Dallas’ food scene isn’t “up-and-coming,” as you may have been led to believe — it's already arrived. In addition to the succulent barbecue, bold Tex-Mex, and hearty Southern comfort food you’re envisioning, the city is home to one of the country’s biggest Korean food scenes, not to mention several of the buzziest Laotian food restaurants in North America and a slew of world-class French and Italian eateries — and that’s just the beginning. Dallas is a smorgasbord of thrilling, diverse world cuisine: Menudo, Iraqi kebabs, banh xeo, cabrito, sookie yaki, and khao soi are just as ubiquitous here as chicken-fried steak, enchiladas, and grilled ribeyes.
Make no mistake, the Big D is a foodie destination in its own right. Here are the best places in town to get your grub on.
Despite being one of the best Italian restaurants in Dallas for over a decade, Nonna still feels like a well-kept secret—and that’s just the way everyone likes it. The menu at this nondescript Highland Park trattoria shifts with the seasons, usually accommodating the culinary team’s latest homemade pasta dishes. There are just two items that never leave the menu: the lobster ravioli and the white clam pizza. They are both, as you might imagine, heavenly.
Tei-An owner Teiichi Sakurai is the hottest, and most influential figure on the Dallas food scene. A world-renowned soba master, Sakurai started a couple of other restaurants in town, but Tei-An is the crown jewel. To experience the true breadth of Sakurai’s genius, call ahead to request the seven-course omakase.
Everything about Bullion is luxurious, from the gold-scaled building and elegant decor to the mouthwatering menu designed by Michelin-starred chef Bruno Davailon. The food is classic Northern French, with staples like canard a l’orange, côtes de boeuf (for two), and pate en croute. Quite possibly the best fine-dining restaurant in Dallas, Bullion has a reputation to uphold, and everyone who works here knows it.
Sapp Sapp Lao & Thai Kitchen
Address120 S Main St, Irving, TX 75060-2927, USA
From the family who brought Nalink Market — a popular Laotian grocery store in downtown Irving — to Dallas comes Sapp Sapp Lao & Thai Kitchen, an intimate, bustling spot that feels less like a restaurant and more like a family hangout. At Sapp Sapp, the emphasis is on the traditional Lao- and Thai-style food that owner Xay Senephoumy grew up with; adventurous eaters, be sure to try the “Xay-style” noodle soup, a steaming bowl of thick bone broth with a mixture of crispy pork belly, cubes of solidified pork blood, and soft-boiled quail eggs.
Origin Kitchen + Bar
If you’re hankering for traditional, hearty, tried-and-true American cuisine like creamy, goat cheese-infused grits, Texas chili, Brussels sprout salads, and tender boneless short ribs, look no further than Origin Kitchen + Bar. Just be sure to come hungry and thirsty: Origin has some fantastic house cocktails. We’re partial to the Golden Fleece, a pineapple and turmeric-infused vodka concoction with sparkling wine, honey, and Topo Chico.
Bolsa is the ideal neighborhood meet-up spot. Tucked just west of Bishop Arts and surrounded by cool galleries and shops, this cozy eatery has a fantastic wine list and fresh, healthy food offerings. The Texas Cheese Board, fried olives, and beer-steamed mussels pave the way for crisp flatbreads, burgers, and a sublime smoked trout salad with avocado, shaved fennel, and fresh herbs.
Opened in 1972, The Grape is a longtime East Dallas gem that’s only become more charming over the years. The burger is what people will tell you about (served only on Sunday and Monday nights), but don’t leave without trying the sumptuous mushroom soup or the bistro steak frites. Whatever you order, just be sure to pair your meal with a glass of dry champagne; Courtney Luscher’s wine list is superb.
Pecan Lodge is a vital part of Dallas’s food DNA. This iconic barbecue spot started as a tiny stall at the Dallas Farmers Market, and it’s since morphed into a culinary powerhouse. Be prepared to wait in line and to potentially have your heart broken — when they run out of meat in their on-site smoke pit, the show’s over.
After Gemma opened in 2014, dozens of other local restaurants tried in vain to copy the place’s brand of Mediterranean-accented California cuisine — alas, there’s still only one Gemma. Owned by husband-and-wife duo Stephen Rogers and Alison Yoder, this Dallas favorite serves up splendid small plates that are meant to be shared: think baked oysters, roasted eggplant dip, pappardelle, and crispy squash blossoms.
Set inside a former tortilla factory, Meso Maya boasts a classic Tex-Mex menu that mixes Mayan- and Oaxacan-style dishes like mole, pozole, guajillo, and Budin Azteca (yummy homemade corn tortillas layered with cheese and your choice of meat or veggies), from acclaimed chef Nico Sanchez. The quaint patio is the perfect spot to sip a mezcal cocktail.
Eat once at Royal China and you’ll never get Chinese takeout from anywhere in Dallas, ever again. All the food here is divine but the dumpling bar — where chefs roll dumplings and pull noodles right before customers’ eyes — is to die for. Whatever you’re craving, don’t go to Royal China without getting at least one dish (or several dishes) with the hand-pulled noodles.
Kozy Kitchen has achieved the impossible: giant, fluffy, tangy, scrumptious pancakes that are gluten-free. It’s nothing short of a miracle. The menu here is bursting with other delicious items (both with and without gluten), but it’s those pancakes (and the freshly-squeezed juices and insanely good coffee) that keep us coming back for more. While they’re open for lunch and dinner, too, breakfast is the real standout.
Rise No. 1
Cozily hidden away in Inwood Village, Rise No. 1 is a “salon de souffle”—meaning their specialty is the souffle, which they’ve certainly mastered in all its forms. But this charming French bistro has more to offer than their namesake food (though it must be said, their savory souffles are very good). Along with a killer wine list, Rise No. 1 offers classic French staples like salad nicoise, steak & pomme de terre, and brie & cornichon baguettes.
At Lucia, customers are treated like family. The locally-sourced, innovative menu is outstanding, and the warm, convivial atmosphere will make you want to linger for hours — perhaps this is why it’s almost impossible to snag a reservation here. But if you’re one of the lucky ones, be sure to indulge in all the pasta, charcuterie, and olive oil cake your heart desires.