50 Things You Need to Eat in Dallas Before You Die
While most bucket lists focus on things you have to do before you die, our primary concern is that you at least go out well fed. That shouldn’t be a problem in Dallas, with so many excellent meal possibilities. From queso to Corny Dogs, here’s the ultimate list of 50 must-have foods for every Dallasite.
Pecan Lodge (address and info)
Texas is known for good BBQ, but Pecan Lodge is the holy grail of BBQ, and it doesn’t get much better than this. Order the brisket, or pretty much anything. Be sure to bring some water for the wraparound lines on the weekends. Yes, it’s that good.
2. 240-day dry-aged ribeye
Knife (address and info)
Exec Chef John Tesar doesn’t do anything half-assed, but he will take half a year to age this buttery cut of steak so rich, it’s sold by the inch. Bring your favorite sugar daddy/mama to indulge in this limited-edition entrée.
3. Whiskey Cake
Whiskey Cake (address and info)
If you’re going to order a dessert here, or anywhere for that matter, ordering the one that the whole dang restaurant is named after is probably a fairly safe bet. There is a lot you could say about this, but, in short, it’s a perfectly moist toffee tort that is topped with bourbon anglaise, spiced pecans, and as much house-made whipped cream as your arteries will allow you to have. It is about as close to perfect as a dessert can come with all of its different textures and flavor profiles.
4. Quatros Leches Cake
La Duni (address and info)
This milk-soaked dessert comes in a super-decadent square that just begs for an accompanying cup of joe. Although it’ll have you wondering why you ordered such a big entrée, you won’t regret finishing every bite nonetheless.
5. Chicken-fried steak
Bubba’s Cooks Country (address and info)
This old-fashioned Southern food joint gets raves for its incredible fried chicken, but the epic chicken-fried steak, always served piping hot, deserves major culinary kudos, too.
6. Sweet potato casserole
The Slow Bone (address and info)
In a world (read: Texas) where brisket is all anyone seems to talk about at BBQ joints, it’s refreshing to find a spot that not only has amazing meats, but sets the same standards for its sides as well. The sweet potato casserole at The Slow Bone is a destination-worthy side, which is rare in the BBQ game.
7. Shrimp & grits
Hattie’s (address and info)
It used to be you had to travel to New Orleans to get really good shrimp & grits, but not no mo’. Hattie’s kills this dish, and all you have to do is travel about 10 minutes south of Dallas.
8. Country Breakfast
Norma’s Café (address and info)
Breakfast doesn’t get more Texan than when you can chow down on a mammoth hunk of chicken-fried steak alongside eggs and hash browns. You should feel quite like Big Tex once you’re done.
9. Honey Bastard
Cane Rosso (address and info)
Jay Jerrier of Cane Rosso and Zoli’s is a marketing mastermind; he pitted his two pizza spots against one another and threatened to charge $1,000 for a side of ranch. He also makes the best piece of pizza in Dallas. For the Honey Bastard, they take their already amazingly chewy and flavorful dough, add cheese, then top it with hot soppressata (a spicy Italian cured meat, similar to pepperoni), bacon jam, and then douse it with habanero honey.
10. Fried chicken and mashed potatoes
Babe’s Chicken Dinner House (address and info)
No, it’s not the name of a new Dallas “breastaurant,” but it is one of the best fried chicken joints in town. Sure, there are other items on the menu, but what you want is fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and biscuits. You live in the South, act like it for once.
11. Queso poblano
Meso Maya (address and info)
Arts District, Preston Hollow
When it comes to Dallas’ favorite cheese-based appetizer, this relative newcomer does it best. No cheez with a "z" here, just a blend of all-natural varieties melted with poblanos to gooey perfection. No one will fault you for double dipping between this and the bowl of salsa.
12. Ribeye fajitas
Banditos Tex Mex Cantina (address and info)
This Austin-style Tex-Mex restaurant does everything really well, but the fajitas are just a notch above the rest, especially the ribeye fajitas. The tender meat complements the fresh, soft tortillas, pico de gallo, and guacamole. You’ll wonder why you haven’t been cutting your steak up and putting it in a tortilla before.
13. The Drunken Nut
Emporium Pies (address and info)
It’s not shocking that the best pie shop in Dallas also makes the best individual piece of pie. With this being Texas and all, pecan pie reigns supreme, and Emporium Pies takes that idea and, speaking straight to a Texan’s heart, adds bourbon to it to take it up a notch or three.
14. Street tacos
El Come Taco (address and info)
Whether you go for tacos de la casa or tacos tradicionales, your taste buds are bound to love you for popping into this authentic Fitzhugh Ave storefront. Looking to zig from the zag of chicken, pork, or beef? Try the chapulines (crispy grasshopper) tacos if they’re available.
Herrera’s Cafe (address and info)
No matter your preferred variety -- sour cream chicken, cheese, beef -- this famed family-owned spot with deep roots in Dallas will make your heart sing. Be sure to dine in to feast on the equally beloved bean soup that comes with every entrée.
