When summertime rolls around, we start to crave the coastline. However, a beach vacation isn't always in the cards, and there isn't much in the way of dining with a water view here in landlocked Dallas.
But that doesn't mean Dallas lacks for great coastal cuisine, i.e., restaurants that can transport you to the beach, if only for a meal. Here's a list of our favorites.
This place reminds me of a crab shack in Fenwick Island, Delaware, where I worked one summer during college: nothing fancy, just good food. Here patrons roll up their sleeves to dig into plates of crawfish, steamed snow crab, fried seafood and po' boys — preferably at a picnic table outside, with a fan-induced breeze. If you ask for cocktail sauce, you will be directed to the patio, where there is a station to make your own. Even after 30 years — proof this place has staying power — diners still pay on the honor system.
Dive Coastal Cuisine
Not every oceanside meal has to be fried with a side of hush puppies, which is why we like Dive Coastal Cuisine and its commitment to healthier food. This Snider Plaza restaurant may not be the most beachy in Dallas, but we come here for ceviche: striped bass (or other fresh fish) marinated in lime juice with mango, cilantro, red onion, jalapeño and tomato and served with house-made plantain chips. Dive also does fresh catch of the day, an assortment of fish and shrimp tacos, and oysters on the half shell or baked. Throw in a glass or two of sangria, and we've forgotten our troubles for the afternoon.
East Hampton Sandwich Co.
East Hampton specializes in all manner of upscale sandwiches, but the lobster roll is arguably its most famous, which helped secure a spot on this list. A fresh-baked roll is filled with large chunks of knuckle and claw meat, a smattering of micro greens and chives, and a drizzle of butter, and it's served with a side of house-made potato chips. The price feels like the Hamptons too: $16 and worth every penny.
Hook Line & Sinker
Nothing sends you to the beach faster than a basket filled with fried seafood, and Hook Line & Sinker does near-greaseless renditions with fried fish, shrimp and oysters. Also on the menu: crunchy-moist hush puppies and slices of Key lime pie, which you'd expect from a place inspired by the beach shacks found along the Gulf Coast — especially one that's been doing this since 1995. HLS opened a second branch in North Dallas last year, but we like the Uptown location, which reminds us of our favorite coastal dives.
La Playa Volley Ranch
A place does not need to rely on food to transport us to the beach. Sometimes a little sun and sand can do the trick. La Playa Volley Ranch (formerly Yucatan Beach Club) in Coppell claims to have the most outdoor sand volleyball courts in North Texas, offering league play Sunday-Thursday nights, as well as special events and tournaments from March through November. There are two restaurants onsite to refuel between games, as well as outdoor bars, patio seating and a pool.
A newer establishment along the bustling Bishop Arts block, Pier 247 serves an assortment of seafood in a laid-back atmosphere, including a patio outfitted with picnic-style tables. Much of the menu has a Cajun theme, such as seafood gumbo, crawfish etouffee, and sausage and chicken jambalaya. Because this is Texas, many dishes also have a Texas twist, such as 247 surf and turf with chicken-fried steak, Creole and fried shrimp, and your choice of smashed potatoes or dirty rice. Bonus: Food is served until 1 am on Friday and Saturday nights.
When businessmen need a midday vacay, they head to Rex's Seafood for fish tacos filled with fish, salmon or shrimp or one of the many blackboard specials. Because it's attached to a market, you know that everything — from ceviche to steamed shellfish to pan-seared scallops — is fresh. If you don't enjoy the food onsite, you can take your pick from the case and bring the beach to your backyard, down to an assortment of house-made sauces, marinades and dips.
Sandbar Cantina and Grill
This groovy Deep Ellum sandbox comes from five volleyball fanatics, including a couple of ex-pros, who decided Dallas needed a bar with a serious volleyball facility. So they imported some fine white sand, planted some palm trees and installed a bunch of tournament-quality courts. There's a "beach shack" serving typical bar food — chips and salsa, wings, burgers and a couple of sandwiches and salads — plus plenty of Texas beer on tap. So even if don't play, you can sit back and watch the action — or the sun set on the downtown skyline. It's not the ocean, but it's as good as it gets in Dallas.
20 Feet Seafood Joint
This New England-inspired spot from former fine-dining chef Marc Cassel (most famously of the original Green Room) turns out top-notch seafood at affordable prices. It's not much to look at, but it's BYOB, which makes it a friendly, no-frills restaurant for enjoying quality versions fish and chips and lobster rolls, as well as Cassel's Green Room mussels. If you're on the hunt for clam chowder or fried clams, this is the place to get it in Dallas.