dumplings at Fortune House and several soups at Wu Wei Din. But the success rate here is remarkably high.
Fun fact: Do whatever you can to score seats at the noodle bar, where the dough-spinning chefs enjoy showing off their techniques to a wide-eyed audience.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 28: Koryo Kalbi’s prominence in Dallas’ original Korea Town is thanks in large part to the restaurant’s wide range. Want barbecued short ribs or bulgogi in a sizzling skillet? They’re experts at that. Craving some wintertime bowls of spicy-brothed soups? They’ve got that. And, remarkably, it’s all good, across the board; unlike many restaurants, Koryo Kalbi can claim mastery of nearly every trade it’s in. The spread of banchan contains some of the best pre-meal snacks in Dallas, right up there with Gemma’s fig scones and Casa Komali’s tortilla chips. A beef soup filled with overstuffed four-inch-wide dumplings is just the thing on a rainy day, and yet another reason Koryo Kalbi reigns as one of Dallas’ Korean institutions.
Top pick: Stop by at lunchtime for “lunch boxes” which contain diverse samplings of the restaurant’s star dishes. The potstickers aren’t great, but everything else in the box is a delight. Our favorites include grilled mackerel and spicy marinated pork bulgogi.
The downside: Many menu items are marked up to higher prices at dinner.
Fun fact: Unlike our area’s do-it-yourself Korean barbecue joints, Koryo Kalbi prepares many of the grilled meats back in the kitchen.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 29: Along with Lucia and Macellaio, Nonna is one of the three best Italian restaurants in Dallas. The menu shifts constantly with the seasons, accommodating fresh produce, new cuts of meat or seafood and the culinary team’s latest pasta inspirations. Some of the pastas, made in-house, are unique to Dallas (no, cavateddhi is not a typo; it’s a smaller cavatelli from Calabria). A wood-fired oven is responsible for some of the biggest hits here, including roasted lamb, veal, quail or gulf snapper, and the iconic white clam pizza. That pizza is one of just two menu items that never change, along with justly famous lobster ravioli served in a bowl of broth.
Top pick: Waiters actively discourage taking the $7 upcharge to make a perfectly proportioned pasta bowl into a main course, and they’re right, because as good as the pasta is, you’ll want to at least share one of the meaty main courses coming from the oven.
The downside: This Highland Park restaurant is oddly hard to find, with no sign on the front door and windows tinted to conceal the interior. The interior is almost aggressively dark, and can get quite loud if too many socialites are enjoying too many negronis. And even some of Nonna’s biggest industry fans suspect that dessert is meant to be skipped.
Fun fact: Nonna opens for lunch on just one day of the week, Friday, and that lunch is a good time to spot restaurant industry bigwigs enjoying a meal away from their own kitchens.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 30: Some of the best noodles, wontons and soups in the area are served at Wu Wei Din, a Plano spot with Taiwanese roots. Many of the regulars are devotees of pork chop fried rice — a decent bowl of fried rice topped with an entire deep-fried pork chop — but beef noodle soup topped with pickled mustard greens is another hit, the beef ultra-tender and the broth well-spiced. Look out for vegetable specials which might be hand-written onto the bottom of the menu; they’ll be cooked simply and flawlessly, with copious garlic.
Top pick: Pork and shrimp spicy wontons are delicious, as is golden kimchi, a milder, mellower interpretation of the Korean classic with an addicting sweet-spicy balance.
Fun fact: Many of the menu items are available at the tea house next door, with which Wu Wei Din shares a kitchen.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 31: Few date-night destinations in Dallas can match Sassetta’s combination of charm, affordability, style and deliciousness. Start with an Aperol spritz or a glass of prosecco, then dig into a chopped salad and some of the excellent pastas, many of them with strong accents of lemon or garlic. The pizzas are irresistible and perfectly sized for two people, although surprisingly few of them come with red sauces or red meats. Pair it all with a bottle off the all-Italian wine list.
Top pick: The pasta carbonara here is made with not-often-seen mafaldine noodles, with wavy edges that catch all of the sauce and finely-diced pork jowl.
The downside: We’ve had some fairly overdressed salads here and overly complicated raw meat preparations, although some of the offenders are now off the menu.
Fun fact: That big, heavy coral-orange pillar outside is the front door. If you don’t want to open it, phone your to-go order in early and pick your food up at the stand to the right.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 32: The brains behind Cane Rosso felt constrained by that chain’s strict adherence to Neapolitan standards, so they branched out with Zoli’s, an anything-goes New York-style joint adorned with Star Wars artwork and beloved for its boundary-pushing pies. Fried mozzarella balls, garlic knots and big bowls of chopped salad come to the foreground here, and once the appetizers are over, it’s time to chow down on a pie like the Christian Pescroni, with double pepperoni and a jalapeno pesto, or what is probably the world’s best chicken, bacon ranch pie.
Top pick: We love the Cattleack, topped with that barbecue joint’s smoked brisket and hot peppers.
The downside: A recent muffaletta pizza special lasted just one night, and we’re hoping that by mentioning it here, we can persuade the good folks at Zoli’s to bring it back.
Fun fact: Look out for pies with spiced crusts; some of Zoli’s pizza crusts come dusted with “everything bagel” seasonings and they are perfect.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 33: The Austin import, which also has locations in Houston and Denver, is almost daunting in its reputation for rigorous high-end Japanese cooking. It’s also famously intimidating to the wallet. But Uchi’s excellent service keeps the experience grounded, and its sushi bar does phenomenal work. Although the “hot tastings,” a fancy term for plates of food that are served warm, sometimes suffer from clashing or oddly balanced flavors, anything raw is bound to be good, especially the ultra-fresh seafood on the day’s specials.
