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What are the must try places in Dallas for people visiting Texas for the first time?

  • k

My family and I will be visiting Dallas, Texas for the first time next week. Would appreciate all your suggestions for restaurants that we have to try. Things we need to consider are: we will be with 3 children ages 6 - 12 years old, and we would prefer the really, really good hole-in-the-wall joints.

Thanks in advance!


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  1. Is there a specific area, or type of food you are looking for?

    1 Reply
    1. re: MarcusB

      Any type of food. As to the area, I would say more on the Northern part of Dallas.

    2. I'd put BBQ and Tex-Mex high on your list. They're both foods that you can't really get in LA, and they're kid-friendly, too. For Tex-Mex, I'd recommend Matt's Rancho Martinez; with the weather as pleasant as (I'm told) it is, their outdoor patio should be especially pleasant. Another very good bet is Mia's. If those are too far afield, Luna de Noche is pretty good in a pinch.

      Unfortunately, there's no stellar Texas BBQ in Dallas. But you can get very good ribs, and pretty decent brisket, at Baker's Ribs. There's one on Greenville right near the Central Market, which, though not a restaurant, is a worthwhile food destination.

      Brother's Chicken or Bubba's would be good bets for some fried chicken - the chicken livers at Brother's are tremendous (you squeeze the jalapeno on the liver, and wrap it in a little greasy white bread...). Or if you have the time and inclination you could try to find your way out to Babe's for fried chicken, chicken fried steak, and fried catfish.

      Lunch at Vern's is worth the trip, especially if you like banana pudding.

      2 Replies
      1. re: ratatosk

        Thank you ratatosk! I am going to print this out, and mark all these place in my map!

        1. re: kajtf

          Also, for great Chicken Fried Steak (what else screams Texas more than Chicken Fried Steak), try Babe's Chicken Dinner House. The Carrollton location is fairly convenient to north Dallas visitors and is all about the Texas kitsch.

      2. i recommend some crawfish because that is tough to find elsewhere in the country. i always get it from big easy up in plano but the dallas observer recommends aw-shucks on greenvile. maybe somebody else has more up to date recommendations.

        7 Replies
        1. re: luniz

          You know, I once dined with a Bay Area Californian who marvelled at the crawfish etouffe at Pappadeuax. Go figure!


          1. re: TexasToast

            Well I had the three crawfish dinner there and it was good but not great. The etouffee was probably the best part. But if that's the only crawfish you will have all year, it's worth eating at a chain for imo. Especially in season. It's not like Pappadeux is a bad restaurant. Just a little expensive imo. But a lot of people are opposed to any sort of chain, even a "local" one.

          2. re: luniz

            Well you have to really like eating crawfish in the rustic style, but as much as I dislike the eating area, Nate's in Addison has the best crawfish in town. Ask for turbo when you order it.


            1. re: Scagnetti

              This place really looks interesting! What is it that you don't like with their eating area?

              1. re: kajtf

                I should have been more specific. We like to sit in the bar area and eat ourselves sick with boiled crawfish. The bar area can be loud, smokey, and crowded. The few times I've been in the dining area was fine.

              2. re: Scagnetti

                Nates has great seafood and very yummy bread. But sorry folks this time of year the best place to eat bugs is Pappadeux. They have crawfish for $2.95 a pound on Monday and Tuesday's throughout April. There is no place in Dallas that has that great a price for really good quality crawfish.

                1. re: irodguy

                  Nate's does good gumbo as well (as good as it gets in the DFW area).


            2. I've lived in Dallas for 20+ years and have a 6.5 year old, so I feel qualified to answer this:

              SNUFFER'S. Great hamburgers, salads and they are known for their Cheese Fries. A good lunch place with several locations. www.snuffers.com

              I agree that Dallas is one of the best cities in the world for Tex-Mex. Problem is, I live in Park Cities (Central Dallas) and not North Dallas, so I don't really know any hole-in-the-wall places up North.

              Good luck and have a great trip!

              1. Mia's!!! Try the brisket tacos...unreal!
                Sonny Bryan's bbq.

                1. A great Tex Mex hole-in-the-wall up north in Plano is Aparicio's. I liked it better when it was housed in the shack, but I guess the new "fancy" digs are OK.

                  Jorg's, in Plano as well. Fantastic German food, fantastic atmosphere, just yummy all the way around.

                  Samui - Delicious Thai in Allen.

                  Asian Mint - Fantastic Thai Fusion at Forest and 75.

                  Luna de Noche is fantastic Tex-Mex and has several options up north.

                  Country Burger in East Plano has one of the better thin-pattied, griddle burgers around. D-lish.

