The 17 Most Essential Food Experiences in Dallas

Get your fill of queso, tacos, chicken fried steaks, and other DFW favorites.

Fearing's Patio
Fearing's | Fearing's
Fearing's | Fearing's

At the beginning of any new year, most people make a resolution or two. Oftentimes, these ambitious proclamations involve giving something up, such as booze for Dry January. But setting goals is also a big part of kicking off a fresh 12-month cycle. So, while some people enthusiastically join Team Fit & Healthy every January 1, we tend to be more realistic with our ambitions and instead set out to feed our indulgent side—quite literally. If you’re like us and proudly part of Team Gluttony, we figured this was the ideal time of year to update our culinary bucket list for Dallas-Fort Worth. As always, we’ve included several iconic staples of the DFW dining scene as well as some new-to-the-scene dishes that simply must be tried. Whether you’re visiting the North Texas area for the first time or are a longtime resident, eating your way through this list of the city’s best food (from brisket to burgers) will give you a very well-rounded sampling. And, most likely, a very well-rounded belly.

Trinity Groves
Only in Texas would steak tacos be an appetizer leading up to more beef for the main course, but that’s one of the joys of being a carnivore in the Lone Star State. Sure, we have a roundup of fantastic places for tacos further down this list, but these delightful tacos are so good they’re worthy of a solo shout-out. Made with premium Wagyu steak cradled in cheese-crusted tortillas and topped with horseradish cream, pickled shallots, and micro arugula, these tacos are superstars on a menu filled with plenty of other great dishes.
How to order: Make a reservation via OpenTable.

Mattito's Bob Armstrong Dip
Mattito's | Mattito's


Various locations
If we were to recreate the food pyramid, there would be a full section devoted simply to queso. The ubiquitous cheesy dip can be found on menus all over the city, and not simply at Mexican restaurants, so it’s worth pointing out some of our favorites when that queso craving strikes. One of the most famous in Dallas, the Bob Armstrong Dip, can be found at every Mattito’s location. It’s a classic combo of creamy queso, seasoned ground beef, chunky guacamole, and sour cream. When you’re at El Vecino, order the mushroom and poblano version with a side of flour tortillas. At Escondido, try the Queso Perfecto, which included brisket, guac, pico, and salsa verde. Or, for a straightforward, simple bowl that exemplifies classic queso, head to Texadelphia for some liquid gold served alongside a juicy cheesesteak.

Pigs Head Carnitas at CBD Provisions at The Joule
CBD Provisions at The Joule | CBD Provisions at The Joule

Downtown Dallas
For years, one of the most photo-worthy, jaw-dropping dishes in Dallas has been this wild version of carnitas. You have to plan ahead for this platter of Berkshire pork, but it’s worth it. The whole pig’s head arrives at the table for a family-style build-your-own taco feast, complete with fresh corn tortillas, two kinds of salsa, limes, and a radish-onion slaw. And as a courtesy, maybe don’t invite any vegans along for this particular presentation.
How to order: Book a table via Resy then call 214-261-4500 at least 24 hours in advance of your reservation to request the carnitas dish.

Alaskan King Crab at Monarch
Monarch | Monarch

Downtown Dallas
It should come as no surprise that one of Dallas’ most lavish dining experiences—and some of the most incredible skyline views from its 49th-floor location—would include a $1,000 entree. Bucket lists are all about aspirations, right? Splurge on the Live Alaskan King Crab (served non-alive, of course) as interpreted by Michelin-starred chef Danny Grant. The impressive spread of crab legs comes with chilled lettuce wraps, spicy mini buns, and tableside rigatoni so you can mix and match how you indulge in this ultimate seafood delight.
How to book: Reserve a table online and request a seat on the north side of the restaurant for million-dollar sunset views to accompany your thousand-dollar crab.

Highland Park BLT at Nitro Burger
Nitro Burger | Nitro Burger

Trinity Groves
When a burger and a lobster love each other very much, they come together in one very special handheld at the latest venture from chef Julian Rodarte. The Highland Park BLT (Bacon, Lobster, and Truffle Burger) only costs $10, but it’s a decadent, perfectly portioned representation of Dallas opulence in a neat little package. Benton's bacon, crispy fried lobster, truffle aioli, truffle cheese, lettuce, and tomato get stacked high on a tender bun for a surf-and-turf option that’s as tasty as it is affordable. (Pro tip: Order just one so you can save room for a liquid nitrogen milkshake loaded with booze.)
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

East Dallas
There may be some dispute over when and where the first frozen margarita was made, but Mariano Martinez secured his place in history (and the Smithsonian Institute) with his invention of the frozen margarita machine, responsible for consistent brain-freeze-inducing tequila concoctions the world over. Though they’ve tricked out their margarita options over the years, the original frozen always makes a great place to start (add a sangria swirl for round two). And if you want to explore all the great versions in town check out the Margarita Mile, a handy guide for a DIY tasting journey around the city.
How to book: Make a reservation via OpenTable or belly up to the bar for first come, first served seating.

