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Feb 29, 2008 02:46 PM

Best Dallas restaurants

Just because I like to stir things up, what are your top 5 Dallas area restaurants and why? I know, I know, there are probably quite a few posts like this, but I thought I'd start a new one. By the way, there are no other criteria to this game other than Dallas area (including burbs) restuarants only (no Fort Worth please) and list why you're putting it on your list. Any price, any cuisine. I visit Dallas often and plan to use this list to expand my vacation restaurants.

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  1. 1. Nonna is my current favorite. Of course, you can barely get a table right now because it only seats 40 and it just got a great review. Since we returned from Rome last fall it's the closest I've had to the food in Italy.

    2. Bijoux. It is incredible. Another small venue. I really just can't say enough about how wonderful the food and experience are here. The dining room looks a little stuffy, but everyone is so nice. I want to try their full tasting menu with wine pairings. I'm saving up for that one.

    3. Abacus. Across the street from Sushi on McKinney, we often go there for dessert after sushi. The dessert and wine costs more than our dinner. But, it's a treat for us. Their dinner menu is fabulous, too. And I just got to watch Kent Rathbun, their chef, on Iron Chef last night.

    4. On the cheaper side, Campania Pizza. You can bring your own wine and the pizza is far superior to 90% of what you can get in Dallas. Nice salads, too.

    5. The Porch. Best grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup I've ever had for $13. I guess you could call it comfort food. It's open at 11:00 in the morning until pretty late every day. So, that's really convenient.

    Those are my top five for today. You can find the locations, websites and phone numbers for all of the above on Have fun eating! Be sure to come to town during Restaurant Week when you should be able to try many of the above for a $35.00 three course meal. It falls in mid August and is a great way to try some of the pricier restaurants in town.

    12 Replies
    1. re: margiehubbard

      Thanks! The Porch sounds like a great place for lunch! I may have to try that out when I come in April.

      1. re: debbie421

        I went to the Porch and had the grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup and thought it was terrible. The sandwich tasted of rancid grease. The soup was okay but I think the tomato soup at the Wolfgang Puck cafe at the Nasher Sculpture Center is MUCH tastier.

        1. re: debbie421

          Do not go to Abacus.. It has recently gone down hill and it's extremely overpriced. It used to be on my favorite list as well but it is no longer.

          1. re: neiladammcginnis

            I never much like Abacus, even though it's just a few blocks from me. The menu seemed schizophrenic. No real cohesion. Plus, I didn't think that food was that good.

            1. re: Mike C. Miller

              I could deal with the schizophrenia but when my steak is tough and the risotto is crunchy, and this is my return visit after expressing to them my unhappiness and this was the dinner with which they were supposed to make it right. At that point i realized they can't help their bad food so they try to make up for it with good customer service. The cocktails also are like 15 dollars and i can get better drinks for 10 dollars at nickel & rye, anyday.

              1. re: Mike C. Miller

                My food there has been good, but nothing really special ... the prices made it memorable. I remember the bartender being really nice to us.

                1. re: foiegras

                  I have never met the bartender because I always had a baby with me so never been to the bar area (yea i know not the greatest place for a kid) lol
                  Abacus and Kenichi first got me interested in gourmet food but since then my tastes have out-grown these places I suppose. Sometimes it's hard to know when the restaurant changed or when it was just me evolving my palette.

          2. re: margiehubbard

            Thanks Margie. I'll try Nonna this week !

            1. re: margiehubbard

              Thank you debbie421 for your top five suggestions. We will be in Dallas the first week of June and will definitely check out these restuarants.

              1. re: dobbsk1

                dobbsk1 - This thread is from 2008. Many of the places listed on this thread are no longer in business or may not be a top destination any more.

                1. re: Webra1

                  Thank you for writing my exact thoughts.

                  1. re: twinwillow

                    lol. i just realized this was an old thread. i thought it was new.

              1. re: debbie421

                Here's some cheap places in Plano I frequent:

                Big Easy (75 & Park): Consistent, good seafood (including crawfish)
                Jasmine Thai (Spring Creek & Custer): Consistently good to great food, inconsistent (almost annoyingly so) service
                Little Sichuan (75 & Legacy): Menu recently changed. Easier to order in Chinese. Simple dishes but occasionally come out amazing.
                Iravat India Bistro (75 & Legacy): Haven't been here for a while, very good lamb dishes, service was getting better..
                Sheik's (Old downtown, 15th): Inconsistent salt usage, otherwise food has been very good on my 3 visits. Diner atmosphere.

