A travel journal
to Dallas by Ben the Grate
Quote: Dallas isn't the most diverse city in our great country, but we DO have our fair share of hot dining spots. And here they are, reviewed by a VERY critical local!
The problem with Dallas dining is that most of the highly frequented and reviewed restaurants are major national chains. You can eat at Joe's Crab Shack or Pappadeaux or Uncle Julio's in your own town, why would you eat at it in Dallas?
A simple glance on Sep. 4, 2002, at all the IgoUgo restaurant reviews for Dallas revealed that nearly HALF of the guide reviews on this site have reviewed major national chains like Red Lobster.
Be brave! All the restaurants you'll find in this guide are independent, unique in all the city, and perhaps in all the country.
If you're just in town for the weekend or a few days, your best bets for an incredible dinner experience would be Monica's Aca Y Alla, Al Amir, The Samba Room, or Joe T. Garcia's (actually in Ft. Worth). If you're looking to spend or impress the significant other, try Nana Grill, Palomino, Star Canyon, The French Room, or, of course, the Mansion on Turtle Creek.
Restaurant | "The Samba Room"
The menu is authentic Cuban and can accomodate vegetarians.
Favorites from the menu-
Appetizer: Fried plantain chips with black bean salsa (this is a MUST TRY!)
Brazilian fried calamari
(They excel in appetizers so much that I frequently order several appetizers for the entire meal!)
Chicken, Sausage, Mussels, and Fish on saffron rice
Plantain crusted Mahi Mahi on coconut rice
Sauteed shrimp and chicken in coconut broth with toasted cashews
Whole Red Snapper, deep fried crisp in a light but spicy batter, served on green rice (another DON'T MISS!)
I'm always so full after appetizers and main course that I've never tried any of their delectable-sounding deserts (including the combination of chilis and chocolate that made us all curious in the film Chocolat), but I have done something adventurous...ordered a SIDE DISH as a desert! The sweet ripe plantains sauteed and spiced sweet are melt-in-your-mouth good.
Saucy Cuban music is played in the small (somewhat cramped) dining room, but dining out on the candle-lit patio is simply nirvana! (Except for the iron park chairs which are a bit hard on my bony tush!)
There is a bar popular with the 30s Yuppy set, and excellent sangria, both white and red, are made in-house.
For two, with plenty of drinks, appetizers, a main course, and dessert if you can hold it, expect to spend $70-$100 by the time you walk out.
Use the valet. Parking is difficult.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 25, 2002
4514 Travis Street
Dallas, Texas 75205
The menu is mostly Lebanese, but reflects most of the Arabic countries diets. If you're familiar with Arabic cuisine, you won't find anything surprising or inventive on the menu, but you WILL find all your favorites:
Hummus, babaganoush, grape leaves, kabis, falafel, tabouli, kabob, and lots of poultry, lamb, and goat.
The emphasis here is not on the cuising as much as it is the dining experience. Though I've had indifferent service here at times, the cool look of the place combined with the belly dancing and water pipe smoking makes it quite memorable.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 25, 2002
7402 Greenville Ave
Dallas, Texas 75231
+1 214 739 2647
Restaurant | "Joe T Garcias"
Joe T's is a tradition in the Dallas area, but it's in Fort Worth, which usually means a 45 minute drive. Located just north of the downtown Ft. Worth area in the famous "Stockyards" historic district, this labrynthine restaurant is a MUST VISIT for families, and anyone who enjoys Mexican food.
The first thing you have to know about Joe T's is that there are only two things on the menu...fajitas or enchiladas.
While that upsets many of my open-minded friends, the benefit is that this restaurant has quite simply PERFECTED these two dishes.
Fajitas are served plentifully (either chicken or beef, or both) along with guacamole, beans, and rice.
The enchilada dinner is served family style (meaning everything is brought on huge trays and you scoop out what you want) starting with cheese nachos (real ones with REAL melted cheese atop a just-fried tortilla), beef tacos, beans, rice, guacamole, and fresh tortillas.
There is a full bar, but they don't excel on margaritas, unfortunately, so save it and order iced tea. That is, unless you're more concerned with stregnth than taste. One margarita has enough low-grade tequila to pickle a horse!
The dining experience is varied here, you can pick what you like. The restaurant is in an old converted spanish-style mansion, so you can dine romantically by the blue-lit swimming pool, or loud and friendly in the main dining room amidst pictures of all the famous people who have dined here throughout the years.
There is usually a long wait for the main dining room on weekends, but the patio/pool area can normally accomodate you quickly.