16. Butcher’s meatballs
Neighborhood Services (address and info)
Meatballs are good, but meatballs served with Neighborhood Services' Voodoo peppercorn sauce are almost a religious experience. You could probably put the sauce on a Goodyear and you’d still ask for seconds, but fortunately for you, it’s delicious meatballs that are served with it and not rubber.
17. Bacon cheddar tots
Public School 214 (address and info)
These scratch-made little nuggets of potato, cheese, and bacon are blended together in perfect harmony and then deep-fried. They are then served hot in a skillet with a side of house Sriracha ketchup. Make sure you order these when you go, in fact, you might want to save some time and order two.
Lucia (address and info)
Your first hurdle will be actually getting a reservation to this restaurant, the next will be pronouncing items on the menu. But after your first bite, you’re not concerned about details: Chef/owner David Uygur’s menu doesn’t disappoint. Try the taglierini, it’s quite delightful.
19. Green chile & bacon burger
Off-Site Kitchen (address and info)
First of all, if you haven’t tried a burger from Off-Site Kitchen, get there, now. Second of all, if you haven’t tried green chile, (the flavorful New Mexican pepper), do so, now. What we’re really telling you is to visit Off-Site Kitchen and order the green chile bacon burger, and yes, there’s bacon too.
20. Lobster fajitas
El Bolero (address and info)
One taste of these briny babies, and you’ll wonder why every Tex-Mex joint doesn’t serve them. El Bolero hosts Lobster Friday, where until 2pm, $15 gets you a 6oz tail and all the fajita fixin's.
21. Breakfast tacos
Cool & Hot (address and info)
The tasty and uber-economical breakfast tacos here are a terrific way to wake up your face. Chorizo, potato, sausage, bacon, or ham can be whipped into eggs and rolled into a tortilla starting at 6am.
22. Cheese Fries Surprise
Rodeo Goat (address and info)
The Mount Everest of the spud world, the Cheese Fries Surprise at Rodeo Goat is enough food to keep you and your entire Facebook network of friends satisfied, but you won’t want to share with all of them, because let’s be real, you don’t like most of them anyway. This cornucopia of appetizer glory starts out with heaps of freshly made fries, tons of melted cheese, chili, bacon, and jalapeños for some spice. Make sure to ask for a gallon of ranch and a bottle of Tums.
23. The Angry Dog
Angry Dog (address and info)
It’s not often you walk into a restaurant and want to order a hot dog, unless said restaurant is Angry Dog, in which case that’s exactly what you do.
24. Italian Stallion
Jimmy’s Food Store (address and info)
Jimmy’s is the Italian food mart you never had or never realized you had until now. The butcher in the back creates amazingly fresh and authentic Italian sandwiches wrapped in white butcher paper. Order the Italian Stallion and then refrain from doing a Rocky impression.
25. No. 8 chili burger
Keller’s Drive-In (address and info)
This Dallas carhop is virtually unchanged since its opening nearly 50 years ago. But some things you don’t have to change, like the No. 8 chili burger with onions, cheese, and a fresh grilled patty on a toasted poppy seed bun. The prices here almost seem unchanged, too, and don’t forget the beers to go. Yes, to go.
26. Tom kha gai
Pakpao (address and info)
This traditional chicken soup with a creamy coconut broth is best savored to the very, very last drop. Go ahead -- ask for a straw. You won’t want to miss one bit of the nutty brew with a pleasant hint of sour.
27. Pork chop
Boulevardier (address and info)
Eleven times out of 10, steak > all other meats, but Boulevardier has created something magical with its Berkshire pork chop. Its chefs somehow get it impossibly tender, like, it sort of just falls apart as soon as your knife gets near it and then it is served with greens and its natural juices; it really is a spectacularly crafted dish.
28. Fletcher’s Original State Fair Corny Dog
State Fair of Texas (address and info)
Fair Park (only during the State Fair of Texas)
Don’t you dare call it a corn dog! This bastion of fried goodness forms the basis of an annual tradition for thousands upon thousands who come to the State Fair. Get in line and pay your respects with a mustard-drizzled classic or jalapeño-and-cheese dog.
29. Pork belly poutine
Blind Butcher (address and info)
Like a fat kid’s dream come true, the pork belly poutine at Blind Butcher takes some of the finest things life has to offer and puts them all conveniently into one bowl. Big hunks of potato are deep fried in duck fat, then topped with pork gravy, cheese curds, and house-made pork belly. And for the love of God man, put an egg on top of it!
30. Pig’s head tacos
CBD Provisions (address and info)
This dish became a buzzed-about hit around town just about the minute it hit the menu. And it’s well worth enduring this little piggy’s stare. You’ll forget every bit of trepidation with your first bite of tender pork wrapped in a tortilla.
31. Cream of mushroom soup
The Grape (address and info)
Chef/Owner Brian C. Luscher has described the near-panic that ensues when he has taken this dish off the menu, and it’s with good reason guests clutch at their chests. This bowl is the creamy soup equivalent of a drug: instantly addictive and stuck in the crave center of your brain forever. Leave it be, chef!
32. Spicy beef noodle soup
Monkey King Noodle Company (address and info)
Copious amounts of handmade and stretched noodles rest in a spicy, oily, flavorful broth alongside melt-in-your-mouth pieces of beef shank. Grab some chopsticks and slurp away at the best bowl of noodles this side of the Atlantic.