Top pick: The only thing better than the ultra-traditional sashimi and more eclectic “cold tasting” seafood items is the sashimi made from gyutoro (beef shortrib).
The downside: Some of the cooked dishes don’t excite as much as the raw, and every once in a while, we’ve had a real head-scratcher.
Fun fact: You can order many of Uchi’s dishes at the more casual bar upstairs, Uchiba.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 34: If your parents were Korean and supported your drinking habit by cooking enormous meals for your returns home from long nights out, your house would probably look a lot like Dal Dong Nae. This late-night staple of Dallas Korea Town serves enormous family-style platters of pork, bowls of raw oyster kimchi, huge simmering pans of stew, fried kimchi pancakes and other excellent ways to blunt the effects of the restaurant’s $12 soju and $4 beer.
Top pick: The seafood pancakes are very good here, as is the bit-of-everything budae jjijae (army stew) served bubbling hot.
The downside: Let’s just say the alcohol selection is not a main attraction.
Fun fact: Dal Dong Nae is open, and bustling, until 2 a.m. on every night but Monday.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 35: The Limon family’s Veracruzan kitchen sits well outside the spotlight on the west side of Oak Cliff, which means that Dallas at large is still hearing the good news about their exceptional food. The 2018 winner of the Observer’s Best Mexican accolade, Limon’s offers specialties that are hard to find elsewhere in the city, including garnachas, mole veracruzano and a sample platter of picadas.
Top pick: In addition to standard corn-husk tamales, Limon’s offers tamales veracruzanos, wrapped in banana leaves, and chanchamitos, chubbier and more rounded in shape. All three are very good.
The downside: This is a small dining room that gets busy, so don’t tell all your friends.
Fun fact: For $1.79, it’s hard to beat the cochinita pibil tacos garnished with pickled habanero peppers.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 36: Dallas’ best red-sauce Italian joint serves classics like spaghetti with meatballs, fried calamari and veal parmesan, and does them right. Carbone’s is a more casual alternative to owner Julian Barsotti’s two fine-dining establishments, Nonna and Fachini, and it even includes a small grocery section to shop for excellent pasta. Come on Sunday nights for a more adventurous multicourse feast that celebrates the foods of the first generations of Italian immigrants in America.
Top pick: The big, beautiful slab of lasagna bolognese, with its perfect slightly burnt cheesy edges, is sheer perfection.
The downside: Its Highland Park-adjacent location, and prices that reflect the rent, led this critic’s predecessor at the Observer to call Carbone’s “Jimmy’s for the 1 percent.” And that might well be true, if Jimmy’s was primarily a restaurant with a small grocery sideline rather than the other way around.
Fun fact: Like a wine from the list? Buy a bottle to go for 45 percent off the menu price. (No, Carbone’s is not BYOB, so you cannot create a loophole by buying wine “to go” and then opening it.)
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 37: Kumar’s uses savvy “small plates” marketing to appeal to a non-Indian audience, but the restaurant is usually buzzing with south Indian guests who know the kitchen is turning out some of the best food in Plano. Unlike many south Indian restaurants, Kumar’s is carnivore-friendly, with snacks like fried goat meatballs and excellent mutton curry. But the vegan options here abound — go for the delightfully spicy cauliflower that’s marinated in seasonings and then fried, roasted eggplant or a masala dosa. And the “Breads, But Not the Usual Though!” section features a series of layered, stuffed and otherwise exciting flatbreads, rice cakes and dosas.
Top pick: Even before we eat — as we’re cracking open some BYOB drinks — we’re charmed by whip-smart, frequently sarcastic menu descriptions like “Curd rice: yogurt and rice, with fried spices mixed in … (it sounds weird, but tastes awesome).” (Correct.)
The downside: The “Other Indian” menu section has an obligatory stash of tikka masala, vindaloo and saag paneer, but it’s perfectly easy to avoid ordering them. They’re fine, but they’re not the reason to come to Kumar’s.
Fun fact: Kumar’s is one of just three chain restaurants in the Top 100 with locations outside of Dallas-Fort Worth. The other two are Uchi and Rise.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 38: The Mitchell is, as we’re fond of saying, the lovable underdog of the Dallas French restaurant scene. Most things that other French bistros in town can do, The Mitchell can do just as well and for a lower cost. Dishes here range from a hearty bowl of onion soup to lobster and monkfish bouillabaisse. Steak frites or a slab of crispy pork belly make good accompaniment to a night of cocktails: This is, after all, a bar, with the tiny corner kitchen punching well above its weight.
Top pick: Roasted bone marrow is an indulgence here topped only by the steamed mussels, an “appetizer,” which is in fact an entire Dutch oven of exquisitely flavored shellfish.
The downside: We love The Mitchell, but the bar’s staff turnover — at least four different head chefs in 2018 — is genuinely alarming. We’re still nervous every time we walk in the door. (Only one other Dallas restaurant, Flora Street Cafe, prompted so many return visits to vet the kitchen’s consistency, and Flora Street ultimately failed to make the list at all.)
Fun fact: The bar has a dual specialty in gin and indie grower Champagne, with regionally noteworthy selections of both.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 39: One of Deep Ellum’s better bars by any measure, Armoury D.E. is especially beloved for its food. Owner Peter Novotny works with chef Abram Vargas to make his Hungarian heritage clear on the menu — it’s actually the most Hungarian menu in the region — with hearty goulash, an array of paprika-spiced sausages and sandwiches. The charcuterie board is better than a bar’s has any right to be. Even the S&M salad (that’s strawberry and mushrooms) has a die-hard club of fans.
