Food & Drink

8 of Dallas' most classic, old-school restaurants

Published On 08/27/2014 Published On 08/27/2014
Most Iconic Restaurants DAL
David Maez

Change isn’t always a good thing. While this wisdom does not apply to your underwear, it does apply to restaurants. There's something to be said for being confident in what you do and doing it well. These eight Dallas classics aren't busy chasing trends, they're just turning out the same deliciousness that's been making people happy (and heavy) for generations.

Jimmy’s Food Store

East Dallas
We don’t have a Little Italy in Dallas, but we do have Jimmy’s, the closest you can get to Italy without leaving the Metroplex since 1966. From their homemade Italian sausage (preferred by many local restaurants), espresso, and cannoli to the plentiful wine and amazing deli sandwiches piled high with cured meats, Jimmy's is the Italian grandmother you never had (unless you have one). But perhaps the best part about Jimmy's is the back room just past the deli and the bathrooms, a dark hidden alcove with a bit of a Godfather vibe.

Norma’s Cafe

Norma’s Cafe

Oak Cliff
Roll up your sleeves and be sure you've saved money for the jukebox and room in your stomach. Since 1956, Norma's has been serving up textbook Texas comfort food. The real highlight is the breakfast -- the biscuits and gravy are life changing (and shortening), especially if you went a little too hard the night before. Norma's success has spawned outposts in Frisco and North Dallas, but if you can, make a pilgrimage to the Oak Cliff original.

El Fenix Mexican Restaurant

El Fenix

Serving standout Tex-Mex in its original location since 1911, El Fenix is a Dallas icon. The margaritas are consistently voted among the best in town, and the food's as affordable as it is satisfying. The walking distance to American Airlines Center makes it an easy choice before games, just keep your margarita consumption in check.

David Maez


M Streets
Though this joint was originally founded as Campisi's Egyptian Lounge in 1946, the Campisi family didn’t have enough money to pay for a new sign during renovations -- so they just changed "Lounge" to "Restaurant". This dimly lit restaurant has remained virtually unchanged since its opening and has had some interesting connections. Jack Ruby was a regular here and actually paid a visit the day before he killed Lee Harvey Oswald. The Campisi family founders were no strangers to organized crime, but of course that also meant they had really good pizza (which remains the case). You got a problem with that, pal?

David Maez

Highland Park Soda Fountain

Pull up a stool for some old-school soda fountain nostalgia (even if you aren't old enough to actually be nostalgic about soda fountains). Since 1911, Highland Park's been serving crowd-pleasing shakes, malts, and other classic treats. If you’re hungry, they serve a hearty breakfast. Oh, and also Frito pie! And... goose liver? Well, if that doesn't go well for you, you can always wash it down with a massive milkshake.

The Old Warsaw

The Old Warsaw

Uptown Dallas
The Old Warsaw has been an Uptown staple for elegant dining since 1948. Specializing in French Continental and packing an extensive wine list with more than 460 selections, it's best for celebrations and special occasions. Look for classic "I'm feeling like an oil tycoon" dishes like Beef Wellington and Lobster Thermidor. So basically, you won't want to pop in after a few beers from happy hour in a Dead Kennedys T-shirt -- that is, unless you’re Mark Cuban, in which case you get to wear pretty much whatever you want.

Royal China

Royal China

Preston Hollows
Royal China, appropriately located on Royal Ln, has been a Dallas favorite since its opening in 1974. The same family that originally opened the restaurant has perfected their craft for over 35 years, so the food is clearly on point. But there's also excitement about its newest addition: a dumpling bar staffed by none other than the "Dumpling Ladies" -- a duo of China-born chefs trained in dumpling wizardry. Fine, SOMETIMES change can be good.

Tupinamba Mexican Restaurant

Tupinamba Mexican Restaurant

The founder of Tupinamba, Papa Froylan Dominguez, fled Mexico at the height of the Mexican Revolution in 1910 with his family recipes clutched closely by his side. After perfecting those recipes alongside his wife, he opened their first location in 1947. Since then, Tupinamba's been a Dallas go-to for great Tex-Mex. It’s rumored that the nacho and the sour cream enchilada were first introduced to Dallas here. Clearly that has worked out well.

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1. Jimmy's Food Store 4901 Bryan St, Dallas, TX 75206 (East Dallas)

This Dallas mainstay is the go-to local spot for all-things-Italian. Founded in 1996, the specialty food store has been a family-owned crowd favorite for over 50 years. Daily, the staff hand-rolls meatballs and bakes Italian sweets (with old, family recipes, of course) in the back of the shop, while in front, they help patrons select gourmet groceries and bottles from their carefully curated Italian wine selection. Locals can order hefty, fresh sandwiches at the counter, sample house-made olives, and shop for everything from imported balsamic vinegars, to handmade pastas. The imported cheese and meat selections are expansive, the antipasti bar is stuffed, and in true Italian fashion, dollar espresso shots are available all day. And while the folks at Jimmy's offer wine tastings on Saturdays, the wine room tucked behind the store is open to guests all week.

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2. Norma's Cafe 1123 W Davis St, Dallas, TX 75208 (Oak Cliff)

Norma's has been slinging old-school country fare and diner staples across Oak Cliff since 1956. Right down to its red leather booths, it hasn't changed all that much, but it really hasn't needed to -- the sweet embrace of authentic Texan comfort food need not be altered, including the crunch of chicken fried steak (before you've soaked it with the entire bowl of gravy you've been given on the side) and the ever-famous Mile-High Cream Pies.

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3. El Fenix 1601 McKinney Ave, Dallas, TX 75202 (Downtown)

Although there are more than 20 different El Fenix (Los Fenixes?) locations, each offers the same quality Tex-Mex fare that you'd expect from a place that's been perfecting the style since before the Depression.

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4. Campisi's Egyptian Lounge 5610 E Mockingbird Ln, Dallas, TX 75206 (Northeast Dallas)

Campisi's has been holding down the Dallas Italian scene since 1946, with thin crust pizza cut into rectangular slices. As the story goes, when the Campisi family first bought the Egyptian Lounge to turn it into what would eventually become the godfather of Dallas pizza, it cost too much to change the signage, so the landmark Italian place has confused out-of-towners since the '40s. The interior looks like a banquet hall, with white tablecloths and uniform metal chairs.

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5. Highland Park Old-Fashioned Soda Fountain 3229 Knox St, Dallas, TX 75205 (Knox Henderson)

This nostalgic institution has been running since 1911 (!) and serving delicious shakes, malts, and other classic treats -- plus a few surprises like Frito pie and goose liver!

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6. The Old Warsaw 2610 Maple Ave, Dallas, TX 75201 (Uptown)

The Old Warsaw has been entertaining Dallas' elegant for over fifty years with equally extravagant dishes. Prime beef wellington and a merlot from Chile, is as tasty, and fancy, as it gets.

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7. Royal China 6025 Royal Ln, Dallas, TX 75230

Royal China, located on Royal Lane, is stocked with royally delicious dumplings, noodles, and all manner of Chinese treats.

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8. Tupinamba 12270 Inwood Rd, Dallas, TX 75244 (North Dallas)

Tupinamba's menu of authentic Tex-Mex cuisine includes a wide variety of signature dishes, as well as a full bar with a number of specialty cocktails. On-location catering is available for parties of 35 of greater, but if you're a smaller group you can still drop by the restaurant and enjoy the food like everyone else!



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