You have one. I have one. We all have one. Admit it or not (and whether it’s written down or firmly planted in your head), you have a bucket list. It exists. And, you’ve probably even crossed some things off of it — and likely added some more things.
Well, here’s another to-do list for you — and the good news is, you can cross off each and every one of these must-eats pretty easily. (Well, way easier than that trip to Tahiti you’ve been daydreaming about.) You just have to order up.
Our eyes are already too big for our stomach, though. So, this list is not meant to be the end-all-be-all. (I mean, let’s be serious, there’s really no list long enough to cover all of the menu musts in our fair foodie city.)
Plus, it only covers Dallas proper — not Addison or Plano or Frisco or McKinney, etc., etc., etc.. But, we hear you: You have amazing places there, too. Maybe we’ll make another list (or five).
Rather, let these 30 bucket-list-type-places simply serve as inspiration for your next dining-out endeavor. Hope you’re hungry!
Where: The Highland, 5300 E. Mockingbird Ln.
To say that Knife has reinvented the steakhouse experience would still be an understatement. Nationally acclaimed chef and Top Chef alum John Tesar’s love letter to beef means that prime cuts from the best born-and-raised Texas farms and ranches are dry-aged, then prepared in cast irons and customary steakhouse broilers for old-school, new-school, and exotic (think Akaushi beef and 240-day dry-aged rib eye) offerings. You choose. Of course, there’s more meat on the menu, too, what with pork belly, lamb, and a bacon tasting that’s pretty much mandatory as is the signature Ozersky burger.
Where: 400 S Record St, Ste. 150
Setting the gold standard, this downtown restaurant is a luxe-contemporary French bistro from Michelin Star-awarded chef Bruno Davaillon. The gilded exterior and interiors of the restaurant are almost as impressive as the menu that’s heavy on classic French dishes done in with modern new verve.
Where: 408 W. Eighth St., Ste. 101
Tucked into a historic building in the Bishop Arts District, this quaint spot sees Chef David Uygur turn out homemade pasta on the daily along with risotto, gnocchi, and more delicious Italian dreams. The place’s tiny footprint — a mere 14 tables — books up months in advance, although you can always try your luck at the kitchen bar seats which are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Where: 1617 Market Center Blvd.
Sensory overload is assured when you waltz through the doors of this Design District see-and-be-seen hotspot. When it first opened, this place was high on extravagant kitsch — what with 64 sparkling chandeliers, vintage sports cars, and a yellow submarine encased in an aquarium.
While all those splashy details still remain, Chef Nick Badovinus’ food also pulls its weight, where massive steaks mingle with sassy small plates, primo sides, and a raw bar, all served with a generous helping of decadent people-watching. Perish the thought if you haven’t been to Badovinus’ other hip spots like Neighborhood Services or to his Off-Site Kitchen for one of the best burgers of your life.
Where: 2702 Main St.
Barbecue is basically a food group here — and, you’ve likely had your fair share of it. But, if you haven’t been to Pecan Lodge yet, your taste buds haven’t been fully smoked. Yes, there are a lot of really good places to ’cue it up in and around the city. But, this Deep Ellum institution from Justin and Diane Fourton is one of the most popular kids on the butcher block. Expect a line during prime times.
Where: 2817 Maple Ave.
The day that Uchi came to Dallas might as well be considered a national holiday, so much was the fanfare from this Austin-based restaurant’s foodie followers. Chef de Cuisine Alex Astranti’s menu includes all the most glorious goodness, from hot and cold tastings, to makimono, yakimono, tempura, sushi, and sashimi — along with some special seasonal items, too. If I were you, I’d take a seat at the bar area for a front-row view of the sushi action. For a fun happy hour, head upstairs to Uchiba for a cocktail experience and a slightly more casual but no less crazy-good menu.
The French Room
Where: The Adolphus, 1321 Commerce St.
The gilt factor of The French Room — a pillar of Dallas’ fine dining scene — has only increased in beauty and extravagance after a recent restoration that thoughtfully enhanced its grand European mood: Think honed marble floors, gold Louis XVI-style chairs, ornate sconces, and Italian Murano glass chandeliers; you get the picture.
And, we haven’t even gotten to the menu. It’s award-winning, and draws on French culinary traditions and methodology that’s been infused with fresh personality. If you’re looking for something slightly less luxe and, shall we say, trendy-casual, the all-day City Hall Bistro at The Adolphus is another solid option that boasts delicious, chef-driven fare in a more accessible setting.
Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck
Where: 300 Reunion Blvd.
