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, quotations hand-scrawled on the walls and, of course, a bottle of Windex displayed with pride. The newer Rockwall location, in a shiny strip mall, manages the impressive trick of replicating the original dining room’s homey feel, complete with even more quotes, like “Let’s Make America Greek Again.” Nowhere else in Dallas feels like such a true portal to the Aegean Sea and its food.
Top pick: Grab an enormous overstuffed gyro wrap which comes with pretty darn good steak fries. Lamb souvlaki, pastitsio and calamari are superb, too.
The downside: 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: Yia Yia’s House of Gyros is a regular on Yelp lists of Texas’ best restaurants. At one point in time, Yelpers gave this spot the highest average rating of any place in Dallas, and it’s still in the state’s top 25.
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. Vietnam is just the starting point for a culinary journey which can include locally farmed or foraged produce, French or modernist cooking techniques, elaborate presentations and deceptive simplicity. 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. Recently there’s been an upswing in dumpling action, and 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. In good weather, the patio helps.
A more casual younger sibling to Bishop Arts institution Lucia, Macellaio took no time fitting into 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, ’nduja-stuffed dates and grilled carrots with yogurt sauce, 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 charcuterie 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 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 tiny kitchen attached to this wine-and-gin bar can do just as well and for a lower price. Dishes range from a hearty bowl of onion soup to a steak frites with bordelaise sauce. Chef Jordan Edwards remodeled the menu, keeping longtime favorites like the generous appetizer pot of sparkling-wine-steamed mussels, but adding new standards like a set of lamb chops with a mustard-bourbon glaze that tastes like an especially sophisticated barbecue sauce. The service is better than ever, too.
Top pick: Stop by The Mitchell’s happy hour for a terrific round of $1 oysters, then stick around for a loaded-up roasted bone marrow.
The downside: The only real disappointment on the new menu is the characterless house baguettes, which are easy to forgive in the onion soup but overdressed with balsamic on a tomato tartine.
Fun fact: Although the liquor collection behind the bar is impressive, complete with rolling library ladder, we’re kind of in love with the exceptional selection of small-grower French wines.
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 that also contains five 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.
One of Dallas’ most underrated restaurants, Mille Lire occupies an opulent corner of the Oak Lawn neighborhood, with a spectacularly designed dining room, but still manages not to get the attention it deserves. The biggest headline it’s garnered so far hasn’t been for chef Giuliano Matarese’s generally superb Italian food and wonderful house-made pastas, but for the sudden and heartbreaking death of owner Brian Ellard and his family in a plane crash in June. (That airy, bright, gorgeous dining room was designed by Ornella Ellard, who also died in the accident.) This town ought to talk more about Matarese’s wonderful fettuccine with lemon and crabmeat, or summery corn-and-bacon soup, or the way that Mille Lire flash-fries shishito peppers in a Parmesan batter.
Top pick: The made-from-scratch pastas here are champions, and, surprisingly, the subtler ones are best. There’s a good wine list with affordable Italian bottles, too.
The downside: Mille Lire’s ownership situation was thrown into a tumult by tragedy. They need the support of Dallas pasta lovers.
Some of the best Guadalajaran food in Dallas comes from this luchador-themed restaurant in the heart of Oak Cliff. Many first-timers come to Maskaras for its extraordinary collection of lucha libre masks, costumes and vintage posters, but they stay because of the awesome tacos ahogados (“drowned” tacos bathing in salsa), enormous tortas and rich carne en su jugo. The spicy shrimp burrito is more than a foot long, and the hospitality here is as big-hearted as the plates are, well, big.
Top pick: Grab some fried tacos dorados with cueritos (pickled pig skins), or the house special Taco Maskaras, which combines shrimp, pico de gallo and molten cheese. Maskaras’ enchiladas verdes are flawless, too.
The downside: You’ll need a fork and knife to tackle some of the enormous sandwiches. Wait, hang on. How is that a downside?
Irving’s Northgate Drive is a hub for plump Nepalese dumplings inside gas stations. In the Texaco at the corner with Belt Line Road, Momostop serves its fiery chili momos slathered in hot sauce. Down the street, at the Fresh Food Store just west of an elementary school, MoMo To Go serves extraordinary, craving-inducing jhaneko momo: dumplings steamed and then tossed in butter with garlic, onions and a rich tapestry of spices. They’re so fragrant it’s hard to get back to the office with a to-go order before tearing in. Try ordering online directly from the restaurant’s website, or take a look at the handwritten menu on a dry erase board inside the convenience store.
Fun fact: This shop also has an aisle of Nepalese imported foods for sale. Browse while you wait on your momos.
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 hearty sandwiches. 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 one of the city’s best bar food programs.
The downside: As a Deep Ellum bar, Armoury is required by an unofficial ordinance to be unpleasantly 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.
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. Grab a bag of that samoon bread as you leave, or visit the small grocery next door.
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: Bilad makes a point of feeding penniless customers or people experiencing homelessness free of charge.
Last year, when we assembled the inaugural Top 100 list, Las Almas Rotas was a strong contender. At the time, the mezcal bar’s tiny kitchen served only a handful of bar foods: quesadillas, tacos, a bowl of beans and a divine cup of elotes -- maybe Dallas’ best, with charred corn and crushed-up Takis. This summer, the owners decided to kick the food program up a notch, bringing in consulting chef Josh Sutcliff to train the staff and give customers more reasons to stick around for another round of palomas. There are still fewer than a dozen dishes on the menu, but they include spicy tostadas of shrimp and roasted tomatillo salsa and a chile relleno stuffed with chorizo verde, coated in magically grease-free batter and topped with radish slaw. (Why is chorizo verde still so rare in Dallas?) Even the quesadillas, now spiked with spicy escabeche, are better than ever.
Top pick: Stop by on a Sunday night for Sonoran Sunday, with discounts on drinks from that desert region and the kitchen’s now-famous Sonoran hot dogs, which are wrapped in bacon and served in a bun with white beans, grilled onions and poblano peppers.
Fun fact: This is the best place in the city to spend July 4, thanks to a combination of Fair Park fireworks views and those beloved hot dogs.
For more than 23 years, Al Markaz has been an institution in the Dallas-area Indian and Pakistani communities. Some of the original employees are still here, and the lunch combo deal is still an outrageously good deal at just $7.50. The restaurant has expanded to include a spacious grocery with an excellent selection of South Asian snacks, spices and sodas. It’s especially fun to visit in the evening during Ramadan and watch dozens of families arrive simultaneously, ordering mountainous baskets of fluffy naan, bowls of lentil stew, nihari (slow-cooked beef shank) and probably the best butter chicken within a dozen miles.
