In 2016, the Dallas restaurant scene mirrored the regional economy — on a tear. Lots of new places opened and it has been hard to leave places like Sprezza (Italian) and Sixty Vines (a different kind of wine bar) just outside the top 10. The restaurant scene here now is strong, although trips outside the bubble reminded me that we still don’t have any world-class restaurants.
Stephan Pyles’ eponymous restaurant, last year’s winner, closed. He replaced it with Flora Street Café, a smaller, more manageable space. I have not tried it yet but, based on form, I would expect it to be very good. He describes the food as “elevated Texas cuisine.” (I am not sure what that means; maybe armadillo comes with caviar?) CBD Provisions lost its chef and the new one does not even get his name on the web site. The same consignment to anonymity befell the new chef at the Mansion Restaurant, despite a yearlong candidate search (or were they just saving the dollars of his salary?). His predecessor, Bruno Davaillon, did not make his November deadline to open his new place, although he did reveal its name: Bullion, which Google Translate will tell you is French for… bullion (plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose). The deadline moved to April 2017 and it will be the most anticipated opening of the year.
Picking the top 10 restaurants is tough in any city, and Dallas is no exception. Ultimately, this is a very personal choice, and each reader will have his or her own additions or arguments. Here, laid bare for all to see, are mine. I had two simple requirements for my selections: It stunned me when I dined there; and, I have dined there — ideally many times. So some contenders are disqualified on that score. With that in mind, here is my list, in no particular order. The establishments are too varied to rank.
Wayward Sons (New American cuisine)
Graham Dodds, Dallas' leader in farm-to-table cooking, refuses to rest on his laurels. Just as his Scotch eggs and thrice-cooked fries at earlier venues were widely copied, his brilliant vegetarian charcuterie will likely be the next replicated.
Fearing’s (New American cuisine)
Dean Fearing was a pioneer in the 1980s as one of the “quadumvirate” that created New Southwestern cuisine. Now, his spectacular eponymous restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel offers five “halles” depending on what kind of environment you want to eat in. He still turns out great food and is one of the best in town for game meat.
Gemma (New American cuisine)
The husband-and-wife team of Stephen Rogers, chef, and Allison Yoder, GM, earned high praise at PRESS in Napa but found the cost of living too high to raise a family. So they moved back to where Rogers grew up, Dallas. They make elegant, sophisticated food and offer a well-chosen wine list.
KitchenLTO (Southern, New American, Asian, and more.)
This restaurant is a perma-pop-up where the chef moves on after a six-month tenure — hopefully to his own first establishment. Josh Harmon is here until the end of May 2017, and his style of food reflects his inventive “No Fear” approach to the culinary arts. Thing is, it works. Beverage list is filled with local wine and beer.
Still the hardest reservation in the city to get (even after five years!). David Uygur's take on Italian is modern and not tied to traditions. His wife, Jennifer, maintains the intriguing and unusual Italian wine list.
Tei An (Japanese)
Go for the omakase and specify that you want something adventurous.
Pappas Bros. Steakhouse (Steak and wine)
Prime steak, wagyu beef, and more than 2,300 wine selections make Pappas the top of the pyramid in a city of many steak houses.
Mesa Mexican (Veracruz)
Swing by this charming family-owned spot for a taste of Veracruz in Dallas.
Pecan Lodge (Barbecue)
Should a barbecue joint be in a city's top 10? If it is also one of the acknowledged best in a state where “best barbecue” is a religious issue, then yes.
Lavendou (Provencal French)
Dine on favorites prepared with Gallic flair alongside an authentic wine list. The choucroute and cassoulet seasons are a special treat.