The excitement is starting to build for the 2018 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards presented by Woodford Reserve, our annual event honoring the best in local food and drink.
It started with our list of the 10 Best Bars in Dallas. The momentum continued with our nominees for Dallas' Rising Star Chefs. And it snowballed with our list of the 10 Best Bartenders in Dallas. Those bartenders are fun.
We'll find out who the winners are and toast all the nominees at a party on April 19 from 7-10 pm at Sixty Five Hundred, with tastings of food and drink, amusements, and more. Tickets are on sale now for $55, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting Bonton Farms.
For our next category, we consider Best Neighborhood Restaurant. These are the places that for whatever reason — reliable food, hospitable service, a relaxing atmosphere — become your automatic go-to. They're the restaurants that reflect the neighborhood where they live.
Here are our nominees for Best Neighborhood Restaurant:
Ellen's Southern Kitchen, West End
This Southern-ish restaurant opened in the West End in 2012, and now seems prescient, since the area has since mushroomed with new apartments, office space, and a hotel. It features a menu of meatloaf, chicken-fried steak, and other home-cooking classics, and is priced right in the mid-range. It fills a dual niche, serving both locals and tourists, from Mary Kay conventioneers to downtown residents hobbling over for brunch.
Gold Rush Cafe, Lakewood
Venerable dive is a Dallas classic and a local institution. Open since 1980, it's a small spot with an appealingly unkempt vibe, lumps in the booths, and an old-timey feel. But the breakfast is reliable, and the clientele represents a uniquely diverse slice of humanity that fit the egalitarian spirit of Lakewood to a T. Signature dishes from owner Virgil Sanchez include chicken-fried steak and the John Wayne Breakfast with potato hash, sunny-side egg, cheddar, and salsa on top of a flour tortilla, served with bacon.
Hall Bar & Grill, Trinity Groves
Steakhouse at Trinity Groves from Dallas restaurateur Bob Sambol has a collegiate theme, including photographs and memorabilia from North Texas luminaries and other residents who once excelled on the playing field. Its menu is steakhouse classic, with a twist; for example, one of the steaks comes with charred pineapple salsa. Its proximity to downtown Dallas has made it a popular destination for the high-powered office set including denizens from City Hall.
Jorge's Tex-Mex, Arts District
Jorge's Tex Mex Cafe has has stood the test of time in One Arts Plaza, where many a restaurant has come and gone. Owned by Jorge and Angie Veloz and stepdaughter Michelle Mireles, it specializes in unpretentious, home-style Tex-Mex with a full bar and lots of margaritas. It gamely fills the niche that was originally envisioned for this Arts District horseshoe: to serve those who work in the performing arts, those attending a performance, and everyone in between.
Malai Kitchen, West Village/Uptown
West Village was the original location for this small chain from husband-and-wife Braden and Yasmin Wages, serving their gourmet-fusion rendition of Thai and Vietnamese food: from classics such as pad Thai to an appetizer of Vietnamese meatballs made with pork, green onion, and caramel. Malai also began brewing its own in-house line of beers. It's a great place to go before or after shopping or a movie, and a go-to for the many residents in apartments nearby. Locations have since opened in Southlake and Fort Worth.
Nova, Oak Cliff
Neighborhood gastropub set in a former Dairy Queen in the X+ area of North Oak Cliff features an eclectic, chef-driven menu with ever-changing nightly features from chef Eric Spigner. Dishes like scallops with grits and rapini, or chicken-fried pork loin with mashed potatoes are intriguing yet familar. Combine that with a comfortable atmosphere and you have a place for Oak Cliff to meet and eat, congregate and collaborate, in a setting that reflects the style of the neighborhood.
Paul Martin's American Grill, Oak Lawn
This is a chain, but it has a personality that seems tuned in to Dallas — particularly to the Park Cities-adjacent crowd that it attracts. A grill concept by the founder of P.F. Chang's, it has a menu of American fare, slightly elevated, prepared simply and well. There are steaks, cedar-planked salmon, brick chicken, fish tacos, French dip sandwich, and mac and cheese. But it's the clubby, cliquey, elbows-rubbing atmosphere that seals the deal.
Sevy's, Preston Center
With its husband-and-wife ownership, doting service, and warm, welcoming atmosphere, Sevy's could be called the quintessential neighborhood restaurant. But that understates its prowess. Chef Jim Severson is a Culinary Institute of America graduate (first in his class), who worked at high-end spots such as Cafe Pacific, Hotel Bel-Air, and Dakota's before opening his own place. There's great seafood, pastas, desserts, and cocktails, and the prices are friendly enough to come back again and again — which the locals do.
Snuffer's, Greenville Avenue
It could really be said that this veteran burger chain is the neighborhood restaurant for all of Dallas. It certainly has enough locations these days, and current owner Firebird Restaurant Group is committed to opening more. Nevermind the famed cheese fries; it did the burger thing before burgers became a thing, and it has a laid-back atmosphere that makes it good for dates, families, and what-have-you. But it's such a Greenville Avenue institution that, when the original location got knocked down, they put another one right back up.
TJ's Seafood, North Dallas
Seafood restaurant has been open since 1989, long enough for the reins to be handed down from the original owners to their son. TJ's Seafood is best known for serving top-quality seafood — skillfully prepared, unfussy, to the point — in a clean, bright setting. There are oysters, seasonal specials such as salmon, and a fresh fish case if you want to cook yours at home. And of all the neighborhoods, North Dallas is the one that seems able to appreciate seafood the most.