Top pick: That $7.50 lunch combo includes a piece of naan and appetizer portions of three different main courses. You choose the mains; we recommend the nihari and dal palak (spinach and lentils).
The downside: Al Markaz’s pastry items, like samosas, are good when they’re fresh. Problem is, they’re very rarely served fresh. Also, if you ask a dozen regulars about the biryani, you’ll get a dozen different opinions about whether or not it’s worth ordering.
Fun fact: Al Markaz is one of the oldest restaurants on this list. When it began, the pick-three lunch combo was just $6.
Yes, the name is still as cringe-inducing as it was when it opened in summer 2018. But this fancified, all-frills saloon in Victory Park, with more and better wines than anyone in “Tombstone” ever dreamed of, serves pretty killer renditions of skillet cornbread, Texas red chili, hot fried quail and summer okra succotash. Some of the mains, like the big-boned pork chop, are over-the-top in a good way. Alongside Knife and Town Hearth, this is one of the best places to take out-of-town guests who ask for a stereotypically Dallas experience, but still care about the food being good.
Top pick: The crispy oyster sliders with comeback sauce make a pretty flawless appetizer, and the burger is a meaty dream bathed in Longhorn cheddar.
The downside: Be careful at tables on the northern wall, which have dangerously sharp metal edges (one of them injured this author).
Fun fact: Unusually for a saloon, this joint has one of the 10 or so best wine lists in all of Dallas.
One of the best Pakistani restaurants in the Dallas area is this spot, which started in Richardson before moving to Garland in 2018. BBQ King serves some great naan -- try it stuffed with spiced potatoes, or topped with a showering of sesame seeds and cilantro. They’re accompaniments to dishes such as haleem, the porridge-like soul food of lentils, wheat, ground meat, ghee, ginger and fried onion.
Top pick: Try a stew like kunna gosht, made with goat leg, or beef karahi, which sets tomato sweetness against a balanced lineup of spices.
The downside: Kebabs can be salty, service can be slow and the free salad that comes with most meals is worth what you’re paying for it.
Fun fact: If you’re into paan, the leaf-and-nut chewing stimulant common in Pakistan, BBQ King has what most diners agree is the best paan counter in the area. (We haven’t indulged.)
A half slab at this 23-year-old Cedars barbecue joint 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.)
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.
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: 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.
2019 saw a cascade of local and national attention for Petra and the Beast, which began as a semi-permanent popup in a former Sinclair filling station built in 1932. It also saw exciting expansions of the restaurant’s means, including a new garden, service staff and the hiring of Jess Alonzo as sous chef to founder Misti Norris. Petra’s heart and soul is its casual counter-service dining experience on most days and nights, when customers can wander in and sample enormous charcuterie boards full of mustard-rubbed beef tongue, spicy ’nduja spread on grilled toast, pork and garlic chive terrine, then move on to spectacular made-from-scratch noodles and wontons. Norris and her staff let their minds wander across the globe in search of culinary inspiration, especially in noodle and veggie bowls that might feature culinary collisions so exciting they throw sparks. If the counter service is Petra’s heart, though, its brain is on display on Saturday nights, when the restaurant offers a reservations-only seven-course tasting menu of some of the most innovative food in Dallas. Good luck getting a table, which must be reserved months in advance. This author succeeded in snagging Saturday seats just once, and then was unable to enjoy them because of a schedule conflict.
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. And like many of Dallas’ ultra-chef-driven restaurants, Petra is still learning how to function as a business, too.
Fun fact: Petra is simply the best BYOB experience within Dallas city limits.
Irving’s first Nepalese sports bar was worth the wait, and it’s making the rest of the North Texas cities jealous. Only at Peak Restaurant can you watch a football game with a pint of Dos Equis while devouring spiral-topped dumplings filled with chicken and slathered with spicy chile sauce, or a vegetarian thali based on the Himalayan spice mixes used in Nepal’s small Thakali culture. If this is your first time trying Nepalese food, go for badel sadeko: thin, crisp slices of fried pork belly mixed with green and white onions and tossed in a gently spicy sauce.
Top pick: The Thakali thali is a huge mixed platter of stews, pickles, rice and a bowl of super-comforting stewed black lentils.
The downside: Peak’s menu doesn’t describe dishes, so first-timers can need a little bit of help. Luckily, the ultra-friendly staff is more than happy to make recommendations.
Fun fact: This is the only place in town to order a round of mango lassi vodka shots.
The Dallas area’s only Egyptian restaurant focuses on street eats, including ta’meya, a freshly fried snack much like falafel but made with fava beans. Also irresistible is fattah, a fork-tender lamb shank resting atop rice, and vegetable moussaka, which is more stew-like than the Greek version and perfect on a scoop of pita. Chef Bosayna Elhouni started Mubrooka as a delivery service working out of a catering kitchen before opening this space in 2018.
Top pick: Koshari is 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.
The downside: None, really, but pickled tomatoes are an acquired taste.
Fun fact: North Texas’ original Egyptian restaurant, King Tut, has served southern Fort Worth for almost 30 years. But we don’t have to drive that far anymore.
Niwa gives 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, with only occasional hiccups.
Fun fact: Follow Niwa on social media to find out about the Asian night markets which owner Jimmy Niwa participates in with other chefs from around town. There are tempting specials and seasonal dishes here, too.
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. Because it’s a bakery first, Quoc Bao is takeout only.
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.
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. Lobster, cabrito and even camel have shown up on Revolver’s tortillas, which are 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, Purepecha. For $130 per person (a price which has ticked upward recently and may rise again), 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 — Rojas has occasionally cooked for just one guest — 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, on what might be the city’s best tortillas.
The downside: Menu items in the front room sell out fairly frequently, so have a backup choice in mind. The success of the Purepecha room, meanwhile, means that it now frequently has two seatings. Try to join the late seating if you want to avoid getting rushed out after dessert.
Fun fact: Revolver Taco Lounge got its name from Arturo Rojas, Regino’s father and Juanita’s husband, who occasionally washes the dishes when he’s not one of Texas’ most celebrated creators of elaborately designed and carved guns.