              2. First of all my list is more appealing to the general pouplation (i.e. everyone can get into the place w/o reservations, they are affordable, they are usually not ranked outside of Texas, if Dallas)

                Chinese - First Chinese BBQ - Carrollton location (NEC Josey @ Beltline - Next to Pho Pastuer)
                see thread for reasons Putting on the list because there are so many dishes to try, native eat there, food is excellent (compared to restaurant in the same price range) and the prices are so cheap.

                Mexican - Taquerias El Fuego - Richardson (SWC of Plano Rd @ Campbell Rd). Just take a browse through other threads an it will show up. Again affordable, freshly prepared food, handmade tortillas, salsa is actually hot and has fresh ingredients, resonable prices, actually have some taboo dishes (huitlacoche - corn fungus) and native show up there!

                Vietnamese - La-Me - Dallas (NEC of Audelia @ Walnut) - Place is next door to a wonderful fish shop, across the parking lot from Bistro B, Sing Kee BBQ (where I tried great chinese for the first time and before I found FC BBQ) and Hong Kong Supermarket is the anchor tenant, with that much diversity in one shopping center it is hard to avoid. Two dishes that will change you life Bun Cha Ha Noi and Bahn Mi. This place hands down has the best of both. Bun Cha excellent flavor profile (unlike anywhere else) small BBQ pork patty floated in a sweet and salty broth and combined with a huge salad plate and bun (rice vermicelli - rice spaghetti basically). Bahn mi perfect crusty bread filled with any of your choice of meat fillings topped with fresh carrot, cucumber, sometimes cabbage, jalapeno, cilantro and sweet vinegar sauce.

                Thai/Viet - Zoom (NEC of Fankford & Tollway) - I have liked this place since it first opened and the owner and I have become good friends. Food is awesome everytime I go (cept for the valentines set menu), relatively cheap, better than Asian Mint, more diverse menu, and they can actually give you a hot (spicy) dish when you ask for it.

                Actually have a tie for German/Austrian - Jorg's Cafe Vienna - Downtown Plano, Kuby's - Snider Plaza - Dallas and Metzler's in Denton. Jorg's for the best schnitzels, price is kinda high, live entertainment, small cozy atmosphere, great beer. Kuby's for the consistent flavor on the brauts, age of the location and recipes, and the great grocery store. Metzler's on Londonderry Ln in Denton has the best pick-your-own beer selection probably in the Metroplex, best brats from Muenster delviered fresh every other day, fresh strudels from Bayern's in Muenster (you won't like any others if you try this one), all around relaxed atmosphere, great wine selection for a small shop in Denton County, and cheap prices.

                All of these are significantly different than the usual Pyles, York St, Lola, etc. etc. If I expect to pay alot I would expect to eat very well. If I expect to get a cheap eat and it is great...the person in the kitchen is passionate about serving great food and making sure the general population can try it also. That is a big difference.

                9 Replies
                1. re: LewisvilleHounder

                  do they always have huitlecoche? I've been wanting to try out Lanny's in Ft Worth, and it looks like he makes use of it often. It would be interesting to compare the difference between the fine dining and taqueria application. Do you know of anywhere else serving it?

                  1. re: kindofabigdeal


                    It is always on the menu. If I find a place in south Dallas or along Maple I will let you know.

           for $1.95 gonna be hard to beat! $3.00+ a gallon and who knows how much it will be at Lanny's.

                    1. re: LewisvilleHounder

                      I was reading that as huitlecoche for 3.00 a gallon, and I couldn't figure out why anyone would buy a gallon, let alone why they would sell it that way. Long day. I'm glad to see the flor de calabaza on the menu too. I should have moved to Richardson. Have you been to Mr. Borrego on Maple? They have a diverse menu so you never know, but I've only gotten the goat.

                      1. re: kindofabigdeal

                        Nope.....I will try it when it gets a bit nicer outside! They didn't have the sqaush flower last time so it is probably seasonal. Also before you go take the owner some of the Korean mini sardines (someone chime in with the Korean name please!!!!) tossed with chili. I had asked her if she knew of a place for chapulines (crickets tossed with chilis) or escamoles (ant larvae-she hated these). She said in a long conversation that she liked mini sardines that she had in Mexico. I told her I would exchange mini sardines for chapulines (or a name of a source). You will really like the owner she is very friendly of El Fuego. Richardson/Plano area seems to be the best place if you are a true Dallas foodie.

