Dallas, the ninth largest city in America, is the home of cowboys, ten gallon hats, cheerleaders, JR Ewing, and amazing food. There are no mountains to ski or oceans to swim in this landlocked city, so entertainment for these friendly folks is dining out, and they are certainly passionate about it. From down home favorites such as slow smoked barbecue to chicken fried steak, chili, and tortilla soup, to more refined fare like wood-fired bronzino, ricotta gnocci, deconstructed California rolls, and table-side hydrogen margaritas, there is something for every palate. With 20 billion dollars in development happening in Dallas right now, this booming city is becoming a must-visit culinary destination, and the bonus of approachable art is around every corner. Eating my way through Dallas was exhausting, exciting, and exceptionally delicious, and so here are 5 fabulous food finds:
Chef Matt McCallister is becoming a shining star in the Dallas culinary scene with FT33, which he opened in 2012 and has since steadily guided the restaurant to local and national acclaim. 2014 was a well-deserved stellar year for McCallister as he was dubbed one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs and was a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef: Southwest 2014. His mantra of “season inspired modern cuisine” is evident in his out-of-the-box creative menu. The vibe here is cool and energetic; the staff is quick and attentive; and the food is fresh, visually stunning, and delicious! An entrée they call “vegetable composition” is exciting with a beautiful presentation that will entice even a hard-core-carnivore to dig in. The “3rd coast catch,” with seaweed, morels, and toasted rice middlins, will definitely have you coming back for more.
Where’s the beef? Right here at Knife, chef John Tesar’s hip steakhouse in the The Highland Dallas (formerly known as the Hotel Palomar). This place is a meat lover’s paradise and you can look through a window at the aging beef as you enter the restaurant. Tesar has established relationships with Texan ranchers and prides himself on using the best locally sourced meats. From 30 to 240 days aged, every piece of meat that I tried was great and the portions are huge, so pace yourself. The charcuterie selection is delicious and the bacon – oh the bacon! They offer a bacon tasting of five strips that is tasty with super cool presentation. There are many salads, vegetables, and pastas to choose from, but beef is the shining star.
Literally translated, Parigi means Paris in Italian. Inspired by the bistros of The City of Light, the passion of Italy, and style of New York City, this welcoming neighborhood eatery is a must-visit. When it opened 30 years ago, Parigi was a restaurant ahead of its time, featuring creative culinary masterpieces prepared with local, fresh ingredients in one of Dallas' first open kitchens. The restaurant partners with over 15 local sources which provide them with fresh and sustainable products. Chef/owner Janice Provost bought Parigi 17 years ago and continues to respect its successful concept by keeping many of the original recipes on the menu while adding her own new dishes regularly. The pizzetta and antipasto are excellent, and the Caesar salad here has been dubbed by D Magazine as the Best Caesar Salad in the city. The Cali Roll Deconstructed is a crab-lovers dream; the “Half & Half” is an original recipe from 30 years ago and quite possibly one of the best desserts I have ever eaten. Many folks come to Parigi just for this dessert and it is a staple in the community. It is half “Chocolate Glob,” which is a hot fudge-filled brownie, and half peach cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream. Definitely check this place out.
Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que
Can I get an amen? This family-owned and operated restaurant has been a successful business for nearly forty years and is managed by Smokey’s sons, Brent and Juan. Additionally, his daughter, Yulise, is an attorney and serves as a legal consultant for the company. The food is excellent and the staff is genuine. You will find traditional, finger licking good barbecue meat offerings of brisket, ribs, chicken, and pork. The beef sausage and garlic beef sausage are made in house and are absolutely delicious. Flavorful sides include mashed potatoes, corn, baked beans, candied yams, cabbage, cole slaw, collard greens, and much more. The fried catfish may be the best I’ve ever had! Every Tuesday, Smokey hosts a gospel service with full musical accompaniment that is energetic, inspiring, and adds a special touch to the meal. Guests sing along, clap their hands, and dance; many locals flock to Smokey’s every week for barbecue with a side of blessings.
Stephan Pyles, San Salvaje, and Stampede 66
Chef Stephan Pyles is a fifth-generation Texan and icon in the Dallas culinary scene. At this moment, though there is probably another concept being formulated in his creative brain, Pyles has three distinctively different successful restaurants in the Dallas Arts District. He is known by Dallasites as a culinary visionary and his innovative cuisine stays true to his Texan roots while incorporating new and global influences. He is endeared for continually introducing new trends and concepts to the city. All three of Stephen’s restaurants are visually stunning and the food is great. The wood-fired bronzino with vanilla-roasted fennel and warm couscous salad at his namesake establishment, Stephan Pyles, is a dish you’re sure to find yourself craving. Yellow fin tuna ceviche with ginger and young coconut at San Salvaje melts in your mouth, and the tableside hydrogen margarita at Stampede 66 is sure to impress. You must check out all three of these hot spots when in town.