For many diners, the restaurant that means the most is their neighborhood restaurant — the one that's nearby, that they frequent regularly, the one that's a reflection of its neighborhood and almost an extension of their own home.
For those reasons and more, we include neighborhood restaurants as one of the categories in our annual CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, celebrating the best in Dallas food and drink. In our editorial series, we're spotlighting nominees in every category: best rising star chefs, best bartenders, best bars, and best restaurants — voted on by a panel of judges, consisting of former CultureMap Tastemaker Award winners and local F&B experts, who helped narrow down the final list to 10 finalists.
Who will win? Find out at the Tastemaker Awards party on August 19 at Fashion Industry Gallery, where we’ll dine on bites from nominated restaurants while emcee CJ Starr reveals the winners. Buy tickets here.
Here are the 10 nominees for Best Neighborhood Restaurant:
Ambitious restaurant in Irving is from Sara Nam, whose aunt owns Edoko Sushi & Robata in Richardson and kindly allowed her to use the Edoko name; and chef Keunsik Lee, who'd worked at Nobu, Japonais by Morimoto in Chicago, and Wasabi Sushi in Fort Worth. They opened in March 2020, possibly the worst month in history to open, but they've attracted a following thanks to their "omakase" offering, in which diners leave the ordering up to the chef. No question that put them on the foodie map but their menu also boasts a host of affordable sushi options and bento boxes at lunch — just what you need to win over the locals, too.
Bill and Johnnie Katz were hardly the first to open a restaurant or bar in downtown Dallas when they debuted Frankie's on the ground floor of the Davis Building (now Drakestone) in 2015. And it wasn't like downtown needed a sports bar. But Frankie's had perfect timing, arriving just as the downtown resident population was coalescing into a community, with a congenial vibe that fulfilled its vow to become "downtown's living room." It has beers on tap, good affordable food, and stays open late. It has enough room to accommodate a variety of needs, with a speakeasy basement on the lower level for meetings and gatherings. It has brunch.
Gold Rush Cafe
Lakewood staple provides a comforting respite from the upscale-ification that's devouring much of East Dallas. Open since 1980, it's a small spot — there's a wait at peak hours — with reliable breakfast and lunch, including the John Wayne Breakfast with potato hash, sunny-side egg, cheddar, and salsa on top of a flour tortilla, served with bacon. And owner George Sanchez keeps a lid on the prices, such a blessing in a world where it seems like everyone is out to gouge you for an extra buck. It's definitely a favorite of the neighborhood, but you also run into all sorts of people at this Dallas classic and local institution.
Not every neighborhood favorite has to be a local mom-and-pop. This California gourmet sandwich shop has opened two Dallas locations: one in downtown in March 2020, and another in Addison in March 2021. They do sandwiches and salads, but using fine-dining ingredients and techniques; their decadent "vegan" Reuben, featuring vegan corned beef from Mrs. Goldfarb's Unreal Deli, was one of our Top 5 Tastes for 2020. They have an almost matter-of-fact attitude about their high quality — like, of course it should be good — that's sophisticated, and their spacious dining rooms make the perfect gathering place for co-workers, friends, and families.
Colorado-based chain has been through two ownership changes but they're still diligently executing their mission to make real, good food, from scratch, convenient, and delicious. Dallas was their first foray outside Denver, and they chose locations wisely including Preston Hollow Village, next door to the Trader Joe's, where their healthy entrees, creative salads, and thin-crust pizzas are a big hit with residents and workers nearby, not to mention convenient half portions and cheap prices including $2 wine by the glass.
Dallas-Fort Worth has little Italian restaurants sprinkled in every little town, but this newbie which opened at the Village at Allen with ties to New York: It's part of an Italian group that operates loosely-connected restaurants in New York, Miami Beach, and Austin. Some of their recipes have been handed down through generations, including Northern-Italian style pastas, as well as pizzas baked in a brick oven. Overseeing the Allen location is Leo Gravina, a native of Italy with his own set of sterling credentials, including a decade working for the Bice Group, the acclaimed Italian restaurant company originally founded in Milan in 1926. It's definitely a cut above your typical neighborhood Italian.
The Harwood District, between Uptown and Victory Park, is now teeming with restaurant concepts from Harwood Hospitality Group including Mercat Bistro, Happiest Hour, and more, but Saint Ann's was one of the first, and is therefore still a sentimental favorite. The menu includes fun items such as chorizo-stuffed dates and a braised short rib sandwich, with cocktails and lots of wines by the glass, and in true Harwood form, it has an amazing patio, which has become such an essential in these pandemic times.
Tapas has become a common word in recent years but Si Tapas is the real deal: a restaurant with authentic Spanish tapas — think potato omelet and chicken in a saffron wine sauce — with a big wine and sherry list to match. Open since 1980, they're almost like a hidden find, tucked into a little house in the State-Thomas neighborhood with an enclosed back patio. They have incredible happy hour specials, smooth European-style service, and a low-key charm.
Restaurant and bar aims to please as a destination for a business lunch or gathering with family and friends, with a nicely decorated interior, great food, and yummy cocktails like their blood orange margarita, and a rooftop patio provides killer views of downtown Dallas. Once upon a time, they might've been considered too polished for the old Deep Ellum, but that place is long gone, and Stirr does a good job representing the neighborhood as it has evolved.
Restaurant concept from chef Omar Flores started out as a chicken place, well ahead of its time, and chicken is still the thing. But chicken has graduated from a niche into an entire restaurant category, and Whistle Britches has graduated along with it into a neighborhood concept with three locations in Dallas, Plano, and Southlake — not so much a "chicken restaurant" as a casual place to get fried chicken, sides, and drinks.