                        1. re: LewisvilleHounder

                          I braved the weather to head up to taqueria el feugo today. It was worth it. I got two quesadillas. huitlecoche and pumpkin flower. It was my first experience with huilecoche. I was surprised how mild it was. The flavor reminded me most of dried oregano. The pumpkin flower was a generous portion and both were in very good corn tortillas. It's interesting that you mention the korean sardines, because the hot sauce reminded me of a spicy kimchee brine. I think the best part of the trip was the conversation I had with one of the workers there. I guess he's not the owner, because you say it was a female, but he was someone important. He obviously takes quite a bit of pride in the restaurant. I look forward to going back and trying some more stuff.

                          1. re: kindofabigdeal

                            It was one of her sons. I think she has two or three that work the restaurant when they don't have to go off to jobs of their own. I know one was a personal trainer (he had his gym shirt on). Quite a haul up there but I think it is a pretty awesome place. I told you they are friendly there!! Perhaps a CH meeting there on a Saturday??

                            1. re: LewisvilleHounder

                              problem with a meet there is they probably can't make us all the corn tortillas we'd want :)

                              1. re: luniz

                                I bet if we warned them about 2 weeks in advance they could have some extra masa on hand...heck I would go grind if I needed to just to get some fresh corn tortillas!

                            2. re: kindofabigdeal

                              If it was a young good-looking guy :-), he's the owner's son. Yes, we'd like to get together there on a Sat, but I don't think kindofabigdeal can make it on Sat, or can he?

                              I think they can make enough tortillas for us. The restaurant is packed on the weekends for breakfast/lunch and has no problem supplying tortillas. We won't be more than 10 and won't fill the restaurant.

                  2. We don't go to fancy places in Dallas that much -- we generally save that for when we travel -- so these are affordable places we eat at frequently. Not listed in any particular order. All are close to downtown.

                    1. Cafe San Miguel. Great Mexican food (not Tex-Mex). Wonderful home-made corn tortillas and guac. Excellent margaritas. And I love the crabmeat enchiladas.

                    2. Kavalla. Tasty and well-executed Mediterranean food. Everything I've had there has been wonderful.

                    3. Jimmy's. Not a restaurant, an Italian food store with some tables where you can eat their sandwiches, which are the best in town. (Other than the pastrami at Katz's in NYC, this place makes the most transcendent sandwiches.) They make their own sausages and meatballs, so those sandwiches are fantastic, but the Cuban and Italian Stallion and tuna panino are wonderful, too.

                    4. Twisted Root. My favorite burger place (although I'm also partial to Lee Harvey's). The buffalo burger is fantastic. Fries and o-rings are top of the heap. Also, they make their own ice cream, so the shakes and floats are primo.

                    5. Local. This is the priciest of my list, but it's not as expensive as other top restaurants. The food here is as good as at just about any of the best restaurants in town, and we really like the casual urban ambience. Also, if you don't have a reservation, you can walk in and eat at the bar.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: Dallas Alice

                      Dallas Alice,

                      Off topic but how does Kavalla stack up against Afrah in Richardson? I know Afrah beats everyone in Dallas on baklava.

                      1. re: LewisvilleHounder

                        I can't say - I haven't been to Afrah (yet).

                      2. re: Dallas Alice

                        This is such a difficult question. Often, the natural tendency is to gravitate towards the higher end restauarant in answering these types of questions. Since I am permanenly leaving Dallas for Houston in a few months, I have been thinking about the spots that I am going to miss most when I have moved. I think that you, Alice, have hit on some excellent places that wouldn't necessarily be on the top of everyone's list when they think of the best restaurants in Dallas.

                        While Jimmy's is not a restaurant, I will sorely miss it once I move. I have always been partial to Local (even though many can probably justifiably argue that their prices are a little steep). If I ever owned a restaurant, I would love to have a spot like Local. I was just there this past weekend and was disappointed that the restaurant was more than half empty. I do enjoy Cafe San Miguel but I think it would fall outside of my top 5 (maybe it would make my top 10). Other restaurants that I would include:

                        - Hattie's -- never had a bad meal there in the many times I have been

                        - Nana - great food done with an innovative flair. I think that if chef Bombaci wasn't in a "hotel restaurant", more people would appreciate just how good his food can be.

                        Olivella -- I am a pizza fiend and these are some of the best pies I have had in Texas.

                        1. re: Bhutani

                          All I can say is Danhole and Brucesw will now be your CH friends. Both are very knowledgeable on the Houston scene. I know b/c I have posted quite a bit (borther lives there). You will be missed....perhaps we can work out a trade.....Phoenicia spices and shwarma for Jimmy's sandwiches, meatballs, and Italian sausage. I will even thorw in some Mozza Co. smoked scamorza!

                          1. re: LewisvilleHounder

                            That definately sounds like a tempting offer! I live very close to Mozza Co and I guess I take for granted having an artisanal cheese maker in my hood. Thanks for the tips on whose posts to look out for.

