Photo by Ashley Gongora

In addition to the beautiful bites and tasty treats offered up at this year's Tastemaker Awards, hundreds of guests got to sip on specialty cocktails designed just for the food and beverage industry's big night.

Sponsors Maestro Dobel Tequila and Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey made sure there was always a line at the bar with the Dobel Ranch Water, Black Diamond Margarita, and Stranahan's Fireside Old Fashioned — three drinks that can make any time of the year feel like a party.

But since it's summer, here are a few Dallas hot spots where you can imbibe your own Dobel drinks:

At Gloria's Latin Cuisine, you'll want to go top-shelf. Order a margarita made with Maestro Dobel Diamante Tequila, Cointreau, freshly squeezed lime juice, and agave nectar.

Same goes at Jalisco Norte, where The Skinny delivers Maestro Doble Diamante private barrel tequila, Patron Citronge, triple citrus juices, and monk fruit syrup.

Get a little adventurous at Malai Kitchen with a Jalapeño Basil Margarita: jalapeño-infused Malai’s Maestro Dobel tequila, lime, agave, tamarind, basil, and a Hawaiian black lava salt rim.

Go classic at The Rustic with a Rustic Waters Classic, made with Maestro Dobel Diamanté, fresh lime, and Q club soda.

And so you can know more about what you're drinking, here's a bit more about both spirits:

Maestro Dobel Tequila
There are seven unique variants of this single-estate tequila, each with a distinct flavor profile and crafted from 100-percent blue agave.

Dobel is short for Juan Domingo Beckmann Legorreta, the 11th generation of tequila producers. Maestro Dobel tequila is his legacy, and he personally oversees every step of its production. The signature of Juan "Dobel" is found on every bottle — a symbol of his deep respect for craft and connoisseurship.

The tequila is double-distilled, matured in Eastern European new white oak barrels and filtered for exceptional smoothness and clarity.

The world’s first Cristalino, Maestro Dobel Diamante is unique in its category; it has been formulated using a blend of extra anejo, anejo, and reposodo tequilas. Despite classification as reposado, Diamante's expression is crystal-clear due to a proprietary filtration process.

Maestro Dobel is also the official tequila of the PGA tour, including the Houston Open that's coming up November 11-14 at Memorial Park Golf Course.

Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey
Colorado's first legal whiskey since Prohibition and the pioneer and leader of the American single malt category, this Rocky Mountain single malt is handcrafted from grain to bottle in Denver, Colorado.

There are four ways to enjoy premium Stranahan’s Whiskey: Original, Blue Peak, Diamond Peak, and Sherry Cask.

When volunteer firefighter Jess Graber responded to a neighbor’s barn fire, he never imagined that any good would come of it. But the barn he made an effort to save belonged to George Stranahan. When the fire settled, the two discovered a shared passion for the Colorado outdoors and a good pour of fine whiskey. The pair developed a recipe for a distinctively smooth and flavorful American single malt whiskey using their mountain surroundings to their advantage.

Stranahan’s Original Whiskey is double-distilled using a proprietary blend of four barleys, then aged for a minimum of four years in virgin charred American white oak barrels.

Blue Peak is an American single malt distilled at high altitude, aged in new American oak barrels and Solera finished, a maturation process typically used in wine that results in a rich and mellow whiskey. Named for a 1,300-foot peak in Aspen and inspired by the alpine scenery of the Rocky Mountains, Blue Peak is built around a small batch of single malt whiskey that has been hand-crafted at a high altitude and aged for four years in 53-gallon, new American oak barrels with a #3 char, imbuing a warm, toasted flavor.

The profile of the aged expression is expanded through the time-honored Solera process, accentuating the liquid with fruit and butterscotch characteristics. Enjoy neat, on the rocks, or in your favorite classic whiskey cocktail.

From grain to glass, Stranahan’s Blue Peak is distilled and bottled at its Colorado distillery, the state’s first legal distillery after Prohibition.

The Black Diamond Margarita was a hit at the Tastemaker Awards.

