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Jan 12, 2014 04:06 PM

3.5 Days in Dallas, Trimming the Itenerary

Hello all,

Heading to Dallas in March to check another NHL arena off my bucket list - and of course, to see the local culture and restaurants. Have put together a decent sized list but wanting to trim it down to the 'best of.' As you'll see, dinners are focused at the upper end with the rest a bit of everything from BBQ to gastropub to fried chicken. If there is a place that is terribly not worth it, please say so, and if there is a glaring omission I'd be happy to hear. Keep in mind that I travel largely for food and sports, so the point is mostly to experience the best of what there is, or the most authentic. Will be in Austin for 4 days after Dallas, as well.

Sunday Brunch/Lunch: Bolsa vs. Tolbert's?

4 Dinners: Fearing’s, Stephan Pyles, Mansion at Turtle Creek, Lucia (Open to others, possibly)

3 Breakfasts: Oddfellows, Bread Winners Café & Bakery, Ellen’s Southern, Smoke (Need to eliminate one)

3 or 4 Lunches: Hattie’s, Cane Rosso, Avila's, Babe's Chicken Dinner House, Pecan Lodge, Chicken Scratch (Need to eliminate 2-3)

Meddlesome Moth - good as a pre-hockey game spot (5ish?)

Snack/Pastry Spots - Jaram’s Donuts, The Village Baking Co, Glazed Donut Works, Society Bakery, Hyponotic Donuts.


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  1. Great post and thank you for doing research in advance. I'm just going to go down your list and add my thoughts.

    Sunday Brunch: I like Bolsa for brunch. Also great and a more Texan experience would be Smoke. Another good brunch is Boulevardier or CBD Provisions. Of all of these I would recommend Smoke where you can get brisket hash and other items that are semi Texas in style/theme.

    4 Dinners: I would do one or the other regarding Stephan Pyles or Fearings. Both are quintessential Dallas spots but are not too dissimilar in approach so one could satisfy. FT33 is probably the most trendy choice right now. I haven't been to Belly & Trumpet but have heard great things. In my opinion, Lucia is the best high end restaurant we have right now so definitely keep that on the list and order charcuterie.

    3 Breakfasts: Eliminate Bread Winners. Unless you just like pastries, I have had two terrible experiences there regarding both food and service. Plus, while the menu is expansive, none of it is very interesting. I would add Crossroads Diner, Good 2 Go Tacos (interesting breakfast tacos), or just breakfast tacos anywhere (e.g., Torchys). You'll get tons of breakfast tacos in Austin as well so keep that in mind.

    3 or 4 lunches: This is a good list with Pecan Lodge being the only "must-go". If you've never been to BonChon and want fried chicken you should add that to your list. Avila's is good Tex-Mex, you can do a search for other good tex-mex options. You've left off Mexican which you should definitely find.

    Meddlesome Moth is a fantastic beer bar but i've never been impressed with their food. It's good enough though and a good pre-game spot if you want to drink a lot of great beer.

    Snacks - El Portal Bakery in Carrollton for Almojabana. International Bakery (also in Carrollton) for cuban pastries. Village Bakery for canele's. And, if you go to brunch at CBD Provisions, they have an incredible pastry plate.

    Lastly, you did not include any types of asian food in your lists. We have lots of options for Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese (mostly Sichuan and Cantonese), SE Asian, etc.... Let us know if that's something you would like while here.

    11 Replies
    1. re: demigodh

      I second all the above. Especially, Smoke! Although, I prefer Slow Bone's BBQ to Pecan Lodge's BBQ. And, I would throw Nonna into the mix for dinner.

      1. re: demigodh

        I live in Las Vegas where Chinese and Japanese dominate the off strip culture - I also travel regularly as indicated by the blog - I want whatever is the best representation of what "Dallas" is all about. :-)

        I do like the look of FT33, less so Belly & Trumpet - the question then would be eliminating Fearings or Pyles...

        Need to look into the rest. :-)

        1. re: uhockey

          Although I think FT33 is one of the very best restaurants in Dallas at this time, I wouldn't eliminate Belly and Trumpet too quickly. They have an excellent reputation for imaginative, delicious, and highly regarded chef driven food in Dallas.

          1. re: twinwillow

            Makes sense, I just wonder how it differs from farm-to-table elsewhere. As my first (and maybe only, time will tell) visit in the near future to Dallas I sort of feel like I need to see the classics first. There is a part of me that thinks it'd be a crime to miss Fearing's or Pyles, as 'oldschool' restaurants are far less common than the ever changing trendy spots.

            Regarding Tolbert's, it seemingly gets no attention, is it bad or just sort of blah?


            1. re: uhockey

              Per your original question asking, Tolbert's or Bolsa for brunch? It's just that there is no comparing Tolbert's to Bolsa. They're two totally different restaurants offering two completely different styles of cooking and foods.

              Personally, I'd stick to Smoke for brunch!

