Food & Drink

13 Restaurants That Make Up the Essential Dallas Dining Experience

Published On 08/04/2016 Published On 08/04/2016
Mesa

Mesa

Oak Cliff

Thanks to classics like the supremely popular mole, seemingly no celebrity can pass through town without a meal at this Oak Cliff spot specializing in Veracruzan favorites. Mesa also has the distinction of being one of few true, purely Mexican restaurants to win and sustain the adoration of even the staunchest Tex-Mex lover.

Courtesy of Cane Rosso

Cane Rosso

Deep Ellum (& other locations)

Before Cane Rosso, Dallas mostly enjoyed pizza from chains or the scads of mom-and-pops that claim to serve "NY-style" pies. But this local powerhouse with numerous branches raised the collective pizza bar by bringing char-edged, thin-crusted, Italy-certified Neapolitan pizza to town, and we ate it up to the point that it's practically Neapolitan or nothin' up in here.

Fearing's

Fearing's

Uptown

Star chef Dean Fearing ushered in big, bold cowboy and Southwestern cuisine with an approachably haute sensibility when his showplace opened at the Ritz-Carlton. Now it's a Western-chic-themed chapel for those who can't get enough of plates like apricot barbecue-glazed salmon and Chef Dean's famous tortilla soup.

Kevin Marple

Cafe Momentum

Downtown

With this new American bistro, local chefs and co-founders Chad Houser and Janice Provost showed that the Dallas restaurant scene's heart is as big as its appetite. The nonprofit eatery takes in incarcerated youths and teaches them to shine at all levels of service in-house, from kitchen to front-of-house, giving at-risk kids a chance to build a brighter future. So dine out and chip in.

Elliott Munoz

Bolsa

Oak Cliff

Even though it'd been a thing in NYC and LA for awhile, the farm-to-table trend was firmly ushered into Dallas when hip, low-lit Bolsa came to town. Many years in -- meaning more than five years, a local milestone -- and you can still find a wait for the thoughtfully sourced meats and produce, expertly made desserts and fine craft cocktails here. We also have Bolsa to thank for introducing us to badass bartenders Eddie "Lucky" Campbell and Kyle Hilla and chefs extraordinaire Graham Dodds and Andrew Bell.

Stampede 66

Stampede 66

Uptown

Stephan Pyles' edible ode to Texas cookery is a culinary treat that excites both locals and visitors alike. Between the taco menu, honey-drizzled fried chicken and a chili pie with house-made corn chips, the menu is practically a love letter to the state's tastiest plates. From flavored chicharrones appetizers to creamy desserts in a jar, it's a letter we love keeping in our back pocket.

Pecan Lodge

Pecan Lodge

Deep Ellum

Argue away as to which BBQ joint's smoked meats are better, but since its early days operating out of a booth at the Farmers Market, Pecan Lodge has had brisket and rib lovers lining up around the building. Now in its own building in the sizzling Deep Ellum neighborhood, there's room to stretch out -- all the better to loosen one's belt after pounds of beef ribs, mac & cheese, and pulled pork-loaded baked potatoes.

The Grape

The Grape

Lower Greenville

This bistro was so Lower Greenville before Lower Greenville became Lower Greenville. And owners Brian and Courtney Luscher have made sure it's stood the test of time by keeping super-talented chefs de cuisine on hand to keep the European-inspired eats interesting and current and maintaining longtime classics like the addictive mushroom soup. A spot-on happy hour and one of the city's best burgers don't hurt business, either.

Lucia

Oak Cliff

Spending years atop the list of Dallas' toughest tables has shined quite the spotlight on chef-owner David Uygur's tiny Italian gem. From pastas to cured meats, everything is as handmade as can be, with a rotating menu that spotlights numerous specialties. To be enjoyed, of course, if you can snag a table: reservations open on the first of the month and tend to be gone by... a few hours later on the first of the month. The bar seating is always open on a first-come-first-served basis.

Rosewood Mansion

The Mansion Restaurant

Uptown

In addition to impeccable, industry-leading restaurant service, this Uptown icon is almost as well known for turning out upper tier chefs as it is for the fine-dining menu. Kent Rathbun, Dean Fearing, and John Tesar all sharpened their knives here, helping build the cache of this elegant purveyor of tasting menus, steaks, and seafood, and fine wine. It's still THE best special-occasion spot in town.