Photo by Ashley Gongora
The Black Diamond Margarita was a hit at the Tastemaker Awards.
Photo by Guillermo Rosas

The Tastemaker Awards toasts the best in Texas dining for 2022

A taste of Texas

CultureMap trekked across Texas this spring to toast the Tastemakers during our annual culinary awards program — and this year was bigger than ever. In addition to our longstanding events in Dallas, Austin, and Houston, we brought the party to Fort Worth and San Antonio for the very first time.

The series began April 26 with our inaugural San Antonio event before returning to Austin's Fair Market on April 28. The Texas culinary tour then headed to Cowtown for our Fort Worth debut on May 10, followed by an evening at Dallas' Fashion Industry Gallery on May 12. The foodie fun wrapped up May 25 in Houston with another sold-out night at Silver Street Studios.

The 2022 Tastemaker Awards served as a Texas-sized celebration of the culinary scenes they honored, with guests savoring bites from participating nominees, sipping signature cocktails alongside culinary stars, and raising a glass to the winners during our live awards ceremonies.

Nominees were selected by local panels of industry experts, including past Tastemaker winners and CultureMap editors. The panels then selected all winners, except for Best New Restaurant, which was determined by readers in our online tournament.

Meet all of the 2022 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards winners, listed by city, below.

Dallas:

  • Restaurant of the Year: Meridian
  • Chef of the Year: Ji Kang, Sloane's Corner
  • Bar of the Year: Rattlesnake Bar
  • Best New Restaurant: Hawkers Asian Street Food
  • Rising Star Chef of the Year: Aldo Lugo, Jose
  • Pastry Chef of the Year: Amy La Rue, Carte Blanche
  • Bartender of the Year: Reid Lewis, Atlas
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: Hillside Tavern
  • Brewery of the Year: Vector Brewing
  • Wine Program of the Year: Monarch
  • Best New Pizza: 400 Gradi

Fort Worth:

  • Restaurant of the Year: Belenty's Love Vegan Mexican Restaurant
  • Chef of the Year: Jenny Castor, Luckybee Kitchen
  • Bar of the Year: The Lobby Bar at Hotel Dryce
  • Best New Restaurant: Dusty Biscuit Beignets
  • Best Breakfast: Ol' South Pancake House

San Antonio:

  • Restaurant of the Year: 2M Smokehouse
  • Chef of the Year: Jason Dady, Jardín
  • Bar of the Year: Bar 1919
  • Best New Restaurant: Dashi Sichuan Kitchen & Bar
  • Best Brewery: Dorćol Distilling & Brewing Co.

Austin:

  • Restaurant of the Year: Cuantos Tacos
  • Chef of the Year: Edgar Rico, Nixta Taqueria
  • Bar of the Year: Tiki Tatsu-Ya
  • Best New Restaurant: Wax Myrtle's
  • Rising Star Chef of the Year: Amanda Turner, Olamaie
  • Pastry Chef of the Year: Susana Querejazu, Lutie's
  • Bartender of the Year: Cory Starr, Tiki Tatsu-Ya
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: Better Half Coffee & Cocktails
  • Wine Program of the Year: Birdie's
  • Brewery of the Year: Meanwhile Brewing Co.
  • Best Vegan Restaurant: Counter Culture

Houston:

  • Restaurant of the Year: Street to Kitchen
  • Chef of the Year: Aaron Bludorn, Bludorn
  • Bar of the Year: Tongue-cut Sparrow
  • Best New Restaurant: d’Alba Craft Kitchen & Cocktails
  • Rising Star Chef of the Year: Benchawan Painter, Street to Kitchen
  • Pastry Chef of the Year: Christina Au, Blacksmith
  • Bartender of the Year: Sarah Crowl, Better Luck Tomorrow
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: Click Virtual Food Hall
  • Wine Program of the Year: Tiny Champions
  • Best Pop-up: Luis Mercado and Paolo Justo, Neo

The series kicked off with our inaugural San Antonio event.

