Food & Drink

The Best Hidden-Gem Restaurants in Dallas

Published On 06/14/2016 Published On 06/14/2016
Nazca Kitchen Ceviche
NAZCA Kitchen | Joy Zhang
Joy Zhang

Nazca Kitchen

North Dallas

Despite Nazca’s location -- tucked into a shopping strip off Walnut Hill -- fans have flocked to this sunlit, modern spot for impeccable South American fare since its opening in late 2012. The fish tacos served in butter lettuce leaves and zesty roast chicken are perennial favorites, and the restaurant was serving up fresh-squeezed juice blends before that trend took off. A hidden gem at this hidden gem is the brunchy Perico Wrap, with eggs, meats, veggies, and fried yuca.

Big Daddy’s Convenience Store

South Dallas

That this fried chicken joint is located in a mini-mart should speak volumes about its hidden-gem cred. Often credited with making the best fried bird in Dallas, Big Daddy’s is also beloved for its fried chicken salad, a bed of lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles topped with meat that’s chopped up while you wait. This is one salad that’s not meant for your diet. Regulars also dig the no-frills pork chop basket and fried fish, and know to expect a wait around lunch time.

La' Me

Lake Highlands

It’s easy to get drawn into the pan-Asian wonderland that is Bistro B, which anchors this North Dallas shopping plaza. But overlooking the tiny storefront that is La' Me would be a travesty, if you’re all up into Vietnamese food. This family-owned bakery/restaurant dishes up a fine bowl of pho, but also incredible bún chả giò, and some of the finest crusty-meaty banh mi in all of Dallas. Expect zero frills and mind-blowing flavors.

Local

Local

Deep Ellum

Consider Local the fanciest hole in the fanciest wall. Amid all the new eateries cropping up seemingly every week right up the street, Local retains its rep as a sleek farm-to-fork powerhouse. Step through the doors of this restored hotel and you’re immersed in a dimly lit and sexy dining destination that features modern American eats with European touches. Think handmade ravioli, ahi tartare, and stout-braised short rib. Then think about relaxing with some wine and investing an evening here.

Kazy’s Gourmet Shop

Lake Highlands

Walking into this unassuming spot, you’ll be confronted with a tempting array of Japanese dining tools and utensils. Don’t give in to anything, though, unless you’ve laid eyes on the menu. Kazy’s is actually a huge supplier of sushi-grade seafood to some of the best Japanese eateries in the state, but it also houses a counter for sitting in and ordering sashimi, nigiri, sushi, and dumplings for a steal. It may not be the best of the best that’s served in-house, but you’ll still feel like you’re paying wholesale when you get your bill.

Big Mama’s Chicken & Waffles

Lake Highlands

This iconic drive-through revels in its cash-only, no-seating status, and while there’s usually a wait for Big Mama’s goods, the restaurant’s namesake is worth it. Note that there’s no actual chicken & waffles basket or platter -- you have to order your mess of wings or box of mixed chicken pieces and get the Belgian waffle as a side. Skip all the others, don’t forget the butter and syrup, and dive into this Southern classic every chance you get.

Gabriela & Sofia's Tex Mex

Gabriela & Sofia’s Tex-Mex Restaurant

Preston Hollow

It’s not just that nearly every popular Tex-Mex dish you can think of is served here, it’s that this clubby hideaway a few doors down from a Tom Thumb makes them so damn well. From guac that’s prepared tableside, to the signature Fajita-changa, to the excellent brisket tacos, there’s not one course that doesn’t have two or three top-notch standouts. Plus, the full bar serves margs and mojitos ready for pairing. Pro tip/hangover hint: breakfast tacos are served here all day.

Pho Truong

Richardson

Pho-natics rave about the traditional Vietnamese soup at this casual eatery, particularly when it’s loaded with every beefy option: marbled tendon, toothsome brisket, silken filet, and hearty meatball. Pho Truong also has a seafood pho with shellfish and fish balls. A nice touch is that you can order soups in different sizes. In addition to soup, don’t miss the outstanding noodle and rice bowls with grilled meats, or the refreshing tapioca-decked smoothies.

Tacos Mariachi

West Dallas

The bright, happy exterior of this Tijuana-flavored eatery looks like your taste buds will feel once you bite into the impressive seafood tacos here. The Mexican classic gets chef-crafty touches and all manner of seaside fillings, including smoked salmon, shrimp, grilled octopus, and fried fish. A chicharron-crusted fillet tucked into a tortilla and stacked with avocado mousse and crema is a Tuesday-only special worth making a weekly thing.