THIS IS THE BEST MEXICAN FOOD in the DFW area, hands down. Don't miss it!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 26, 2002
Joe T. Garcia's Mexican Restaurant
2201 North Commerce Street
Fort Worth, Texas 76106
Despite all the hooplah, the Mansion on Turtle Creek would be a fantastic restaurant if it were priced about half of what it is. The menu is inventive and delicious, but the restaurant is simply not deserving of all the praise.
Nevertheless, the rich and famous still come (the price keeps away the trash, which is the one good thing about it, I suppose).
The menu is inventive southwestern, like lobster tacos, peach smoked poblano salsa, or oven roasted barramundi (an Australian fish) served over a reduction of clams and chanterelle mushrooms, etc. etc. ad nauseum.
Order from the menu (with entrees from $30-$60) or try the $90 tasting menu.
A sneaky trick is the selling of their house wine (actually inexpensive whites and reds by Le Esparaye) at a premium.
Breakfast and lunch are lovely ways to experience the elegance without the price.
Service is impeccable, and if there's something you're yearning for that isn't on the menu, just tell the maitre d'. He will pass your request to the chef who will undoubtedly cater to your desire.
Nice touches are personalized greeting at your car. They ask for your license plate when you make reservations so you can be greeted by name when you arrive.
Stuffy. Sophisticated. Delicious. Overpriced.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 26, 2002
The Mansion on Turtle Creek
2821 Turtle Creek Boulevard
Dallas, Texas 75219
Monica's was started by a post operative transsexual from Mexico City in the early 90s. She proudly claims, "I may not be beautiful, I may sound like Ricky Ricardo on the phone, but I SURE CAN COOK!"
And that's no lie! Monica serves up traditional Mexican soul food (none of that TexMex crap) with inventive fusions of Asian and Italian.
Menu favorites include the Pumpkin Ravioli with Chili Sauce, the Lime Chicken Soup with avocado, the Mexican Lasagne, the Pink Salmon enchiladas, Quail pasta, and Salmon Mojo. ($9-$16)
If the inventive menu is too overwhelming for you, you can always order from the Tex Mex menu, with enchilada and black bean platters starting at $8.
And you simply MUST try a bowl of her unbelievable queso. Monica's queso takes queso to a higher level. It doesn't even faintly resemble the "queso" you get at TexMex joints. Monica's queso is white, made from a blend of authentic Mexican cheeses and several different types of chilies. It goes down smooth, like velvet.
A wonderful aspect of the restaurant is Specials Nights.
Tuesday night - Half price entrees
Wednesday night - $0.50 margaritas (and BOY are they good and strong!)
Friday and Saturday - live music by a Tejano band that gets WAYYY too loud, so ask to sit on the patio
Sunday night - live Salsa that isn't too loud, just try to get a table near the dance floor so you can watch the yuppy Chicos and Chicas twirl.
The decor is dark, funky, but very romantic. I reiterate that if you're here on Friday or Saturday, the live band is simply too loud for any type of conversation, to try to sit on the patio.
The restaurant is simply packed after 7pm on weekends, and they will reserve for parties of 5 or larger. Otherwise, you'll easily face an hour wait. But if you can squeeze up to the bar you can pass that hour easily with a few of their smooth-as-silk frozen margaritas.
The service is prompt and friendly, as many of the waitstaff has been here for years. Due to the owner's history, the place attracts a healthy gay clientele, as well as the young single hetero set. The atmosphere is fun and friendly and makes a great social gathering spot, but perhaps not for an intimate date unless you come early (5p-7p).
You can never go wrong with Monica's. It is, perhaps, the most well rounded restaurant I've found in Dallas.
Tues - Thurs 5p-10p
Fri - Sat 5p-12a
Open for brunch Sat and Sun 11a-3p
Monica's Aca y Alla
2914 Main St
Dallas, Texas 75226
+1 214 748 7140
The restaurant only has about 20 tables, so the atmosphere is very intimate. Candlelight reflects off the tin-topped tables as you sip your cocktail, or the excellent house iced tea with mint sprigs.
The menu is diverse, from lamb medallions to wild mushroom pizza to sesame-crusted cathfish to penne with sausage, prosciutto, and goat cheese. I have yet to sample a menu item that wasn't flawless! (The penne dishes are my favorites, followed by the goat cheese pizza with bacon and olives.)
Ajoining the restaurant is Kathleen's Art Bakery, where perfect cakes, pies, and pastries are born, and if you have room after the large portions served at dinner, they will be happy to bring you a dessert fit for a king!