Photo by Guillermo Rosas
The series kicked off with our inaugural San Antonio event.
Chelle's

Award-winning Richardson restaurant Chelle's Seafood Kitchen to close

Chef News

An acclaimed restaurant in Richardson is closing: Chelle's Seafood Kitchen, from award-winning chef-owner Michelle Vi Pepping, will close this weekend, with its last day on Sunday, May 29.

Pepping, who was a nominee for Best Chef in Dallas at CultureMap's 2022 annual Tastemaker Awards, said that the closure was due to all of the challenges faced in the aftermath of the pandemic.

"With the desire to focus on my other business ventures and in conjunction with all of the challenges presented by COVID, inflation, and staffing issues that have plagued virtually all small businesses, I've been recently approached with an opportunity that I simply cannot pass on," Pepping said. "As such, Chelle's will serve its last meals (for the time being) this weekend."

Pepping said she had been approached by a buyer who wanted to come in, and selling proved to be "the best business decision."

Chelle's specialized in seafood, and even before she announced the closure, the restaurant was often forced to issue warnings that items may be unavailable or prices impacted due to industrywide supply chain shortages.

"The inflation is outrageous and shortage in supplies and staffing has been a huge issue for us," she said.

A native of New Jersey and a graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas with a degree in business, Pepping worked for years in the corporate world before opening Tasty Tails, a New Orleans seafood joint in 2013. Craving a fresh start, she rebranded it to Chelle's Seafood Kitchen, focused on East Coast-style seafood with an Asian twist.

The rebranding earned raves for dishes such as crab, oysters, burgers, tacos, plus specialties such as shrimp & grits, seafood vodka pasta, and lobster ravioli.

She opened Chelle's to showcase her two passions — good food and charitable work. A percentage of all sales went towards local nonprofits that diners could suggest, while the menu was an ever-evolving rotation of seafood fare from all over the world.

She also co-founded Okaeri Cafe, an acclaimed Japanese restaurant on Greenville Avenue in Richardson, which remains open.

Pepping expressed her gratitude, stating, "I want to personally thank all of our customers for your support and patronage and, of course, my staff for your loyalty and dedication," she said. "While the future for Chelle's remains unclear, what is certain is that is not a goodbye. There are plans in the works for the next iteration of Chelle's, and I invite you all to stay tuned."

She urged customers to support and buy local. "When you support small businesses, you're supporting families in your own community and their dreams," she said.

Hours over the weekend are as follows:

  • Thursday May 26: closing at 9 pm, bar will remain open late for Mavs Watch Party
  • Friday May 27 & Saturday May 28: 11:30 am-10 pm
  • Sunday May 29: 11:30 am-9 pm

"We remained true to our motto of 'Eat good, do good,' and have given back to Heart House, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Vogel Alcove, Salvation Army just to name a few," she said. "Seeing this dream come to life and serving our community has been an absolute honor."

Facebook/Rockwall Texas Homes

Affluent Dallas neighbor banks top spot in this week's 5 most-read stories

This Week's Hot Headlines

Editor's note: A lot happened this week, so here's your chance to get caught up. Read on for the week's most popular headlines.

1. Affluent Dallas suburb makes bank as richest Texas county, report says. Based on its geographic size, Rockwall County is the smallest county in Texas, at just 149 square miles. But don’t let its size fool you when it comes to wealth. Rockwall County also is the richest county in the state. Data analysis website Stacker compiled a list of the wealthiest counties in Texas based on median household income, and Rockwall County came out on top at $100,920.

2. Grocery store chain H-E-B has a surprise for Allen: Its own store. Just like Santa, H-E-B has added another Dallas-Fort Worth city to its short list: The uber-popular San Antonio-based supermarket chain is opening a store in the city of Allen. Huzzah.

3. Raved-about Mike's Chicken debuts craved fried chicken in North Dallas. A cult favorite fried-chicken restaurant in Dallas has very-quietly opened a second location: Mike's Chicken, which has been serving raved-over fried chicken from a laundromat on Maple Avenue for more than six years, opened a second location in North Dallas, spreading its wings and things to areas north, east, and west.