Top pick: The best charcuterie board at any Dallas bar is symbolic of what might just be the best food program of any bar in city limits.
The downside: As a Deep Ellum bar, Armoury is required by city ordinance to be too loud.
Fun fact: A new “burger of the week” debuts every Friday at lunchtime, with toppings like fried chicken skins, patties made from novel meats like rabbit or concepts like Peanut Butter Jelly Time.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 40: Dallasites hate paying real money for Mexican food, an attitude that discourages innovation and promotes the condescending, prejudiced view that tacos should all be made with bad ingredients by badly paid workers. Truth is, many of the best tacos in the city cost $4 or more, which upsets those traditionalists. But they can always fall back on La Salsa Verde. This chain is cranking out $1.29 tacos, which range from good to truly exceptional, plus $6 squash blossom quesadillas and a host of equally affordable tortas.
Top pick: Tacos de cabeza are the specialty here. Order either cachete — cheek meat — or lengua rebanada — sliced beef tongue — and you’ll receive a bounty of ultra-tender taco filling.
The downside: Two locations of the small chain are inside gas stations, and so small that you may find yourself eating tacos on the hood of your car.
Fun fact: Three locations are in Dallas, with another in Plano and the newest in Carrollton.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 42: Mr. Max himself, Hare Nakamura, died in 2013, but his namesake restaurant is still going strong in its third decade of business. A casual oasis of high-quality Japanese food in an Irving strip mall which also contains five different hair salons, Mr. Max offers cold and hot appetizers, grilled seafood and irresistible fried snacks like takoyaki, the battered balls topped with dancing bonito flakes and concealing nuggets of octopus within. (It’s the best takoyaki this author has had in Texas.) Half-sized bowls of ramen mean you can chow down on noodles and still have room for something else.
Top pick: The chef’s choice sampler plate of three appetizers is just $10 — including a glass of beer.
The downside: There are just 30 seats here, so arrive early.
Fun fact: If you elect to eat at a table, you’ll need to remove your shoes and sit on the floor.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 43: Chef Hugo Galvan, formerly of Flora Street Cafe and Revolver Taco Lounge, is one of the new faces at the remodeled and renamed Casa Komali, alongside his partner in the kitchen, Adrian Alba, a veteran of Victor Tangos and Hibiscus. This longtime restaurant has recently gotten a spectacular facelift, with a beautiful new dining room that bathes in warm, welcoming light and reflects it back through woodwork and exquisite Mexican tile. In the kitchen, Alba, Galvan and their team make tortillas from scratch with flavorings like mole spices and guajillo pepper, to serve as foundations for inventive tacos. Tradition meets modernity in other dishes, too, like the chile en nogada, a Mexico City staple that’s hard to find anywhere else in north Texas.
Top pick: Pork belly tacos on mole tortillas, with dots of avocado cream, make for exquisite bites.
The downside: As inventive as some of the dishes are, one can’t help wishing that others would push the envelope, and push Dallasites’ comfort zones, a little more. With a little time, this reinvention of the restaurant could get there.
Fun fact: Casa Komali serves up one of this critic’s favorite Sunday brunches in the city.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 44: When we first visited Cafe Momentum, we were concerned that the restaurant gets graded on a curve. A nonprofit, the business employs juvenile offenders and pays them fair, living wages to help teach them life skills, leadership and, of course, how to work in a restaurant. How could a food writer be objective about the quality of the food served by such an outstanding cause? But here’s the thing: Cafe Momentum is a genuinely good restaurant, one with a pronounced Southern accent that manages to stand out from the glut of Southern kitchens around town.
Top pick: Menu items rotate along with the interns and the professionals who teach them, but look out for market-fresh fish with seasonal sides, savory crawfish beignets or an excellent plate of shrimp and grits.
The downside: Because of the nature of the restaurant, the food and drink options are fairly limited. That’s not a bad thing; it eliminates decision fatigue, and the drinks don’t have much markup at all.
Fun fact: Because the staff are paid living wages, any tip left on the table will be considered a donation to the restaurant’s mission.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 45: One of the mainstays of the Laotian food revolution in Dallas, Sapp Sapp comes from a family that’s been in the business for multiple generations. They founded one of the region’s first Lao kitchens at Nalinh Market, which was originally intended as a specialty grocery store. At Sapp Sapp, there’s a little more room to sit down and try whole fish, crispy pork riblets coated in garlic, grilled Lao sausages or any number of ultra-hearty soups and curries.
Top pick: Just about any soup here is great, from the Lao-style pho topped with a whole beef rib to the kowpiak, filled with crispy pieces of pork belly, smooth cubes of pork blood and whole soft-boiled quail eggs. Look out for excellent noodle soups, too.
The downside: Although the kitchen is happy to serve up Thai fare with which Americans are more familiar, it’s simply not the best reason to visit Sapp Sapp.
Fun fact: Call ahead to arrange a garlic-marinated tomahawk ribeye, a popular meal for visiting UFC fighters.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 46: There are solid, always-satisfying neighborhood restaurants all around Dallas that make for a great dressy date night or celebratory dinner. That category includes Boulevardier, Macellaio, The Grape, The Heritage Table, City Hall Bistro and class valedictorian Gemma. But Neighborhood Services probably has the biggest, most glowing reputation of all, and it has by far the busiest dining room. Why? We’re not sure. Perhaps it’s the Highland Park location, in a neighborhood where many of Dallas’ big shots — and food writers — live. Perhaps it’s the clubby good-old-boys atmosphere. Or, heck, it might just be owner Nick Badovinus’ flashy interpretations of old-school American tavern fare like steak frites, meatloaf ($24!), scrumptious green chile crab dip and fried peach bourbon hand pies.
