We're on the home stretch of our 2018 Tastemaker Awards, CultureMap's celebration of the best of food and drink in Dallas, where we're spotlighting all facets of the food and beverage industry, from bars to restaurants to bartenders to chefs.
For this entry, we're covering the big kahuna: the best restaurants in town. In this category, they're the restaurants that are not brand new, but continue to be excellent and show Dallas at its very best.
We'll celebrate them and all of our other nominees at our Tastemaker Awards party April 19 at Sixty Five Hundred, with food tastings from chefs, and cocktails made with bourbon from sponsor Woodford Reserve. Tickets are on sale now for $55, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting Bonton Farms.
Here are the 10 best restaurants for 2018:
Clubby steakhouse at the foothills of Highland Park is the beefeater's pick among Dallas high society and celebs like Katie Holmes when they're passing through town, and now there's a second location, this one in North Dallas. At both locations, the prime rib stands tall and red, and steaks are impeccably cooked. There is caviar, of course, a stupendous wine list, seafood, and salads like the wedge or hearts of palm that look straight out of Bon Appetit. But the real star is owner Al Biernat, who manages to be as classy as the clientele while catering to their needs.
This charitable restaurant that serves as a culinary training facility for disadvantaged youth has had an amazing year, with national attention that included being featured in Starbucks' Upstanders series, as well as an episode on CNN's Heroes. Beyond the accolades, it's a cool place in downtown Dallas to get an excellent meal, with a staff comprised of experienced chefs led by founder Chad Houser. The menu follows the seasons, with dishes such as root vegetable salad with watercress, and short rib with polenta and fried onions.
Todd David turned his life-long BBQ hobby into a profession and founded Cattleack in 2010. Mostly known for its catering business, it has limited hours, with public dining on Thursday-Friday from 10:30 am–2 pm, and the first Saturday of each month, 10:30 am–2 pm. But if anything, that makes them more alluring. They do brisket, ribs, house-made sausages, pulled pork, and turkey, plus sides such as cheesy jalapeno grits, beans, and cole slaw.
Eatery at Ritz-Carlton Dallas starring chef Dean Fearing remains one of the city's most vital and important restaurants, thanks to an ability to evolve with the times while always remaining consistently excellent. In recent years, it has executed a gorgeous blue-themed renovation of the dining room, as well as significant updates to its menu. They've added not only vegetarian and vegan options, but also a steakhouse menu with Wagyu and Angus steaks from A Bar N Ranch in Texas, including rib eye, Prime strip loin, and Prime-Plus petit filet mignon.
Mot Hai Ba
MHB started out as the passion project of chefs Jeana Johnson and Colleen O'Hare, reflecting the culinary research they executed in their travels to Hanoi. When they handed over the reins to chef Peja Krstic in 2016, there was no guarantee it would survive. But Krstic has carried on, injecting his touches and maintaining the restaurant's status as a neighborhood favorite.
The French Room
This was the year that the iconic French Room at the Adolphus Hotel in downtown Dallas underwent an extensive renovation, part of a hotel-wide makeover, with the domed dining room's famed cherubs washed away for a modern new look. The menu got a reboot, as well, via executive chef Michael Ehlert: It's now an evolving thing, available in three sizes — 3-course, 7-course, and 15-course — that changes with the season.
Chef Nick Badovinus really gets what Dallas is about, and he brings it in an opulently over-the-top manner to the Design District with this blown-up steakhouse. There are big-big $75 steaks, whole roasted fish, and a raw bar featuring oysters and seafood cocktail. Decor is a mind-blower with 64 glowing chandeliers, a fish tank, vintage 1950s yellow submarine, a Ducati motorcycle over the bar, and a 1961 silver MG parked just outside the door.
Life changed for this taqueria in West Dallas when it made the Bon Appetit list of best new restaurants for 2016. But owners Luis Olvera and Juan Carlos Overa were making great tacos before the magazine came along, including the eponymous trompo, beef, and a surprisingly good vegetarian paneer-poblano, all served on house-made corn tortillas and sprinkled with onions and cilantro. As impressive as the tacos are, the quesadilla is a must-get, too.
When chefs Dien Nguyen and Kenzo Tran opened Wabi House in mid-2015, they helped drive a ramen trend that was sweeping the city, and their ramen is tops, no doubt. But they also do memorable small plates like sweet corn fritters, and karaage chicken with watermelon. They're just a reliably good place to eat on Greenville Avenue, with good drinks and late-night hours, which is harder to find than you might think.
Zodiac Room, Neiman Marcus
For decades, this quietly elegant restaurant on the sixth floor of Neiman Marcus, which has proudly hewed to the same high standards as the department store over which it presides, was really the only fine-dining spot in downtown Dallas. The neighborhood has changed, the competition's thicker, but the genteel Zodiac — with its popovers and Mandarin orange soufflé with chicken salad — remains the pinnacle.