                  Braums - Great, local ice cream store/hamburger shop chain based in Oklahoma (I believe). The kids will absolutely love it - try the Limeade!

                  There's tons of other stuff, but apparently people at this office expect me to work. If something else really good strikes my fancy, I'll post again.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Epicurious Esquire

                    >>A great Tex Mex hole-in-the-wall up north in Plano is Aparicio's. I liked it better >>when it was housed in the shack, but I guess the new "fancy" digs are OK.

                    Well I would hardly call it a "hole-in-the-wall" anymore. Now it's one of the nicer tequila bars in the area. I would agree with you 100% on the fact that they were better when they were a "hole-in-the-wall" at least much more resonable.

                    1. re: Epicurious Esquire

                      i gotta second the braum's notion. they only have stores within one days drive so that everything stays really fresh. they also raise their own dairy and beef cattle and feed them a great organic high-energy feed. its very OK/TX. but keep it simple, admit to yourself it wont be too healthy and get a burger of some sort (chicken aint their specialty). top it off with a shake, then hit the gym.

                      1. re: kamaking

                        i don't know about recommending Braum's to out of staters...the shakes might be a little better than say DQ but it's not much better and sometimes the place is a dump..

                        1. re: kamaking

                          I agree with kamaking. Their shakes are made with any of their outstanding icecreams... not with soft serve. Comparison to DQ is crazy to me. I think it is a great recommendation as it is a very "Texas" place, not just good food.

                          1. re: kindofabigdeal

                            I love Braums as much as (or, statistically speaking, probably more) than the next guy, and I rankle at the DQ comparison. But would you really call it a "must-try place" for people who've never been to Texas before? Most places in America have good burgers and malts, if you're willing to seek them out, and LA is certainly no exception. If we were talking about a visitor from China or Siberia, maybe, but for a chowhound from LA I'd only mention Braum's if they were going to be living here for well over a month.

                            1. re: ratatosk

                              Braum's is decidedly Texan to me. "must-try?" I try not to get into absolutes like that. To me its a great place to grab some culture and good food for a good price.

                      2. Can't help you with the "hole in the wall" part, but you should try Blue Mesa for either their lunch buffet on Wednesdays, or their brunch buffet on the weekend...Lots of great food that any age would love......

                        1. I pretty much concur with Ratatosk. I've lived in North Dallas for 16 years and have eaten at too many places to remember. Here's some recomendations:

                          BBQ - Baker's Ribs (on Greenville Ave . . . about a 15-20 minute drive from North Dallas) - order the pork ribs and the brisket. It's a dive but it's without a doubt the best BBQ ribs in the city. It's perfectly fine for kids, open seating, free ice soft serve ice cream etc.

                          Tex-Mex - Mia's is WAY better than Matt's. Granted Matt's has a nice patio, but it's REALLY far South (in Lakewood - about a 40 minute drive from North Dallas) and frankly, the food is average. Mia's is in a really old house and their food (especially the brisket taco's - order extra gravy) is unmatched (though Avila's is pretty good too). Mia's is located in uptown, about a 20 minute drive down the Tollway (off at Wycliff).

                          Steak - Can't really do it with little kids. Go to Bob's at the Shops at Legacy . . . if you can get a baby sitter.

                          Breakfast/Brunch - Original Pancake House . . . granted, it's a chain based out of Chicago, but they don't have them in California and their breakfasts are the city's best (and very kid friendly). They have locations all over the city including Plano (75 and Parker-ish area) and a new location near Frisco (Granite Park location - not sure if it's open yet).

                          Babe's and Bubba's are both great for fried chicken. The Babe's location (in Garland) is really kid friendly.

                          Tons of other great places that are "must try" in Dallas (i.e. Lola, Nick and Sam's, Sushi Sake etc) - but most aren't kid friendly.

                          Hope all of that helps - and welcome to Dallas!

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: skedhead2000

                            Matt's is average? I'm all for difference of opinion, but let's keep the discussion civilized. Have you been back since Martin (Matt's original head chef) returned to the kitchen? The quality had fallen for a while (indeed, I stopped going for several years), but my recent experience is that it's back at top form. Way better than all the various Mattito offshoots (which are no good at all). Still, if you don't like their food, that's reasonable, and I certainly cede your right to your opinion - vive la difference and all that - but... average?

                            Please note: this comment is meant to be light of heart, and in no way an actual complaint about the above post. I'm glad you agree with my other choices.

