Dallas-Fort Worth has seen an infusion of fabulous, exotic shops and restaurants from faraway places dating back to at least 2010, the year that 99 Ranch Market opened in Plano.
But 2020 is going down as a new benchmark for DFW's ability to attract high-profile new eateries from around the world, even despite the dreaded coronavirus.
In the past few months, Dallas has been the chosen place for: a massively popular fried chicken restaurant from the Philippines. Two major noodle players from Japan. A Japanese BBQ chain founded in Tokyo more than 50 years ago.
And while the northern suburbs remain the top choice for many newcomers, others are landing in areas such as Greenville Avenue and Victory Park.
It was in 2015 that cult-favorite dollar store Daiso arrived at Carrollton Town Center, the center at George Bush Turnpike and Old Denton Road, and put it on the map. That was not a coincidence. Houston-based NewQuest Properties, the center's developer, was deliberately seeking big-name Asian retailers like 99 Ranch Market and 85°C Bakery Café to build the center into a destination.
Toyota's relocation of its headquarters to Plano kept the momentum going, cementing DFW as a market for Asian businesses to expand. Where one goes, another is likely to follow.
That's what happened with Manpuku, the new Japanese BBQ restaurant opening on Greenville Avenue, right next to Hinodeya Ramen Bar.
"They knew each other already and liked the idea of being next door," says Jon Hetzel of Madison Partners, the landlord.
Same story for Teso Life, a new shop opening in Carrollton in the fall. "The success of Japanese brands like Daiso and Kinokuniya Books in Texas has shown the consumer demand is there for Teso Life to expand to Dallas and land at NewQuest's Carrollton Town Center," NewQuest's John Nguyen says.
All of these arrivals make Dallas not only a tastier place, but also offer potentially a greater awareness of people, places, and things outside our field of vision. And with restricted travel, it's cheaper and easier to indulge in these experiences than the airline trips we are unable to take.
Here are some of the latest restaurants and shops, mostly Asian with an exception or two, that have opened within the past few months or have plans to open in the near future:
Soft-serve concept that opened in Dallas' Victory Park in early 2020 hails from Australia. They have stores across Asia as well as Houston and Virginia Beach. Their selection of soft-serve ice cream includes more than 100 flavors, although they usually feature three at a time, one always being their signature flavor, sea salt, tinted pale aqua. You can get it solo or in a swirl with one of their two other rotating flavors such as hot cocoa and apple cinnamon.
This big international name in ramen will open its first location in Texas in Plano, in one of the food stalls at the Mitsuwa Marketplace, tentatively in mid-September. Dubbed "the pioneer of Japanese ramen noodle," Dosanko was established in 1961 by Japanese ramen pioneer Tamotsu Aoike, who opened his first restaurant in Tokyo. They tout their perfect match of noodles with miso paste and vegetables, calling it "a bowl of happiness."
Japanese import was brought to Plano in 2019 by Tokyo-based DRC Co. restaurant group as their first foray in America. The driving force was the relocation of Toyota's headquarters to Plano, as well as the opportunity to bring a unique Japanese restaurant with staff and chef from Japan. They do modern Japanese cuisine, including sushi, traditional binchotan-grilled robata dishes, and Japanese cocktails.
Neapolitan-style pizzeria is a concept from Australia founded by chef Johnny Di Francesco, which now has six locations across Australia, plus a location on a cruise ship and one in Bahrain. The Dallas location opened in September 2019 at 2000 Ross Ave., the glitzy vertical mixed-use development. It was closed for COVID-19 but recently reopened. "400 Gradi" refers to the high temperature at which a thin-crust traditional Neapolitan pizza is cooked in a wood-fired oven. The menu also has entrees such as risotto, char-grilled steaks, and braised lamb shoulder.
Chain from South Korea specializes in Korean-style hot dogs, street foods, coffee, and drinks. Korean-style hot dogs are coated in a rice-flour batter, coated in panko crumbs, and deep-fried, like a cousin to the good old American corny dog. This is their first location in Texas; they opened in July in Frisco Ranch, a bustling center with a 99 Ranch Market.
HaiDiLao Hot Pot
Chain based in China is known not only for hot pots but also strange doting services such as manicures and shoe shines. They're opening a location in Frisco, at the new Frisco Oasis center, sometime in 2021. The concept was founded in 1994 and opened its first U.S. location in Los Angeles in 2013.
