Meet the Tastemakers
Dallas' best chef, restaurant, and more winners crowned at 2023 Tastemaker Awards
After weeks of anticipation, the best restaurants, bars, chefs, and more culinary superstars were crowned at our2023 CultureMap Dallas Tastemaker Awards.
On May 4, the winners were revealed at an awards ceremony and tasting event at Fashion Industry Gallery, with proceeds benefiting Harvest Project Food Rescue.
As a leadup to the big event, we dedicated a special editorial series to highlighting nominees in 10 categories, including best restaurants, chefs, bars, bartenders, and more. A panel of expert judges helped select all of the winners, except for Best New Restaurant. That was determined by you, our readers, in a bracket-style tournament.
New this year: The Tastemaker Awards event featured a Burger Throwdown where attendees had the opportunity to taste and vote for their favorite slider. The Best Burger category was sponsored by Goodstock by Nolan Ryan, which also supplied the meat for the Burger Throwdown.
Now, without further delay, let's raise a glass to the 2023 Tastemaker Award winners:
Rising Star Chef of the Year: Mike Matis - Fearing's
Chef de cuisine at renowned Ritz-Carlton Dallas restaurant from chef Dean Fearing
The Virginia native worked in the Washington, D.C. restaurant scene before heading overseas to serve as Sous Chef of Conte-Gouts in Lausanne, Switzerland. In Dallas, he was previously executive chef under Chef Stephan Pyles at Stampede 66. At Fearing’s, he launched Fearing’s and Friends, a dinner series bringing in local chefs for sold-out collaborative dinners.
Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: El Rincon del Maiz
Family-run Mexican restaurant in a former Sonic has two menus. One features classics such as cochinita pibil tacos. But it's their seccond menu of vegan dishes that has earned attention, including inclusion on Bon Appétit’s list of Best New Restaurants in America. Their homey recipes, drawn from south Mexico, have a complexity that draws not only Garland locals but vegans and foodies across DFW.
Bar of the Year: Lounge Here
Bar on Garland Road from Julie Doyle, singer and manager of Polyphonic Spree, has been a godsend for the East Dallas hipster crowd, with a stylish retro-mod atmosphere, incredible cocktails, and light, intriguing menu of food, including a stellar brunch. They attract the best, both the talented staff they've assembled, and the cool customers they draw.
Bartender of the Year: Haley Merritt - Midnight Rambler
Native of El Paso started her craft career at Deep Ellum bars Hide and Ruins as a bartender and manager, before rising to fame when she won The Shake Up, an all-female cocktail competition organized by bartender/advocate Rosey Sullivan. Merritt's been working at Midnight Rambler for two years, and loves a craft cocktail, but says hospitality is her first priority.
Wine Program of the Year: Pappas Bros.
Acclaimed steakhouse from Houston has long been the pinnacle, winning awards for its wine program since long before most of the other nominees in this category were even open. Pappas has spent decades building an unparalleled wine collection with 3,900 distinct wines from every region across the world, as well as hiring top wine professionals to oversee it.
Pastry Chef of the Year: Maricsa Trejo - La Casita Bakeshop
Trejo and her partner Alex Henderson have diligently built a small but growing baked empire, croissant by croissant: First supplying pastries to area restaurants and coffee shops, then debuting a La Casita Bakeshop storefront in Richardson, followed by a spinoff in Rowlett. It has earned her much acclaim, including a slot as a finalist in the 2023 James Beard Awards.
Brewery of the Year: Manhattan Project Beer Co.
Acclaimed brewery in West Dallas is particularly accommodating, with numerous innovative beers on tap, a beer garden, live music stage, serious food program, and user-friendly hours: 7:30 am Monday-Friday, and at 9 am on weekends, when they serve coffee from Edison Coffee of Flower Mound.
Best Burger: Wulf Burger
Previously in Los Angeles and New York only, Wulf Burger made their Texas debut in Frisco in December 2020. Their signature is their red hamburger buns, created using a natural beet extract. The menu includes grass-fed beef burgers, crispy chicken sandwiches and fries, and Impossible patties. They've since opened two more locations at Mockingbird Station and in McKinney.
Best New Restaurant: Quarter Acre
Solo outing from chef Toby Archibald (Georgie by Curtis Stone) has a global-themed menu with lots of seafood and veggie dishes such as roasted celeriac with raisins, hazelnuts, and celery salad.
Chef of the Year: Junior Borges - Meridian
The Rio de Janeiro native came to Dallas in 2014 as opening executive chef at Uchi. Other high-profile gigs included Matt McCallister's FT33 and Joule Hotel, where he oversaw properties including Mirador, Americano, and CBD Provisions. Meridian, his acclaimed Brazilian fine-dining restaurant at The Village, won CultureMap's Tastemaker Award in 2022 for Best Restaurant of the Year, and Borges also made the top 10 chefs list in 2021.
Restaurant of the Year: Shoyo
Intimate sushi restaurant on Greenville Avenue has only 13 seats, making it one of the hottest reservations in Dallas. It's omakase style, meaning that customers entrust the chef — in this case, the acclaimed team of founder Jimmy Park and chef Shin Kondo — to determine the menu, with some courses consisting of sushi and others consisting of various cooking techniques and ingredients.
Teresa Gubbins contributed to this report.