You've been cooped up for more than a year. Now you've been vaccinated and at long last, you've got your free pass. There's so much catching up to do. So many meals to eat. Where do you start?
These restaurants around Dallas, combining essential new arrivals with persevering stalwarts, are the ones to visit first after getting your vaccine:
Asia Times Square
Take a field trip to this destination Asian shopping center in Grand Prairie where they've created an upscale food court with two floors, part of a mission to connect people with different cultures through something innately shareable like food. The center unveiled a new round of restaurant concepts in December that include sushi, ramen, matcha beverages, and ice cream. Recent openings include Omakase To Go, Meccha Matcha, Sakari Ramen, and Apsara Cambodian & Thai.
Get up to speed on state-of-the-art vegan dining at this plant-based restaurant in downtown Dallas, which comes with celebrity aura: It's a spinoff of Little Pine, founded in Los Angeles by electronic musician Moby (who is no longer involved, but still fun to name-drop). There's something refreshing about the matter-of-fact approach they take, with dishes such as a flight of ketchups served with French fries that make it feel like a restaurant that just happens to be vegan.
Elm + Good
Catch up with acclaimed Dallas chef Graham Dodds at this modern American tavern in the Kimpton Pittman Hotel, in the landmark Knights of Pythias temple in Deep Ellum. The menu changes frequently but might include a board such as the one with Raclette cheese, Genoa salami, pickled cauliflower, and fingerling potatoes. Weekend brunch every Sunday from 10 am-3 pm is a highlight, with shrimp & grits, smoked brisket hash, and a French-style omelet with parmesan, chives, Yukon gold hash browns, and arugula.
Seasonal restaurant in the old Bolsa space in Oak Cliff is from chef Matt Balke and front-of-the-house partner Corey McCombs. They're putting out an uncomplicated yet adventurous menu with influences from Texas, California, and the South, with a focus on seasonality and fresh ingredients. A typical entree might be the lamb and pork bratwurst with green chili hominy grits and apple mustard, or The Cliff Flatbread with goat cheese, provolone, confit tomatoes, and arugula.
Chinese hot pot chain was founded in China in 1994 is expanding into the U.S., where it debuted in Los Angeles in 2013. You choose your soup base, different meats and veggies, and a huge sauce bar. The food is well regarded but it's all the other stuff that makes this place such a trip: A robot delivers your order to the table playing music, and there’s an item on the menu called dancing noodles," wherein a "noodle dancer" makes hand-pulled noodles tableside. This location at the Frisco Oasis center was the first in Texas but they've since opened a location in Houston.
Neapolitan-style pizzeria is a gem from husband-and-wife Dino Santonicola, a native of Italy, and Megan Santonicola, a food & beverage vet in Dallas. They opened in downtown Dallas in late 2019 and have built a loyal following for their authentic fare, featuring pizza fritta, focaccia, house-made pasta such as rigatoni alla Genovese, and cool Naples-style street foods. A strong wine list boasts lots of Italian labels, and there are cocktails featuring Italian spirits and sodas. They also offer fun classes on Saturday afternoons where you can learn to make pizza like Dino does.
This combination car shop-restaurant founded in Seattle in 2017 is a curiosity, a place for people who love cars and motorcycles, and who possibly may want to work on the cars themselves, and then grab a bite. Derby is their in-house restaurant with one side open to members only, the other to the public, where you can eat with a view of the various vehicles inside. The menu features comfort foods such as BLT, Cobb salad, burgers, pastas, fried chicken, and steak.
Hit Deep Ellum at this latest bar from Kim Finch (Single Wide, Double Wide), featuring fun retro fare such as bologna sandwiches, Frito Pie, bean dip, and Sloppy Joes in three versions, including a vegetarian option. The location at 3000 Commerce St. is also splendidly vintage with a grand patio that makes post-COVID dining a breeze.
The Village Dallas
Seeking to maintain its relevance, the longtime mega residential development near Olde Town has opened a boutique hotel, gift shop, and at least eight restaurant concepts, with something for your every desire: a coffee shop, to-go market, poolside bar, gastropub, and fine-dining restaurant with chef Junior Borges.
Wok Star Chinese
Modern-but-authentic take on Chinese food from David Romano is now open at The Hill, at US-75 and Walnut Hill Lane, with some hyper-authentic dishes — xio long bao, aka soup dumplings, and hand-pulled noodles — and others that are the "Chinese" Americans grew up with, such as General Tso's chicken, kung pao chicken, and beef & broccoli.