The final hour has arrived for our first CultureMap Dallas Tastemaker Awards. After weeks of celebrating the talent in the Dallas food and beverage industry, we've reached the last and most dynamic category of all: best restaurant.
These are the classics that have proven over time that they're the cream of our crop. They join an exhaustive survey of all manner of F&B pros: pastry chefs, most promising rising stars, top breweries and most charming bars. We've chatted up the best bartenders, lauded the best sommeliers and bowed to the area's best chefs. We've visited a spell with the best neighborhood restaurants.
Here are the nominees for best restaurant in Dallas:
Chef Kent Rathbun's first restaurant, where he made his mark as an important chef, has it all going on: a smart location in the Knox neighborhood, chic decor, nifty bar, Pacific Rim-accented cuisine, stellar desserts, progressive cocktail program and fun cooking classes. It was years ahead of its time when it opened in 1999, which is why it remains meaningful 15 years later.
Belly & Trumpet
What initially seemed to be nothing more than a trendy stepsister to the critically lauded Oak in the Dallas Design District has emerged as one of the city's most liked restaurants. A casual yet upscale atmosphere plus an address in the center of Dallas' Uptown district give Belly & Trumpet an edge, but it's the excellent globally inspired food of chef Brian Zenner that draws them in.
The impeccably appointed Ritz-Carlton, Dallas wisely provides a platform for chef Dean Fearing to showcase his tooled leather cowboy boots, incredible charisma and, most important, his elegant yet down-home menu. Fearing knows Dallas diners, and he knows great food.
Rocketing to the top of Dallas' dining scene in a year, FT33 is the foodie pick du jour, from its Design District address to its au courant food. Colorful, tattoo-sporting chef Matt McCallister approaches his food with intensity and has brought to Dallas such international culinary trends as the messy-plate look and molecular gastronomy.
Bishop Arts gem is the restaurant that everyone wishes he had: small and personal, with a darling atmosphere, diligent attention from the owners (husband and wife David and Jennifer Uygur), excellent wine list and an exciting seasonal menu. No wonder there's a month-long waiting list for a table.
Mesa is like the Mexican version of Lucia, another family-run operation with its carefully crafted food, creative cocktails and beautifully fabricated decor. Raul and Olga Reyes have devised a menu that feels familiar yet new, with the best surprise being how uniformly excellent it all is.
Mot Hai Ba
Though intentionally casual, Mot Hai Ba is no less serious than its fellow nominees. Chef-owners Colleen O'Hare and Jeana Johnson have brought a new style of authentic, Hanoi-style Vietnamese food not seen elsewhere, and they're doing it with all of the care you'd expect from their 4-star backgrounds.
Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek
Despite changes in ownership and changes in chef (Bruno Davaillon is currently in charge), the Mansion has stayed the course. Grand, elegant but not stuffy, well-mannered, unflinchingly perfectionist, the Mansion has not simply prevailed, but hewed to a standard of excellence that's unique.
Spoon not only represents the taming of fiery chef John Tesar, it has also brought a new level of seriousness and acceptance of seafood to our steak-happy town. Comparisons to New York's classic seafood restaurant Le Bernardin are on the mark, in more ways than one.
However you describe Tei An – Japanese restaurant, noodle house, sushi spot – it doesn't begin to get to the profound creativity and refined culinary sensibility of chef Teiichi Sakurai. Soba noodles made onsite are a good starting point. If you're a regular, he'll treat you to hand-made dishes designed expressly to your taste. A Dallas treasure.
Come celebrate the Tastemakers with us on Tuesday, May 6, at Seven for Parties in the Dallas Design District. To learn more about the event, including information about our beneficiaries, judges, participating restaurants and ticket sales, visit our Tastemakers website.