Sachet’s 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 — Sachet and Homewood are the two best pasta joints in Dallas — then return to try a half-dozen or so of the vegetarian meze or to focus on the new lineup of swordfish kebabs and grilled octopus. 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 tortiglioni and lobster spaghetti just might be best of all.
Top pick: Dive into the meze, including muhammara, the smoky pepper dip, topped with a scoop of lentils, or roasted carrots with spices and labne. And don’t be afraid to pay for the fresh-baked pita bread, which is worth the modest ask.
The downside: As at some of Dallas’ other best restaurants, the meat-and-side main courses aren’t where the excitement is. Sachet has an exception in a great cut of grilled Iberico secreto pork, but we’ll probably always load up on appetizers and pastas.
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, Albania, Israel and Texas. Feeling a bit lost? Seemingly every employee on staff can tell you, with sincere enthusiasm, about their particular favorites.
A Tex-Mex institution in Oak Cliff, El Ranchito lives up to every mariachi-serenaded 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.
Fun fact: Visit during the Christmas season for some of the liveliest decorations in Dallas.
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’s $1.29 tacos range from good to truly exceptional, and there are also $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 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.
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, birria or an impeccable Philly cheesesteak taco. Oh, and during the State Fair of Texas, you might just spot a corny dog inside a taco here.
Fun fact: Unlike almost every other great taco joint in town, there’s craft beer on tap.
Many of the regulars at this Richardson institution come to share a bounteous portion of whole roasted catfish, priced by size and served with rice paper, sauces and herbs for make-them-yourself spring rolls. There are also roasted quail and buttery frog legs on the menu at Saigon Block, which specializes in the kind of banquet meals that might mark a Vietnamese special occasion.
Top pick: The luxurious “seven courses of beef” is a show-stopping meal for the whole table to share, and, contrary to the expectations its name generates, 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.
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.
Suddenly, temaki restaurants are all over Dallas. Handrolls, to use the English word, are small cylindrical rolls of dried seaweed paper wrapped around a quick mix of sushi rice and fish, cucumbers or anything else. They’re a fast-casual version of sushi, basically, and handrolls are meant to be eaten almost as soon as the chef finishes making them. (In other words, don’t get all precious with your Instagramming.) The most careful, considered handroll spot in town is Nori, where chef Jimmy Park builds tasting menus of four or five rolls with ultra-high-quality cuts of tuna belly, freshwater eel and more. Fresh, not pre-packaged, wasabi is available. There’s also a kitchen in the back which can produce excellent cooked dishes like takoyaki, the fried dough balls filled with chunks of octopus.
Top pick: Park recommends starting with one of the set lists of handrolls, since there’s considerable savings compared to ordering them all separately and they also serve as a great introduction to the genre.
The downside: On weekend nights, Nori gets incredibly busy, and the music inside is already plenty loud. Go on a weeknight or at lunch and you might have the restaurant to yourself. That’s also a good idea because rumor has it that regulars and friends of the chefs get access to secret menu items which the rest of us peons don’t know about. We can’t be sure because we’re not cool enough to make the inner circle.
Fun fact: Chef Jimmy Park is a Nobu veteran who moved into handrolls after a brief stint in the poke business.
Sandwich Hag is the little banh mi shop that could. Its tiny building, which dates from 1964, has just a walk-up window for ordering and a couple of picnic tables under a shaded canopy. Inside, a tiny staff led by chef Reyna Duong assembles perfect sandwiches built around lemongrass-marinated pork, sausage patties or ginger tofu. If you need a snack, order some spring rolls, too.
Top pick: Choosing a favorite banh mi is a bit like taking a personality test. We’ll go with the lemongrass pork unless Sandwich Hag is serving its occasional off-menu meatball sandwich.
The downside: Saigon Deli loyalists who are used to paying $3.50 for a banh mi occasionally whine online about Sandwich Hag’s prices, which run closer to $10 because they help cover higher-quality ingredients, a better-paid staff and higher Dallas rent. To be clear, we’re not saying that Sandwich Hag’s pricing is a problem. We’re saying the problem is that we keep getting angry mail from cheapskates.
Fun fact: Sandwich Hag is a local leader in advocating for the employment of people with disabilities. Duong’s brother Sang has Down syndrome and works at the restaurant; she calls him “the hardest worker I have.”
There’s really no doubt about who has the best Thai food in the Dallas area: It’s this tiny cafe in the suburb of Allen, mere feet from the new Watters Creek Convention Center. Ask for the “Thai menu,” a front-and-back sheet separate from the main menu which features spectacular versions of dishes like tom sap (sour soup with pork intestines), pad cha (spicy stir fried seafood and vegetables), gra pow moo krob (crisply seared pork with green beans and enormous quantities of basil) and hoy tod (a pancake filled with mussels). Spice Thai Cafe is BYOB, too. Exercise far more caution with spice levels here than you would elsewhere. A 2 out of 5 at Spice Thai is a 3 out of 5 at most good Thai spots; a 4 here would be, at the most Americanized joints, something like a 7 out of 5.
Top pick: As much as we love the light, fluffy fried mussel pancake, so delicate it’s almost like tempura, the real star here is the ultra-herby, fresh-tasting Thai salad of grilled shrimp mixed with lemongrass, lime, cilantro and big thick wedges of chile pepper.
The downside: Well, now we have to move to Allen.
Fun fact: In case it’s not enough to order off the Thai menu, which wasn’t translated into English at all until recently, there are also a handful of items that still haven’t been translated into English, and a few items on the main menu which can be made “Thai style” if you ask. Practically, by the way, Thai style means modifications like using freshly chopped hot peppers rather than a powder or spice mix.
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.
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 Thai fare more familiar to Americans, it’s simply not the best reason to visit Sapp Sapp.
Fun fact: Call ahead to arrange a garlic-marinated tomahawk rib-eye, a popular meal for visiting UFC fighters.
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 off some superb spicy wontons (10 for $5), look for the dishes with Sichuan peppercorns, especially if they involve seafood, like the spicy fish. If you don’t want peppercorns setting your tongue and lips tingling, they have plenty of milder options, 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.
One of the oldest restaurants on the Top 100 — Sevy’s Grill opened in 1997 — is also one of the most old-fashioned. Here, Preston Hollow society types enjoy power lunches and, at dinnertime, spring for shrimp cakes, pork chops and salmon fillets cooked in Tabasco butter. It’s the 1990s ideal of a fine-dining restaurant, but young chef Eric Freidline also wants to nudge his diners into the new century by incorporating local produce and oh-so-gently updating the menu. Listen carefully to the specials on offer, therefore, when your impeccably old-school waiter recites them.
