Dallas-Fort Worth had a phenomenal restaurant year in 2013, with lots of openings, expansions and new concepts featuring one-of-a-kind cuisines. We welcomed hot dining trends like truck yards, ramen shops and designer doughnuts. We ate our veggies, yet also porked out on meat. We tapped ever more deeply into craft beer.
From a vibrant and broad pool of openings, these 12 stood out as best of the bunch.
Belly & Trumpet
Who: Upscale restaurant on McKinney Avenue from Richard and Tiffanee Ellman, who also own Oak and Pakpao.
Why: Chef Brian Zenner possesses both imagination and skill. His seasonal focus means you'll always find something new.
What: Steamed buns with Wagyu beef tongue, pickled cucumber and turnip; gnocchi with black garlic, rapini, black trumpet mushroom, calabrese pepper and basil.
Who: Restaurateur Tristan Simon partners up with hotelier Tim Headington to revitalize downtown Dallas with this splashy opening in The Joule.
Why: Hard to resist a couple of fun-loving perfectionists driven to do everything right.
What: House-made strozzapreti pasta with wild mushrooms; kabocha squash with sorghum, blue cheese and pecans; corn cake.
Lark on the Park
Who: Ringside seats to Klyde Warren Park from veteran restaurateur Shannon Wynne (Flying Saucer, Meddlesome Moth).
Why: Husband-and-wife chefs Dennis Kelley and Melody Bishop work hard and think outside the box. Plus: beer.
What: Autumn wheat berry salad with roasted squash, kale, Medjool dates and pecans; ricotta gnudi with brown butter, spinach and Taleggio cream.
Little Red Wasp
Who: Baby sibling of Grace, the fine-dining pinnacle in downtown Fort Worth, from restaurateur Adam Jones and chef Blaine Staniford.
Why: Not so "serious foodie" as Grace — and cheaper too.
What: Potato-crusted fish of the day with wilted spinach, spaghetti and meatballs.
Mot Hai Ba
Who: North Vietnamese cantina from chefs Colleen O'Hare and Jeana Johnson, in old York Street space.
Why: Authentic Hanoi-style food you won't find anywhere else, executed at a four-star level.
What: Banh mi sandwich in multiple options including omelet, liver pate and pork, pork belly, beef or tofu; sizzling cake with shrimp.
Who: Sophisticated yet casual seafood spot from Fort Worth chef Felipe Armenta (The Tavern).
Why: Pristine seafood, beautiful people, gorgeous room, ultra-hot.
What: Miso-glazed salmon with sticky rice and broccolini, yellowtail jalapeño roll.
Who: Thai in the Design District from busy-busy Richard and Tiffanee Ellman (Oak, Belly & Trumpet).
Why: Chef Eddy Thretipthuangsin capably navigates both authentic Thai and four-star technique. (Thretipthuangsin left Pakpao on December 30.)
What: Chicken meatballs, bamboo salad, citrus steamed cake with lemongrass crème anglaise.
Peak & Elm
Who: Father-and-son Jesse Moreno Sr. and Jesse Moreno Jr. branch out from their La Popular Tamale niche.
Why: Jesse Sr. has the old-school, Mexican-by-way-of-Dallas cooking chops; Jesse Jr. knows how to package it for 2013.
What: Taquitos with dirty rice, stacked enchiladas, anything with the house-made tortillas.
Who: Breakfast-and-lunch spinoff of award-winning Tex-Mex restaurant Pepe's & Mito's.
Why: Earnest, eager-to-please disposition with straightforward food at discount prices.
What: Enfrijoladas with black beans and cilantro rice, breakfast tacos, chicken and waffles.
Who: Former Ritz-Carlton chef holds forth in prominently located restaurant at cooed-over Klyde Warren Park.
Why: Major points for atmosphere alone at this shiny, sparkling glass box. Answers the question: where to take your parents.
What: Crab cakes with curry corn puree; mini-desserts such as yuzu tart, $3 each – get them all.
Who: Maple & Motor burger-meister Jack Perkins expands into barbecue.
Why: He freshens up a locked-down cuisine with his unusual approach to cooking meat and respect for vegetable sides.
What: Brisket, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower gratin, pea salad, "chili mac" (macaroni and cheese with a ladle of chili).
Zoli's NY Pizza Tavern
Who: Pizza pundit Jay Jerrier expands his repertoire from Italy to New York.
Why: You can eat for under $5, and oh that crust.
What: One slice each of the three varieties: thin crust; thicker, moister "Grandma"; and thickest, airy Sicilian. Plus an order of garlic knots.