We're mere days away from the 2017 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, our annual event celebrating the best in local food and drink. We're honoring nominees in all categories of food and beverage, from best chefs to the best restaurant in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Now we take a look at the contenders in the biggest category of all: Best Restaurant in Dallas. Here are the nominees:
The casual sibling to CBD Provisions at The Joule hotel specializes in Italian-American classics. 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. Pastries and desserts include house-made gelato.
Casa Rubia is one of the shining stars of Trinity Groves, with lots of critical raves for its modern tapas and dark, trendy atmosphere. Menu includes charcuterie, as well as many seafood options such as mussels and octopus. Paella is the signature dish and it changes daily. Drinks are unique: There's a long Spanish wine list, plus sherries and beers from Spain and South America.
Chef Matt McCallister's second restaurant is designed for the "everyday crowd," i.e., more casual than FT33. The machinist shop theme with exposed brick walls and wooden ceiling beams makes handy use of a vintage Deep Ellum building. Menu items include onion dip with warm potato chips, trout fritters, and pork chop with braised collards. There's also a "secret" burger available at the bar that's not really that secret.
Flora Street Cafe
Chef Stephan Pyles' latest concept, Flora Street Cafe represents a surprising pivot away from fast-casual burger joints and into fine dining, filtered through Pyles' Southwestern POV. Flora Street also dabbles in molecular gastronomy, with amusing tricks such as the seafood carpaccio starter that emits dry-ice smoke when it comes to the table. This is special-occasion dining; it's expensive. Restaurant has a central location in the middle of the Dallas Arts District, with a floor-to-ceiling glass front.
Award-winning restaurant in the Bishop Arts District is where you'll find chef David Uygur, executing his vision of upscale Italian comfort food. Everything is made on-site, beginning with the salumi plate, with options such as spicy sopressata, salame, duck pate with pistachio, and lardo on crostini. Pasta is a must, whether it’s Meyer lemon risotto with crab, spaghetti with bottarga, or lamb brain ravioli; you can get it in half-portions. Doting service includes wine tips from co-owner Jennifer Uygur, and the complimentary house bread has its own following. The restaurant is generally booked a month out, but there are four seats at the bar that are first-come, first-served.
Seafood restaurant from chef Nick Badovinus (Neighborhood Services) picks up the former Spoon spot in Preston Center, with oysters, mussels, chowder, Dungeness crab, and a burger. You can't not have a burger. Atmosphere is casual-chic, with an emphasis on chic; the steak frites are $39. Seafood theme pervades the decor as well, with pole-mounted seats at the bar reminiscent of a bass boat, and Seattle-themed graphics on the wall.
Italian restaurant at the foothills of the Parks Cities from chef Julian Barsotti (who also owns Carbone's and Sprezza) does house-made pasta, thin-crust pizza, salads, and salumi, in a cozy but cool setting. Menu items rotate, but favorites include gnocchi, lobster ravioli, and white pizza with clams. The wine list is loaded with Italian labels, although prices are high, starting at $12 per glass. One nice convention is the complementary "bomba" bread, a puffy round full of hot air, accompanied by a small dish of olives.
TNT Tacos and Tequila
Hip, more casual sibling of Blue Mesa has tacos, in the Quadrangle. Owners Liz and Jim Baron devised TNT as a place where their Southwestern food would reach a younger audience. It's a synthesis of Blue Mesa food but with a mix-and-match menu. Best-selling tacos include the corn-crusted chicken street taco with pickled onions, and the Buffalo chicken street taco, featuring grilled chicken brushed with spicy-hot wings-style sauce.
Life changed for this taqueria in West Dallas when it made the Bon Appetit list of best new restaurants for 2016. But owners Luis Olvera and Juan Carlos Overa were making great tacos before the magazine came along, including al pastor, beef, and a surprisingly good vegetarian paneer-poblano, all served on house-made corn tortillas and sprinkled with onions and cilantro. As impressive as the tacos are, the quesadilla is a must-get, too.
Famed chef Tyson Cole opens a third branch of his Austin-based sushi-eria Uchi, in a sleek wood-paneled building on Maple Avenue. Menu-wise, the Dallas branch includes items from both Uchi and sister concept Uchiko, with fish both hot and cold, plus sake and wacky desserts, such as the one with fried milk. Prices aren't cheap; you must pay for the opportunity to eat celebrity chef-conceived raw fish. You'll likely wait for a table, too, but there's a lobby designed for that. Seeing and being seen is all part of the Uchi plan.