Top pick: The service here is designed to cultivate regulars; the staff, immensely friendly and helpful at every turn, even hand out business cards so you know which waiter to ask for next time.
The downside: The dining room itself hasn’t been updated since the 1990s and feels its age. So does the wine list, which prioritizes Napa and has allowed the growing movement toward lighter, more acidic, less tannin-heavy wines to pass unnoticed.
Fun fact: Follow the restaurant or Freidline on social media to get advance notice of monthly wine dinners, at which the chef gets to test out inventive new recipes and pair them with wines that usually come from prestigious California properties.
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 from the original Singleton location, 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.
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: The second location, on Greenville Ave., is feeding that street’s revelers loaded carne asada cheese fries. We heard complaints on social media that the Greenville location served smaller tacos, but a recent visit -- and some snooping on other customers’ plates -- revealed no such deficit.
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. They do include unusual preparations, though, like multiple rolls featuring crawfish. Robatayaki-grilled meats and veggies are solid bets, too, as are ultra-traditional sushi rolls like big, thick futomaki. Sushi Robata is across-the-board reliable in a wide array of Japanese cuisine.
Top pick: Look for unusual specials and sushi pieces like engawa (the edge of a flounder’s tail), ankimo (monkfish liver pate), sea eel and a spectacular piece of sushi filled to the brim with salmon roe.
The downside: Last year, we noted long lines and wait times as a downside. That’s not true anymore, which means now’s the time to rush back to Sushi Robata. It’s still true that for certain individual dishes, other restaurants like Tei-An might beat this little-of-everything kitchen.
Fun fact: This is one of the most comfortable dining rooms in Dallas. It’s just a pleasure to eat here, in a room full of beautiful decoration. Sushi Robata is also unusually quiet; from the architecture to the way that the kitchen uses a lantern instead of a bell to summon waitstaff, everything about the place is designed to keep the volume down.
Eater recently nominated The Slow Bone for a national award honoring bad restaurant names. (It competed in a category for groan-inducing sexual humor.) Dallas chefs were more complimentary, nominating this low-key barbecue spot as one of the city’s 10 best restaurants in an Observer survey of 75 food industry professionals. That might be exaggerated, but it reflects the fact that this is darn good barbecue near downtown — and, blessedly, with far shorter lines than you’ll encounter at Pecan Lodge or Cattleack.
Top pick: This might be counterintuitive, but the side dishes are the stars here, along with some of the city’s best fried chicken. Order sides strategically, preferably in a group, because six or seven of them are great and your tray won’t have room for them all.
The downside: Between us, the brisket just isn’t as richly flavorful as the best of the best.
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.
Boulevardier is one of Dallas’ two best casual French restaurants, alongside The Mitchell. And Boulevardier wins out on atmosphere, with its cozy space in the Bishop Arts neighborhood and its wall lined with extremely well-chosen wine bottles. 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.
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.
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.
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 food-hall style around a central open kitchen and many of the walls plastered with beach photos and Bollywood posters. Pav bhaji is a superb order here, as are the bit-of-everything lunch combos. If you just need a snack, go for sabudana vada, deep-fried patties of sago pearls, whole-seed spices and chives; they have the crisp bubbly texture of good tater tots.
Top pick: If you’re in the mood for a sandwich, skip the European-style sandwiches on a white bread and order a frankie, a rolled-up paratha filled with chopped veggies and spices. The paneer frankie here is a reliable and filling vegetarian lunch.
Fun fact: The fusion items, like the pizza dosa and pineapple-chocolate-cheese sandwich, are just as wild as they sound. The pizza dosa, for instance, contains enough oregano for five or six real pies. (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. One portion of cabrito, with all the fixings that come with it, is enough to make one person very full, or to satisfy two people who’ve also shared an appetizer.
Top pick: Bring five or six friends and a freshly paid-off credit card to splurge on the whole goat for $235. If that’s a little too much food, consider the spectacularly rich machitos, rolls of goat meat, fat and organs stuffed into the animal’s digestive tract and grilled until crispy.
The downside: There can be a wait for your goat meat, and the rest of the menu is there primarily as a distraction.
Fun fact: If you’re wondering why the dining room is a little strange, and why the kitchen has a glass wall partition, it’s because this space used to be a liquor store.
Of Irving’s growing crop of Nepalese restaurants, Cafemandu boasts the biggest and deepest list of momos, the country’s beloved pleated dumplings. Cafemandu even has dessert momos, but it’s probably best to start with the classic steamed variety, to admire the thin, nearly translucent dough around the plump filling, then work your way through spicy chili momos covered in hot sauce, momos in broth and even dumplings bathed in cheese. An order of 10 momos ranges from $7-10.
Top pick: As good as dumplings are, we’re also obsessed with bara, a lentil flour pancake with ground chicken and a fried egg hidden in the middle.
Fun fact: If you’re waiting on a takeout order, there’s a guitar on a stand in the corner that guests are invited to strum.
When City Hall Bistro first opened, it 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. Then chef Jeramie Robison took command and calmed the waters, 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.
Fun fact: This is more of a hot take than a fun fact, actually, but we’re in the hot take business, so here goes: City Hall Bistro is the best hotel restaurant in downtown Dallas.
The Austin import, which also has locations in Houston and Denver, is almost daunting in its reputation for rigorous high-end Japanese cooking. But Uchi’s friendly service keeps the experience grounded, and its sushi bar does phenomenal work. Anything raw is bound to be good, especially seafood ordered off the list of daily specials. We’re less excited about some of the cooked dishes; Uchi has a predilection for overthought dishes, cloying sauces and unnecessary flavor clashes. This summer, the kitchen was putting matcha in the batter on fried soft-shell crabs, a pretty cool idea, but also surrounding many of its “cool tasting” dishes with overpowering fruity sauces, as if apologizing for making people eat fish.
Top pick: The only thing better than the ultra-traditional preparations of the day’s freshest fish, printed on a separate menu card, is the melt-in-your-mouth sashimi made from gyutoro (braised beef shortrib).
The downside: The cooked and composed dishes can be head-scratching, and sometimes even sushi rolls come with garnishes that serve to conceal, rather than highlight, the flavor of the seafood.
