Dallas' best restaurant, chef, and more winners crowned at 2022 Tastemaker Awards
After weeks of celebrating the best restaurants, bars, chefs, and more in our 2022 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, the winners are in.
For weeks, we've dedicated a special editorial series to highlighting nominees in 10 categories, including best restaurants, chefs, bars, and bartenders. A panel of expert judges helped select all of the winners, except for Best New Restaurant. That was determined by you, our readers, in a bracket-style tournament.
In addition to favorite categories like Rising Star Chef of the Year and Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year, we threw in a delicious new wildcard category: Best New Pizza, as Dallas' pizza scene has exploded with delicious new options recently.
On May 12, the winners were crowned at an awards ceremony and tasting event at Fashion Industry Gallery, emceed by comedian CJ Starr.
Now, without further delay, let's raise a glass to the 2022 Tastemaker Award winners:
Rising Star Chef of the Year: Aldo Lugo, Jose
Working for an acclaimed restaurant such as Jose, the authentic Mexican in the Park Cities helmed by chef AQ Pittman, gives you an automatic bump, but sous chef Aldo Lugo, who's worked at the restaurant for more than two years, has his own special brio. Beyond his culinary talents, his positive generous spirit and willingness to always lend a hand have made valuable contributions to the restaurant's familial culture.
Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: Hillside Tavern
This 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. 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.
Bar of the Year: Rattlesnake Bar
The bar at the ritzy Ritz-Carlton, Dallas has always been hailed as one of the best places for people-watching: Between local high-rollers and hotel guests, it's an entertaining mix, and the bar opens onto the hotel's lobby, which not only increases the see-and-be-seen element but also provides a stunning backdrop. Best of all, you also get chef Dean Fearing's signature margarita, premium spirits, wines, and expertly mixed cocktails, plus superb bar bites.
Bartender of the Year: Reid Lewis, Atlas
Lewis has worked at big local cocktail destinations such as Standard Pour and Las Almas Rotas, where she helped guide the bar during tough pandemic times. Other notable names on her resume include Billy Can Can, Reveler's Hall, Tower Club, and she's also partnered with Mijenta Tequila, a maker from Jalisco. She's a "get things done" kind of gal and is putting it all to good use at Atlas, the cocktail den with globally inspired food and drink.
Wine Program of the Year: Monarch
Restaurant at the National building in downtown Dallas is a wood-fired modern Italian concept imagined by Michelin chef Danny Grant and team. The restaurant is famous for its elegant space and expansive views as well as its pasta, steaks, and seafood — with a steakhouse-style wine list to match. If you're looking to splurge on a showpiece bottle, this is the place to do it in 2022.
Pastry Chef of the Year: Amy La Rue, Carte Blanche
La Rue is pastry chef and co-owner of Carte Blanche, the acclaimed bakery-restaurant combo on Greenville Avenue, where her croissants, doughnuts, crullers, muffins, and cookies have earned her a devout following. She learned croissants and laminated dough while still in high school, when she worked at a bakery-cafe run by a French emigre. She was already in the industry when she met her husband and partner Casey La Rue; the two worked at establishments around the U.S. before coming to Dallas in 2019.
Brewery of the Year: Vector Brewing
Extremely popular microbrewery and brewpub in Lake Highlands is a mom-and-pop that serves beer, cider, coffee, stone-baked pizzas, and more. They opened in 2020, at the height of the pandemic, and now have more than a dozen creative brews — how about the red ale they brewed with Funky Picnic from Fort Worth, with buckwheat, rice, and koji, usually used to make sake. You can get it in all ways: in 5-ounce tasters, half pours, or full pours, as well as 16-ounce crowler cans to-go.
Best New Pizza: 400 Gradi
Downtown Italian restaurant from Australian chef Johnny Di Francesco uses upscale authentic ingredients such as San Marzano tomatoes in more than a dozen Neopolitan-style pizza varieties. They ferment their dough and pastas for 48 hours in a temperature-controlled room. Entrees include branzino, chicken breast with pepperonata and nduja sauce, and mussels in a garlic-chili jus with chargrilled bread. Zero Gradi, a companion gelato shop, opened next door and another 400 Gradi will open in McKinney in 2023.
Best New Restaurant: Hawkers Asian Street Food
Cool concept from Florida is all about Asian street foods: Korean twice-fried wings, Seoul hot chicken bao, and roti canai, a thin flaky pancake served with curry sauce. Cocktails such as the "magari-thai" with tequila, Patron Citronage, mango nectar, and bird’s eye chili have an Asian spin, as well. They made their Texas debut in Dallas' Deep Ellum, with the bar at the front of the restaurant to make it feel energetic as soon as you enter.
Chef of the Year: Ji Kang, Sloane's Corner
Kang is well traveled and educated, having earned not only a culinary arts degree from The Art Institutes but also a degree in finance. He's staged in Europe and cooked at prestigious New York restaurants and institutions. In Dallas, he worked at Dish and Samar by Stephan Pyles, before rejoining Dish founder Tim McEneny as corporate chef for NL Hospitality Group's portfolio of restaurants including Sloane's Corner, Pizza Leila, and Dakota's Steakhouse.
Restaurant of the Year: Meridian
This modern Brazilian cuisine from chef Junior Borges is the fine-dining spot that's part of an entire slate of restaurants rolled out at The Village, the massive residential apartment community in the middle of Dallas, which executed a mixed-use lifestyle project with food and entertainment in early 2021. The restaurant features Brazilian-inspired dishes, with snacks, cocktails, salads, brioche, or a family-style feast from a live-fire hearth.