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An Eater's Guide to Dallas

Eater logo Eater 1 day ago Amy McCarthy
a piece of food: Stunning charcuterie awaits at Macellaio © Kathy Tran Stunning charcuterie awaits at Macellaio

Since its portrayal in the eponymous and infamous 1970s-era soap opera, Dallas has seen an incredible amount of change. The home of Neiman Marcus, the legendary State Fair of Texas, and America's Team, the Big D also boasts a thriving and diverse culinary scene that can sometimes fly under the national radar. This guide will help you get to the heart of Dallas' unique culinary identity.

Welcome to the Land of Meat, Meat, and More Meat

Dallas is a city of legendary expectations — everything is bigger in Texas, right? Once the world’s capital of stuffy steakhouses and Southwestern cuisine, a bumper crop of scrappy chefs have drawn a new generation of diners to the big D.

If you have a day to spend enjoying the essential dining experiences Dallas has to offer, start off at Lower Greenville's Mudsmith with a cup of coffee or fresh-pressed juice, then venture over to Taco Joint for breakfast tacos smothered in jalapeno ranch. For lunch, take in the vegetarian Indian buffet at one of the city's shiniest hidden gems, Kalachandji's in East Dallas. If you've somehow got room, head to Uptown for macarons at Bisous Bisous Patisserie, then grab a happy-hour cocktail at the ritzy Mansion Bar. Come dinner, enjoy pig head carnitas at CBD Provisions, then head downstairs to wind down with a nightcap at happening Downtown cocktail bar Midnight Rambler.

Where to Start on Eater Dallas's Best Maps

As you may know, Eater Dallas puts together comprehensive guides to the city's best food and drink — whether you're looking for fried chicken, cocktails, burgers, or brunch. If you're starving and overwhelmed by all of these options, here are some top picks that are a solid bet every single time.

a view of a city
Have you ever seen Dallas from a DC9 at night?
a tray of food on a table © Robert Strickland/Eater
Pecan Lodge Barbecue in Deep Ellum

Hottest Restaurant: The hottest table in Dallas right now can be found at Homewood, the brand spanking new restaurant from acclaimed chef Matt McCallister. Here, find an ever-changing menu of seasonally-focused dishes (think spring snow peas poached in butter and drizzled with chili oil) and a stunning selection of fermented, pickled, and otherwise preserved ingredients made at the restaurant.

Essential Restaurant: Outside of the bountiful steak options in the Big D, Chef Teiichi Sakurai’s Tei-An is a must. Indulge in an omakase starring impeccably fresh fish, or swing by for a bowl of the excellent green tea soba noodles if time is of the essence.

Burgers: It's impossible to throw a griddled beef patty in Dallas without hitting an excellent burger. If you’re looking for something cheap and casual, head to Off-Site Kitchen near West Dallas' Trinity Groves for an updated take on the classic, or hit the iconic Keller's Drive-In for carhop service, crispy tots, and cheap (yet excellent) burgers.

Barbecue: Once a bit shameful compared to the rest of the state, Dallas’ barbecue scene is now thriving. In addition to local institution Pecan Lodge in Deep Ellum, smoked meat enthusiasts can now find Dallas' finest brisket, sausage, and massive beef ribs elsewhere, like Texas Monthly-approved spot Cattleack Barbeque.

Brunch: In Dallas, pairing breakfast with booze is practically a religion. Park on the patio at Henry’s Majestic for chef-driven comfort food paired with some of the city’s best cocktails, or head to Meso Maya for killer chilaquiles.

Tex-Mex: There’s nothing that Big D does better than plates of enchiladas, fajitas, and glorious, glorious queso. Head to Mia’s Tex-Mex for a locally beloved plate of brisket tacos (don’t forget the gravy!) or try the original, El Fenix, founded in Dallas in 1918.

Beer: Dallas is home to an incredible selection of breweries. Head to Peticolas Brewing’s Design District taproom for legendary brews like the locally-beloved Velvet Hammer ale, and don’t forget to stop by Deep Ellum Brewing Company, the local brewery that started it all, for a crisp and refreshing Dallas Blonde.

Ice Cream: Dallas’ has seen an ice cream boom of sorts in recent years. Visit East Dallas’ Hypnotic Emporium for ice cream stuffed doughnuts or head to Howdy Homemade for a few scoops of Dr. Pepper Chocolate Chip ice cream, a Dallas original.

Pizza: Dallas doesn’t have the pizza culture of, say, New York or Chicago, but there are plenty of fine pies to be found. Cane Rosso’s Vera Pizza Napoletana-certified pizza is an obvious choice, or you could head to the classic Dallas institution Campisi's, where the old-school vibe is relentlessly charming. Looking for NY-style slices? Get to Zoli’s in Addison, where you’ll find DFW’s best.

