We're on the home stretch of our annual Tastemaker Awards, where we celebrate the best among Dallas restaurants and bars, culminating in a grand tasting event on May 14 at the Empire Room.
We've already spotlighted the best breweries, bartenders, bars, burgers and up-and-coming chefs. And you still have the opportunity to pick best new restaurant; our tournament is down to a close race, and your vote will determine the winner.
This entry celebrates the nominees for Neighborhood Restaurant the Year, the places that both serve and reflect the neighborhood where they reside.
Fried chicken is the nominal draw at this home-cooking old-timer, and it's an epic specimen with a crunchy crust. Communal-style sides not only mean you can help yourself to Babe's creamed corn, mashed potatoes and other excellent options, but they also give a clue to Babe's enduring appeal, which extends across numerous suburban branches, from Garland to Roanoke. It's a place where you break bread together.
Greenville Avenue restaurant from Matt Tobin and Josh Yingling, owners of Goodfriend in East Dallas, rides two trends: an obsession with meat and a fondness for craft beer. Chef Oliver Sitrin, who cures meat and stuffs sausage, gets radical with options such as pig ears and oxtail scrapple, but the restaurant's signature has become poutine, the Canadian-born dish of French fries topped with cheese curds and mushroom gravy.
Canary By Gorji
Small, sweet Far North Dallas restaurant is a sleeper, with gracious service and an exotic "new Mediterranean" menu that's as impressive as it is unexpected. Dedicated chef-owner Mansour Gorji uses novel ingredients such as pomegranate on dishes that incorporate a swath of influences, including French, Greek, Italian, Spanish and North African. You'll feel like this is your special discovery.
Authentic Neapolitan pizzeria chain slings the best pizzas in town, which not only draws the most discriminating pizza fanatics, but it also elevates the pizza conversation in Dallas-Fort Worth. Its use of top ingredients, some local, transforms pizza from its former stature as throwaway grub into a true gourmet experience. Despite a mini-expansion, each branch fits its neighborhood, from hipster Deep Ellum to patio-happy White Rock Lake.
Pioneering pizza chain changed owners in 2014 — it's now owned by the Genghis Grill team — but it remains a collection of neighborhood restaurants dedicated to serving artisan pizza baked in a wood-fired oven. Each branch reflects the character of its neighborhood, so no two are the same, from the date haunt on Henderson to the family-friendly atmosphere in Plano.
Monkey King Noodle Co.
It's easy to be fooled by the fast-casual model and low prices at Monkey King Noodle Co., but this tiny noodle stand is seriously special. Its menu of Chinese street food is small, but everything — noodles, dumplings, cucumber salad — is hand-made. There's nothing quite like standing on the street in Deep Ellum, gazing into a display window as a ball of dough is transformed into a batch of noodles that'll go into your spicy soup.
When it opened on Henderson in 2007, The Porch was a reflection of owner Tristan Simon and chef Nick Badovinus. Somehow it has survived turnover and remains enduringly popular as an unpretentious but satisfying foodie hang, with a Southern twang that's evident in dishes such as the buttermilk fried chicken Cobb salad. Wisely, they've kept the signature Stodg burger topped with bacon and a fried egg.
Partly owned by singer-songwriter Pat Green, the Rustic is just what Uptown Dallas ordered, with its combination of food, drink and live music. Patrons can go for one and indulge in the other. A menu of sandwiches, salads and grilled steaks covers all diners, and there are dozens of local and regional beers on tap.
A favorite haunt of the Park Cities crowd, pan-Asian restaurant Shinsei serves sushi that's at the head of the pack thanks to the craft of master sushi chef Shuji "Elvis" Sugawara. But owners Tracy Rathbun and Lynae Fearing keep things fresh: The duo recently hired chef Jeramie Robison, formerly of Uchi, and revamped their second-floor lounge with izakaya-style service.
This small, cosmopolitan taqueria chain with bright flavorful food and flashy cocktails set the standard locally for the "gourmet taco" trend, which has since become a crowded field. It has locations in only the hippest parts of town, but with a well-studied owner of Mexican descent, Urban Taco can stake a claim to an authenticity that the competition cannot.
Buy tickets now to the Tastemaker Awards on May 14.