Top pick: Listen carefully to the recitation of daily specials, which range from a rotating pasta dish to a splurge-tastic hunk of grilled beef. While you eat, look around to spot local socialites and celebs — and make sure to save room for that fried pie, or the impressively rich butterscotch pot de creme, which truly lives up to its reputation.
The downside: There are occasional details, like clumpy grits or a long wait for a table you’d already reserved, to remind you that Neighborhood Services has been more or less continuously slammed since it opened.
Fun fact: The Addison location is open for lunch, unlike the original on Lovers Lane, and there’s a Bar & Grill spinoff that caters to the Preston Hollow crowd, along with a new location at The Star in Frisco.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 47: One of the finest Iraqi restaurants in the Dallas area — and there is more competition than you might suspect — Chai Khanah is helmed by an owner who fled Iraq after hearing that Saddam Hussein’s henchmen had him on a list of targets. The breakfasts here are excellent, but the kebabs are spectacular and some of them are truly rare in Texas. Kashkash kebab stars meat so finely diced it’s fabulously tender; shish tawook is aromatic from its time over the charcoals. Your table is likely to groan under the ample side dishes, including buttery rice pilaf, jajeck (like tzatziki, but the cucumbers are pickled), just-fried falafel balls, good hummus and samoon, the soft boat-shaped Iraqi bread.
Top pick: At breakfast, makhlama is a nearly equal-parts combination of scrambled eggs and ground lamb, plus tomatoes, onions, spices and pita bread.
The downside: Service here can be quaintly amateurish. Expect delays, and if you start wondering where the check is, just go to the front desk and ask to pay. Some menu items are daily specials, but the menu doesn’t explain them.
Fun fact: Every table comes topped with a Kleenex box.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 48: In summer 2017, City Hall Bistro opened and nearly sank like a rock under the weight of its attempt to capture nearly every trend in the food world. With no head chef at the helm, the Adolphus Hotel’s elegant-casual restaurant tried to be all things to all Instagrammers, with uni, paella, squid ink pasta, Lebanese duck pancakes and a few too many shaved truffles. Chef Jeramie Robison has proved a stabilizing influence, calming the waters and paring the menu down to a small selection of simple, cleanly made Mediterranean dishes. The wine list is equally approachable and equally focused on southern European delights. City Hall may not blow anyone away, but it’s a very satisfying restaurant — and, thanks to its location in the far back corner of a hotel lobby, it rarely gets too busy.
Top pick: The farro salad nicely illustrates the kitchen’s ethos of doing things simply but right: Add a creamy feta dressing and some veggies, then toss in crispy roasted chickpeas to make sure the texture isn’t gloopy. The brunch menu is especially good, too — and yes, $16 is a reasonable price for a breakfast sandwich when it’s well-balanced, generously filled with slices of wagyu beef and served alongside a pile of crispy-outside, fluffy-inside potatoes.
The downside: Cooked or candied lemon peels occasionally drop into plates like surprise house guests. Also, the bathroom is quite a long walk back through the hotel lobby bar, and staff like to escort guests because so many diners have gotten lost.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 49: First-timers to Taj Chaat may well be overwhelmed with choices, but that’s a feature, not a bug. Inside this restaurant’s rambunctious dining room, at least four walls are covered with menu choices ranging from enormous, excellent dosas to trays of tapioca vada (fritters). Listen carefully, because your order number could be called from one of several locations depending on the cooking technique you’ve requested. On the way to your table, stop by the chutney bar and load up.
Top pick: Any dosa here is going to be perfectly formed and boldly flavored — and also enormous.
The downside: There’s a bit of a learning curve to the ordering process, made especially difficult because nearly all of the hundred menu items here are delicious. The dining room is not always tidy.
Fun fact: Taj Chaat is the highest-ranked explicitly vegetarian restaurant on this list.
The Top 100 Dallas Restaurants, No. 50: This North Dallas Japanese restaurant is an all-rounder, serving very good examples of just about everything you could want. The ramen is some of the best in Dallas — more flavorful and less aggressively salty than bowls from many ramen specialists — and the specialty sushi rolls don’t go over-the-top. Grilled meats and veggies are solid bets, too. Although Tei Tei Robata might be better for grilling, and several restaurants have more exciting fresh sashimi specials, Sushi Robata is across-the-board reliable in a wide array of Japanese cuisine.
Top pick: This is some of the best ramen inside Dallas city limits.
The downside: Lines have a habit of rolling out the door even midweek.
At Ajumma, try Jjolmyeon, or cold spicy noodles, the perfect summer dish. A mess of noodles is served chilled and dunked in spicy red pepper sauce, surrounded by small mounds of julienned vegetables. Stir the veggies into your plate and enjoy. Ajumma’s atmosphere is distinctly old-fashioned; the restaurant’s founder recently opened a new spot, Hot Stone, which offers a very similar menu in a more modern setting.
At Arirang, it’s about oodles and dumplings. This Korean restaurant in Carrollton is tops for homemade dough, whether you order from-scratch noodles or plump, freshly-crimped kimchi dumplings. If you can’t decide, grab a bowl of the noodle soup, which comes with dumplings in it, too; if the dumplings tear and disgorge their meat into the broth, the soup only gets better.