Fun fact: You can order many of Uchi’s dishes at the more casual bar upstairs, Uchiba.
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. You may not find spaghetti with meatballs, but you’ll find something interesting, and even inspired, among the sheer sensory overload of this deliciously overdecorated dining room. The cheetah-print booths and dry-clean-only staff uniforms serve as a clue that dinner here is quite the high-dollar splurge.
Top pick: A lovely chicory salad replaces the usual Caesar here, but if veggies are your thing, make room for kale grilled and piled onto a cool yogurt dip. There’s maybe never been such a great use of that notoriously tough green.
The downside: One person’s dinner can easily run past $60 without ordering a single drink.
Fun fact: Don’t leave without examining the “wallpaper” in the bathroom.
In an industrial park in Farmers Branch, 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, but in fall 2019, Cattleack made the must-orders a trifecta by making whole-hog barbecue a regular on Fridays. (It replaces comparatively ordinary pulled pork.) The vinegar-based coleslaw, pitmaster 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: 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. In fact, order extra of everything in genera, and you’ll be cooking the best beans of your life.
The downside: Cattleack’s lines have gotten even longer and wilder since last year’s Top 100 appearance. Oops. Sorry, folks.
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.
There are very few seafood markets in Dallas as good as TJ’s. So go ahead and ogle the counter cases, with their beautiful and impeccably sourced cuts of fish, scallops, crab, lobster and more. Yes, shopping here can be more expensive than a trip to Tom Thumb, but that’s because TJ’s buys from ethical purveyors and sells an exceptionally high quality of product. Oh, wait, we’re supposed to be talking about the restaurant segment. If you’re feeling lazy, sit down at a table and have them cook the fish for you. TJ’s has a good philosophy about its kitchen: Keep the recipes simple, stupid. Let the ingredients do the talking.
Top pick: Swing by for lunch and grab a salmon patty burger — it’s more indulgent than it sounds -- or a roll stuffed with tuna salad which is made, as the menu says, “not from a can.” The difference is clear. The garnish of a token vegetable is a little silly, but we won’t complain too loudly.
Fun fact: This is more like the opposite of a fun fact, but the Royal Lane location of TJ’s was mere feet from the path of the Oct. 20 tornado, and reopened less than two weeks later.
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 by pastry star Ricchi Sanchez and world-class people-watching complement the excellent dinners.
Top pick: Many of the best meals are rotating daily specials, which change seasonally and always represent chef Bruno Davaillon’s technique at its peak.
The downside: Last year, we heard lots of reports that Bullion’s service falls down somewhat when the customer isn’t recognized as a newspaper food critic. Some of that lesson has been learned, reportedly, but a literal gold bar full of sculptures is probably always going to play favorites to some extent.
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. 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.)
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 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. Luckily, a limited menu is available in the bar area.
Fun fact: Regulars know that if you’re feeling especially generous, you can buy the whole staff a round of drinks. Because the cost usually exceeds $50, this is best attempted after a bottle of sake for courage.
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 an East Dallas 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.
Some of the best breakfasts in Dallas are at this Oak Cliff institution, which has been baking Mexican pan dulces for more than 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 (a kind of crisp cookie) available to serve as breakfast dessert.
Top pick: A breakfast taco with eggs and machacado (dried and sliced beef) can’t be beat, especially because two breakfast tacos from Tia Dora’s are so filling, and so satisfying, that you might need to postpone lunch.
The downside: Although some of the pan dulce is always on offer, other sweets are only available on certain days, and the staff doesn’t always know when they’ll be back. What we’re saying here is that we’d probably weigh a lot more if we knew when Tia Dora’s was baking hojarascas.
Fun fact: Did we mention that this place is a major contender for the biggest, best tamales in all of Dallas?
One of the newest additions to Oak Cliff already feels like it’s been around for years. Ceviche Oyster Bar, which owner Raul Reyes installed in a former mechanic’s garage after years of renovation, is a laid-back spot for fried seafood baskets, po’boys, fried okra and tostadas. Even the healthy options, such as fresh trout with rice and grilled veggies, are executed well. Order food at the main counter, then walk into the adjoining bar space to place a separate drinks order for, say, a margarita or a draft Pacifico.
Top pick: The po’boys may be a little bit fancied-up with their real leaf lettuce and avocado slices, but they’re still good, especially the sandwich with fried oysters. If you’re feeling like eating something raw, go for the tostadas loaded up with generous portions of fish, shrimp or tender marinated octopus.
The downside: Some of the fried seafood baskets, like the calamari, are cooked well but not especially interesting. On one visit, our order of coleslaw came with no dressing at all.
Fun fact: At $3, the enormous fried okra basket is a steal.
When we first visited Cafe Momentum, we were concerned 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 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 is paid living wages, any tip left on the table will be considered a donation to the restaurant’s mission.
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 some nights.
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: Order as much as possible from the list of daily specials, then fill up on the city’s best okonomiyaki. 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: The experience here is very different for a tiny group of super-regulars who are invited to join a sort of secret club. These regulars get bonus menu items, wooden plaques with their names which are used to mark reserved tables and access to a rooftop patio.
Fun fact: This isn’t just a local favorite. Tei-An has a glittering reputation over in Japan, too. If you get a glimpse of the wooden plaques for the members of this restaurant’s secret society of regulars, you’ll see the names of almost half of Major League Baseball’s Japanese players.
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 quesadilla, which adds a velvety pillow of molten cheese. Luis Olvera’s former backyard sensation just moved to the Bishop Arts District, where it’s recapturing some of the old home-cooking feel with outdoor seating in a courtyard.
Top pick: The top pick is trompo, obviously, but less obviously, we prefer it in quesadilla format.
The downside: With all that outdoor seating, if you visit in July or August you should plan to order to-go. Also, the elotes make up in pulverized Takis for what they lack in freshly grilled flavor.
Fun fact: At its original location on Singleton Avenue, Trompo was named one of the best new restaurants in America by Bon Appetit.
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, as Town Hearth does. They never thought to put a $75,000 Ducati Sport on the menu as a “side dish.” Behind the submarine and the Ducati, a massive kitchen turns out enough Battle Axe steaks, carpaccios and veal chops to keep up with the all the socialites, politicians and $30,000 millionaires.
Top pick: Ask about “tots du jour,” a platter of potato nuggets slathered in some sort of luxurious topping, such as 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. It’s not uncommon for a single steak to run more than $120.