33. Bacon lollipops
The Meddlesome Moth (address and info)
Do you like steak? Do you like bacon? This is Texas, America, so of course you answered yes to both. Well, what if those two things hit it off and made a baby? That would be the bacon lollipops at The Meddlesome Moth, a thick-cut slab of the best bacon of all time, served on a stick with a homemade funnel cake and maple hollandaise sauce.
34. Beer biscuits and gravy
Barbec's (address and info)
This venerable spot on Garland Rd has seen better days, but its signature breakfast dish of creamy gravy ladled onto fluffy beer biscuits remains a must-have that keeps fans coming back for more.
35. Crispy beef
Yao Fuzi (address and info)
There is no shortage of Asian food in Dallas, but there is a shortage for very quality spots/dishes. This is not the case at Yao Fuzi -- while many things are superb, the crispy beef stands out as a must-try dish.
36. Pastrami sandwich
LUCK (address and info)
There can obviously be a lot of debate about the best sandwich in a city, but what is not debatable is that this sandwich would at least be in that conversation. This isn’t the pastrami you pick up at the grocery store, this is “Texas Brisket Style,” which translates to it being house-cured for three days and then smoked for 15 hours before being slapped onto sourdough with Swiss cheese, stone-ground mustard, and caramelized onions.
37. Dumpling bar
Royal China (address and info)
Dumplings are good to order anytime, but when there’s a whole bar of them available, you take advantage of it. Which is what you should do, as often as possible.
38. Nontraditional tacos
Torchy’s Tacos (address and info)
When taco authenticity is thrown to the wind and you just want a mess of insanely good combinations of ingredients stacked into a tortilla, this Austin-born chainlet should be your jam. Case in point: recent monthly taco specials have featured (not all together) fried plantains, coconut-battered shrimp, bacon, habanero-peach jam, crushed peanuts, and mint.
39. Dry-rubbed spare ribs
Lockhart Smokehouse (address and info)
Ribs are great, but they’re even better dry-rubbed, especially when said ribs are from Lockhart Smokehouse. The lines around the building are enough to prove it. Make sure to wash it down with an ice-cold Texas beer while you’re there.
40. Beef Deluxe Pho
Pho Envy (address and info)
The sublime house-made beef broth in this soup will have you jonesing for it even in the dead of summer. Numerous iterations of pho are on the menu, but the Beef Deluxe -- with slices of tendon, filet, brisket, and meatballs -- is the tastiest bang for your buck.
41. Fried baloney sandwich
Maple & Motor (address and info)
OK, we know it sounds a little like something you would make in your college dorm room when times were rough (which they always were), but we can guarantee you it’s not. The fried baloney is thicker with a deep crust, and the lettuce and tomato give it a nice finish.
42. Lobster mac & cheese
Nick & Sam’s Steakhouse (address and info)
You can’t possibly think about digging into your bone-in ribeye here without ordering this ridiculously decadent side -- it’s behavior unbecoming of a Dallasite!
43. Italian beef
Jimmy’s Food Store (address and info)
The Italian Stallion gets all of the love at Jimmy’s, but the Italian beef just might be the better sandwich. A soft and spongy loaf of bread is loaded with thinly sliced beef, melted provolone and giardiniera mix, then as much gravy as you can handle is ladled over the top.
44. The Kure
Jonathon’s Oak Cliff (address and info)
Hunger Kure? Hangover Kure. Our best guess is that this behemoth of biscuit, eggs, sausage, gravy, and pico is meant to cure pretty much anything that’s bothering you.
45. Brisket cornbread hash
Smoke (address and info)
The marriage of breakfast and BBQ is a beautiful matrimony in this circumstance. Smoky brisket is folded into a cornbread hash and then placed atop crispy potatoes, then topped with a poached egg and what you quickly realize is not enough of the chili rajas sauce (read: ask for an extra side).
46. Rustica pizza
Olivella’s Pizza (address and info)
Going back over 100 years to Naples, Olivella’s has perfected the perfect pie. Order the Rustica pizza, perfectly baked in its iconic brick oven, and then thank us later.
47. Sweet & Lowdown
Easy Slider (address and info)
Combine a fresh beef patty, some zesty goat cheese, and a dollop of strawberry jam on a slider bun and you’ve got a burger worth chasing a food truck around town for.
48. Brisket tacos
Avila’s (address and info)
Brisket is good stand-alone but even better in a flour tortilla taco stuffed with cheddar cheese, fresh pico de gallo, sour cream, and guacamole. Of course, no taco is complete without a frozen margarita, so follow suit.
49. Grandma pizza
Zoli’s NY Pizza (address and info)
This pizza is smack-dab between the thin-crusted New York pie and the hefty-bottomed Sicilian pie and totally meant to harken back to homemade pizza of days past. Enjoy it by the slice, or grab a whole custom-made or house-specialty pie.
50. Dr Pepper-braised short ribs
Fearing’s Restaurant (address and info)
People here love Dr Pepper and their ribs, so Fearing’s combined the two, and the result is pure Texas heaven.
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