A half slab at this Cedars barbecue joint, open since 1995, means seven baby back ribs kissed with smoke, spiced with pepper and just-right tender: The meat doesn’t fall off the bone, but pulls off with the gentlest of tugs. Baby Back Shak has discontinued its former practice of offering a link of boudin as a side dish, but the excellent beans, kicked up with some ground beef, more than make up for it. (And you can still order boudin by the link.)
Yes, the name is embarrassing to say aloud. Yes, Billy himself, the restaurant’s fictional Wild West saloon-keeper mascot, is modeled on the Most Interesting Man in the World, but without being even slightly interesting. But this fancified all-frills saloon in Victory Park, with more and better wines than anyone in “Tombstone” ever dreamed of, serves up pretty killer renditions of skillet cornbread, Texas red chili, hot fried quail and summer okra succotash. Some of the dishes get over-complicated, but others, like the big-boned pork chop, are over-the-top in a good way. After Knife and Town Hearth, this is the next-best place to take out-of-town guests who ask for a stereotypically glamorous Dallas experience.
One of Irving’s top two places for chaat, along with Taj Chaat, is Bombay Chowpatty, named after a beach lined with street food vendors. The dining room showcases some of that airy atmosphere, with seats arranged around an open kitchen and many of the walls plastered with Bollywood posters. Pav bhaji is a superb order here, as are the bit-of-everything lunch combos.
Fun fact: Customers intrigued by the crazy-sounding fusion items, like the pizza dosa and pineapple chocolate cheese sandwich, should think carefully before ordering. (We’re guessing this is the only Top 100 restaurant to serve a pineapple chocolate cheese sandwich.)
Cabrito is the star at the only full-on Monterrey-style goat-grilling specialist in the Dallas area. Stare through the glass kitchen wall at the massive pit, above which goat legs, shoulders and ribcages stand like planted flags, then feast on one of the cuts alongside charro beans and the restaurant’s excellent salsas. Few make-your-own-taco experiences in Dallas get as good as this.
This Colombian institution in Carrollton is best at the soups available as specials on certain weekends, like ajiaco, a chicken potato soup made with indigenous corn, or a Caribbean-influenced curried seafood bonanza. The bandeja paisa, a regional sampler plate, is excellent for newcomers to Colombian cuisine, and the empanadas are good too. Casa Vieja has a stage with live music on some nights.
We’re not sure if DanSungSa is the best karaoke venue in the Dallas area, but we’re pretty sure it’s one of the best places to eat while partaking in karaoke night. The Korean bar food here is excellent, ranging from classics like the preposterously big platter of fried chicken — enough to feed a whole booth of soju-pounding friends — to fusion foods like bulgogi quesadillas. If you’re not singing in a private room, take up a seat in the semi-private booths around the restaurant, shielded from prying eyes by intricate wooden slats and an excess of liquor advertisements featuring K-pop starlets.
Fun fact: If you arrive at 6 p.m., you’ll likely have the bar to yourself. DanSungSa is for night owls.
One of the best restaurants in the area to feature foods from the Muslim cultures of the Indian subcontinent, Eat Street is tucked around the backside of a strip mall in Carrollton’s Korea Town. Here, even the lunch buffet is given unusual attention, but look out for super-tender tangri chicken legs with a bold spice rub, beef seekh kebabs grilled on skewers and aloo keema, a seconds-worthy stir-fry of ground meat, potatoes, peas and cumin. There’s even a pretty good halal diner-style cheeseburger.
Fun fact: Upstairs, a banquet hall is available for large private events.
If you like Tacos La Banqueta but hate waiting in line, try El Come Taco, a five-year-old Old East Dallas taco joint that’s well on its way to becoming an institution. Everything at El Come is good, even the simple simple Jose taco with beans, cheese and avocado, but look out for unusual offerings like tripe, lengua, sesos (veal brains) and chapulines (grasshoppers). Big projectors make this a good place to watch a football game, too.
Fun fact: The owners just opened a mezcal bar, La Viuda Negra, a few doors down in the same building.
A Tex-Mex institution in Oak Cliff, El Ranchito lives up to every mariachi-serenade stereotype and has a kitchen to back up the bragging. One house specialty is cabrito — kid goat — but El Ranchito offers many more ways to celebrate the cuisines of Monterrey, northern Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley. Grab a portion of beef stew or mollejas (sweetbreads) and enjoy the atmosphere.
The Ritz-Carlton’s swanky high-end restaurant from Dallas legend Dean Fearing is meant to be a city landmark for Southwestern cuisine. They definitely know their way around a cut of game — like bison tenderloin or thick, red slices of grilled antelope — and dessert can be downright joyous. But Fearing’s isn’t above gimmickry, like the world’s smallest crispy taco filled with a half-teaspoon of guacamole and served on a $26 appetizer sampler. All the drinks are afflicted by outrageous markups, even on water. Our waiter offered us “still or sparkling,” but did not disclose that “still” costs $9. Fearing’s is the kind of dining room in which tourists are charmed to see the glamorous, high-rolling old Dallas they expected, rather than discovering the restive new Dallas, which is evolving in bold directions at other restaurants. Fearing’s has merits, but in its category Town Hearth, Knife and Billy Can Can are the new leaders.