The REAL gem of this restaurant is their Sunday special. If you order ANY beverage (even iced tea), the entrees are two-for-one!
Restaurant hours are below. Please call ahead if you want to eat between 3pm and 5pm. Though their website says they are open during those hours, many times I've found them NOT seating until 5pm for dinner!
MON-THU 7 am-11 pm.
FRI 7 am-1 am.
SAT 8 am-1 am.
SUN 8 am-11 pm.
Reservations are only recommended after 7pm on Friday or Saturday.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 4, 2002
Kathleen's Art Cafe
4424 Lovers Lane
Dallas, Texas 75225
+1 214 691 2355
This combination of party nightspot and restaurant can make for an exciting evening any night of the week, particularly on weekends.
The menu is traditional Jamaican with no creativity or deviation. Conch fritters, jerk chicken, ackee and saltfish... It's all there! Prepared, no doubt, by a thickly-accented Rastafarian matron from the island itself.
The restaurant has a full bar, but do yourself a favor and have a glass of their homemade ginger beer before getting a cocktail. Make sure you have a glass of water next to your plate!!! If the jerk spice doesn't get you, the ginger beer will!
The atmosphere is more bar than restaurant. They keep it fairly chilly and VERY dark. There is almost no decoration, with the exception of beach scenes painted on the walls.
The restaurant has a stage that plays live music on weekend nights, usually steel drum bands or reggae. Wednesday night is Open Mic night for standup comedy. They charge a $7 cover after 8pm.
Service at this restaurant is also typically Caribbean...laid back and sllllllllow. Come with a Jamaican mindset and you'll be fine. Come with a North Dallas mindset, and you may find yourself screaming to a manager with a glassy look in his eye, as if he's staring past you to the beach mural on the wall.
Caribbean Grill is a good outing for those seeking Caribbean food. The restaurant will remind you of a club in Montego Bay, and the cuisine will remind you of a food shack on the beach at Negril. It's very authentic, but don't go there expecting a classy dining experience.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 4, 2002
3068 Forest Lane
Dallas, Texas 75229
972 241 9113
The restaurant is typical chic uppity Dallas! The decor is cold and sharp and efficient, with muted colored lights illuminating bare pastel-colored walls. For lunch it is filled with suit-and-tied business men munching on nachos while they drive the Dallas financial world. In the evenings, it is filled with tall, slender yuppies clad in black with oversized black glasses sipping margaritas out of martini glasses and making small talk about the new art opening at the museum.
The menu is typically Tex-Mex, with some of the rough edges softened by fancy terms. You'd never guess by the look of the place and by the typical crowd that the food was so inexpensive! Entrees range from $8 to $15, with a few in the $20 range.
Also, despite the look of the place, the food here is DAMN good! Their in-house salsa (served steaming hot with impossibly thin tortilla chips) is quite simply the best salsa I've experienced in Dallas. The food is served in over-generous portions and tastes so authentic and delicious you might think it just came from a hole-in-the-wall shack in El Paso.
The restaurant prides itself on its namesake margaritas. They have pages and pages of them, and they can make them with any of over 100-shelf tequilas, most of which I've never heard of. I particularly enjoy their mango margaritas, which ARE made with fresh mangos!
The restaurant is packed after 8pm Thursday through Saturday. Call ahead for reservations if you can, otherwise have a few margaritas at the bar and stroll around the adjacent shops while you wait an hour for your table. Outside dining is available in season.
Make this a perfect evening by treating yourself to dinner AND a movie at the Anjelika Film Center upstairs from the Margarita Ranch. Early dinner will avoid the crowds, and you can catch the movie afterwards.
5321 East Mockingbird Lane
Dallas, Texas 75206
Restaurant | "Main Street Cafe and Bread Baking Co"
The Baking Company opened in October of 2000 in the heart of charming Grapevine, lined with early 20th century facades now filled with charming shops and wine dealers. The brainchild of French chefs Fabien Gourg and Yasmine Bohsali, the cafe serves breakfast and lunch in true French style, along with a host of fresh breads and pastries.
Sandwiches are served for lunch and early dinner. There is a variety of delectable combinations bookended by fresh-baked pugliese bread. Highlights are the Chicken Napoli ($5.50), with swiss cheese, fresh homemade pesto sauce, and tomato, served piping hot. Vegetarians can feast on a panino ($5.50) of farm-fresh mozarella between layers of tomato, pesto, and balsamic vinaigrette. Or try their chicken salad on a flaky croissant ($4.75)!