Iconic: For a true taste of Dallas, scope out the city's most classic dishes, like lobster shooters at Abacus and fried chicken at the original Babe's Chicken Dinner House.

Tacos: From classic Mexico City-style street tacos to inventive, modern riffs, Dallas has no shortage of fine taco purveyors. Head to Trompo in West Dallas for killer vegetarian options and (of course) tacos de trompo, or head to Revolver Taco Lounge in Deep Ellum for some of the city’s finest tortilla-wrapped proteins, including tender pulpo (octopus) and perfect lengua (tongue).

Dallas Food 'Hoods to Know

Dallas is a massive city, sprawling across more than 350 square miles of North Texas. As such, it's easy to find a decent meal pretty much anywhere in the metroplex, but certain neighborhoods have developed unique culinary identities. Wherever you're at, let this breakdown of the city's most notable dining districts be your guide.

a store in a brick building
Now a bustling restaurant district, Deep Ellum maintains its grimy edge.

Deep Ellum

Once in decline, Deep Ellum’s restaurant scene has boomed over the past few years. Now, it’s packed with concert venues, art galleries, bars, and (of course) excellent restaurants. Grab cocktails at Armoury D.E., or park on the patio at Braindead Brewing for excellent people watching and locally brewed beers. If a quick lunch is in order, snag a burger at Uncle Uber's Sammich Shop.

a car driving down a street next to a tree © Uptown Dallas Inc./Facebook
This walkable 'hood is chock full of swanky restaurants.

Uptown

You’ve likely seen this shiny, swanky ‘hood on The Real Housewives of Dallas, and for good reason — this is where to see and be seen. For those looking for a chic locale for a business meeting or date, Uptown definitely fits the bill. Stop in at Nick & Sam’s Steakhouse for celebrity-watching (Tony Romo and Owen Wilson could be at the next table) and classic steaks, or sip Old Fashioneds at Parliament, the innovative cocktail bar known for its towering Ramos gin fizzes.

a view of a city
Downtown Dallas hosts – and feeds – millions of travelers each year.

Downtown

Dallas’s Central Business District is bustling with travelers from all over the world, and there are plenty of restaurant options to service them. If you’re near The Joule Hotel, it’s a veritable culinary wonderland — grab a latte at Weekend, get pizza and Aperol spritzes at Americano for lunch, and enjoy happy hour at chic basement cocktail lounge Midnight Rambler. For an excellent dinner that will literally change lives, take the DART to Cafe Momentum, a non-profit restaurant that serves as a real-world crash course in the restaurant business for at-risk youth.

a car parked on the side of the street © Kathy Tran/EDFW
Lower Greenville, a bar district no longer.

Lower Greenville

This revitalized former entertainment district is now home to some of Dallas’ finest eateries. Score great cocktails and a unique riff on Nashville-style hot chicken at Rapscallion, head to local institution The Grape for French bistro fare before a show at the Granada Theater, or spend an afternoon hanging out al fresco at the Truck Yard while scarfing down cheesesteaks and sipping frozen cocktails.

Dallas Glossary of Terms

a bowl of food on a plate © Mi Cocina/Facebook
Melted cheese is a Dallas food group

Queso

In Spanish, "queso" means cheese. In Dallas, "queso" means "neon-yellow blend of Velveeta and Ro-Tel that you’ll find in every single Tex-Mex restaurant." Served with chips and occasionally crowned with guacamole, sour cream, and ground beef, queso is Dallas’ favorite dish. Find a guide to the city’s best bowls of melty cheese here.

Dean Fearing

The godfather of Southwestern cuisine, Fearing was formerly chef at The Mansion at Turtle Creek and now helms his eponymous restaurant Fearing's at the Ritz-Carlton just down the street, which just got a shiny new remodel.

Beef rib

This ain’t your average baby back. Considering that a cow is significantly larger than a pig, these massive slabs of beef look like something you’d see on the side of Fred Flintstone’s car. Pecan Lodge’s beef rib is an absolute Dallas must.

Whataburger

Texas’ favorite late-night eats come through a brightly-hued drive-thru window. Whataburger technically started in Corpus Christi, TX, but it's a favorite of every Texan. Just follow the bright orange lights to greasy, deep-fried heaven.

Reservations to Make in Advance

It may surprise you to learn that you can, in most cases, make a reservation at Dallas' hottest restaurants with just a week's — or even just a few days — notice. The key exception to this rule is tiny Bishop Arts Italian eatery Lucia. More than six years after opening, it's still one of the most coveted tables in town. Here's a guide to scoring your reservation. You’ll also want to snag a table at Macellaio as early as possible — it’s currently the city’s hottest restaurant.

a close up of a blue background
The majestic Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.

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  • Interested in upcoming restaurant openings? Here's our guide to the fall's most anticipated new spots.

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