The Asian-fusion food is one thing, but the real reason you’re coming to this glossy Asian-fusion concept is for the view — all 360 degrees of it. The restaurant is located 560 feet in the air (hence its name) and slowly spins throughout dinner service so you can take advantage of every vantage point, no matter where you’re sitting. It’s a touristy thing to do, but if you haven’t been at least once, you should.
Where: 4445 Travis St.
Tucked away in the back of a floral and luxury oddities shop in Knox-Henderson, this spot is a favorite gathering place for stylistas. But, the food is on point, too — as witnessed by whimsical offerings like the Snob Sandwich (yes, it’s really called that!). Keep in mind: It’s mainly open for lunch, but on Thursdays, dinner is served, too.
Nick & Sam’s
Where: 3008 Maple Ave.
The swank factor is so real at this Uptown steakhouse that boasts exceptional prime steaks, chops, seafood, and world class sushi, in addition to the superior selection of Japanese Wagyu and a premier wine list. The people-watching is pretty solid, too, as visiting celebrities and sports studs have been known to pay a visit. And, on any given night, you might bear witness to a party table that celebrates in grand style with towers of cotton candy, sparklers and dry ice, and impossibly huge slices of rainbow cake.
Where: 1510 Pacific St.
Eat; drink; change lives. Yes, you can at Café Momentum, with Chad Houser and his team who are transforming young people’s lives by providing a positive environment in which at-risk youth who have spent time in juvenile facilities receive intensive culinary, job and life-skill training as well as continued mentorship and support. Oh, and of course, they serve an amazing menu of seasonal fare that celebrates locally sourced ingredients.
The Mansion Restaurant
Where: Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd.
Elegance personified, The Mansion Restaurant is a legendary icon and culinary gem in Uptown that was originally an exquisite European-inspired estate and now part of the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek hotel. Thus, the fare is equally exceptional with French influences and cutting-edge techniques. The seasonal tasting menu is the way to go.
Where: 2612 Commerce St.
The king of Neapolitan-style pies, this place never gets old. Owner Jay Jerrier, visited Italy in 1995 for his honeymoon and had a life-changing moment upon tasting his first true Italian pizza — and the rest is history. Surely you’ve been here. If not, your pizza cred is on the fence until you do go.
Where: The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas, 2121 McKinney Ave.
Bold flavors, no borders. That’s the motto at the namesake restaurant of celebrity chef, country recording artist, guitar connoisseur and best-selling author Dean Fearing. Feisty southwestern flavors meld with the relaxed-meets-refined vibe that’s also a see-and be-seen hub of social activity — especially around the Rattlesnake Bar.
Ferris Wheelers Backyard & BBQ
Where: 1950 Market Center Blvd.
There’s a Ferris wheel. Need we say more? Okay, we will. The barbecue is on point and the live-music-driven backyard scene is pretty much all you could ever want.
Where: 3311 Oak Lawn Ave.
Fashioned after the bistros of Paris and infused with a cosmopolitan New York vibe, this place has been serving up French classics with a twist from chef-owner Janice Provost for more than 30 years. The restaurant celebrates the Dallas community like no other with a focus on sourcing local produce and ingredients while celebrating a local resident artist with unique art installations. No wonder it’s almost like a home-away-from-home for its many regulars.
Where: 4912 Cole Ave.
This beloved destination has become a Dallas staple with its fresh, upscale take on authentic Mexican City cuisine (and feisty margaritas) and has been going strong since opening in 1977. The taxidermy-filled cigar room totally adds swanky character.
Where: Neiman Marcus, 1618 Main St.
The gigantic poufs of fluffy popovers are worth the trip alone. This consummate “ladies who lunch, gals who brunch” scene still serves its classic chicken consommé alongside every meal, but it’s the famous mandarin orange soufflé that’s also a favorite at this chicly elegant spot in the flagship Neiman Marcus downtown.
Where: One Arts Plaza, 1722 Routh St., Ste. 110
Stylish and sophisticated, this Japanese hotspot from chef-owner Teiichi Sakurai specializes in freshly made soba noodle dishes, served hot or cold in soups or with dipping sauces. The setting is beautiful, too, with a modern Tokyo vibe that mixed rich wood with concrete, stone, steel, and glass. You may have been to Teiichi’s other restaurants, Teppo and Tei Tei Robata Bar — if not, make sure you put them on the short list, too, for superior Japanese sushi and seafood.
Where: 4115 Lomo Alto
The wood-burning oven is a focal point of Chef Julian Barsotti’s intimately charming Italian restaurant, where artisanal salumis, pastas, and pizza all get top billing.
Where: 408 N. Bishop Ave., #108
Paris is always a good idea, and so is this French-inspired bistro in Bishop Arts District that serves up specialty oysters, house-made charcuterie, mussels and frites, bouillabaisse, and other inspired takes on French fare.
