Celebrating the Tastemakers
Dallas food fans toast to culinary superstars at 2023 Tastemaker Awards
Dallas' biggest foodies and brightest culinary stars came together May 4 for the 2023 Tastemaker Awards, CultureMap's annual celebration of the top restaurants, bars, chefs, and more.
Held at the Fashion Industry Gallery in downtown Dallas, the event brought 750 hungry foodies to a hedonistic feast where dozens of nominated chefs and restaurants dished out delectable tastes. A portion of the proceeds benefited Harvest Project Food Rescue, which fights food insecurity in Dallas.
Lines formed quickly for small plates and samples from some of Dallas' most popular and influential eateries. Buzzy dishes included Japanese Shepherd's Pie from Mixtitos; Pork & Beans from Restaurant Beatrice; sweet and savory "keeshes" from KEESH; Thai Cucumber Salad from Cry Wolf; and an assortment of vegan- and non-vegan tacos from El Rincon del Maiz. Those with a sweet tooth could include in mini cakes in many flavors from Cake Bar; Almond Cake from Empire Baking; and one of the most talked-about bites of the night, La Casita Bakeshop's Bete Noir flourless chocolate-raspberry cake.
Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year nominee Greenville Ave. Pizza had the longest line of the night, and it's no wonder: They were heating and plating a whole feast for each guest: Butcher's Revenge or Margherita Pizza plus grilled chicken Alfredo Penne and their signature Pizza Poppers.
While many of the dishes were beautifully presented, the most Instagrammy bite of the night (described by several people as "a work of art") was the Octopus from SER: octopus al pastor with wood-grilled pineapple vinaigrette and confit heirloom potatoes, topped with a delicate squid ink toile.
VIP ticket-holders could arrive early to valet park easily and mingle at a dedicated bar just for them. Beer drinkers made themselves at home in the Beer Garden presented by Deep Ellum Brewing Company and Ellum Ranch Patio Water.
The main bar poured signature cocktails featuring the spirits of sponsors Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey and Flor de Cana Rum: Cherry Old Fashioned, The Blinker, Jicarita, and Flor Fashioned. Spicy Pineapple Ranch Water, a mocktail featuring non-alcoholic spirits brand Ritual Zero Proof, was served at all the bars, and guests could stop by their table to try more A-F varieties.
Twang Partners, LLC offered Micheladas and samples of their signature beer salt. And guests stopped to rehydrate with plenty of Topo Chico Sparkling Mineral Water.
But this party wasn't just a feeding frenzy; we had some awards to present. For weeks leading up to the event, we published a special editorial series that highlighted nominees in 11 categories. Emcee Jason Preston announced the nominees and winners; each time a new category was announced, drummer Kyle Thomas heightened the suspense with a dramatic snare drum roll.
Preston was joined onstage by Rob Sullens representing Goodstock by Nolan Ryan, which sponsored the Best Burger category, as well as an on-site Burger Throwdown. The Burger Throwdown - new this year - proved to be a hit with attendees, who had a hard time choosing which one of the four nominees to vote for.
Competition sizzled among Chop House Burger's signature burger; The Omni Dallas' Monte Cristo Beef Sliders; E.J. Wills Gastropub's Spicy BBQ Cheeseburger; and Bizzy Burger's Very Bizzy Buger. In the end, voters chose The Omni Dallas' beefy take on the Monte Cristo sandwich as their favorite. (Omni chefs know their burgers; the Omni Fort Worth Hotel won the Burger Throwdown at Fort Worth Tastemaker Awards also.)
The rest of the winners were chosen by a panel of local food and beverage experts, except for the category of Best New Restaurant, which was voted on by readers in a bracket-style competition online.
The winners were:
- Rising Star Chef of the Year: Mike Matis - Fearing's
- Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: El Rincon del Maiz
- Bar of the Year: Lounge Here
- Bartender of the Year: Haley Merritt - Midnight Rambler
- Wine Program of the Year: Pappas Bros.
- Pastry Chef of the Year: Maricsa Trejo - La Casita Bakeshop
- Brewery of the Year: Manhattan Project Beer Co.
- Best Burger: Wulf Burger
- Best New Restaurant: Quarter Acre
- Chef of the Year: Junior Borges - Meridian
- Restaurant of the Year: Shoyo
Winners accepted gorgeous glass trophies onstage and posed for pictures.
Between feasting and celebrating, attendees stopped to snap Insta-worthy photos at a photo booth and bought raffle tickets benefiting Harvest Project Food Rescue. They got to learn more about the organization's good work from Danae Gutierrez onstage.
Participating chefs received additional hands-on support throughout the night (plus refreshing drinks and $300 food credit/stipends) from Hardie's Fresh Foods.
Hungry to be a part of it all next year? You can read about all the winners here, and we'll see you in 2024. Cheers!