              Regarding Fearing's vs Stephan Pyles, I'd probably give Fearing's a try for my first time visit to Dallas.

              But, it's a tough call unless you can do both during your visit.

              And the Mansion? The shining queen of the lot and should not be missed! For either brunch or dinner.

              1. re: uhockey

                Belly & Trumpet is good, but not nearly as good on imagination or execution as FT33. If you can make it on Tues-Thurs, I strongly recommend the tasting menu. I would also suggest Casa Rubia, which is doing some really nice stuff.

                I see what you're saying about Fearing's or Pyle's. But I, personally, would skip them both.

                A lunch alternative - if you're around on a Saturday, try to find the White Rock Local Market (it oscillates between two locations) and get one or two of Brian Luscher's Post Oak Smoked Red Hots. They are magnificent - without a doubt the best "hot dogs" I've eaten, although they have the smoke and unctuousness to qualify as near-BBQ. Kind of what you might expect from a Chicago transplant to Dallas.

                  1. re: gavlist

                    I'll not be there on a Saturday, unfortunately.

                    At this point I'm debating FT33 and Fearing's on the same day - 4:30 and 9:00p, respectively. Not sure if I'll do it, but could easily manage 3 courses at each - possibly more.

                    Will be making the trip as a solo, so even though I can eat, capacity will be slightly limited by that.


                1. re: twinwillow

                  Does FT33 or Fearing's do a tasting menu, or are both ALC?

                  1. re: uhockey

                    Yes, FT33 definitely does chef's tastings--they may be events however? I'm sure gavlist knows more than I do about this ...

                    1. re: foiegras

                      FT33 does a tasting menu - but only on Tues, Weds or Thurs, and they want you to request it when you make your reservation. The courses (I think 11, if you count all the small stuff) are all different from what's on the menu. I thought it was a fantastic meal - every single course was as good or better than the best of the regular menu items (which are also very good). Really interesting ideas and presentation and flavor combination, excellent balance of flavors, everything perfectly cooked. I also strongly recommend the beverage pairings - they were brilliantly chosen.

                      Matt is actually in the process of developing new dishes for the tasting menu - I think they'll have switched by March, so you probably won't get the same dishes I had last time.

            2. I'd look into Spoon and FT33 as well. The former has lunch service so you can save a slot for dinner. I've had ups and "ehs" at FT33, but there's no doubt what McCallister is doing is interesting, and they're only getting better.

              If you must, I'd do either Fearing's *or* Stephan Pyles. They overlap a lot in culinary style.

              Of those lunch options, only Pecan Lodge stands out as a must (granted you have time). I like Cane Rosso a lot but my last meal was a miss. Maybe a one-time deal; maybe expansion has stretched them a little a thin. Love Babe's too, but not sure if it's worth the trek depending on where you're staying. Nonna has pastas as good or better than Lucia and offers lunch on Fridays.

              Hypnotic and Village Baking Co. are both good choices. Whenever you're in Oak Cliff I'd stop by Emporium Pies too.

              2 Replies
              1. re: will_5198

                Adding Dude Sweet Chocolate to the list. I'm assuming this is a road trip and some good chocolate would be nice to have in the car.

                1. re: will_5198

                  I agree that looking at Spoon is a great idea. Very good, and adventurous seafood. Decent wine list.

                  I would also look into Mesa. Vera Cruz style Mexican food that is very well done.

                2. Few thoughts for you ...

                  Do you mean Tolbert's in Grapevine? Bolsa wins that one easily ...

                  I personally really like Belly & Trumpet, also FT33. For breakfast, love Smoke, Oddfellows is also good. Have never heard of Ellen's. From your lunch list, I like Babe's and Pecan Lodge. Agree that the food at Meddlesome Moth has not blown me away.

                  Agree with the Dude, Sweet recommendation! Boulevardier is across the street and worth a visit. Last time I was there, the baby octopus app was amazing. (The 'breakfast' foie gras was not. I didn't care for their preparation.)

                  1. 4 Dinners: Fearing’s, Stephan Pyles, Mansion at Turtle Creek, Lucia (Open to others, possibly) - nix Fearings. I live here and I didn't think it was all that great and would not waste a meal on it. I would got to Boulevardier, Belly & Trumpet, FT33, Casa Rubia or TJ's Seafood Market. I would consider some mid range options like Mesa (Regional Mexican - Veracruz) or Bambu - Regional Thai - Issan (you can compare to Lotus of Siam) as well.

                    3 Breakfasts: Oddfellows, Bread Winners Café & Bakery, Ellen’s Southern, Smoke (Need to eliminate one) - Nix Breadwinners and Ellen's. Plenty of breakfast taco spots that aren't much different from Austin.

