(The Sushi and Robata counter at Tei Tei Robata Bar on Henderson in Dallas)
Being somewhat of an amateur gourmand and a lover of calories in all forms, I often get asked by friends who have recently moved to Dallas which local restaurants I’d recommend. I’ve lived in Dallas on and off for 15 years during which the city’s culinary scene has not only evolved beyond staples such as Tex-Mex, 5-star steak houses and fried chicken & waffles, but has elevated local tried-and-true favorites such as these with inventive new points of view that can also be seen in parallel in the changing make up of Dallas’ population and city culture at large. While maintaining a focus on honest and comforting foods, local Chef’s have adopted West and East coast styles with seasonal menus, sourcing and incorporating local and sustainable ingredients, and experimenting with and incorporating Asian techniques, flavors, and ingredients. Honestly, it is a great time to be eating in Dallas.
My list of recommended eateries below largely reflect the way my wife Alice and I like to eat and represent many of the places we frequent the most. We believe delicious food should be affordable. Except for a few, most of the places on the list are reasonably priced for a normal weekend meal with friends. Some are in strip malls and have absolutely no atmosphere or ambiance, but you will not go wrong with the food in any of these restaurants. Now, I do believe ambiance is important for certain meals (special occasions, nights out on the town, celebratory meals, etc.) and at the end of the day, “context” can often determine how food tastes and how a meal is experienced and ultimately remembered.
The list has remained surprising consistent over the 5 years I’ve been assembling, changing and distributing it via email to friends. Admittedly, Alice and I have become creatures of habit and now tend to gravitate towards tables where we know we will enjoy a satisfying meal. Although we regularly patronize new restaurants, we still prefer many of these places that have been serving diners as long or longer than we have been eating in Dallas.
A few other final disclosures . . . BYOB and cheap corkage is a big bonus for us. Also, major points for dog friendly patios. Finally, being Chinese-Americans, we tend to frequent Asian establishments which you will note are quite well represented on the list.
- Tei Tei Robata (Japanese) – our favorite restaurant in town. I’ve eaten Japanese food all over the world including sashimi fresh off the boats at the Tokyo fish market. When Alice and I celebrate we usually go here. For more details, here’s my review on yelp.
- Urbano (Italian) – We’ve followed Mitch, the owner who also runs the front of the house, as he’s moved this small restaurant to now its third location. It’s currently located in the East Dallas area and has a very bohemian feel that fits perfectly among it’s current environs. Menu is seasonal and changes all the time. BYOB.
- Bolsa (New American) – great patio, dog friendly, affordable wines, local and seasonal menu. This is a favorite Friday after work place for us to get good food and a bottle of vino. Here’s my yelp review.
- Pappas Brothers Steakhouse – Dallas is world renown for their steak houses. This has the typical high-end steak house format, but they just do it better than anyone else in town. Incredible wine list. Ala carte sides are all well done. Don’t let it’s pedestrian surroundings fool you.
- Toulousse (French Brasserie style foods ). Also has a dog friendly patio. This is a Lombardi Family owned restaurant so you pretty much know you will get a solid quality meal like any of their other establishments (Taverna, Sangria, and Bistro 31)
- Veracruz Café (Latin American) – traditional and inventive Central American dishes here.
- Seoul Garden (Korean) – located in a surprising sizeable Dallas K-town where their are numerous other Korean dining establishments. There was a period when their service was spotty, but this is still our go to Korean BBQ place among the many other options near-by
- Jeng Chi or Mian Cuisine (Taiwanese) – Lots of good noodles, dumplings, and breads/pancakes. Here’s my review for Jeng Chi on yelp.
- First Emperor (Chinese/Taiwanese) – Hole in the wall. This is a place you need to know what to order. Mostly stir fries and a great family style place to go. My review on yelp.
- First Chinese BBQ – Good Cantonese food. My review on yelp.
- Babe’s Fried Chicken – Voted best fried chicken in the US by Southern Living Magazine. Enough said. Multiple locations around town but for the real experience go to the original in Roanoke. You only have to make three decision: 1) Fried Chicken or Chicken Fried Steak, 2) What do you want to drink with your Fried “fill in the blank” – I suggest sweet tea, and 3) how much do you want to take home in a doggy bag. And it really is a clear plastic doggy bag that is shoved full of your guaranteed leftovers with the open end tied in a square knot.
- Bistro B (Vietnamese). Lots of variety. Very busy and chaotic.
- Noodlewave – (Thai- Halal style). Great fish, curries, and stir fries.
- Hillstone’s (American) – very generic setting and menu is really not innovative at all, but all the dishes are done so well. Probably the most vanilla place on this list but the service and food are great. Also little known fact is they don’t have a corkage fee.
- Hattie’s (Southern) – a modern and decadent southern menu in the Bishop Arts district. Great Mac and Cheese.
- Coal Vine (Pizza) – good thin crust pizza and wine bar that we like to go to.
- Victor Tangos (New American) – good drinks, festive scene and solid menu good for sharing small plates.