                            1. re: ratatosk

                              I have pretty extensive experience with Mia's (for lunch) and extremely limited experience with Matt's (I've been 3 times and always get the same thing), and given a choice I'd got to Matt's - their chicken-stuffed chile relleno (green sauce) is really really good. I also like the brisket tacos at Mia's, but haven't been blown away by anything else there.

                              Incidentally, has anyone had the chile relleno at Mia's? It seems to be a special served at dinners only - and I've never been for dinner.

                              1. re: gavlist

                                Mia's only serves their chile relleno on Wednesday nights. Either show up early or I think you can call and reserve an order.

                              2. re: ratatosk

                                Fair enough Ratatosk . . . I haven't been to Matt's in over a year because the food was . . . dare I say . . . "average" the times I had been. Glad to hear reports that it's back on track . . . I'll give it a go next time in the Lakewood area.

                                1. re: skedhead2000

                                  That's far more than I can reasonably ask. I hope it doesn't disappoint.

                                  1. re: ratatosk

                                    Just went to Matt's a few nights back and ordered the Chicken Fried Steak (Tampiqueno style). It was the size of a manhole cover and smothered in green tomatillo sauce and monterey jack cheese. Sinfully good . . . I ate the whole thing and requested a c-section for dessert.

                              3. re: skedhead2000

                                If the frisco one (original pancake house) you're referencing is the one by ikea then it's not open, and is very strange looking, as it's in the bottom floor of a generic multi level office building.

                              4. Thank you for all your input everyone. We will try to visit some of these places. One thing I know for sure--I will never come back home to LA hungry!

                                Thanks again.


                                2 Replies
                                1. re: kajtf

                                  If you really want to give them a look at what Texas and BBQ is all about, it is worth the drive to Ft. Worth to visit Angelo's. Not only is the food some of the best BBQ around, but the atmosphere is really "hole in the wall" (although it is a large restaurant). Kids can be very comfortable there at any age because fancy is just not a word to describe this place. Covered in dark paneling, cheap fixtures and an extensive collection of rare taxidermy, most of my out of town guests beg for us to take them back when they return. They serve great ribs, chicken and brisket and the coldest beer and margeritas in town, all at reasonable prices. I would only avoid it if the kids are too young and might get spooked by seeing elk heads and a stuffed alligator up on the wall. There is just nothing like it in other parts of the country, so it is a destination worth the drive. Just beware -- no credit cards. You can plan it with a trip to the stock yards and the somewhat lame afternoon cattle drive through the Stockyard district. Kids love it.

                                  1. re: RGC1982

                                    Absolutely! Personally, I'm not crazy about their brisket by itself, but their chopped brisket sandwiches are incredible, the ribs are even better, and the meal is even better than the sum of its parts.

                                2. I would concur that really good BBQ is scarce in Dallas and would holeheartedly agree on Angelo's in Ft. Worth. However, I highly recommend the original Sonny Bryan's on Inwood for lunch (open only for lunch). One should only order a chopped or sliced beef sandwich with onion rings. It's a dive, but for us locals, it's quitesental.

                                  1. I'm a fan of Randy White's barbecue, located in Frisco on Preston Road. Their meats (especially the chopped beef) are excellent, but the sides are a little bit lacking. A mini-arcade and televisions make it a popular place for a family dinner.

                                    1. I think you will probably have a slight disconnect between "hole-in-the-wall" and the northern part of Dallas. If you just mean close to LBJ (635), then going to Lakewood, etc. is pretty easy. If you mean the northern suburbs of Dallas such as far north Plano, Frisco, or Allen, that's a whole 'nother beast.

                                      Pappadeuax is actually a pretty decent suggestion for Cajun. They have an extensive menu so if you don't want Cajun, you can get a nice seafood dish. Their food is pretty good - not necessarily great, but I've never had a bad meal there. I'd recommend a drive though and send you to Dodie's on Lower Greenville for another dive experience with good food.

                                      I love Matt's El Rancho Martinez in Lakewood for Mexican. You can also get one of the city's best chicken fried steaks there!

                                      I would highly recommend Vern's Place near downtown for home cooking. The place looks like a total shack, but the food is amazing. It would definitely be an experience. I prefer Dickey's over Sonny Bryan's for BBQ (I know, it's heresy, but I grew up here and we always ate at Dickey's or Peggy's - before it became Peggy Sue's) and there are a number of outposts all over town.

                                      I love Jake's for hamburgers. It has a drive-thru, but you can sit inside and the burgers are wonderful down to the grilled poppy seed buns. Get a Special and tots with cheese!