Bubba’s Cooks Country
Janice Provost

Park Cities; Frisco
When you’re craving a two-piece with homestyle sides and a fluffy yeast roll, head here. The crew at Bubba’s have been serving some of the very best fried chicken in the city since 1981. You can get yours on-the-bone or as tenders with gravy for dipping. And if you want a little hokey-pokey with your fried chicken, make an event out of eating at one of the family’s many Babe’s Chicken Dinner House locations.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

A day trip to Grapevine is worth it for the local wineries alone, but while you’re there, a stop at Tolbert’s is an absolute must for true Texas chili. An authentic “bowl of red” never, ever includes beans (though you can get a northerner version if you simply must). Try the chili in its purest form in a cup, bowl, or super bowl, or let it shine as the star ingredient in Frank’s Frito Pie or the Terlingua burger that comes doused in the red stuff. (Pro tip: Schedule your visit when there’s live music for a double dose of Texas tradition.)
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Damn Damn
Damn Damn

Park Cities; Farmers Branch
Mexican food doesn’t hold the exclusive patent on spicy food in Dallas and these noodles with a cult-like following prove that the Scoville scale should be taken very seriously indeed. The traditional Dan Dan noodle entrée typically has a medium-level heat, but chef Uno doesn’t play around with this signature dish that she promises will have you screaming, “Damn! Damn!” while you’re eating it (and much of the next day). Ground chicken, baby bok choy, Thai chili, peanuts, and green onions combine with ramen noodles before a topper of Thai chili oil that makes every bite hurt so good. (Also available as a banh mi sandwich.)
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

East Dallas
You’ll find a lot of 1950s-style drive-in burger joints in Dallas, each with a ferociously loyal fanbase, but it’s hard to beat this one-location gem that’s been serving homemade root beer and juicy burgers since 1956. Best of all, you don’t ever have to get out of your vehicle. Simply flash your lights and a carhop will pop out to take your order, which absolutely positively should include onion rings.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or stay in your vehicle for friendly carhop service.

Oak’d Smoked Meats
Oak’d | Kathy Tran

Barbecue brisket

Various locations
It would be entirely possible (and equally enjoyable) to eat wonderfully marbled, fork-tender, slow-smoked brisket at a different BBQ joint every single day for an entire year. But even for extreme beef lovers, this could get a little mundane (and probably wouldn't be great for the arteries). Instead, focus on a week’s worth of barbecue from some of the best in the region such as the original Sonny Bryan’s location near Love Field, Pecan Lodge in Deep Ellum, Heim Barbecue in Fort Worth (and soon to open in Dallas), Lockhart Smokehouse in Bishop Arts District, Blu’s Barbecue in Far North Dallas, Oak’d Handcrafted BBQ, Smokey Joe's BBQ, One90 Smoked Meats, and Ferris Wheelers Backyard & BBQ in the Design District. Make sure you don’t wear white.

Chicken Fried Steak Platter at Norma's Cafe
Norma's Cafe | Norma's Cafe

Chicken fried steak

Various locations
Locals don’t just love a big ol’ slab of steak, they also love it battered, deep-fried, and covered in creamy white gravy. Norma’s Cafe, a local diner chain, has long been known as a purveyor of fine fried meats, but you’ll also find top-notch versions at Ozona Grill & Bar, Street’s Fine Chicken,AllGood Cafe, and perhaps most surprisingly at Prégo Pasta House, where it’s an (amazing) off-menu item that’s no longer the well-kept secret it used to be.

 Fearings tortilla soup

Many restaurants serve tortilla soup these days, but chef Dean Fearing made it famous decades ago with his iconic take on the soul-warming favorite. The presentation itself might make it one of the only soups in history to be worthy of a Ritz-Carlton (the hotel in which his restaurant resides). All the components (avocado, chicken, radishes, tortilla strips) are presented in a deep bowl before the velvety smooth stock gets poured on top by your server. (Don’t worry, it’s equally good as takeout.)
How to book: Reserve a seat via OpenTable.

Taqueria Taxco
TrompoTaqueria Taxco

Tacos from a taqueria

Various locations
Finding a restaurant in Dallas that doesn’t have tacos on the menu can be a challenge, they’re such a ubiquitous part of the dining culture here. But for the truest way to savor flavorful ingredients wrapped in tortillas, go right to the source—a good old-fashioned taqueria. Known for not being fancy places whatsoever, the dish is as delicious as it is affordable. Our handful of no-frills favorites include Taqueria El Si Hay, Trompo, Fuel City, Resident Taqueria, and Tacos La Banqueta Puro DF. Meanwhile, some of the best you-won’t-believe-they’re-all-vegan options can be enjoyed at El Palote Panadería.

Preston Royal; Oak Lawn
For the freshest, highest quality seafood in town, TJ’s Seafood Market has long been one of the most trustworthy sources for fish of near-infinite varieties. In addition to the market where you can grab your favorite underwater proteins to prep a meal at home, the restaurant draws in people who’d much rather someone else do all the work. And if there’s one dish that truly captures the essence of TJ’s, it’s the Connecticut-style lobster roll, served hot with butter-sautéed claw and tail meat, garlic, and thyme on a pillowy La Spiga brioche roll.
How to book: Reserve a table online.

Akaushi at Knife Steakhouse
Knife Steakhouse | Kevin Marple

A big ol’ juicy steak

Various locations
Steakhouses have always been a mainstay of the Dallas dining scene, both as places where big-bucks business deals take place over martinis and filets and the go-to option for a celebratory meal for birthdays, graduations, and pandemic vaccines. Among the mightiest of the meaty, you’ll never regret a Prime Cowboy Ribeye from Al Biernat’s, an impressive Tomahawk with a view at SĒR Steak + Spirits, a Prime porterhouse from the flagship location of Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, or one of John Tesar’s dry-aged steaks aged up to 240 days at Knife Steakhouse.

Fletcher's Original Corny Dogs
Fletcher's Original Corny Dogs

Klyde Warren Park
If you missed out on the State Fair of Texas, fear not. An Original Corny Dog slathered in mustard can now be procured any day of the year at Klyde Warren Park where one of its trucks now has a permanent spot. Now you can enjoy year-round on-a-stick delights, including turkey dogs, veggie dogs, and cheese all dipped in the famous, family-recipe batter.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served ordering from the food truck.

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Steven Lindsey is a contributor for Thrillist.