If the mere thought of dining in Arlington leaves a bad taste in your mouth, you’re not alone.

The land of the Dallas Cowboys and the Texas Rangers has a hearty sports angle, but it’s not exactly known for its culinary verve.

However, the thing about Arlington is that there is much more to the food and drink scene than meets the eye. It's not just a chain gang of restaurants and fast food empires.

Look a little closer, and you’ll find a host of amazing restaurants that may not all have the same swank status as some hotspots in Dallas or Fort Worth. But, whether they are mom-and-pop shops, trendy eateries, or fine dining establishments, what they have in common is authentic stories and must-try menus that may just change your mind about Arlington’s dining scene.

Check out these cool-kids on the block the next time you’re heading to a game. Although, why even wait for football season to kick off before beginning a foodie tour of the city.


Where: The Sanford House Inn & Conference Center, 506 N. Center St.

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The charm is real here, where you will be tempted to stay-cation it up at this luxe bed-and-breakfast, so you can have dinner and brunch at the onsite Restaurant506 — and throw in a massage at the spa. Toto, we are definitely not in Arlington anymore.


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R Bar & Grill

Where: 2401 E. Lamar Blvd.

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This glossy restaurant could easily be a hotspot in Dallas. It features regionally inspired cuisine, craft cocktails, wood-fired pizza, and more. The menu is diverse with elevated twists on Texas tradition, meaning you can order everything from the signature Tito’s Seabass marinated for 48 hours in Tito's Vodka, to lobster ravioli, a Wagyu beef burger, or even Baja street tacos.


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Mercury Chophouse

Where: 2221 E. Lamar Blvd.

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As the name might suggest, this is the ultimate steakhouse with all the surf-and-turf classics prepared with gourmet refinement. Dinner even comes with quite a view. The restaurant is on the ninth floor of an office building, offering panoramic views of Arlington’s entertainment district.


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Tom’s Burgers & Grill

Where: 1530 N. Cooper St.

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It’s a classic ‘50s diner — with a whole new twist. Engineer-turned-culinary champ Chef Tom Jones sends out all the retro faves with a deliciously redefined angle. That means: (a) You can eat breakfast all day long (think eggs benedict, waffles, blueberry pancakes, and biscuits and gravy); and (b) You can also eat old-school amazingness like a pimiento-cheese burger, patty melt, a stacked-to-the-ceiling Reuben sandwich, chicken-fried steak and Texas toast, bottle caps, and fried pickles. Need we say more?


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Gino’s East

Where: 1350 E. Copeland Road

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One bite of the Chicago-style deep-dish pizza with a cornmeal crust, and you won’t care that this is a chain. They have thin-crust varieties, too, but why would you even go there.


Champions Park

Where: 1805 N. Collins St.

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A wonderland of winning eateries, this destination for dining and entertainment boasts a little something for everyone. Granted, most of these places are of the fast-casual, chain-like type — think Tiff’s Treats, Urban Bricks, Yumilicious fro-yo, BurgerFi, Torchy’s Tacos, and Salata. But, they’re of the trendier, cooler variety, especially with the Zero Degrees Asian-Hispanic fusion spot (they have Hot Cheetos Cheese Fries and an Ube Milkshake for the win) and the Rocket Fizz soda and candy shop.


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Moni’s Pasta and Pizza

Where: 1730 W. Randol Mill Road

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For a taste of la bella vita in Arlington, look no further than Moni’s. Owner Moni Kaba was born in Macedonia and lived in Italy for years before coming to the United States. He has a long culinary history in Dallas — and even catered the famous TV show, Dallas. Now, it’s all about Italian classics like pasta, pizza, and seafood done right. It’s also BYOB.


Social Bakehouse Café

Where: 546 Lincoln Square

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Frosted Flakes French toast. Need we say more? If you’re a dessert-first kind of person, then this is your place for cupcakes, cookies, confections, pies, and more. The café has paninis, wraps, pasta, and comfort food like meatloaf to go with that sugar rush.


David’s Barbecue

Where: 2224 W. Park Row Dr., Pantego

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Even barbecue snobs will give this place the seal of approval. Despite mostly flying under the radar, except for the locals in-the-know, the family-run joint is a Texas barbecue institution dating back to 1910. Owner Jimmy Bryan Harris is part of Dallas’ most famous family in smoke — he’s the second cousin of Sonny Bryan. Good barbecue must be genetic.


Marquez Bakery & Tortilla Factory

Where: 1730 E. Division St.

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It’s #TacoTuesday (and #TamaleTuesday and #TortillaTuesday) every day here, where the unassuming, family-run spot makes from-scratch Mexican must-haves. The cakes are pretty impressive, too.


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Fork in the Road

Where: 1821 S. Fielder Road

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Freestyle, “off-the-hip” food is precisely what you’ll get at this tiny neighborhood café that dishes real, down-home breakfasts and lunches. Specialty sandwiches are the thing here (the gorilla biscuit with corned beef and salami is a signature) along with build-your-own burgers, salads, and truffled crack-a-roni that’s as addicting as it sounds. Wash it all down with pure, cane-sugar sodas. No HFCS here — not even in the ketchup (that's high fructose corn syrup, for the non-health-nerds).


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Chop House Burgers & Wings

Where: 2230 W Park Row Dr., Pantego

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Every kind of burger you can dream of is probably available here — from the classics to the mega-topped masterpieces. The signature Chop House Burger gets piled with slow-roasted brisket, house-made steak sauce, bacon, and cheddar cheese. There’s even one with a grilled cheese bun. As for the wings, you can order any number of them, with eight flavors available. Although this joint is technically in Pantego, that’s basically Arlington. So, we won’t let a technicality trip us up on between-the-buns perfection.