4. New Champagne bar will fizz into Plano with bubbles and morning coffee. A new restaurant is coming to Plano with coffee in the morning and bubbly in the evening. Called Fizz, it's a new all-day concept with restaurant and lounge, opening in early summer in the former Pakpao Thai space at 3310 Dallas Pkwy. #115.

5. Dallas culinary superstars and food fans toast the 2022 Tastemaker Awards. It was all the very best food and drink at the 2022 DallasTastemaker Awards, CultureMap's celebration of the top restaurants, bars, and culinary masters, held at the Fashion Industry Gallery in downtown Dallas on Thursday, May 12. Dozens of nominated chefs and restaurants dished out spectacular tastes in a hedonistic feast for 800 attendees. A portion of the proceeds benefited Harvest Project Food Rescue, which fights food insecurity in Dallas.

It was the only county in Texas to break the $100,000 mark.

Facebook/Rockwall Texas Homes
It was the only county in Texas to break the $100,000 mark.
Mickey Gilley/Facebook

Death of Texas country music legend leads this week's 5 most-read Dallas stories

This Week's Hot Headlines

Editor's note: A lot happened this week, so here's your chance to get caught up. Read on for the week's most popular headlines.

1. Country music icon and Gilley's co-founder Mickey Gilley passes away at 86. A country music icon has passed away. Mickey Gilley, the singer-songwriter whose career spanned more than 50 years, died surrounded by his family on May 7, according to Pasadena mayor Jeff Wagner. He was 86.

2. Dallas' best restaurant, chef, and more winners crowned at 2022 Tastemaker Awards. After weeks of celebrating the best restaurants, bars, chefs, and more in our 2022 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, the winners are in. On May 12, the winners were crowned at an awards ceremony and tasting event at Fashion Industry Gallery. Here's who took home the coveted awards.

3. New Omni PGA Frisco Resort hotel aims to be biggest golf destination ever. The city of Frisco is due to get a new Omni with a big dose of golf on the side: Called Omni PGA Frisco Resort, it's slated to open in spring 2023. Described as the country's largest resort currently in development, it's aiming to be "the cutting-edge home of American golf."

4. These are the 17 must-see concerts of summer 2022 in Dallas-Fort Worth. For the first time since 2019, Dallas-Fort Worth will get to experience summer concert season again, as the vast majority of artists have deemed it safe enough for them and their fans to celebrate together. Here's a preview of the biggest shows of summer.

5. Video of Jerry Jones' car accident in Dallas shows it probably wasn't his fault. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones got in a car accident on Harry Hines Boulevard near downtown Dallas on May 4, and a video of the accident surfaced that lets you see how it went down. The video of the crash was obtained by TMZ, of course; it was taken from the dashcam of another car, and shows pretty clearly that Jones was not at fault.

Country music star Mickey Gilley was well known for his music and eponymous club.

Mickey Gilley/Facebook
Country music star Mickey Gilley was well known for his music and eponymous club.
Photo by Ashley Gongora

Dallas culinary superstars and food fans toast the 2022 Tastemaker Awards

Tastemaker Awards

It was all the very best food and drink at the 2022 DallasTastemaker Awards, CultureMap's celebration of the top restaurants, bars, and culinary masters, held at the Fashion Industry Gallery in downtown Dallas on Thursday, May 12.

Dozens of nominated chefs and restaurants dished out spectacular tastes in a hedonistic feast for 800 attendees. 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 "Fig & Pig" Pizza, one of four varieties served by Best New Pizza nominee Mission Pizza; Parisian Gnocchi from Restaurant of the Year nominee and Chef of the Year winner Sloane's Corner; Green Eggs and Jamón from Bar of the Year nominee Apothecary; "B.O.B." brisket-biscuit from Best New Restaurant nominee Loro; and Red Velvet and Coffee Caramel Petit Gâteau from Best Pastry Chef nominee Le Reve.