Fun fact: This November, Town Hearth’s kitchen suffered a small fire that shut the place down for a few days. Luckily, damage was minimal and things got back to normal quickly.
This mini-chain expanded in 2019, opening a new location on Jefferson Boulevard in the heart of Oak Cliff. Like its sister stores north of Love Field and just off Greenville Avenue, the new 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.
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.
The secret is out: This long-running bar in East Dallas also serves some of the city’s best Vietnamese food. For a long time, Cosmo’s kept its kitchen working with a style of bar pizza that many patrons loyally order today. This author never understood the appeal of those pizzas, but now chef Jackson Tran is making his own pho from a family recipe in that tiny kitchen, plus Vietnamese fried chicken and other delights.
Top pick: If you just want to wash down a few cold beers, you could do worse than to order a sheet pan of tater tots loaded up with kimchi and cheese.
The downside: Cosmo’s has a small food staff and a loyal following of customers, so expect delays while your order is prepared.
Fun fact: While you eat, enjoy the best VHS movie collection of any Dallas bar.
In Dallas, Teiichi Sakurai and his friends serve an abundance of superb Japanese food in a variety of styles. Tei-An sources impeccable sushi and serves beautiful noodles; Tei Tei Robata and Teppo focus more on grilling and tavern food. Up in Plano, they don’t have the Sakurai dynasty of restaurants. But they do have Wa Kubota, an all-around star that is criminally underrated by Dallas sushi lovers. Look through the list of sashimi specials, featuring items like toro and giant clams, then kick things off with a bowl of miso soup with a half-dozen clams nestled in the bottom of the broth.
Top pick: Start with a brilliant bowl of takowasa, raw octopus mixed with ultra-fresh wasabi that perks up the palate and clears out the nose. Then take a look at sushi like the toro lover’s roll, which lives up to its name.
The downside: The only thing we’ve had at Wa Kubota that we didn’t love was a yellowtail collar which, in terms of fresh flavor and charcoal-grilled goodness, fell far short of Tei Tei Robata’s example.
Fun fact: Founder Kaoru Kubota is a former American football player who, early in his career, dedicated himself to coaching Japanese newbies in the fine art of scoring touchdowns.
If you like Tacos La Banqueta but hate waiting in line, try El Come Taco, a six-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 soccer game, too.
Top pick: This is cheating because it’s technically a separate business, but our top pick here is to slide through the bathroom hallway to the adjacent mezcal bar, La Viuda Negra, from the same owners. La Viuda has its own separate, ever-changing food menu to pair with its showy cocktails.
Fun fact: La Viuda Negra’s entrance is disguised as a dilapidated bridal shop.
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. every night but Monday.
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.
Top pick: Fried chicken, of course.
Fun fact: If you arrive at 6 p.m., you’ll likely have the bar to yourself. DanSungSa is for night owls.
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.
Oak Cliff’s newest taco sensation is the second location of a business that first opened in McKinney a few years ago. But Del Sur Tacos has upped its game to compete with Jefferson Boulevard’s crowd of rival taquerias, with inspired specialty tacos featuring fillings like a chile relleno, excellent carnitas and cochinita pibil. Grab some mulitas, too, and enjoy a dish of meat, beans and stacked tortillas that is tragically rare in the Dallas area.
Top pick: We’re in love with El Santo, a taco with a nearly even mixture of grilled pork and julienned radishes doused in fiery guajillo pepper salsa.
The downside: We once arrived for breakfast tacos at opening hour, 8 a.m., only to find the store closed and no human activity in sight. Maybe it was a one-time thing.
The best steakhouse in Dallas expanded to Plano last year; this author has yet to visit the Plano location. But the original, at the Highland Dallas 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 ribeye 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: The wine list, which prefers the old-school Napa standards, shows maybe a little less care than the extensive selection of cigars.
Fun fact: Don’t leave without peeking into the dry-aging room to ogle the cuts of meat stowed away for future diners.
Jimmy’s is an East Dallas institution, a grocery store with a deli counter that does double-time cranking out the best sandwiches in the city. The Italian Stallion sandwich is one of the biggest, baddest sandwiches around, loaded with just about every meat this superb shop has in its cases. The other sandwiches are formidable, too, including one of the region’s better muffalettas.
Top pick: While you wait for your sub, sample some wines or olive oils and buy a box or two of homemade-then-frozen ravioli to cook later.
The downside: Saturday afternoons at Jimmy’s get wild as hundreds of sandwich-craving customers descend. If you need to get some grocery shopping done, it’s better to stop by on a weekday.
Fun fact: The DiCarlo family has owned Jimmy’s since 1966, although the store only pivoted to its current all-Italian format in 2005, in a remodel that was necessitated by a devastating fire.
Donny Sirisavath grew up in the back rooms of his parents’ Thai and Chinese restaurants in San Antonio and served as a cook during high school, but he didn’t have a formal chef job of his own until he opened Khao Noodle Shop, which serves the Lao noodles he remembers his mother making for the family. Khao is about his love of his mom, who died of cancer years before the restaurant opened, and it’s also about Sirisavath’s love of the food and culture of Laos, a country which for many decades was hidden to American eyes by its big, famous neighbors, Thailand, Vietnam and China. Dallas has the biggest Lao food scene in the United States, and Khao is its best Lao restaurant. If you bring two friends, you can try just about everything on the short menu, which consists entirely of snacks and small bowls of noodles.
Top pick: Order some tripe chicharrones and pickled veggies, then move on to any of the noodle bowls. One person can probably enjoy two portions of noodles. Make one of them the boat noodles, with their meatballs and pork blood broth. As a bonus, this is a great place to BYOB.
The downside: As is the case with many of Dallas’ most interesting restaurants, Khao is much smaller than its popular following. Arrive early.
Fun fact: We don’t mean to brag, but here’s what we wrote about Khao in March 2019: “It feels irresponsible to hype a restaurant as small as Khao Noodle Shop. With just four tables and a counter, this isn’t a dining room meant to handle legions of fans, and the pint-sized kitchen isn’t meant to attract national attention. But national attention is coming, and Khao...is a new milestone in Dallas’ culinary history.” Six months later, national attention arrived when Bon Appétit magazine named Khao the second-best new restaurant in the United States.