                            1. re: Bhutani

                              So this question is like, "if Dallas only had 5 restaurants, which ones could you live with?"

                              That's tough -- just pairing down to 5. I'll give it a shot...

                              I've never been a fan of "the higher the price tag, the better the meal." So while I appreciate the fine-dining experience from time-to-time, there's nothing better than digging into a plate from one of the kitchens and counters that have been part of the Dallas landscape longer than the freshly painted facade of the next celebrity chef's flash in the pan.

                              1. Aw Shucks - Lower Greenville. Why? Consistently great and cheap seafood served up many different ways -- all with a regional flair. Atmosphere is funky, kinda dining indoors but yet outdoors, great people-watching spot. Mexican-style shrimp cocktails are signature, as well as the oysters on the half-shell are consistently fine. Crawfish in season, is done very well. Boiled crabs, fried catfish and more along with a ice-cold, serve yourself beer and an honor system. It's like going to a party and it won't empty your wallet.

                              2. El Taquito Cafe - Samuel @ Grand. Why? The absolute hottest and best salsa in Dallas, combined with cheesy-greasy good ol' Tex Mex that will cure anything from a hangover to a broken heart. Plus the price tag and service make it one of my favoritas.

                              3. Jimmy's - Bryan @ Fitzhugh. Why? Great sandwiches and deli. It's like driving to Chicago without having to drive through Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and the lower two-thirds of Illinois.

                              4. Louie's - Henderson near Ross. Why? The powerful combination of the best pizza, calzones, and greek salads on the planet and the coolest old bars. It's a local thing, you probably wouldn't understand.

                              5. The All Good Cafe - Main St., Deep Ellum. Why? Inventive home-cooking, some of the best breakfasts and lunches you could imagine, and one of the best local live music venues at night. It's like driving to Austin without having to drive through Waco. This place is truly, "all good!"

                              1. re: DiRotiman

                                I adore Louie's. Excellent food, excellent pizza, excellent drinks. The service can be hit or miss if you aren't a regular, but you don't go to Louie's for the service.

                              2. re: Bhutani

                                Houston Dairy Maids will be your local cheese source as is La Vaquita - fresh queso fresco and is an awesome brand. I put together a list of pretty much all the cheese makers in Texas on this thread....and a bunch of people chime in with the same answer for fresh cheese source - Houston Dairy Maids and sometimes Spec's. I believe the one on Westheimer out close to Phoenicia and in Downtown. The dairy maids will be at the only two Farmers Markets. Don't expect the scale and organization of the Dallas Farmers Market. It is basically folks selling produce, fruits and cheese out of the back of their cars or some small booths. St. Arnold will be the local brewery and is an awesome tour to take on a Saturday. I believe St. Arnold's has some program if you save your empty case you get something free when you bring it to the tour, free beer at the end of the tour! Let me know what part of town you will be in and I will round up some recs from my bro and his friends. He works at British Petroleum, so it is a multi national group there! B4-u-eat will be your Guidelive without pictures and the also without the extraneous info that is worthless to a foodie


                            2. re: Bhutani

                              I second Hattie's, that place is always terrific,

                          2. Well, I have a high end restaurant bias I suppose, and I view excellent wine as an essential accompanyment to any decent meal, but here are my current favorite five.

                            1. Lola. Very good food, but it's pushed over the top by the amazingly deep and well priced wine list. As good a list as any restaurant between New York and Los Angeles.

                            2. Bijoux. Food is extraordinarily well done and very French influenced in technique while still remaining American in ingredients. Service is good and unobtrusive and the wine list is improving.

                            3. York Street. The closest you can get in Dallas to pure seasonal regional ingredient driven cuisine. Sharron Hage is the chef in Dallas who is most philosophically in tune with local seasonal ingredient revolution of Alice Waters, and that's a good thing, especially in the summer. Wine list is well selected, but rather limited. Service is less polished than one would expect given the quality of the food.

                            4. Charlie Palmer. Rather embarrassing to have a chain outpost on the list, but my meal at Charlie Palmer was that good. They were really hitting on all cylinders with the food and the wine list is fairly deep and well priced. Service was flawless.

                            5. Fearing's. Dean is back. And he's been unshackled somewhat, too. A few old favorite dot the menu, but the food is much more creative that he was allowed to be back at the Mansion. I've not had a bad meal here in five or six visits. Service is good, and the wine list, while somewhat pricey, is well selected and moderately deep. Down sides include a chaotic mess at the valet stand, and having to wend your way through the bar to get to the restaurant. Whoever thought of that ought to be shot.