The best xiao long bao (soup dumplings) in the area are the stars at Fortune House, a Shanghainese mainstay on the north side of Irving. But don’t miss the fried buns, either; they’re steamed and fried, the crispy bottom and moist top producing two different colors and textures. Aside from buns, dumplings and the occasional vegetable special (look for “spinach in special consomme”), the rest of the menu is pretty ordinary.
This versatile North Dallas eatery seemingly does it all, from killer chaat — street snacks — to Desi-style pizzas topped with curry spices and paneer. The chaat is some of the area’s best, and probably the finest within Dallas city limits, but it’s the crisp-bottomed, warmly spiced pizza that has won our hearts and occasionally sends our minds wondering why this inspired fusion of cultures isn’t served at more local restaurants.
When it opened, Jalisco Norte faced a tough challenge: Satisfy the somewhat risk-averse palates of the Uptown and Park Cities moneyed classes while giving an acclaimed Mexican chef space to innovate. So far, that balance appears to be working; chef Jose Meza gets to roll out monthly specials like escamoles (ant larvae), but he’ll fix up a plate of nachos, too. Tortillas are made in-house, and there’s a window from the dining room into the kitchen to prove it.
The Italian Stallion sandwich is one of the biggest, baddest sandwiches in Dallas, loaded with just about every meat this superb grocery store has in its cases. The other sandwiches are formidable, too, including one of the region’s better muffalettas.
Kalachandji’s, inside a Hare Krishna temple in East Dallas, lets its employees decide the day’s menu. Whatever they’re serving, it will probably be recognizably Indian or Indian-influenced, it will definitely be vegetarian and you will be able to eat it in a dining room where the line between indoor and outdoor seating is charmingly blurred.
At Kitchen of Kuchipudi, look for a lunchtime bhojanam, with the choice of vegetarian or “non-veg.” This Irving restaurant specializes in Telugu cuisine from Hyderabad and Andhra Pradesh, India, and the bhojanam is a massive sample portion, much like a thali, allowing you to try tiny portions of eight or nine excellent curries, stews, chutneys and dips. Refills are allowed, so don’t hesitate to ask for more bread to soak up the richly spiced sauce hugging the stewed mutton. Oh, and there’s a full bar.
Fun fact: “Kuchipudi Indian Kitchen” is the same place. Confusingly, the restaurant uses both names.
This chain specializes in burgers and fries loaded up with Korean influences from the Los Angeles upbringings of co-owners Ben and Jon Lee. Kimchi fries and the spicy K Town burger are a must, and the bulgogi-topped hot dogs represent one of the Dallas area’s finest contributions to the world of fast food. This mini-chain has five locations, and they’re still growing. Quality control remains high.
Sitting on the porch at La Calle Doce in Oak Cliff, you could easily believe you were lunching in San Antonio, not Dallas. Upscale but not stuffy, this local institution (which also has a Lakewood location) serves some of the best-quality Mexican seafood in town, from ceviche cocktails and tostadas to seafood chiles rellenos and perfectly-grilled shrimp alambres. Many of the main courses come with appetizer cups of fish stew, so be careful not to chow down too hard on chips and salsa.
Fun fact: The narrow one-way parking lot brings out the worst in Dallas drivers; it’s better to park on a side street and walk than deal with the behind-the-wheel foolishness on display.
Brothers Mario and Ivan Urtecha came to the United States more than 20 years ago, and they worked in almost every restaurant industry job — busing tables, serving, even selling empanadas door to door — before finally getting the chance to open their own place, La Comida, near Addison. The food here is as good as Tex-Mex gets, with made-from-scratch salsas and unusual care given to ingredients on which other restaurants cheap out. There’s no better way to get to know La Comida than to try one of the generous combo plates, like the one with a superb chile con carne enchilada and a brisket taco, which you can dunk in smoky house barbecue sauce.
Fun fact: The menu goes well beyond Tex-Mex staples. There’s osso bucco, mole, cochinita pibil and a ribeye, too.
The noodles at La Me, a Vietnamese spot in far northeast Dallas, go well beyond pho. Try my quang, a bowl of rice noodles with turmeric in the dough to turn them yellow, or a delicately flavored duck noodle soup. Even the egg rolls here are good, but if fried food is your temptation, find a dish that comes topped with a whole, shell-on shrimp baked right into a cracker.
One of the most upscale Peruvian experiences is one of the best, too. Lima Taverna is all the more surprising for its location, one enormous parking lot away from the half-empty Collin Creek Mall in Plano. Seafood lovers will be in heaven with a bowl of pescado a lo macho — salmon buried in shrimp, scallops, clams and more seafood — or one of the several enormous Peruvian-style ceviches. There’s a huge fried seafood platter worth trying, too, while landlubbers pig out on what is truly one of the best grilled pork chops in town.
An Oak Cliff hole-in-the-wall situated behind a potholed strip mall parking lot is the source of some of Dallas’ best Thai food, including superbly fiery drunken noodles, served from a small window in the back of the market. The front of the store serves as a southeast Asian grocery and jewelry counter. The family that runs Ly Food Market is Laotian, not Thai, in origin, which means that menu items like larb have an extra spicy-sour kick.
Much like Mr. Max in Irving, Richardson’s Masami is a neighborhood staple for solid Japanese fare at prices that won’t bust your wallet. The interior is quiet and welcoming, and the sushi chefs at the bar are friendly, too. Order a simple sushi roll or two, close the printed menu and look at the board listing what’s freshest that day.
Just a rhinestone’s throw from University Park, Nick Badovinus’ homage to his native Seattle features a plethora of oysters, a good bowl of chowder and simple but just-right preparations of seafood. Prices reflect the cost of flying these ingredients from the Pacific to Dallas, which (justly or not) causes some customers to raise their eyebrows. No, the menu isn’t joking: You can order a crispy beef taco on the side.