Where: 3011 Gulden Ln.
So, we’re kind of cheating by lumping all of the restaurants at this dynamic destination into one listing. But, if you haven’t been to Trinity Groves at all for any of the amazing selection of food (from Beto & Son's next-gen Mexican and LUCK’s donut and beer flights, to Chino Chinatwon, Souk Kebab House, Cake Bar, V Eats Modern Vegan, and so many more) along with a cool patio scene and unparalleled views of downtown, then you must get there stat.
Where: Forty Five Ten, 1608 Main St.
The beautiful thing about Mirador is that you have to traverse the style-forward retail wonderland that is Forty Five Ten to reach the penthouse-level restaurant. Of course, the modern American cuisine by Executive Chef Josh Sutcliff is at the same high level, with a limited but luxe menu. The expansive views of downtown and a wraparound terrace that overlooks Tony Tasset’s outdoor sculpture, Eye, only makes it that much cooler.
Where: 4270 Oak Lawn Ave.
If you love the critically acclaimed Gemma (another place you definitely should add to your must-go list), then you’ll definitely love it her. From husband-and-wife team Stephen Rogers and Allison Yoder, Sachet is like Gemma’s younger sister from another mister. The Mediterranean-inspired fare — you can make a meal out of the mezze small plates alone — will take you on a journey to Greece and beyond. Bring your crew and go for the family-style offerings.
TJ’s Seafood Market
Where: 4212 Oak Lawn Ave.; 6025 Royal Lane, #110
Often heralded as Dallas’ freshest and fave seafood restaurant, TJ’s has been going coastal since 1989 and now has two locations in Highland Park Village and at Preston Royal. The place doubles as a market, so I guess you could always buy the fish to fix at home. But, you’ll be hard-pressed to pass up their grilled-to-perfection preparations along with dishes like brown butter bronzino, hot Connecticut lobster rolls, and so much more. The smoked salmon board is pretty epic, too.
Where: 602 Singleton Blvd.
It’s not the fanciest of places (in fact, not at all). But, the elaborate seafood tacos and Tijuana street flavors more than make up for the low-key digs. This place has also had its time in the spotlight on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives. And, if Guy Fieri likes it, then it must be good, right?! But, seriously, it’s really good. And, you may want to go on #TacoTuesday for the CriscoKidd special: Pork chicharron-crusted cod served on a corn tortilla with avocado cream, cabbage, and pico de gallo.
Where: 7713 Inwood Rd.
Sushi and innovative Pan Asian cuisine finds its place at this hotspot that hails from the dynamic culinary duo of Tracy Rathbun and Lynae Fearing. Going more than 10 years strong, the restaurant is always alive with energy, and you can usually find Tracy and Lynae working the room and chatting with diners, many of whom have become regulars and friends. Tracy’s other culinary partner-in-crime, her chef-husband Kent Rathbun, have also recently opened the sultry-sleek Imoto in Victory Park, which you should definitely go to if you’ve already checked the box on Shinsei.
Up On Knox
Where: 3230 Knox St., Ste. 140
Just steps from Katy Trail, this casual American-meets-French brasserie from Le Bilboquet’s Stephen Courseau, is perfect at any time of day — from a classic brunch, to an ultimate gourmet burger lunch, craft cocktails, and the must-have raw bar. The menu finds the right balance between approachable and sophisticated and homey and haute; it’s almost hard to believe a Chili’s used to sit in the same venerable location for years.
Flora Street Café
Where: 2330 Flora St.
Chef Stephan Pyles’ elevated modern Texas cuisine finds a sophisticated home in this Dallas Arts District setting that’s intimate, sleek, and posh — kind of like the menu, which relies on the concept of cuisine as theater, with artfully composed dishes that look as beautiful as they taste.
Sablon Chocolate Lounge
Where: 3839 McKinney Ave., Ste. 157
The impossibly gigantic, cake-topped Grand Chocshakes are nothing short of #foodporn (and Instagram gold). So, that’s one of the reasons this decadent cocoa-power destination makes the bucket list. Plus, dessert first is always the right answer.
Billy Can Can
Where: 2386 Victory Park Ln.
Billy Can Can is a newer kid on the dining block. But he’s got an impressive pedigree that comes from Tristan Simon, who’s a fixture on the Dallas dining scene. It’s kind of like walking into a proper saloon that’s been made glossy and modern for its Victory Park ’hood. The Wild West menu draws inspiration from a variety of sources including Creole, Cajun, and Southern flavors with interesting takes on comfort food like crispy oyster sliders on sweet potato rolls and scallops and grits. There’s even saloon-made sarsaparilla on the menu — to go along with a host of creative, snarky cocktails.