Historical Deep Ellum has led many lives, from its century-old blues scene to its 1990s heyday as the center of live music. In 2013, the neighborhood rebounds again as one of Dallas' hottest dining destinations, with dozens of places to get a bite.
What makes this dining scene a standout is that nearly all of the restaurants are independently owned, and they cover a wide span of cuisines and experiences: from coffee house to grocery to buzzy artisan doughnut shop.
With Mama Mia's, Serious and Zini's, there is no shortage of pizza. You can find breakfast at Allgood, Cafe Brazil, Buzzbrews, Murray Street Coffee Shop and the new Glazed Donut Works; barbecue at Baker's Ribs; soul food at Mama Faye's; Vietnamese at Lemongrass; Japanese at Deep Sushi; Cajun at Free Man; Tex-Mex at Maracas (formerly Monica's); fried pie at the Original Fried Pie Shop; burgers at Twisted Root; and ramen coming soon to Tanoshii. There is also a Subway's and a Fuzzy's.
You can get wine at Calais, beer at Deep Ellum Brewing, sausage at Rudolph's, cheese at Mozzarella Co., produce at the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market, and takeout at Deep Ellum Postal & Grocer. Even the bars have food, from vegan nachos at Anvil Pub to tacos at the Boiler Room.
Narrowing down Deep Ellum's six best seems impossible, but here's our shot.
This grizzled bar-restaurant has stuck by Deep Ellum through thick and thin, with reliable service, 20-plus beers on tap, and an amusing rigidity about the jukebox volume. Its menu of bar food is unpretentious yet proficiently executed, from wings to its no-nonsense burger, a category Angry Dog took seriously long before burgers became The Thing they are today. They don't do much here, but what they do, they do with care.
Twisted Root gets credit for blazing the trail back to Deep Ellum. But Cane Rosso was the game changer, in that its Neapolitan-style pizza was so good that it made everyone forget whatever grudges they still had. From the top-of-the-line toppings to the chewy, charred crust, this is incomparable pizza, overseen by authentic pizzaiolo Dino Santicola and delivered with a wink by witty owner Jay Jerrier.
With its Maine lobster cakes and beet salad with arugula, toasted hazelnuts and goat cheese, Local gives Deep Ellum a gourmet refinement you don't get with burgers and pizza, no matter how artisan they are. Not unlike Lucia in Bishop Arts, Local occupies a vintage building and serves as a platform for its chef, Tracy Miller, to execute her simple yet Southern vision: from trend-setting battered fried green beans to funky tempura-fried Caesar salad.
Pepe's Ranch / Pepe's & Mito's
Sandy and Pedro Rojas generously give Deep Ellum two places to get great grub: the straight-ahead Tex-Mex of their original Pepe's & Mito's — good enough that it warranted a profile on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives — or the hybrid cuisine of their new place, Pepe's Ranch, which combines Tex-Mex classics with home cooking. Either way, you're guaranteed to get excellent enchiladas cloaked in house-made sauces as complex as any four-star joint.
St. Pete's Dancing Marlin
St. Pete's fills an essential niche that makes Deep Ellum's dining scene feel complete: It is useful. Its broad menu, with seafood, pasta, salads, burgers and dinner entrees, offers room for everyone — whether you're celebrating a special occasion, in the mood for a fresh salad, or in need of an affordable $7 plate of pasta. The secret weapon is owner Pete Zotos, whose hospitable friendliness makes you feel right at home.
Uncle Uber's Sammich Shop
The sandwich world is dominated by chains, but Uncle Uber's Sammich Shop, ensconced in one of Deep Ellum's classic brick buildings, is the rare indie. Owners Bryan and Kathy Crelly respond to customers by adding new items regularly, such as a veggie burger made with grains and mushrooms. Sandwiches like shaved rib-eye steak are generously portioned, but with a balance of filling to bread that sits well with Dallas' neatnik diners.