Kalachandji’s, inside a Hare Krishna temple in East Dallas, lets its employees decide the day’s buffet 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. Come by for lunch or dinner every day except Monday, and enjoy probably the best buffet in Dallas, and certainly the most memorable. On Thursday nights, there are also come-as-you-are cooking classes, which teach paneer making and other vegetarian techniques.
Fun fact: Only one restaurant on this list, Royal China, has been serving food for longer than Kalachandji’s, which is 37 years old. (Jimmy’s Food Store has been around longer, too, but for its first few decades it was more focused on being a grocery.)
This upscale Mexican restaurant, conveniently located near some of Dallas’ wealthiest neighborhoods, serves two menus. The first, which it debuted in 2017, is a canny set list of fancied-up Tex-Mex favorites, such as $17 seafood enchiladas. The menu-within-a-menu is the work of a chef hired in late 2018, Anastacia Quiñones-Pittman, who brings her own distinctive and creative perspective on Mexican cuisine. Focus on the Quiñones fare by ordering her “tacos de tacha,” a daily taco special made with tortillas that have been flavored by the addition of hot peppers, black beans, mole spices or some other twist. Look out for seasonal aguachiles, too, and, if you’re lucky, some sensational carnitas. Quiñones’ mole sauce is an evolving one; new batches are mixed in with the old to help flavors age and grow more complex.
Top pick: Past examples of the tacos de tacha have included tempura mushrooms and pickled radishes on a cilantro tortilla and fried soft-shell crab showered with escabeche and served on a habanero tortilla. “Tacha,” by the way, is the chef’s childhood nickname.
The downside: Because of Jose’s main clientele, there are plenty of “squozen” and “skinny” cocktails, and waiters frequently worry customers may find perfectly scrumptious foods to be too spicy.
Fun fact: Quiñones has recently begun a monthly collaboration dinner series with chefs from Mexico and elsewhere, who fly in to cook their specialties. Some have never cooked in the United States before.
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.
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.
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 that 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.
The downside: Wu Wei Din’s version of pressed and spiced pig ears isn’t as flavorful or as snackable as the recipe over at Hunan Bistro.
Fun fact: Many of the menu items are available at the tea house next door, with which Wu Wei Din shares a kitchen.
Ddong Ggo is in the hands of new ownership, but we’re happy to report the infectious fun and shockingly good food that drew us in to this Korean street-style bar are still very much on display. Put 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 coated in garlicky soy sauce, 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 ultra-crispy seafood scallion pancakes and “volcano kimchi fried rice” topped with a fried egg, 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: Don’t come here to order your veggies. Indeed, since the portions are gleefully gluttonous, it’s basically impossible to have a balanced meal here. Whatever. You can live a long, boring life or you can live a short life that involves kimchi cheese pizza pancakes.
Fun fact: Oh, we almost forgot to mention: The name is Korean for “Chicken Butthole.”
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.
Chef Matt McCallister’s new joint was supposed to be a more casual, less ambitious spot with comforting food. It is definitely more casual, and the food is delicious without requiring diners to sneakily Google obscure ingredients or cooking techniques. But McCallister is McCallister, which means there’s still heroic work happening in this ultra-creative kitchen. Homewood makes its own pastas, fish sauce, hot sauce, cured meats and breads, grows a lot of its own produce and pairs everything with natural or organic wines, chosen because they go well with food, rather than because they are famous. Pastry chef Maggie Huff is quite simply the city’s best, and she excels when she’s working with local, seasonal fruit.
Top pick: It’s hard to say because the menu changes almost constantly, but recent highlights have included salmon or trout cooked over an open hearth, beef pastrami on house pumpernickel and pasta with a ragu of pork and spice-free habanada peppers. Also, as a general rule, Homewood is one of the two best pasta places in Dallas, alongside Sachet. (And yes, it is strange that our two best pasta joints aren’t actually Italian.)
The downside: Your favorite dishes will almost certainly be gone the next time you visit. Also, Homewood isn’t especially pedestrian-friendly.
Fun fact: Here’s how McCallister can take a flavor and multiply it: That roasted mushroom side dish is extra-smoky because it’s drizzled with a housemade butter that contains even more roasted mushrooms.
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. But we love the muffuletta pizza Monday night special even more, especially because it joined the regular schedule after we shamelessly lobbied for it in last year’s Top 100 feature.
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.
A strong new contender in Plano’s growing Chinese food scene, Hunan Bistro packs in customers looking for rustic specialties from its namesake province. Garlic cloves remain whole in stir fries, chopped-up chile peppers pile high, and some form of braised pork is on nearly every table. Whole croaker fish get fried without batter until their skins, and bones, are nicely crunchy.
Top pick: The smooth cross-sections of pig ears doused in chili oil are a great appetizer, and “dry pots” featuring proteins like bullfrog are fun to share among a larger table. Don’t miss the quick-fried green beans.
The downside: Maybe study the menu in advance, because it’s a 42-page monster. Also, the scallion pancakes might just be Dallas’ worst.
Fun fact: Hunan Bistro is nextdoor to the DFW Reptarium. One-stop shopping?
Frisco’s best restaurant reinvented itself this summer, ditching breakfast, lunch and brunch to focus on a high-quality dinner experience. It seems to be working, as the century-old Victorian house fills up on weekend evenings with families, dates and customers who just want to enjoy the expansive patio. One thing that hasn’t changed: Owner Richard Vana still stops by every table, making sure guests are loving their deviled eggs, cheddar grits and smoked double-cut pork chops.
Top pick: A summer pasta dish showcasing the kitchen’s dough skills also highlighted local mushrooms by stuffing them into agnolotti and presenting them beautifully on a plate dotted with scoops of pesto and thin, cracker-like croutons.
Fun fact: Everything here is made from scratch, including pastas and ice creams. The Heritage Table is also doubling down on its commitment to local farms for meat and produce.
When Gemma opened six years ago, 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.
In late 2018 and early 2019, Gemma reacted by changing its direction to a more globally-inspired approach, but always preserving Rogers’ impeccable taste and sense of proportion. Squid ink bucatini topped with lobster and uni became one of the restaurant’s biggest hits (though the noodle of choice is now spaghetti); gai lan, bok choy and shishitos joined the all-star squad of vegetable sides. But the rustic Mediterranean spirit lives on in absurdly tender curlicues of octopus in a fiery red sauce that includes ‘nduja and brandy.
Top pick: After the mandatory snack bowl of fried olives and pecans, indulge in some of Dallas’ best house-made pastas, and one of the state’s best wine programs. Oh, and if the head cheese is available, grab it.