This restaurant specializes in the only Xi’an style noodles in Dallas. Off Legacy Drive in Plano, just west of 75, is a strip mall emblazoned with the yellow words “Food Court.” That terse but accurate description conceals a small operation filled with Chinese and Korean stalls, including a tofu specialist, a bubble tea shop and Morefan. Order the wide, flat biang biang noodles — each noodle can be up to two feet long — coated in a savory, gently spicy stew of meat and peas. If you’re especially hungry, upgrade to a combo and get as a side dish a small chopped beef sandwich, served on the Xi’an equivalent of an English muffin.
The Dallas area’s only Egyptian restaurant focuses on street eats, including koshari, one of the world’s great comfort foods. A mix of macaroni, spaghetti noodles, rice and lentils, koshari gets topped with fried onions and a slathering of garlicky hot sauce. In other words, it’s irresistible. So is fattah, a fork-tender lamb shank resting atop rice, and ta’meya, a freshly fried snack much like falafel but made with fava beans.
Niwa gave Deep Ellum a proper Japanese grill-it-yourself experience, with excellent meat cuts (grab the hanger steak and short ribs), solid noodle bowl appetizers and a plentitude of dipping sauces. Your platter of meats comes with handy labels for each type. Servers aim to pace the meal well and keep food coming like clockwork, though they’re not always successful.
This is some of the very best pho in the region, and everyone in the crowded dining room knows it. Pho Bang is one of the staples of Garland’s Vietnamese community, and it shares a strip mall with three more: Dong Hai, with its Cantonese-influenced menu, banh xeo specialist La Xanh and Dong Que, with excellent noodle bowls. Dueling banh mi shops Quoc Bao and Saigon Deli are on the same corner, making the intersection of Jupiter Road and Walnut Street the epicenter of Vietnamese food in North Texas.
The banh mi at Quoc Bao start with fresh-baked baguettes, which are practically cubist in their crispy-crusted flakiness. This is a working bakery, so the bread is the star of the sandwiches, of which the best involved barbecued pork and marinated chicken. And because it’s a bakery first, Quoc Bao is takeout only.
Chef Andrew Savoie’s takes on tacos are grounded in his fine-dining background, and they sit happily at the intersection of thoughtful and delicious. Cauliflower, kale and other dutiful-sounding greens prove to be better taco fillings than one might suspect, and the braised beef short rib taco with chipotle crema is a delight. Weekly specials might include San Antonio-style puffy tacos, housemade pastrami or birria.
Fun fact: Unlike almost every other great taco joint in town, there’s craft beer on tap.
George W. Bush was at Rise when Barack Obama called him to inform him of Osama bin Laden’s death. Bush’s habitual order is crab souffle, which suggests to us that his taste in food is pretty good. Truthfully, any souffle here is probably good, especially paired with wines from a list that includes thoughtful, descriptive recommendations. There are main courses here besides souffle, but they’re not the stars of the show.
The luxurious “seven courses of beef” is a showstopping meal for the whole table to share — and, contrary to its name, it is reasonably balanced, with noodles, spring rolls, grilled meats and hearty bowls of porridge. If the kitchen is out of one course, you can order double of another. And that’s not even the most celebrated dish at BYOB haven Saigon Block, where many of the regulars come to order massive whole roasted catfish, big enough to feed a family.
Just across the parking lot from Quoc Bao (and a two-minute walk from Pho Bang), Saigon Deli’s emphasis is more on the filling of the sandwiches rather than the bread. Spring for seafood or excellent, rich pate, which is a perfect foil to the slices of jalapeno. Plus, unlike Quoc Bao, Saigon Deli has tables.
The dining room at this elegant barbecue restaurant fills up at brunchtime — which is a bad beginning to a description of Smoke for two reasons. First, the kitchen does far better work at dinner than at brunch. And second, “elegant barbecue” is not nearly the oxymoron or hipster prank that it sounds. If you’re not convinced, just go for the Big Rib, a fabulous beef rib sitting atop a cheddar-hominy casserole and garnished with chimichurri. It’s as good as anything served on butcher paper.
One of East Dallas’ most beloved neighborhood joints, Tacos La Banqueta serves up pretty good tacos, and they’ve been in the game for a long time. At lunchtime, lines roll out the front door, waiting customers crowd the desk and the parking lot gets hairy. But the wait is surprisingly short, the service is efficient and La Banqueta’s salsas are on point. If the line gets too long, there are other equally good taco joints nearby with smaller followings, notably El Come.
The best Turkish food in the Dallas area comes from Tantuni, a Richardson spot which specializes in hatay chicken, a scorching roasting technique from eastern Anatolia. Adana kebabs — ground lamb mixed with parsley and enough red pepper that the meat bleeds orange — are a good bet, too, as is any dip that can be scooped up by the restaurant’s fluffy pita.
Part of the new guard of Sichuan restaurants in Plano, Tasty House offers specialties that are a little outside the norm, including “rice crust,” a sizzling hot rice cake doused in stir fried beef and wood ear mushroom sauce. If you’re not quite courageous enough to order the sizzling pig brains, excellent cumin chicken is a good choice, as are the gently fried string beans, twice-cooked fish and street-style skewers of grilled fish and vegetables.