Fresh salads are also featured (from $3.50), along with a delightfully rich tomato basil soup. Try your choice of three foccacias (each $3.75), roasted potato and garlic, tomato, or roasted onions, each topped with Asiago cheese and calamata olives.
Early birds will enjoy light breakfasts, from sausage and cheddar brioches ($2), to stuffed croissants ($3), to 3 egg omelets (from $6.95).
Service is charming, and each guest is greeted with a cheery "BonJOUR!" The dining areas are quaint, with a few outdoor tables available in season.
Each day the chefs turn out fresh baked rustic breads in a variety of flavors, from Asiago and cheddar ciabatta, to cranberry pecan sourdough, to calamata olive wheat (from $3.50). Crusty French baguettes, at $1.75 a loaf, are a bargain. On weekends they turn out a dazzling white chocolate brioche that sells out almost immediately. Breads are made from homemade starters in extremely simple form.
Artfully presented French pastries make your mouth water! From impeccable Tiramisu to moist carrot cake to raspberry tarts to sinfully delicious cinnamon twists. Coffee and espresso drinks are available, as well.
Once a month the Bread Baking Company serves a classy six-course dinner to a tiny crowd of 25, complete with wine pairings. This phenomenal event runs a mere $75 per person, a dinner that would cost twice as much at the French Room in Dallas.
Mon-Fri 7:00am - 6:30pm
Sat 8:00am - 5:30pm
Sun 8:00am - 4:00pm
In short, though your drive to Grapevine may take 20 minutes from downtown Dallas, you will be treated to an atmosphere and cuisine that are UNPARALLELED in the metroplex. And Grapevine's charming downtown district couples with The Main Street Bread Baking Co's versatile dining to make it a DON'T MISS excursion, whether you live in Dallas, or just spend a weekend here.
Their website can be visited at http://themainbakery.com
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 10, 2002
Main Street Cafe
316 South Main Street
Dallas, Texas 76051
The menu shows a heavy Russian influences, but is definitely a higher level of cuisine than one usually identifies with Russian food. White tuna carpaccio with truffle oil and a green seaweed salad is a fine example ($12). The sweet potato dumplings, which can be ordered as an appetizer but also come with several main courses, are delightful. They also serve a mean cast-iron seared steak and frites, as well as cast-iron seared mussles, which are full and meaty and melt in your mouth.
A tasty section of the menu (which also happens to be the cheapest) are the "sticks." These are skewers of seared meats (tuna, shrimp, beef, etc.) served alongside mouthwatering sauces (which run the gamut from curry to ponzu.)
After dinner, you've likely avoided the growing line outside the establishment to enter the bar downstairs, one of the hottest hippest spots in Dallas (currently!) Take the steps down into the dungeon-like lounge, severe with concrete and heavy fabrics and Scandinavian minimalist furniture. Have any one of numerous drinks named wittily after famous Communist heros. Drinks are pricey here, but strong and delicious.
The atmosphere downstairs is young, chic, gorgeous, well-dressed, and LOUD. The place gets PACKED around 10pm and a line develops outside. They only let people in as others leave once that happens, so get here early unless you want a boring wait.
A word of warning about the bathrooms. They are unisex...partially. There is ONE door to enter, but once in the door you face an unmarked partition. Girls should turn left, boys should turn right.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 5, 2003
3699 McKinney Avenue
Dallas, Texas 75204
HOWEVER, amid this chaotic jungle of over-indulgence, there is a remarkeably cheap, remarkeably good Thai/Vietnamese noodle house! The decor is delightfully southeast Asian, with heavy influences of bamboo, and rocks in the bathroom sinks. The restaurant is small, with MAYBE 25 tables. Outdoor dining on the patio is delightful if the weather cooperates.
The really remarkeable think about this place is that NOTHING on the menu is over $12. And it's all REALLY REALLY GOOD! Start with cocunut crusted shrimp, or pan-seared dumplings with ponzu sauce. Or my personal favorite, seared calamari steak. It's unbearably tender with a lovely crust of black pepper, served with a ginger sauce. None of them over $7.
Main courses are varied, from Teriaki chicken bowls, to Bangkok seafood in a delightfully flavorful coconut curry broth. One of my personal favorites is the crispy roast duck served with green curried noodles. Nothing is over $12.
Have your meal with a steaming carafe of California saki for only $4, or have the authentic Japanese for $12. They have some delightful mixed drinks, as well as Japanese beer by the bottle.
Service was punctual, friendly, and "easy on the eyes!" I have heard that the food is not consistently superb, but every time I eat there I am impressed.
