Some Dallas diners live for the latest, the now, the new. If there's a hot new restaurant, that's where they want to be, even if it means waiting in line. The harder it is to get in, the more they want it. Even if the "it" is little more than a hyped-up fast-food burger or a tin foil pan of chicken and rice.
We're not naming names here, but you catch our drift.
This list is not for those people. This list is for the diner who doesn't need a line to know if something's good. This list consists of restaurants where you can get a great meal without the wait.
In restaurant years, Bolsa has been open a long time: since 2009. And it's not like you can just walk right in; reservations are surely recommended. But the milieu is less maniacal, more civilized. And yet every meal here is new. That's because it changes frequently, depending on what's in season, be it a corn bisque or a flatbread with arugula, Texas goat cheese, and roasted grapes. But you can count on the fact that there will be locally sourced ingredients and lots of creativity.
The very essence of this Lower Greenville spot is super-casual, grab a bite, no pressure. As sibling of the more formal Clark Food & Wine, it gets overshadowed. Not fair, maybe, but it's completely to your benefit. Your spicy verde margarita with jalapeños is coming right up, along with a menu of ceviches, seafood cocktails, $3 tacos, and avocado fries, all thoughtfully prepared.
Chic sushi bar is approaching its second decade, no small feat in Victory Park. It's a convenient go-to before or after a show, or if you feel like eating downtown but don't want to mess with driving inside the Central Business District. It's sufficiently "happening" and yet still welcoming, i.e., you can generally find a table. But it also has new talent in the kitchen, with chef Carlos Mancera, a Dallas kitchen veteran, and new sushi chef Ken McCullough.
Elegant restaurant from chef Matt Pikar features exotic, carefully made Afghan cuisine with dishes such as the steamed rice dish they call qabili palao, and the dumpling called mantoo. The menu has everything from lamb to vegetarian to gluten-free dishes, and they serve Sunday brunch. On any other block of any other street, there might well be a line. But Nora is right now in the thick of the Greenville Avenue construction. Good news for you: step right in.
On the Lamb
It's a sign of the robust dining scene in Deep Ellum that you can squeeze into this cozy bistro without a hassle. Wildly talented Ross Demers does just what you want from a chef: He makes everything from scratch, from sausages to pappardelle, with loads of heart and soul. From a culinary standpoint, On the Lamb is super-foodie caliber, with dishes that are more inventive and edgy than your run-of-the-mill spot, and that also includes cocktails and dessert.
Pints & Quarts
Brooke Humphries stretches out from Gen-X bars (Barcadia, Beauty Bar) and coffee (Mudsmith) into retro diner land with P&Q, where she serves better burgers, hot dogs, fries, and milkshakes in a former tire shop. The food's solid, plus there's the fringe benefit of beer, wine, and cocktails. The location at the intersection of Ross and Greenville avenues seems about as central as it gets. Maybe it's just too good? Whatever. Be happy that getting a table is a cinch.
If a restaurant concept comes from out of town with a boatload of buzz, then Dallas is only too willing to get on its knees. But when a restaurant comes in with nothing more than good food and friendly hospitality, as is the case with this North Dallas Italian spot — well little lady, you're in luck today, because we have a table for you right here. Although from California, Roman Cucina feels about as North Dallas as it gets, with pasta, calamari, bruschetta, and a super-affordable wine list with by-the-glass options starting at $6.
With Avner Samuel gone, the former Nosh reemerged as Sallio Bistro, where they're doing a kind of Mediterranean-New American fusion under the direction of chef Larry Williams. It's a spontaneous thing where the menu changes from night to night. Recent offerings have included pistachio-crusted bluefish with sautéed greens, lobster Bolognese, watermelon salad, and a cool rendition of Brussels sprouts in a tempura batter, served in a paper cone like Belgian-style fries.
Shivas Bar & Grill
Like a few other spots on this under-appreciated list, Shivas suffers from Greenville Avenue Disease, that last round of construction in a long-term renovation of the street. It will be over soon, and Shivas will be mobbed. By then, you'll be "like this" with owners Ramesh and Sumathi Sundaram, because you visited their excellent restaurant serving north and south Indian dishes as well as Malaysian and Indochinese during this quieter period, enjoying their tikki masala, garlic naan, and biryani.
TJ's Seafood Market & Grill
When a restaurant has been open since 1989, it's the opposite of new or trendy. But TJ's Seafood keeps its edge by serving top-quality seafood — skillfully prepared, unfussy, to the point. It's done in a clean, bright setting, with framed photos on the wall, whether it's at the Preston-Royal branch (where there is a full bar) or the location on Oak Lawn (beer and wine only). There are oysters, seasonal specials such as salmon, and a fresh fish case if you want to cook yours at home. Oh, and lobster rolls — so trendy.