We're counting the days until the 2017 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, our annual event honoring the best in local food and drink. Check out our list of nominees in all categories of food and beverage, from best bartenders to the best restaurant in Dallas-Fort Worth.
We'll honor them all at a celebratory party on April 20 from 7-10 pm at Sixty Five Hundred, with tastings and awards, emceed by Texas celebrity chef Tim Love. Tickets are on sale now, for $45, through March 31.
We've already visited with the candidates for Rising Star Chef of the Year. Now we're back with Best Neighborhood Restaurant. These are the places that best reflect the neighborhood where they live. They're the places that become your reliable go-to. These are the places that feel like home.
Here are our nominees for Best Neighborhood Restaurant:
20 Feet Seafood Joint
Joint is the right word for this casual counter-serve restaurant from former Green Room chefs Marc Cassel and Suzan Fries. The theme is seafood, skewing slightly towards New England, with that Maine special, lobster rolls, clam chowder, and fried clams. Ramen, too, plus Fries' cream pies. The atmosphere is, how do you say, no frills, with only about 50 seats inside and 25 on the front porch. During rush hour, it's always a jam, and that's to be expected. The neighborhood is thrilled to have to good-quality seafood, and the wallet-friendly BYOB policy is just icing on the cake.
Bbbop Seoul Kitchen
Family-owned Asian-fusion restaurant chain has three branches, and true to this category, each has its own charm, from the bustling practicality of Upper Greenville to the foodie cachet of North Oak Cliff. They all share the same basic cuisine theme, with a focus on Korean dishes including bibimbap, the traditional rice bowl dish topped with veggies, egg, and meat if you want, that inspired their name. But each location has menu twists that reflect where they are, and of a caliber that reflects the authenticity and culinary skills of owners Steve Shin, Sandy Bussey, and Greg Bussey.
Laid-back spot in West Dallas from the restaurant team of Tim Byres, Chris Jeffers, and Chris Zielke aims to capture the spirit of a family picnic. The menu centers on chicken, including rotisserie, fried chicken, fried-chicken biscuit sandwiches, plus sides such as mashed potatoes, French fries, mac and cheese, and collard greens. You order from a walk-up window and revel in the patio the restaurant shares with its bar partner, The Foundry. You can bring the kids, sit outdoors, and there's live music every Friday and Saturday night.
Casual-chic bar-restaurant has rock star heritage in owners Julie Doyle, singer and manager of Polyphonic Spree, and Tony Barsotti, artist, musician, and furniture designer. The subtly Southern menu consists mostly of food you can eat while you drink some of their spectacular cocktails, with plenty of snacky options such as hummus and deviled eggs. The design, somewhere between Palm Springs and a '60s airport lobby, is stunning, and the entire package serves as a benchmark of the gentrifying transition being felt by this area east of White Rock Lake.
Maple & Motor
Quirky, slightly cranky burger spot has a simple menu, with burgers, hot dogs, and onion rings that services workers in the Medical District, plus pilgrims from downtown, Oak Lawn, and beyond. Its hand-formed burger, topped with mustard, red onion, lettuce, and pickle and served on a toasted bun, has earned plenty of recognition, including the biggest gravy train of all, a profile on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. But the true neighborhood that M&M occupies is more philosophical than geographical. You come here to have the same food and be the same as other diners, no matter who you are.
Ambitious spin-off of El Fenix aims for authentic Mexican food from the Central and Southern states, featuring such dishes as mole, posole, and budin Azteca, a layered dish with tortillas and chicken. But its three branches are all located in upscale areas of Dallas, so that means Tex-Mex touches, a well-appointed atmosphere, and $12 cocktails with muddled fruit. There are 8 different margaritas, including one with avocado and pineapple, and another with cucumber. Gotta give the people what they want.
Lovers Lane restaurant that spawned a hip local chain from hip chef Nick Badovinus has become a Dallas staple, with its ultra-happening atmosphere and broad something-for-everyone menu, balancing inventiveness with a prevailing sense of comfort. Dishes are all-American with a gourmet flair: chicken pot pie, scallops with cheddar polenta, fish and chips, generous salads, and nifty appetizers like the signature fried asparagus. Dallas diners like a little intrigue, but they don't want anything, you know, weird.
From a food perspective, you go to this long-running Chinese restaurant for its two signature dishes: hand-pulled noodles and house-made dumplings. But its longevity also makes it a Dallas treasure, and one whose menu has evolved to address the growing savvy of its North Dallas clientele, with the addition of more regional dishes and a dumpling bar where staffers make them in the open kitchen in the middle of the restaurant.
Sissy's Southern Kitchen & Bar
Fried chicken looms as the big trend of 2017, making Lisa Garza-Selcer way ahead of the chicken curve when she opened Sissy's in 2012. Along with crunchy fried chicken, Sissy's retro-Southern menu includes classics such as deviled eggs, gumbo, and fried green tomatoes. There's shrimp and grits, a local favorite, and sides such as collards and fried okra. The ambience is hyper-designed, with servers wearing aprons and food served on blue-and-white Spode plates. Sissy's happens to be on Henderson Avenue but it fills a need Dallas always has for a fine Southern eatery.
Lower Greenville institution with European-influenced menu is the ultimate neighborhood restaurant, prevailing for more than 35 years, a reputation that owners Brian and Courtney Luscher have adeptly maintained. That means keeping traditions like the mushroom soup but also rejuvenating via additions such as a burger at Sunday brunch, one that Texas Monthly named the best in Texas. Good service, a friendly wine list, a weekday happy hour, and nightly specials make The Grape the kind of place you keep coming back to.