We're 24 hours away from CultureMap's Tastemaker Awards, our annual celebration of the best in Dallas food and drink, and it's time to recognize the year's Best Restaurants.
These 10 restaurants range from revered classics to feisty upstarts, from fine-dining to BBQ, but all have one thing in common: Like many restaurants around Dallas-Fort Worth, they persevered during one of the hardest years in recent history, and hopefully emerged stronger.
This marks the final category in our editorial series, where we spotlighted nominees in categories such as best bars, best neighborhood restaurants, best rising star chefs, best pastry chefs, best bartenders, best ghost kitchens, and best chefs, determined by a panel of judges consisting of former CultureMap Tastemaker Award winners and local F&B experts.
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 best restaurants in Dallas for 2021:
Flagship restaurant at Virgin Hotels Dallas is open all day, with a bar, lounge, and adjacent coffee bar. Designed to feel like a members-only establishment, Commons Club has a fun ambience with a quirky-cool decor. The menu is trendy but approachable, ranging from a $15 burger to $44 steak frites to a seductive dish of house-made noodles in truffle butter.
Downtown Dallas restaurant has a great menu of Southern-style classics including meatloaf and chicken-fried steak, and is supremely accommodating, with open long hours and hot coffee at the ready, that give it a big-city sophistication. They've also been expanding, with an equally successful location in Allen and another one teed-up for East Dallas, both neighborhoods that are welcoming them with open arms. But the restaurant has also displayed leadership by boldly squaring off against the NRA, then taking a stance with masks, both of which earned them national attention.
Restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton starring legendary chef Dean Fearing could win this award every year. One of the most popular and acclaimed restaurants in Texas, it's a must-stop for celebrities, local diners, and business travelers, and the restaurant is geared for pandemic dining thanks to seven dining areas that include indoor and outdoor settings, ranging from casual to elegant. Nobody out there writes a sexier menu than Dean. Try this: Maple/Black Peppercorn Soaked Buffalo Tenderloin on Brazos Valley Jalapeno Grits, with a Tangle of Greens and Butternut Squash Taquito with Smoky Chili Sauce.
Texas-themed restaurant from FrontBurner restaurants (Mexican Sugar, Whiskey Cake, Sixty Vines, Legacy Hall, etc.) started in Plano with an affirmation for local sourcing and craft cocktails that was ahead of its time when it opened in 2017. In June, they opened their second location in Uptown, bringing the same all-inclusive experience for everyone with a whiskey lounge, cozy wine room, butcher bar, and mimosa brunch on weekends.
The first Hudson House opened on Lovers Lane in 2017 with the goal of evoking neighborhood restaurants in New York's West Village, featuring a raw bar, oysters, cheeseburgers, martinis, and weekend brunch. The concept has since expanded to Addison, where it opened in 2018, and Lakewood, which opened in July 2020.
Park Cities hotspot features contemporary Mexican-inspired cuisine and a mixology program with artisanal spirits, highlighted by a collection of tequilas and mezcals. What was good became better when chef Anastacia "AQ" Quinones joined as chef. A firm believer in modern Mexican, this CIA graduate and 2018 Tastemaker Award winner has channeled her creativity to build and layer complex flavors into every bite at José. In the midst of the pandemic, they conjured up a ghost kitchen called Provecho Pollos with roast chicken and homey Mexican soup.
Ngon Vietnamese Kitchen
Truly authentic Vietnamese restaurant is from Carol Nguyen, who's drawing from her Ha Noi upbringing, inspired by food served by the street vendors in Vietnam. Nguyen and her family owned and opened the Cajun restaurant Crazee Crab in Grand Prairie, but this is the first restaurant to reflect her own heritage. Named after her mother, it's female-owned and female-run.
Nori Handroll Bar
Elegant sushi bar in Deep Ellum specializes in handrolls, aka temaki, a more forgiving version of sushi. Sheets of seaweed are wrapped in a cone or cylindrical shape, enclosing a filling of rice, fish, and vegetables — your basic sushi ingredients but assembled to order, so that the seaweed still has a little crackle of freshness and hasn't turned gummy. You don't want gummy. It's a highly personal experience with each roll you order delivered separately, as soon as it's been made. Handrolls have become a trend and Nori was one of the first in DFW.
Sushi spot started out near Dallas' Medical District with great sushi and bargain prices that drew not only staffers from UT Southwestern nearby but also chowhounds from all around Dallas, who appreciated the doting attention from owner Thanh Nguyen. In recent years, he's been in expansion mode: First he opened a location near SMU in early 2020, a month before the pandemic hit, followed by another location in Plano, which just opened at the end of July.
Slow Bone BBQ
BBQ joint on the edge of the Dallas Design District serves award-winning smoked meats, noteworthy fried chicken, and creative veggie sides such as pea salad and sweet potato hash — better than what you ordinarily find at a BBQ joint. With Jeffery Hobbs at the helm, it's a chef's take on BBQ. You have your brisket, sausage, and ribs, but also innovative dishes like squash puppies - hush puppies infused with chopped squash. He's pivoted successfully through the pandemic with convenient meals to go like his Asian-BBQ fusion Freaky Friday Fried Rice, topped with pork ribs.