Best New Restaurant nominee Sueño Modern Tex-Mex had some of the longest lines of the night, and it's no wonder: They not only plated Tostaditas del Mar, but crafted two beautiful cocktails — one featuring serrano-pineapple tequila and the other, bourbon with raspberry-agave reduction and elderflower liqueur. Both Instagrammy drinks were "smoking" with dry ice and topped with delicate pink orchids.

Speaking of Instagrammy, it was impossible not to whip out the phone and shoot a quick vid of the rep from Best New Pizza nominee Pegasus Pizza tossing dough high into the air. (When it got caught in the rafters, he jumped up and retrieved it.)

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 Maestro Dobel Tequila and Stranahan's Rocky Mountain Single Malt Whiskey: The Dobel Ranch Water, Black Diamond Margarita, Stranahan's Fireside Old Fashioned, and Strawberry Fields Mocktail. Guests paced themselves with plenty of Topo Chico.

But this party wasn't just a feeding frenzy; we had some awards to present. Celebrity emcee, comedian CJ Starr, announced winners in 11 categories from restaurants and bars across Dallas. Each time a new category was announced, drummer Kyle Thomas heightened the suspense with a dramatic snare drum roll.

The nominees and winners were selected by judges consisting of past winners, food and beverage industry experts, and CultureMap editors (Brooks Anderson, Matt Balke, Eric Dreyer, Liz Mitchell, Sara Nam, Carol Nguyen, Meaders Ozarow, Anastacia Quinones-Pittman, Corey Thomson, Amanda Albee, Hannah Davis, Tim Lavender, Vy Lu, Amy McCarthy, Marc Ramirez, and Teresa Gubbins) — all except one category, Best New Restaurant, which was selected by readers in a bracket-style competition on our website.

The winners were:

Winners accepted gorgeous glass trophies onstage and posed for pictures; some groups even streamed the presentation live on social media for their fans to watch at home.

Between feasting and celebrating, guests stopped to snap Insta-worthy photos at the photo booths and bought raffle tickets benefiting Harvest Project Food Rescue. Danae Gutierrez gave heartfelt remarks about the mission of the organization.

Spotted in the crowd, having great foodie fun, were Dallas dining VIPS, award nominees, and guests including: Yudith Bustos, Connor Caldwell, Viani Puerto, David Limpede, Robert Kalaj, Jason Fulenchek, Felipe Gutierrez, Clara Gutierrez, Carlos Gonzalez, Salomon Miller, Demitria Lowe, Nikki Morrill, Ashley Michel, Thom Gibbons, Demetra Miller, Michael Bowen, Jared Harms, Emily Harms, Russ Pereira, Dane Patterson, Lauren Bryan, Amber Henter, Greg Brown, Dean Norwood, Audrey Ste-Marie, Amanda Batsakis, Haley Naylor, Jessica Velasco, and Kristen Stansbury.

Hungry to be a part of it all next year? You can read about all the winners here, and we'll see you in 2023. Cheers!

Chef Junior Borges high-fives on his way to receive Restaurant of the Year award for Meridian.

Photo by Ashley Gongora
Chef Junior Borges high-fives on his way to receive Restaurant of the Year award for Meridian.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Top-ranked high schools make the grade in this week's 5 hottest Dallas headlines

This week's hot headlines

Editor's note: A lot happened this week, so here's your chance to get caught up. Read on for the week's most popular headlines. Looking for the best things to do this weekend? Find that list here.

1. 2 distinguished Dallas high schools sit at head of the class as Texas' best in 2022. Two campuses in Dallas have earned extra credit as the best high schools in Texas. In the latest rankings from education review website Niche, Dallas ISD’s School for the Talented & Gifted tops the list of the state’s best public high schools, and St. Mark’s School of Texas in Dallas leads the list of the state’s best private high schools.

2. NFL legend Terry Bradshaw's ranch north of Dallas listed for $22.5 million. An Oklahoma ranch around 70 miles north of Dallas-Fort Worth that’s owned by NFL Hall of Famer and Fox Sports analyst Terry Bradshaw is back on the market for $22.5 million. The 744-acre ranch was relisted after a deal with a would-be buyer fell through.