Ten is all about ramen, of course, unless you prefer mazemen (ramen without the broth). Ten, from Tei-An owner Teiichi Sakurai and head chef Matthew Hoa, offers up creative specials and classics done right. Unlike at certain inferior joints around town, the soups aren’t one-dimensional salt bombs. There are no chairs inside, so wear good shoes and eat fast. Competition in the ramen market is heating up in 2018, however; early word about Oni Ramen’s Deep Ellum outpost is overwhelmingly positive and in the same neighborhood Tanoshii is benefiting from new ownership and a totally new menu.
The Thai food at this restaurant on Richardson’s north side is a cut above the quality of other similar spots around town. Thai’s Thumbz may have a cornball name, but it also has good fried rice and stellar specialties like salmon chu che, a huge salmon filet in a rich, moderately spicy curry sauce, or kao soi, the comforting coconut curry noodle soup. If anything, noodle dishes are so generous on the toppings and sauce that they could use a few more noodles. (If you’re really so inclined, you can even get your drunken noodles made with spaghetti.)
Fun fact: That wall of wine bottles isn’t from the restaurant’s cellar — it’s all the empty BYOB goodies previous customers have left behind. Go on: Contribute to the collection, and remember that evidence of your taste will be preserved for posterity.
Across the street from Town Hearth, The Charles is nearly as over-the-top a place to see and be seen, even on Monday nights. The menu here is unlike any other Italian joint in town, thanks to chef J. Chastain’s constant, creative tinkering with classics. Chicory salad, melt-in-your-mouth grilled octopus and handmade pastas are some of the stars, but make room for kale grilled and piled onto a cool yogurt dip. The cheetah-print booths and dry-clean-only staff uniforms serve as a clue that dinner here is quite the high-dollar splurge.
Fun fact: Don’t leave without examining the “wallpaper” in the bathroom.
Some of the best breakfasts in Dallas are at this Oak Cliff institution, which has been baking Mexican pan dulces for over 20 years. Step around the rolling carts of pastries and proceed to the counter to order enormous breakfast tacos on homemade tortillas, a breakfast torta or a superb plate of chilaquiles verdes, available in regular or spicy. (Choose spicy.) The smoky, creamy refried beans — which taste like they made friends with some bacon during the cooking process — are can’t-miss, and so are the sweet empanadas and hojarascas available to serve as breakfast dessert.
The brightly colorful interior here conjures up images of a street food feast, and that’s exactly what you get. Because many of the dishes are huge and focused on one single element — a protein, for instance, or a papaya salad — you need to bring a group to get a balanced meal and sample all that’s on offer. Particular favorites include the soups set on portable burners and the bubbly-crisp omelet studded with fresh mussels.
North of Love Field, this sandwich shop serves up killer alambres — a whole skillet of meat, peppers, onions and cheese with folded tortillas alongside — and excellent, filling Mexican breakfasts at rock-bottom prices. The chilaquiles are outstanding, and so are the long, oval-shaped quesadillas, prepared as they are in Mexico City.
Trompo is their name, and tacos de trompo are their game. The trompo, a vertical spit much like that used for shawarma in the Middle East and gyros in Greece, supports layers of pork rubbed red with spices. When you order, meat is shaved off straight into a taco or a gringa, which adds a velvety pillow of molten cheese. Luis Olvera’s former backyard sensation is now a West Dallas mainstay, and, since it’s halfway between Taquero and Tacos Mariachi, it’s part of one of the city’s best taco crawl itineraries.
Fun fact: Order at the window and take your food to go; it’s perfectly respectable to eat your gringas in your parked car outside, with the engine running. Not that we would know anything about this.
The menu of savory crepes at Whisk changes with the seasons and with the inspiration of Julien Eelsen and his chefs. Many of the most deluxe are topped with what amount to meal-sized salads, many of them divinely balanced. Eelsen, a Parisian native, delights in the flavors of Oak Cliff, sourcing local barbecue for some of his crepes. Grab a bottle of dry, hard cider for the table, too.
The original Mesquite location of this charming family-owned mini-chain is a tiny dining room full of proof of chef Vasili “Bill” Kaprantzas’ Greek immigrant roots. There’s a poster of the chef’s grandmother and, of course, a bottle of Windex displayed with pride. The fry-topped gyro wrap, lamb souvlaki, pastitsio and calamari are superb, the lamb chops are cooked through but bursting with flavor and the steak fries are solid too. Although the baklava is over-the-top sweet, that’s an easy flaw to forgive when Chef Bill stops by your table himself to ask, disarmingly, “How did I do?”
Fun fact: A second location opened in Rockwall in late 2016, outside the area covered by this list.
Greenville Avenue’s own slice of Laos is a good place for newcomers to the cuisine to try Laotian food for the first time. Grab a combo of meat, papaya salad and sticky rice and snack on fried pork riblets, dusted in golden fried garlic, as an appetizer. Nam khao, crispy rice mixed up with jerky and herbs, is another favorite dish here. Other members of the same family own takeout joint Sabaidee on Lemmon Avenue and two restaurants, Sweet Rice and Sticky Rice, in the northern suburbs.
The first Dallas-area restaurant from celebrity chef José Andrés, Zaytinya serves creative, even eccentric riffs on Greek and Turkish cuisine. Some sections of the menu are producing big hits, like tender octopus “Santorini,” splendid salads or meats cooked over an open charcoal-fired hearth. But there are lingering issues with consistency, and the free basket of paper-thin pita with bitter, metallic olive oil makes a poor first impression. Zaytinya isn’t helped by comparison to the similar, better and more affordable Sachet, but then again, Sachet is a long way from Frisco.