Smoke Restaurant Dallas

Smoke

West Dallas and Plano

This brainchild of Chef Tim Byres gave barbecue a modern, chef-y flair, dazzling local diners enough to demand a second location up north. Sure the pulled whole hog and coffee-cured brisket are phenomenal here, but the Southern-influenced brunch also had a big hand in shooting Smoke into the stratosphere, thanks to plates like smoked brisket cornbread hash and blueberry and ricotta pancakes.

Five Sixty

Five Sixty

Downtown

Sure, this is just one culinary cog in master chef Wolfgang Puck's global restaurant machine, but it also inhabits one of our skyline's most iconic architectural landmarks, so it's also a place of great interest and curiosity to visitors and locals alike. Thankfully, the pan-Asian menu also slays, from Peking duck to all manner of sushi rolls to Eastern-influenced cocktails. Pop in at sunset to take advantage not only of the cityscapes at sunset but some fantastic food and drink specials at the bar.

Pepe's & Mito's Mexican Cafe

Deep Ellum

No list of Dallas essential dining destinations is complete without a good, solid Tex-Mex entry, and this colorful, cozy corner of Deep Ellum fits the bill and then some. The enchiladas are amazing, the queso's on point, and the margaritas make every hour happy hour. It can get a little bustling at lunchtime, but that, too, is part of the charm.

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1. Mesa 118 W Jefferson Blvd, Dallas, TX 75208

With wood clock paneling, painted white brick walls, and mahogany-wash cement floors, Mesa's take on the Latin dining experience is far more rustic than most. And the food itself far more modern: presentation is minimal but that doesn't mean its small selection of enchiladas, carne asada, and fresh seafood are any less flavorful. Nor are the cocktails, which draw Latin influences (it's either mezcal or tequila here) and use flavors like lime, mint, peppers, and cinnamon.

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2. Cane Rosso 2612 Commerce St, Dallas, TX 75226 (Deep Ellum)

This Texas pizza chainlet (it has locations across the Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston areas) serves quality Neapolitan pies that stick to the rules of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, aka Neapolitan pizza's governing body. There are a ton of pizzas to choose from, from standard marinara and margherita to the Paulie Gee, an ode to the eponymous Brooklyn pizzeria. The menu also includes Italian sandwiches and a few pasta dishes. Ranch dressing lovers beware: owner Jay Jerrier has famously banned diners from ordering it on the side.

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3. Fearing's 2121 McKinney Ave, Dallas, TX 75201 (Uptown)

The Ritz-Carlton location of this Victory Park restaurant should tell you more than you need to know about its high-caliber luxury, but its founder and executive chef Dean Fearing is even more telling of what you'll eat here. Fearing, known as the Father of Southwestern Cuisine who wrote best-selling 'The Texas Food Bible,' curates a menu full of modern Southwestern fare like spicy tortilla soups, bbq oysters, and mesquite grilled antelope.

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4. Cafe Momentum 1510 Pacific Ave, Dallas, TX 75201 (Downtown)

Food and drink aside, the people at Café Momentum are doing a phenomenal thing by providing at-risk youth who have spent time in the juvenile detention system the opportunity to learn not only culinary, but job and life skills. While it’s one thing to do a good deed, it’s another to pull it off and provide amazing food and service along with the heartwarming backstory. Now you can enjoy the thoughtful, local fare with notes of international flair, likes of shrimp & grit beignets and smoked fried chicken (and the solid selection of European wines).

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5. Bolsa 614 W Davis St, Dallas, TX 75208 (Oak Cliff)

Located in the historic Settles Garage, Bolsa offers up a menu of American cuisine for brunch and dinner. The longstanding spot scores with creative cocktails you can't get anywhere else, like the The Shepherd with Mount Gay Extra Old, arugula, goats milk yogurt syrup, and lime. A covered outdoor patio with heat lamps makes it a solid spot to camp out even when the weather gets a bit nippy.