                                      I agree with the recommendation to make a side trip to Ft. Worth. Angelo's is good for BBQ and Joe T Garcia's is definitely a Texas experience. Sit by the pool. They used to be a one room sort of shack and just kept adding on so the newer sections are nicer but the food is pretty much the same. You can have either the Mexican dinner or the fajitas - I'm not sure if there are any other items on the short menu. The menu is short and well executed and I take guests from out of town there regularly.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: dalaimama

                                        Randy White's in Frisco, is closed and been demolished. I am a 7th generation Texan, and the above poster's are correct. Holy Smokes or Sonny Bryan's are decent, best barbeque is well south of Dallas. I am sure many little known places south of I-30 are much better. Angelo's in Ft. Worth is solid, however.

                                        1. re: friscohorn

                                          Holy Smokes at Northwest Hwy and Hillcrest has been torn down along with the rest of that strip. If they have moved, I'd love to know about it!

                                          1. re: friscohorn

                                            Randy White's is in a new location and has been open for the last 6 months. It is on Preston just north of Main st - behind Golden Moon. My DH loves Randy's - for me it is hit or miss - but the free beer isn't too shabby.

                                          2. re: dalaimama

                                            Do not go to Pappadeaux's for cajun, restaurant is based out of Houston, for the real deal go to Nate's in Addison. Do not go to Braum's, sure it is better than Mc Donald's but that is not saying much. if you want a burger, go to Chip's, or Uptown Bar and Grill, or Jake's, or Keller's, or Angry Dog.

                                          3. Definitely throw the kids in the car and head west. Ft. Worth will give you the feeling you have actually been to Texas where Dallas is just another big city with nothing "special" about it. Go to the Stockyards for sure. There are many dining options and all are good. You can park and walk to see the entire area. Take the kids inside Billy Bob's to ride the mechanical bull. Yes, its a bar but it is way more and you need to see it. Chef Tim Love has a great new place for burgers called The Love Shack. Risky's barbeque is in that area as well. It may not be Angelo's but when you have kids, some times convenience wins out. Do NOT go to Joe T. Garia's for Mexican though. Anything is better than there. All they have going is reputation that is way past its time. You defiitely need to eat Tex Mex, just don't do it at Joe T.'s or you will leave wondering what is so good about it. You will find the people on the street most helpful and will be glad to direct you to any place of interest. Please consider spending a day in Ft. Worth and forego whatever you had planned in Dallas!

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: texann

                                              I think Fort Worth does give a nicer historical feel than Dallas, and the Stockyards are fun to walk around (although touristy) but an important note: Billy Bob's does not have a mechanical bull:


                                              I really like Lonesome Dove, just around the corner from the Stockyard's, but I don't think it is very kid-friendly.

                                            2. Texas BBQ is pretty bad over all. Look for a Memphis style place if you're going to have BBQ. Red, Hot & Blue is a chain but they've ripped off two of the best BBQ places in Memphis. The ribs are incredible. Plus they are dry ribs instead of smothered in some kind of sauce.

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: Shalley

                                                What are you doing posting that trash on the Texas board?

                                                Red, Hot & Blue is perfectly fine, but I defy you to find me one piece of meat there that is better than the worst piece of meat from Smitty's down in Lockhart! If you like beef barbecue, you're a fool to search outside of Texas. Now, I'll grant that you can find better pork ribs in Memphis than you can in Texas. In other news, Brooklyn has better pizza than anywhere in the greater Dallas area, and the chinese food in LA is better than they've got down in Houston. But the ribs at Red, Hot, & Blue are NOT the ribs at Rendezvous, and, more to the point, are not better than the ribs at Smitty's.

                                                And sauce? Who needs sauce? Texas BBQ is about meat and smoke. Memphis BBQ is about pork and spices. That dry rub is alot closer to a sauce than anything that comes near my Texas BBQ.

                                                OK, vitriol aside, Red, Hot, & Blue is a very good restaurant, and their BBQ is defintely above average in the DFW area. I've enjoyed many a meal there, have never been disappointed, and certainly intend to go back.

                                                1. re: ratatosk

                                                  I haven't tried Smitty's but I've tired a lot of BBQ in the Dallas area and most have been lacking. I've heard really good things about Peggy Sue's and Smitty's but haven't had a chance to try them yet.

                                                  Memphis BBQ isn't about pork and spices. It's about Pork and smoke. The spices are wonderful bonus.

                                                  I'm just pointing out a really good BBQ restaurant in Dallas and if you're going out for BBQ, it's one of the better places to go.

                                                  1. re: Shalley

                                                    ... if you're looking for memphis style. I'd certainly never go to memphis and order brisket. Or say an entire tradition is trash because of samples in one area.

                                                  2. re: ratatosk

                                                    Don't Mess with Texas!