                    3 or 4 Lunches: Hattie’s, Cane Rosso, Avila's, Babe's Chicken Dinner House, Pecan Lodge, Chicken Scratch (Need to eliminate 2-3) - Nix Avila's and Babe's. If you are willing to drive out to Carrollton there is a great mix of Pakistani, Korean and Latin cultures going on. I just had dinner at Eat St Kebab Factory and the naan and beef seekh kabob will long be on my mind. At lunch I also like Hotel Saravanaa Bhavan, one of the few locations in America, for South Indian vegetarian cuisine. The Thali is the best way to go there and it rotates out every day. HSB is in Valley Ranch/Irving I would throw in a few taco spots Tortilleria La Nueva Fresh & Hot (Bachman Lake - Dallas) or Dona Lencha (Irving).

                    Snack/Pastry Spots - Jaram’s Donuts, The Village Baking Co, Glazed Donut Works, Society Bakery, Hyponotic Donuts. I have never heard of Jaram's and not sure why. Can you tell us how you came about it and why you woudl drive out of the way for it, just curious? Hypnotic I would go for the biscuits. Never been wowed by the donuts. I would throw Scardello Artisan Cheese for truly a world class cheese shop, if you are into great cheese. If you are into great beer then I would hit up eitehr Hall's in Tarrant county or Lonestar Beverages in Dallas county.

                    The Moth is an awesome experience and a great beer selection but quite pricey. Might consider Craft & Growler in before the game....just leave some time in to account for traffic.

                    As for Asian will want to get it all in here in Dallas as the only thing better in Austin is the Japanese. Trust me we have relatives in Austin and there aren't many options for Asian foods.

                    BTW which hockey team do you follow? I myself have been really on board with the Blackhawks this year as Dallas has been sucking wind for the past several years.

                    1. Longtime follower of your blog here with a few suggestions. Never been a big fan of Stephan piles, but I find it far superior to Fearing's. But, I would choose neither when you have access to such great spots as Lucia-fantastic chef driven Italian in a comfortable atmosphere with great service from Jennifer, Fauna, Stephanie, etc. Tremendous salumi and bread, small portions on apps and pasta so that you can try more, and large, robustly homey mains that hit home just right.

                      Spoon- Phenomenally fresh seafood from a master. Chef Tesar takes you across the world in his preparations. Ask for Ben to be your server and you'll receive some of the best service available in Dallas since Craft closed.

                      CBD Provisions- Laid back newcomer in a beautiful downtown hotel. Food includes a wonderful chicken liver mousse with pepper jelly, little goat pies braised in stout, beautiful head on shrimp and grits with house made nduja, and a half pigs head carnitas that if I weren't trying to stay off Lipitor, I'd eat everyday.

                      AF+B- despite being in Fort Worth, its worth the drive. Chef Jeff Harris, formerly of Craft and Bola, has opened his own restaurant based on upscale Texas food using only Texas ingredients. Great food.

                      Don't miss Babe's, Smoke for brunch, Cane Rossi(have read your love of pizza) There are also many Asian restaurants worth a visit in the Dallas area.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: nomnomyum

                        Hey, thanks for the recommendations. I'll be spending a day in Fort Worth and AF+B looks like it may trump my other dinner choices.

                          1. re: foiegras

                            Lonesome Dove, Lanny's, Woodshed Smokehouse, Revolver Taco Lounge.

                            Fortunately, Revolver Taco Lounge has a happy hour, so I'm almost certain I'll be going there.

                            The others are open for lunch -- Lanny's looks more interesting at dinner.

                            1. re: cocobinga

                              I like Lonesome Dove & Woodshed. Really the patio is what's so great about the Woodshed, but the 'everything' sandwich (I forget what it's called) is really good. They also have a drink I like, but don't expect to be able to tell the ice is smoked ;)

                              Lanny's when I went was meh. Perhaps one of these days I'll give it another shot. Revolver, I found shockingly overpriced. If you want to spend a lot of money on tacos, I find Velvet Taco more amusing.

                              Places I like here include Rodeo Goat and Shinjuku Station.

                              1. re: foiegras


                                Just curious what is the appeal of Velvet Taco over Revolver, both about the same price if you don't go during Happy Hour at Revolver.

                                Is it the variety of cross-cultural fillings (Tikka, Falafel Poke, etc)?

                                I have never been to Velvet Taco so just trying to get your perspective.

                                1. re: LewisvilleHounder

                                  Yes, I find the tacos a lot more interesting, which I think is worth paying for.

                                  What I got at Revolver was an order of lengua tacos. It was basically (as I recall) some perfectly nice corn tortillas, incredibly thin slices of tongue, and cilantro. With tip I remember it running me something like $18. At Velvet, I would've gotten perhaps an equal number of tacos, but each one different, interesting, generously filled, and worthy of conversation. And a meal, not a snack.

                                  1. re: LewisvilleHounder

                                    At the Velvet Taco, I really like the "Poke" Ahi tuna tacos and, the cornmeal dusted fried oyster tacos. But given a choice, I really prefer the more authentic and (much) cheaper hipster free Mexico City style street taco joints around Dallas.