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.
Lucia might just be the most beloved restaurant in Dallas. Its fans are fiercely loyal, and most of them live nearby. That following combines with the restaurant’s small size, with fewer than 40 seats, to make securing a table a ritual that requires getting online at the right hour and booking weeks in advance. First-timers might get the wrong idea from all that waiting; Lucia is a resolutely anti-hype place, where service is familial, food is classically Italian and seasonal produce is in the foreground. 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. In the fall, things get meatier, and the main courses, unusually, start looking more interesting than the starters.
Top pick: Everyone talks about Lucia’s pastas, which means they’re missing out on something even better: its bread. Order anything involving bread or toast, whether it involves a bounty of fresh vegetables or a molten blanket of cheddar cheese. If you want to pinch a few slices from the bread basket to take home, maybe bring a pretty big purse.
The downside: Like the reservation system, the downsized dessert program also reflects Lucia’s tiny space.
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.
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. The menu recently enjoyed a redesign which highlights specialties like thalapakatti biryani, with big, tender pieces of goat mixed into the rice. (Watch for bones.) Kumar’s offers a lot of goat, but vegetarian options abound, too — go for the delightfully spicy cauliflower that’s marinated in seasonings and then fried, roasted eggplant or a masala dosa.
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: This might be a strange complaint, but the dining room itself is uninspiring. We’d be more likely to bring guests if the floor, seats, tables, walls and ceiling weren’t all slightly different shades of brown.
Fun fact: Just about everything here is served on a banana leaf, but that’s especially so during weekend lunches, when diners eat with their fingers off the leaves and then signal to waiters to have their helpings replenished with seconds.
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. Be careful with the enchiladas verdes: There are habanero peppers in the salsa, and a lot of them, which makes the enchiladas an excitingly fiery dish.
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: The menu, which is posted on the wall, includes a series of food pictures that don’t have any names or explanations attached. Know what they are, or point and ask.
Fun fact: Limon’s opened a Grand Prairie location in April, marking the first time that that suburb has appeared on our Top 100 list.
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. The noodles are loaded up with shrimp, peanuts and a showering of herbs. Or try a delicately flavored duck noodle soup with fatty, bone-in pieces of bird. Even the egg rolls here are good.
Top pick: The “house special” my kho dac biet noodle bowl is served with broth on the side, so you can eat it as a soup or not. It also comes with a whole, shell-on shrimp baked right into a cracker, and yes, the crispy cracker-bound shrimp shell is edible.
The downside: Bun bo hue and pho aren’t the go-to orders here, so if you want those Vietnamese classics, you’re better off heading elsewhere.
Fun fact: Plan a lunch visit carefully, because La Me fills to capacity at peak lunch hours, and it’s possible a table might be taken up by an employee doing prep work.
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-broth soups? They’ve got those. 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, Del Sur Tacos’ tortilla chips and Lucia’s bread. 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.
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 that might be among the best, and most basil-packed, in the whole state of Texas. If you’re tired of sweet, samey-tasting pad Thai and mild-mannered curries, the Southammavong’s family recipes are a hugely flavorful, brilliantly balanced antidote. Dishes get served from a small window in the back of the market, but customers order at the cash register in the front grocery section. 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.
This chain specializes in burgers and fries loaded 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 opened its sixth location in 2019 in Grapevine, and they’re still growing. Despite the growth, quality control remains high. The Lee brothers plan to conquer all of Dallas’ suburbs before moving into the city itself, where they feel the competition is stronger.
Probably the best-known 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 out the door and around the corner, back to where the smokers warm the restaurant’s side wall. The best meats here include fatty, fork-tender brisket and crisp burnt ends. Jalapeno cheddar sausage, by contrast, is a tray-soaking grease bomb.
Top pick: Grab the Hot Mess, an enormous baked sweet potato topped with a tangle of barbacoa, a hidden layer of cheese and some green onions. Using sweet, rather than regular, potatoes turns out to be an inspired idea. If only it had a few pickled jalapeno slices, this bake would be perfect.
The downside: Where Pecan Lodge falls behind against rivals like Cattleack and The Slow Bone is its side dishes. The bacon-topped mac and cheese is the best of the bunch, while the pinto beans are rather ordinary and the ultra-sweet-and-sour collard greens downright strange.
Fun fact: You can skip the line by sitting, and ordering, at the bar, or by using an express line to order at least 5 pounds of meat.
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 is one-upped on individual dishes by its competitors, like the superior soup dumplings at Fortune House, hand-pulled noodles at Imperial Cuisine or soups at Wu Wei Din. But most of the competition is in the suburbs, and many Dallasites don’t like driving that far.
Fun fact: After The Grape closed in October, Royal China became the oldest restaurant in the Top 100. Just a few weeks after The Grape’s last service, Royal China had a particularly close call with fate when a tornado destroyed the shopping center across the street, but left this restaurant’s building more or less undamaged. The kitchen was open again just a few weeks later.
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.
2625 Old Denton Road, Carrollton (Carrollton Korea Town)
At Arirang, it’s about noodles and dumplings. This Korean restaurant in Carrollton is tops for homemade dough, whether you order from-scratch noodles or plump, freshly crimped kimchi dumplings. Be careful around the noodles with spicy eggplant sauce, because the word “spicy” is taken very seriously.
Top pick: If you can’t decide, grab a bowl of soup No. 4, a noodle soup with dumplings in it, too; if the dumplings tear and disgorge their meat into the broth, the soup only gets better.
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.
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.
Top pick: Save room for kunefe, the iconic crispy, cheesy, sweet Turkish dessert. Before that, be sure to try hot hummus, an enormous appetizer portion of hummus served warm and topped with gyro meat or spicy Turkish sujuk sausage.
The downside: Whenever we visit Tantuni, it’s almost completely empty. This is unjust. Readers, you know what to do.
Fun fact: Tantuni is a great spot for BYOB.
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. There are breakfast and dessert options, too; at breakfast, consider the fiery-hot shakshuka crepe with a runny egg yolk perched in the middle, or a crepe filled with smoked salmon. Eelsen, a Parisian native, delights in the flavors of Oak Cliff, sourcing local barbecue and deli meats for some of his dishes. In the mornings, this is a good place to lounge around with coffee, but Whisk is also probably the best place in Dallas to enjoy a bottle of dry, hard cider from France.