                                                    The only thing worth writing about at Red, Hot & Blue are their dry rub pork ribs (well, that and they play blues as their background music). Not a "must see in Dallas", but the ribs are worth writing about because they're pretty dang good.

                                                    1. re: ratatosk

                                                      Not to beat a dead horse or anything, but just wanted to share my trivial amusement w/ an experience at Red, Hot, and Blue this past week. I work about two miles from a Sonny Bryans and RH&B. I always opt for the Memphis chain over the local chain...if only there was a good independent bbq restaurant in Irving!. I digress. I placed my order and had to choose some sides. As a mac and cheese connoisseur of sorts, I opted for their 'version' and fried okra (which may be one of the better fried okras in town). The cashier informed me that there was an up charge for the mac and cheese. I was delighted that they thought of their mac and cheese so highly that they felt an up charge was necessary. I grew excited. When I finally received my meal I was so full of anxiousness and high expectations that it was almost unfair to RH&B. When I finally opened the container I was amused to find a generous portion of Kraft Mac and Cheese. Oh well. Good thing I'm not a food snob.

                                                  3. At the Dream Cafe, breakfast is my favorite. It's a fantastic exerience, lots of fun.

                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: sherrellstover

                                                      Mmm, I love Dream Cafe too. Great Fluffy Cloud Cakes. Kinda eclectic menu, maybe not Texas style. Great for kids.

                                                      1. re: snowwhiteRN

                                                        Oh my goodness, Has no one ever been to Sammy's. They have wonderful bbq and is a dallas original. they have 2 locations, one near fed reserve and the other in preston center at Northwest Highway. The chopped beef or chicken sandwich will melt in your mouth and the potato casserole could be a meal in itself. This a down home hole in the wall that is flooded with suits during the week that know good Texas BBQ. They even rent out for weddings and rehearsal dinners. If you haven't tried sammy's seek it out, it is worth the trip. http://www.10best.com/Dallas/Restaura...

                                                        1. re: giada

                                                          IMO, Sammy's is one of the best hidden "secret" restaurants in Dallas...Yes, they are excellent...Their side dishes are absolutely sublime...BBQ is wonderful as well...

                                                          1. re: giada

                                                            I had Sammy's sliced brisket for lunch today. I wasn't too impressed. There was not much flavor, didn't look like it had ever seen any smoke and was a bit dry. It was fairly tender. Maybe better than most, but not worth 4.90 for the sandwich. I did really like their sauce, which worked out well, cause it needed it. Of course, this is just my impression from one visit.

                                                            1. re: kindofabigdeal

                                                              And what did you think of their sides? A very big deal in BBQ, IMO

                                                              1. re: jinet12

                                                                To be honest, I'm not that into sides, so i didn't have any. I do love good cole slaw, potato salad, okra... or whatever it is, but if the meat is great I'd be fine with a big plate of meat, a little sauce and a slice of bread if there's any sauce remaining. Around here I'm finding that the sides are more important, cause the beef doesn't reach that level. I noticed a place on Harry Hines called Mikes Barbecue (i think). It's a bright orange building. Any opinions?

                                                      2. Big Daddys Ship Store is the best hole in the wall. On Lake Grapevine, toys for the kids, outside on dock, feed the ducks byob and good food.

                                                        1. There's been some great suggestions, including the Nate's (and their bugs are cheap on Tuesday and they have a fun band) and Babes (served family style with giant bowls of home made veggies and giant juicy chicken). I will even suggest for pure kid entertainment (no food value what so ever) Medieval Times.

                                                          Another great family deal is taking the Tarantula Train from Grapevine to the Stockyards in Fort Worth. When there, you will see numerous restaurants including Riscky's BBQ. See the link below for train info.

                                                          I also like to take visiting little ones down McKinney Avenue. They have restored the old trolley cars and have 2 running at all times, every 15 minutes. There are also numerous restaurants along the way, just pull the cord for a stop. While on the trolley visit West Village on Cole at the turn around of the trolley. there you will find the great paciugo gelato and a place for kid friendly burgers and shakes at Village Burger bar (and a nice beer for mom and dad) . There is also a stellar movie theater in the same complex, and lots of shopping in the quaint oasis.

                                                          You can also take the Dallas rail to the zoo. Catch the light rail downtown or on Mockingbird. Either location there is a Campisi's nearby for delightful Italian and pizza. the Mockingbird location is the original and I consider the best. Try their crab fingers for an appetizer and you MUST have a pizza.

                                                          These are a few different ideas. Hope you enjoy your visit and come back often!

                                                          http://www.mata.org/ <-- trolley