One of the most common questions asked about restaurants these days is, "Where should we eat in downtown Dallas?" Downtown is getting hot.
With a rising population in our Central Business District and a corresponding rise in eateries, dining in downtown Dallas has never been better. Here's our list of where to eat:
The "casual" restaurant at the Joule hotel evokes the landmark cafe in Rome that figured in the 1960 film La Dolce Vita. It specializes in Italian-American classics, as interpreted by chef Matt Ford. That includes house-made pastas, such as tortellini stuffed with ricotta and butternut squash, or and hand-cut pappardelle with Bolognese. There are Neapolitan-style pizzas, small plates, larger composed plates, as well as house cured meats and cheeses. Artisanal breads, pastries, and desserts, including gelato, are prepared in-house by pastry chef Ruben Torano.
Modern take on the classic German-style beer garden comes from Joseph Palladino (Nick & Sam's, Coal Vines). It features an open kitchen, pristine white-tile interior, countless beers on tap, meaty deli-style sandwiches, and an ivy-covered wraparound patio with downtown views. Menu is casual, with sandwiches such as corned beef, pastrami, turkey, or ham; sausages, bratwurst, chicken schnitzel, and pretzels; and sides such as French fries, coleslaw, and potato salad.
Charitable restaurant concept serves as a culinary training facility for disadvantaged youth. But, happily, it's also a place to get a very good meal, with a staff of experienced chefs led by founder Chad Houser. Menu follows the seasons with dishes such as root vegetable salad with watercress, and short rib with polenta and fried onions.
American brasserie at The Joule hotel serves comfort food with an artisanal sensibility. Menu items range from coddled eggs with house-baked bacon bread for breakfast, to seasonal salads for lunch, to pan-fried organic chicken for dinner. As a hotel restaurant, it keeps long hours, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, plus Sunday brunch and a complete menu until midnight on the weekends.
Chop House Burger
No neighborhood can survive without a gourmet burger spot, and here comes Chop House to the rescue. This baby sibling to Dallas Chop House and Dallas Fish Market has a fast-casual service mode and prototypical list of burgers and upscale toppings. In addition to beef, there is a turkey burger, an ahi tuna burger, and a fried-chicken sandwich. Ingredients such as the buns from Empire Baking Co. are carefully sourced, and French fries and shakes are on point.
Ellen's Southern Kitchen
This Southern-cuisined restaurant played a major role in turning the West End around with its customer-friendly service and well-executed food. Owner Joe Groves and chef Russell Mertz bring an attention to detail that's rare, with a menu that goes beyond standard comfort food: fried catfish, macaroni and cheese, and nicely composed salads. The star of the menu is an exemplary chicken-fried steak topped with sausage gravy.
Green Door Public House
Restaurant-bar near the Dallas Farmers Market was an instant legend, thanks to its back story: Its shell was rescued from certain death in its former location on Cesar Chavez Boulevard and moved, brick by brick, to where it stands today. Its menu is burgers and bar food such as wings, cheese fries, and fish tacos. But its bar and easily accessible parking lot have made it a favorite for locals and regulars at City Hall.
Lark on the Park
Restaurateur Shannon Wynne got in on the Klyde Warren Park magic early in the game. Lark is the most chef-centric restaurant of his portfolio (Flying Saucer, Meddlesome Moth, Rodeo Goat), which makes sense for the sophisticated downtown diner. Husband-and-wife chef team Dennis Kelley and Melody Bishop, along with pastry chef Laurel Wimberg, do a seasonal menu with dishes such as a cucumber-avocado sandwich. And like all Wynne's concepts, the bar and beer lists are sublime.
Lucky gastropub gets the choicest address of all, right on the grounds of Klyde Warren Park. The location is stupendous, with its glass walls affording views out onto the park (and into the restaurant for passersby). No matter what time of day, it's a practical choice, whether as a lunch meet-up point for downtown workers, or for arts patrons who need a glass of wine (on tap) and snacks before a show.
This spot is more bar than restaurant, with a bar's obsession on cocktails, less so on the food. Nonetheless, there are snacks such as lobster fondue, and tacos such as beer-battered fish. There are "smart bowls" with rice and vegetables at lunch, and last but not least, there is brunch: omelets, biscuits, eggs Benedict. For many people, brunch matters.
We've already covered the best neighborhood eats in Oak Cliff and Greenville Avenue. Meanwhile, here are some classic restaurants in downtown Dallas: Beyond the Box, Cafe Strada, City Tavern, Dakota's, Dallas Chop House, Dallas Fish Market, Five Sixty, French Room, Iron Cactus, La Ventana, Meso Maya, The Palm, Pho Colonial, Porta di Roma, Press Box, Pyramid Room, Record Grill, Stampede 66, Tei An, Texas Spice, Wild Salsa, YO Ranch, Zenna Sushi, and the Zodiac at Neiman Marcus.