Tom Tom is quite simply an amazing spot. If you can find parking, go there. They're open until "late" on weekends, and I've dined there as late as midnight (unusual for Dallas). Go early or go late. Or get reservations. Go alone (there is single dining along the bar flanking the kitchen), go with a date for a romantic evening, or take a group and have a party. Tom Tom provides an extremely flexible dining experience, excellent cuisine, and delightful surroundings.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 5, 2003
3699 McKinney Avenue
From the whimsical architecture and colors of the exterior to the dark and stylish interior, Cuba Libre proves itself to be a visual feast before you even taste the food. The atmosphere is friendly and loud. There is a small dining area downstairs (MAYBE 20 tables), but don't let the small size fool you. This place is NOT the place for an intimate date -- it gets downright RAUCOUS on weekends. This is a place to come with friends.
The bar upstairs serves divine mojitos (mint cocktails, VERY refreshing) and you can sit at the bar or at large cushy booths or couches, where you can also dine. Happy Hour is 4-7pm Mon-Fri, and on Tuesdays after 7pm, all their drinks are $3 (except top shelf). The bar has a balcony that also permits dining and the patio downstairs is for dining only. The only downside to the patio is that the tables are round and only accomodate four comfortably. If your party is larger, you have to makeshift by moving tables together.
The staff at Cuba Libre is moderate. They are very helpful and friendly when handling group reservations and they ALWAYS call me the day after to make sure my group was satisfied and had a great time. However, the service can be somewhat slow and indifferent, by Dallas standards, ESPECIALLY when dining in a large group. (There is a 26% service surcharge for groups over 6!)
Food is superb! You should definitely start with a basket of chips and salsa, which, annoyingly, are not free here. However, the salsa is smoky and delicious, served piping hot. DEFINITELY worth the $2 they charge. Another favorite appetizer is the plantain chips served with three lovely dipping sauces.
By far one of the best culinary bargains in Dallas is Cuba Libre's taco platter. They allow you two tacos of your choice, plus black beans and rice, for only $7.99 all day long. These tacos are FAT, stuffed with unique gourmet combinations. Try grilled swordfish with avocado, cabbage, and lime cream. Or jerk chicken with spinach, black beans, and jicama. Also try the inexpensive traditional Cuban food, like pressed media noche sandwiches for $6.99.
The main menu is sumptuous, but pricier, with beef tenderloin coated with molasses and black pepper ($15.99). The lobster and shrimp tamales are divine ($13.99). Every entrée I've tried has been exceedingly delicious.
Cuba Libre is a winner. In a sea of pretentious, over-priced restaurants, it has a fun party atmosphere, a superb bar, and food that exceeds any expectation. Enjoy!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 4, 2003
2822 North Henderson
Dallas, Texas 75206
+1 214 827 2820
If you dropped this place into a more stylish neighborhood in Dallas, you'd never be able to get in the door. Which is lucky for those of us who live nearby!
Piranha: Killer Sushi is as unique and funky as its name. It sits in a rather dull strip mall at the northwest corner of Green Oaks and Collins, but the instant you walk through the doors you realize that you have entered a restaurant that is far from ordinary.
Decorated entirely with Ikea furniture and accessories, the smartly decorated interior is instantly trendy. Cartoon-ish paintings of piranhas decorate the walls.
The menu is gourmet-influenced Japanese. Sushi is on par with other notable Dallas sushi institutions, with a similar price range. For a dinner combination sushi platter, expect to pay around $16-$20. Also gracing the menu are incredible dishes like teriyaki seared salmon served on a bed of grilled vegetables and rice. The salmon was cooked to PERFECTION, a feat difficult to find in Dallas. Crispy chicken with chili sauce was divine, also.
Lunch specials are a true bargain, with GENEROUS sushi combination platters starting at $8.95. They come with "daily vegetables" which usually feature a tomato and tuna salad with a spicy chili cream dressing that will knock your socks off!
You also must order the house mango iced tea. It's divine. A wide selection of sakes and a VERY impressive wine list for this part of the metroplex round out the menu.
Wait...the dessert is what TRULY rounds out the menu! Try the fried banana spring rolls served with a scoop each of red bean and green tea ice cream. TO DIE FOR!
Delightfully friendly service in the traditional Japanese vein combines with eclecticly fabulous French and Portuguese retro music to make the dining experience at Piranha EXTREMELY unique.
Worth the twenty minute drive from Dallas several times over!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 7, 2003
Piranha: Killer Sushi
851 North East Green Oaks Boulevard
Dallas, Texas 76006
Ben the Grate