Culinary awards usually go to restaurants with big-name chefs and big-budget menus. But our annual Tastemaker Awards, spotlighting the best in food and drink, also includes a category that pays tribute to neighborhood restaurants, the places nearby that people cherish and frequent regularly, that reflect the neighborhood where they live.
To find the best neighborhood restaurants in Dallas, we consulted with a panel of judges, consisting of former CultureMap Tastemaker Award winners and local F&B experts, and narrowed it down to 10 finalists.
Over the next few weeks, we'll spotlight nominees in every category: from best chefs to the best restaurants in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Winners will be announced at the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards party on April 25 at Fashion Industry Gallery. We’ll reveal the winners, sip cocktails, and dine on bites provided by the nominees. Tickets are on sale now.
Here are our nominees for Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year in Dallas:
20 Feet Seafood Joint
This part of far East Dallas, on the other side of Lakewood, doesn't have much in the way of gourmet food, which is why any restaurant that opens there is met with undying gratitude and booming business. Chef Jeana Johnson knew this when she collaborated with the landlord to transform this small strip center at Peavy Street and Garland Road into a row of eateries, including her own Good 2 Go Taco, now closed. Her legacy is a trio of restaurants, all independently owned, all thriving: Hello Dumpling, Goodfriend Beer Garden & Burger House, and 20 Feet Seafood Joint, a casual spot from two skilled chefs, Marc Cassel and Suzan Fries. They're serving good-quality seafood — fish & chips, oysters on the half shell, chowder, lobster rolls — that's also moderately priced, with a BYOB policy. It's a combination that's valued not only in the neighborhood but in all of Dallas.
It used to be that if you wanted to eat nice in downtown Dallas, you went to the Zodiac Room. And then Tim Headington came along, and now there is CBD Provisions and Americano and the Mirador, and finally, The Commissary. True to form for a Headington opus, this cafe/market/bakery has style and panache, like a Hollywood version of a downtown restaurant. It has sandwiches, espresso drinks, lunch to go, and amazing pastries. It has monogrammed plates. Headington gave the building a breathtaking makeover, no expense spared, with gorgeous blue ceramic tiles, in different sizes and colors, laid randomly and artistically. It is both glamorous and authentic, and it does the one thing everyone wants a downtown place to do: It feels like New York.
District 9 Draught Haus
District 9 is so neighborhood-driven, it's named after the city council district where it resides. This beer-centric growler bar-restaurant is from former rock star (Buck Pets) Andy Thompson and his wife, Dana, who operated a successful market and restaurant in Virginia for many years before returning to Dallas. Their menu of German-style lagers and bratwurst recipe reflect not only Thompson's German heritage and Wisconsin roots but also a culture and cuisine that's near and dear to Dallas and Texas as well.
E-Bar Tex Mex
This Tex-Mex restaurant is in an odd part of town, halfway between downtown and Greenville Avenue, an area where modest bungalows are being razed and replaced by Soviet-bloc apartment buildings. But the "neighborhood" that E-Bar serves is more a state of mind, consisting of Dallas old-timers who used to frequent Primo's, the now-closed Tex-Mex on McKinney Avenue, and who follow Eddie Cervantes, the former owner of Primo's, wherever he goes. It feels a little like a reunion, like Primo's 2.0, with a menu featuring your usual nachos, tacos, and enchiladas, and a bar that stays open until 2 am most nights, where the seats are always full.
Texas-themed restaurant comes from FrontBurner restaurants (Mexican Sugar, Whiskey Cake, Sixty Vines, Legacy Hall, etc.) and sort of represents the new wave of Plano restaurants, with a grandiosity and many options. It's a three-story complex with a different personality on each floor, from upscale BBQ joint to high-end steakhouse to rooftop patio. There's an experience for everyone with a whiskey lounge, cozy wine room, butcher bar, and full-service bakery. Oh, and also a dining room. Because this is a restaurant, see — one that serves Wagyu prime rib and other from-scratch dishes, with a mimosa brunch on weekends.
The residents of the Park Cities, Dallas' own land of plenty, generally want for nothing. But until recently, they were surprisingly under-supplied when it came to decent restaurants. There was Cafe Pacific in HP Village, and then Neighborhood Services came along — although Neighborhood Services vexingly catered to everyone, not just the PC crowd. This shocking shortage has been addressed in recent years, with Hudson House being a good example. With its menu of seafood towers, burgers, cocktails, and its New England-style decor, it's almost enough to persuade you that you're chilling at Martha's Vineyard.
Oak Cliff is in the throes of gentrification, which makes a place like Jed's Grill all the more a treasure. It's an easygoing and highly practical family-style restaurant with long hours that also doubles as a bar. The food is affordable, with burgers, salads, and sandwiches, made from scratch. There are brisket tacos, grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken & waffles, and zucchini boats filled with veggies and black beans. Locals love them for brunch, when the restaurant offers 99-cent mimosas. Kids eat free on Tuesdays, and they host an all-day happy hour on Saturdays. They're kind of like an insider secret.
Mot Hai Ba
Casual, high-energy restaurant is centered around northern Vietnamese cuisine, including street foods and dishes from Hanoi, rare in the Dallas area. The restaurant was originally opened by chefs Jeana Johnson and Colleen O'Hare to reflect their travels and passion for the cuisine. They chose their location well, opening in the former and long-beloved York Street, a building that still has good karma for the Lakewood and East Dallas crowd. Chef Peja Krstic runs the kitchen now, with a menu that honors the original concept but with his own dishes and touches.
Moxie's may be a casual chain with more than 60 branches across Canada, but it does have a Dallas connection: Its owner is Tom Gaglardi, proprietor of the Dallas Stars. The first Moxie's in Dallas opened in Uptown in 2016, and serves as a good example of the ways that Uptown has changed. It wasn't so long ago that Uptown consisted primarily of bars, some possibly sketchy; but state-of-the-art Uptown is brighter, shinier, more legit. Moxie's may be a bar — but it also has sushi cones with tempura shrimp, fresh avocado, nori, and ponzu; and Korean fried cauliflower with spicy gochujang pepper sauce and jalapeño-lime dip.
Rise No. 1
Eating at this ladies-who-lunch restaurant in prime Park Cities turf is like going to another planet. Everything is lovely, from the impeccable souffles to the tasteful decor to the slightly spirited ambience. Their souffles come in both savory versions (jambon and Gruyere, creamed spinach, smoked salmon) and sweet (Grand Marnier, chocolate, apricot). But there is more than souffles, such as salade Nicoise, steak with pomme de terre, and seared ahi tuna. The space is pretty, filled with things you can also purchase, including ceramics and dainty kitchen towels.