J. Gilligan’s Bar & Grill

Where: 400 E. Abram St.

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Home of the famous Irish nachos, or so they say, J. Gilligan’s is a classic dive. But, in addition to those fries, they also send out other Irish pub food done right. For sports fans, the best thing on the menu will be their shuttle service to all major games and other events that take place at the nearby AT&T Stadium. Cottage fries before the Cowboys. Sounds like a touchdown.


Lockhart Smokehouse

Where: Texas Live!, 1650 E. Randol Mill Road

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Already a barbecue darling in DFW, Lockhart Smokehouse is calling Arlington its third home at the Texas Live! entertainment district opening August 9. All the solid Lockhart standards will be present and accounted for, including Kreuz Market sausage and meats smoked low and slow over Texas post oak.


Twisted Root Burger Co.

Where: 310 E. Abram St.

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A pioneer of the fancy, loaded-up, gourmet burger, Twisted Root was kind of a novelty when it launched in Deep Ellum in 2006. The goodness soon expanded to multiple locations, including Arlington, and it has never worn off, especially with burger action like the Freshman 15 (patty topped with cheddar, fried egg, bacon — and smashed fries) and the Le Wagyu (Dijon-crusted Texas Wagyu beef with thyme-caramelized onions and Gruyère). The adults-only, spiked custard shakes are a must, too. Did we mention there’s a retro RV bar inside the eatery for even more delicious kitsch?


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Jamaica Gates Caribbean Cuisine

Where: 1010 W. Arkansas

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Born and raised in Jamaica, Chef Barbara Renfro will send your taste buds straight to the island with a menu of classic Caribbean recipes. The place was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives — and with menu faves like fried plantains, Jamaican patties, jerk chicken, and steamed whole fish along with live reggae music every Friday and Saturday night, it’s no wonder. There’s also an Island lunch buffet for a delicious getaway during the day.


Taste of Europe

Where: 1901 W. Pioneer Parkway

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With a focus on eastern European cuisine, you may think you’re in Russia with traditional dishes like borscht, cabbage pierogis, blintzes, potato pancakes, chicken Kiev, stroganoff, and the list goes on. It is owned by a Russian family, so this is as authentic as it gets outside of hopping a plane. You can even get a souvenir from the market that has Russian nesting dolls and other merch as well as European groceries. The authentic destination caught the attention of Food Network, too, as the restaurant had its time in the spotlight on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.


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Prince Lebanese Grill

Where: 502 W. Randol Mill Road

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Hummus is always the answer. If you’re craving an authentic version of it along with falafel, mezze, tabbouleh, gyros, and shawarma, this Lebanese restaurant is legit. The place has been sending out Mediterranean flavors since 1989, which means they are really doing something right. It’s also great for any meat-freeing friends, with vegetarian options galore. If you hadn’t already guessed, this one’s been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, too.


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Jambo’s BBQ Shack

Where: 1724 Division St.

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Ashton Stauffer is the ultimate pit boss. As the owner of all three Jambo’s locations (there’s one in Pantego and Burleson, too), she heads up the smokin’ hot endeavor that has all the ‘cue you could possibly want. Get the Jambo Texan, the flagship sandwich that’s an eight-inch stack of six kinds of smoked meats, all skewered between Texas toast. It’s not for the faint of heart — and requires a knife and fork for sure. The Hot Mess is also pretty legit. Fries and okra get topped with chopped brisket, cheese, beans, coleslaw, bacon-wrapped jalapeños and more.


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Candlelite Inn

Where: 1202 E. Division St.

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Originally opened in 1957, this mainstay still has the retro flair, neon signs, table candles (now LEDs), and red-and-white checkered tablecloths of its past. The sign out front does say it all: “Charcoal Steak, Salad, Baked Potato, Toast." Sure enough, those old-fashioned classics have some form of representation on the menu of this Arlington landmark.


Guy Fieri’s Taco Joint

Where: Texas Live!, 1650 E. Randol Mill Road

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Guy Fieri has featured so many Arlington hot spots on his Food Network show, Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, it's no wonder this spiky-haired hotshot would set up shop in the city, too. His Taco Joint is serving up mouthfuls like Shiner Ruby Red glazed pork shoulder tacos with chipotle and sweet onions, grilled pineapple-serrano salsa, cilantro, cotija and avocado-tomatillo salsa at the new Texas Live! venue, opening August 9.


Tandoor Indian Restaurant

Where: 1200 N. Fielder Road

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Spice it up at this place for real-deal north Indian cuisine. The art of slow cooking in a Tandoor pit oven, magical seasoning blends, and flavorful marinated meats come together for an authentic Mughlai food moment. The lunch buffet is a great way to sample a little of everything, from kebabs to curries, fresh naan, and so much more.


Bodacious Bar-B-Q

Where: 1206 E. Division St.

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With a name like bodacious, it has to be good. Along with East Texas-style brisket, ribs, pork, links, and sides, you can also order sloppy Joe sliders and some pretty serious pies.


The Flying Fish

Where: 300 E. Abram St.

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This quirky-delish fish restaurant has a home in Dallas and multiple other locations. The seafood is seriously good and accessibly priced, with catfish, tilapia, shrimp, po’boys, oysters, and crab, plus the best hush-puppies around.


Jay Jay Café

Where: 1001 S. Bowen Road and 4401 Little Road, Suite 580

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Homestyle cooking for every meal of the day, this diner has just about anything you might be craving. Best to save room for dessert because the homemade pies are pretty much a meal themselves — think German chocolate cream, blueberry, apple, rhubarb, and more.


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