Tokyo concept opened at 2023 Greenville Ave. in 2019, where it has brought a new kind of ramen. Hinodeya comes from Masao "Mark" Kuribara, a fourth-generation chef and restaurateur whose family boasts a 134-year history in the restaurant business in Japan. This was his fourth restaurant in the U.S., and the first restaurant outside California. Their specialty is dashi ramen — a noodle bowl whose broth is based on dashi, the seafood-based foundation of much of Japanese cuisine.
Jinya Ramen Bar
Ramen chain was founded in Tokyo in 2000, and has six locations in Japan. They came to the U.S. in 2010, opening their first U.S. location in Studio City, California. They're now in 14 states across the U.S., including Victory Park in Dallas where they opened in 2019. Their ramen selection is broad: 13 signature bowls with 20-plus toppings in vegetarian, chicken, or pork/tonkatsu broth. The menu also includes rice and curry bowls and a variety of Japanese-inspired small plates.
Filipino fast-food chain known for its crispy fried chicken opened a restaurant in Plano in August in a former Pollo Tropical space at 1016 Preston Rd. In addition to fried chicken, which comes with steamed rice and gravy, they also serve spaghetti with ham and hot dogs. Plano is their third store in Texas and their 45th store in the U.S. They say they chose West Plano for its diverse population and food scene.
The hip new noodle shop in town is Marugame Udon, which specializes in fresh, made-to-order udon noodles, tempura, good food, and a fun atmosphere. Marugame was founded in Japan in 2000, and currently has more than 1,000 locations including two in Hawaii and seven in California. They just made their DFW debut with a location in Carrollton in August; a second will open in Dallas' Old Town Shopping Center at 5500 Greenville Ave. in the fall.
Japanese restaurant concept was founded in Tokyo more than 60 years ago, and is opening on Dallas' Greenville Avenue in early 2021. Manpuku is a Japanese BBQ, aka yakiniku, restaurant, where you get bites of raw beef, pork, seafood, and vegetables that you cook at your table over gas or charcoal grills. Their signature dish is Leek and Tongue with Salt, a dish they say was born in the Tsukishima area of Tokyo, consisting of beef tongue topped with finely chopped Tokyo Negi — onion — and spices.
Myungrang Hot Dog
Chain founded in South Korea in 2016 made its way to the West Coast in 2018, then Texas in fall 2019 with a location at Carrollton Town Center. As is the case with some of its California locations, the restaurant is inside the H Mart food court. Like Frank Seoul, Myungrang has Korean-style corn dogs, and in a similar array of flavors, with a couple of notable departures: one with squid ink in the batter that makes it look black; and a Rice Cake Dog, where the sausage is replaced by a traditional rice cake.
Exceptional vegetarian Indian restaurant is part of an India-based international chain that opened its first location in Irving in 2012, and opened a location in Plano in 2015 at 8908 Ohio Dr. That's not recent, but their arrival was a big deal, and their quality and authenticity is high. Try the thali ("special meal"), a colorful sampler that gets you 10 little tastes of spicy heaven, accompanied by pristine white rice.
Department store specializing in Japanese lifestyle products is opening a location at Carrollton Town Center in fall 2020. This will be the first store outside New York and only the fifth in the U.S. Technically speaking, Teso Life is not an import, since it's based in New York, but its merchandise is entirely imported, emphasizing Japanese culture, aesthetics, and beauty products, including leading J-beauty brands, plus snacks you can otherwise only find abroad such as green tea Kit Kats. "Teso Life is geared not only to the Japanese audience, but crosses all spectrums. Its products are rarely found in the U.S., but are common in Japan," says Heather Nguyen of Houston-based NewQuest Properties, the developer for the center.
TKK Fried Chicken
Founded in 1974, TKK specializes in fried chicken and fun comfort foods such as crunchy cheese curds. They have 66 locations in Taiwan, two in Shanghai, and made their U.S. debut in New York City in 2018. They opened their first Texas outlet in Richardson — as part of a partnership with Kung Fu Tea, the bubble tea chain — in October 2019.
Vishnuji Ki Rasoi
Indian restaurant in Irving that opened in April is part of a concept founded in India. Vishnuji specializes in Maharashtrian cuisine, from the west-central Indian state of Maharasha; it's simple, comforting vegetarian food, done in a home-style manner. Vegetables, lentils, and grains including wheat and rice play a big role, and if you like breads, you like Maharashtrian food because they have a whole collection of goodies such as vadas (like a doughnut), pavs (like a dinner roll), and polis (like a pancake). This is the first in Texas and the second in the U.S.; the first opened in California in 2019.