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1. Nazca Kitchen 8041 Walnut Hill Ln, Dallas, TX 75231 (Central Expressway)

Named for the Nazca Lines -- like crop circles, except in the shape of monkeys, jaguars, and other stuff that's more fun than circles -- Nazca Kitchen serves South American fare in a bright and breezy North Dallas space. Great for a casual dinner or colorful brunch, come in and sample super fresh dishes like chili chicken wraps, slow roasted pork vieja, and butter leaf tacos. Be sure to indulge in the much hyped bread pudding for dessert!

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2. Big Daddy's Fried Chicken 4210 Colonial Ave, Dallas, TX 75215

This old-school Southern hole in the wall isn't a lot to look at but man, does it taste good. Eschew good looks in favor of country-fried chicken platters, piled high with rice, cheese, and all the fixings. If you're looking for an, ahem, healthy option, go for Big Daddy's fried chicken salad. It's a rather sizable portion of chopped chicken served atop a bed of iceberg lettuce, fresh tomatoes, and sweet pickles.

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3. Lá Me 9780 Walnut St Ste 140, Dallas, TX 75243 (Lake Highlands)

This bright and cozy Vietnamese cafe is a solid choice for a flavorful lunch on the cheap. The menu highlights traditional Banh Mi pate sandwiches on crisp French rolls, sweet and creamy Vietnamese iced coffees, and a create your own pho option. The friendly staff and quick service make dining in a treat.

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4. Local 2936 Elm St, Dallas, TX 75226 (Deep Ellum)

This stylish Deep Ellum eatery serves farm to fork fare inside quaint, mid-century modern inspired digs. Simple, grilled vegetable salads, herb marinated seafood, and braised local beef round out the well-curated menu. If everything looks too good to pass up, try the chef's tasting menu for your chance to sample (all) the goods. Craft beer and wine cocktails will whet your whistle while you dine.

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5. Kazy's Gourmet 9256 Markville Dr, Dallas, TX 75243 (Far North Dallas)

What better place is there to order sushi than from the place that supplies all the area's other sushi restaurants? Originally a small Japanese corner market opened in '79, Kazy's has since expanded into a full-fledged wholesaler, grocer and sushi bar. If you've got some time on your hands and want a little mystery, this is the spot. The menu isn't found anywhere online, so you'll either have to wing it or call ahead (on the phone, like an adult). The sushi bar has a reputation for its slow service, but the aisles are always fun to browse while you wait.

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6. Big Mama's Chicken & Waffles 9810 Forest Ln, Dallas, TX 75243 (Lake Highlands)

This iconic, cash-only, drive-thru spot in Lake Highlands offers food happiness in spades with its fried fowl, corn fritters, and some of the best Belgian waffles in town. Open until midnight during the week and 3am on the weekends, Big Mama has you covered when it comes to late night munchies. Park and order at the drive-thru window if you're in a rush.

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7. Gabriela's & Sofia's 10455 N Central Expy, Dallas, TX 75231 (North Dallas)

Outwardly, Gabriela & Sofia's looks like most other Tex-Mex spot in North Dallas: Its tucked away in a strip mall along the Central Expressway, predictably alongside a Tom Thumb. Something about this spot, however, keeps customers coming back, as you can see from its perpetually packed dining are and bar. Traditional of any abode of Tex-Mex, this restaurant's menu is endless, most selections keep it under $10, and every item is brilliantly self-explanatory (tacos, fajitas, enchiladas; you want it, they got it). Admittedly, this place is surprisingly sleek for a Tex-Mex joint, too. Its brightly colored yet not garish, has sleek, black leather furnishing and modern neon lighting.

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8. Pho Truong 516 W Arapaho Rd, Richardson, TX 75080

Designed with wall-mirrors, shrubbery, and a casual vibe, this space is ideal for large groups and solo diners alike who'll come together in the name of Dallas' most authentic pho. The dish here is loaded with every beefy option: marbled tendon, toothsome brisket, silken filet, and hearty meatball. A nice touch is that you can order soups in different sizes. In addition to the vietnamese soup, Pho Truong offers a bevy of rice, bahn mi, and vegan options.

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9. Tacos Mariachi 602 Singleton Blvd, Dallas, TX 75212 (West Dallas)

Tacos Mariachi in West Dallas serves Tijuana-style Mexican food, which translates to street food plates like fries drenched in mole sauce and corn tortilla tacos loaded with carne asada, grilled octopus, sliced avocado. Cash-wise, it's a total bang for your buck.

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