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6. Stampede 66 1717 McKinney Ave, Ste 100, Dallas, TX 75202 (Uptown)

This Uptown spot of like the classier brother of your favorite southern steakhouse franchise, and it's so Texas it hurts (in the good way). Hanging longhorns, cowhide seating, highway signs, and sculptures from well-know artists in the state are merely a backdrop for food that's equally Texan. Southwestern staples and American takes on Mexican fare like chicken tamales, tacos topped with beef brisket and fried oysters, and (of course) top-notch bbq offer up a new experience that manages to maintain that familial feeling one can only get in Texas.

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7. Pecan Lodge 2702 Main St, Dallas, TX 75226 (Deep Ellum)

This always-bustling, 4,500 square-foot bbq restaurant with a patio overlooking Main Street graces plates with some of the best smoked meat around -- a bold statement for Texas, where the smoker reigns king. The mesquite charred brisket, ribs, and pulled pork stand fine on their own but they're also killer on a sandwich, and in the event you can't decide which meat to get, there's always The Pitmaster, a behemoth of a sandwich with every single one along with coleslaw, bbq sauce, and fresh sliced jalapeños.

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8. The Grape 2808 Greenville Ave, Dallas, TX 75206 (Lower Greenville)

Helmed by Chef/Owner Brian Luscher (of Luscher's Red Hots fame), The Grape was originally opened in 1972 and has served approachable, European influenced fare at affordable prices ever since. The menu changes monthly, though, so the Grape never feels stodgy or old-guard. The charming, bistro-like interior and homestyle fare (blueberry pancakes, shrimp and grits) make The Grape a great brunch option

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9. Lucia 408 W 8th St, Dallas, TX 75208 (Bishop Arts Dist)

It's hard to snag a table at this neighborhood Italian restaurant in the Bishop Arts District, but if you can, it's totally worth it. Chef David Uygur describes the eclectic menu of this cozy spot as “doing what an Italian would do with the list of ingredients that he can get in Dallas.” That means locally sourced game, handmade pasta, and bold, flavorful ragus. Favorites include the ramp and ricotta tortellini, mustard green gnudi, and Texas wagyu coulotte.

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10. The Mansion 2505 Pacific, Dallas, TX 75219 (Deep Ellum)

One of Dallas's finest restaurants, the Mansion's been serving up good ol' American fare with a French twist for decades. Brunch with bottomless mimosas packs a punch for your brain, your belly, and your wallet, but it's all worth it thanks to buttermilk biscuits and gravy with jalapeno sausage, eggs, and hash browns. If you're aiming to impress, the Brunch Tasting Menu culminates in the Dessert Buffet, a behemoth that features goodies like French macarons and pistachio financiers. Lunch and dinner boast savory items like Wagyu Strip sided-up with smoked duck fat fries (it's no wonder it's called the Mansion).

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11. Smoke 2408 Preston Rd, Plano, TX 75093 (Plano)

The eclectic Southwestern decor and back patio at Smoke makes diners feel less like they're outside a strip mall in West Plano and more like they're in a adobe home in New Mexico. Quiet suburban crowds gather on the multicolored seating for brunch, lunch, and dinner and leave with loosened belts because they've stuffed themselves to the brim with Latin-inspired and Southwestern fare like bbq spare ribs, coffee-cured brisket, and grilled quail prepared by James Beard Award-winning Tim Byres.

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12. Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck 300 Reunion Blvd E, Dallas, TX 75207 (Downtown)

If the location at the top of Reunion Tower, the most notable feature of the Dallas skyline, doesn't hint to you that this place means business, then the attached name Wolfgang Puck should. Before the food even arrives, you'll be stunned by 360-degree views (the floor rotates!) and polished, contemporary furniture full of tourists, celebratory family outings, and couples splurging for date night. It sets what seems like an unmeetable standard for the food, but the menu of Japanese fare like sushi, fresh grilled fish, and Szechuan beef is more than up to the task.

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13. Pepe's & Mito's Mexican Cafe 2911 Elm St, Dallas , TX 75226 (Deep Ellum)

Deep Ellum's most vibrant cantina-style restaurants is, not surprisingly, doling out some of the best Mexican fare around. But this is not Tex-Mex -- what's on your plate here is what they call "Mex-Tex," meaning this stuff's a lot more authentic then your usual taco haunt. The house specialties include steaming-hot fajita plates, ribeye steaks drizzled in homemade salsa, and breaded, fried catfish. But if you want to take the more... more-traveled, there is still a classic Tex-Mex combo menu.

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