Dallas Tastemaker Awards 2022
Tastemaker Awards

The 10 top neighborhood restaurants in Dallas keep it close to home

The 10 top neighborhood restaurants in Dallas keep it close to home

Meat, potatoes, and green beans from Carverpark. Photo courtesy of Carverpark

CultureMap Dallas brings back the 2022 edition of its annual Tastemaker Awards, our culinary celebration shining a light on the top talent in Dallas-Fort Worth's restaurant and bar communities, as determined by their peers.

As part of that celebration, we are launching a 10-part editorial series in which we'll profile nominees for Restaurant of the Year, Bar of the Year, Chef of the Year, and more. Check out our page with all the nominees, all of which have been voted on by a panel of judges consisting of former CultureMap Tastemaker Award winners and local F&B experts.

It'll culminate in a party on May 12 at Fashion Industry Gallery, emceed by comedian CJ Starr, where attendees get to dine on bites from nominated restaurants and find out who the winners are in all the categories. (Tickets are on sale here.)

We begin that series now with the category of Neighborhood Restaurant. These are the places that are nearby, convenient yet good, and that often reflect the neighborhood in some way.

Here are the 10 nominees for best Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year:

Tiki Loco
Extremely practical restaurant that opened in 2018 has celebrity ties: It's owned by tattoo artists Dean Williams and Olive Peck (star of TV show Ink Master), whose Elm Street Tattoo shop has been in Deep Ellum for 20-plus years. The duo has created a place where you can get healthy food options — both vegan and GF — and local coffee from White Rock Coffee, including tacos, nachos, smoothies, juice, grab-and-go items, and even cocktails, with happy hour deals. Deep Ellum has become deluged with restaurants, many from out of town, and Tiki Loco stands as a bit of a throwback, a sweet reminder of the quirky, funky Deep Ellum vibe that has attracted so many newcomers.

Partenope Ristorante
Partenope has all the traits that every neighborhood wants: authenticity, doting local ownership, a sense of family, and of course, pizza. Everyone loves pizza. Husband-and-wife Dino and Megan Santonicola met when they worked at the Cane Rosso chain, but came with extensive restaurant industry experience they put to good use at this place of their own, which they opened in the gorgeous Titche-Goettinger building in downtown Dallas in 2019. They've won over the downtown residential community with their diligence and reliability, not to mention spot-on Neapolitan-style pizza, pasta, and other specialties from Dino, a native of Italy.

Open Sesame Lebanese Grill
Dallas has plenty of Middle Eastern restaurants, but those that serve Lebanese specifically are in the minority, and this is a wrong that Open Sesame rights. The restaurant opened in 2017 in a busy part of Oak Lawn Avenue, serving the trademark sharp flavors and superb execution for which Lebanese food is known, in their signature kafta, ground beef with onions & parsley, as well as their superior versions of Middle Eastern staples like tabouleh and hummus. Their prices are low — finding truly good quality food at a reasonable price is a rarity in Dallas — they offer wine and beer, and they're open for both lunch and dinner. Maybe it's time to move to Oak Lawn.

Lockwood Distilling Co.
Distillery and craft kitchen in Richardson serves small-batch spirits and a chef-devised menu featuring enticing dishes with creative yummy twists such as "dirty" tater tots with melted pimento cheese and hot sauce; and Southern bean dip with marinated butter beans, arugula, and toast points. They opened in Richardson in 2019, and are really just a small spirits distillery with some indoor dining and outdoor/patio seating, where they host local musicians on weekends. But founders Sally and Evan Batt have a genuine love for the community and have created a laid-back place where you can enjoy crafted food and beverages.

Irish pubs are beloved in Dallas, and this one comes with unimpeachable credentials: Co-owner Peter Kenny is a native of Ireland and pub veteran who also owns the Dubliner on Greenville Avenue. Its menu of Irish comfort food such as fish & chips and shepherd's pie, a great selection of beer, and cocktails, too, would be a hit anywhere, but it's all especially beloved in their Lake Highlands/Lochwood neighborhood of East Dallas, deeply grateful for something cool. Lochland's accommodates with friendly service, a dog-friendly outdoor space, and a popular weekend brunch.

Hillside Tavern
Neighborhood tavern is the Lakewood entry from the owners of Rapscallion, Boulevardier, and Veritas Wine Room, located in suddenly buzzy Hillside Village, where they serve bar eats, stiff cocktails, a 40-bottle wine list, TVs, and a friendly staff. The menu has a Houston's vibe, with bold versions of classics such as a wedge loaded down with blackberry-hoisin glazed bacon, blue cheese, tomato, sesame seed spice, scallion, chili sauce, and roasted peanuts. Smoked meats are a thing here, and chef Nathan Tate is not shy: Consider his smoked bologna sandwich with smoked mortadella, American & provolone cheese on Texas toast. Boo-yah.

Jalisco Norte
Authentic Mexican kitchen and bar at Turtle Creek Village was originally founded by Tim McEneny (Sloane's Corner) and acclaimed chef Jose Meza, whose resume includes the famed NOMA in Copenhagen, Denmark. In 2020, it was acquired by restaurateur Mike Karns (Local Favorite Restaurant Group), and in great news, he's kept the formula of flavorful authentic food and craft cocktails mostly intact. Meza is a culinary whiz who knows how to pack a punch, distilling loads of flavor and technique into sauces and ingredients that can seem simple but beneath the surface are gratifyingly complex.

Taco Ocho
Small acclaimed family-owned taqueria chain serves tacos, quesadillas, nachos, and more with locations in Richardson, Frisco, and Flower Mound. Founder Mani Bhushan worked for companies such as PepsiCo and Yum! Brands before founding Taco Ocho in 2011 as a Mexican restaurant inspired by Latin cuisine with classic techniques. Every item is made-to-order using fresh ingredients, with inspiration from Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. The food is good, they're ultra-responsive to customers, the prices are low, and they keep long hours: open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch.

Honor Bar
Restaurant-bar at Highland Park Village is part of the Hillstone Restaurant Group (Houston's, R+D Kitchen) and has three other locations, in Beverly Hills, Santa Barbara, and Miami — and yet it's quintessential Park Cities (although keep in mind that it's a Hillstone-quality version of Park Cities, IE better than what the Park Cities would muster on its own). It has the same polished self-assurance (and a few similar dishes) as R+D, but with a hair more of a casual/bar-food focus — burgers and such — not to mention a bright patio with yellow umbrellas that lets you keep an eye on who's doing what and headed where at HPV.

What a treasure to find this small, careful cafe from a food & beverage team with tons of experience tucked inside a 14-story office building at 7557 Rambler Rd., near 75 and Walnut Hill Lane. Open for breakfast and lunch to occupants of the office building, or anyone else who wants to drop in, it stars James Rowland, the well-regarded veteran chef (Beau Nash, Bistro Nous, Greenville Avenue Bar & Grill); and Fana Yohannes, the former front-of-the-house pro from York Street and Lucia Dallas, who are turning out fresh, homey sandwiches, pastas, soups, and hearty vegetarian dishes.