3. Dallas grilled cheese restaurant abruptly closes location in Oak Cliff. A Bishop Arts restaurant dedicated to making grilled cheese sandwiches has closed: The aptly named Dallas Grilled Cheese Co. closed its original location at 310 W. 7th St., after nearly eight years. According to co-owner Diana Ezzell, the closure was prompted by problems with the location.

4. Best vegan grocer in Denton relocates to market-deli space. An acclaimed market in Denton specializing in all things vegan is making a move: Mashup Market, the plant-based specialty grocer that debuted at 316 Oak St. in 2020, is closing that original location and making its new headquarters at 1302 W. Hickory St., its second location that opened in 2021.

5. Dallas man allegedly scammed $26M from Chinese real estate investors. A Dallas-area man has been charged for allegedly scamming Chinese investors out of more than $26 million in a real estate scheme. Timothy Lynch Barton, the 59-year-old president of real estate development firm JMJ and CEO of real estate investment firm Carnegie Development, has been indicted on seven counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and one count of securities fraud.

Beto to visit Dallas college campuses following debate on TV with Abbott

Campaign News

On November 8, Texas will vote for its next governor — choosing from either incumbent Republican Greg Abbott or Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke.

In anticipation, the two will participate in a debate on September 30, which takes place at 7 pm at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg. It's hosted by KXAN news anchor Britt Moreno and will feature questions from a panel of journalists.

The debate will air on Nexstar television stations which in Dallas is KDAF Channel 33; the Texas Tribune will also livestream.

It's their only scheduled debate and according to the Associated Press, Abbott conditioned his participation on the debate taking place without an audience.

"Sources tell me Abbott would only agree to face Beto with no audience in the room," said journalist Scott Braddock, in a tweet which is right here:

This will be first time Abbott and O'Rourke meet since the May 25 press conference where O’Rourke confronted Abbott after the shooting in Uvalde.

O'Rourke, who previously undertook a summer tour across Texas, holding 70 public events in more than 65 counties, is now launching a College Tour focused on young voters. It includes visits to two Dallas-area campuses, with only one open to the public, as follows:

  • Monday October 3, 10 am: Town Hall at University of North Texas, at the University of North Texas - Gateway Center Ballroom, 801 N. Texas Blvd., Denton. Open to UNT students only.
  • Monday October 3, 12:30 pm: College Tour Town Hall at Dallas College El Centro Campus, 801 Main St., Dallas. Open to the public.

During the College Tour, he'll hold more than a dozen public events at colleges and universities around the state, affording an opportunity not only for him to share his platform — reproductive freedom, reducing gun violence, raising minimum wage, legalizing marijuana — but also an opportunity to get students and young people registered before the October 11 deadline.

'Wide-awake' Dallas neighbor is 2nd best U.S city for families, says Fortune

No place like home

Fortune advises readers to not let Wylie’s “picturesque, historic downtown fool you.” And for good reason. The magazine hails the North Texas city as “a fast-growing, modern community that doesn’t skimp on the amenities.”

Thanks in large part to those amenities, Fortune puts Wylie at No. 2 on its list of the 25 best places in the U.S. for families to live. Ann Arbor, Michigan, takes the top spot.

In recognizing Wylie, the magazine cites the city’s well-above-average public schools, numerous facilities for older residents, and events such as the Bluegrass on Ballard festival and Wylie 500 Pedal Car Race.

"With its start as a stop on the Santa Fe Railway in the 1880s, Wylie has always been a gathering place," the magazine writes. "In fact, because shops stayed open late to accommodate the railway visitors and business, one of the town’s nicknames became 'Wide-Awake Wylie.' The historic downtown continues that tradition of community today..."

Fortune lists the median home price in Wylie as $399,838 and the median household income as $96,845. The booming suburb is home to nearly 60,000 residents. It now stretches across Dallas, Collin, and Rockwall counties.

To come up with its ranking, Fortune combed through mounds of data for almost 2,000 communities in the U.S.

The only other Texas city in the top 25 is the Houston suburb of Sugar Land, ranked 17th.

“Residents have a sweet spot for this Houston suburb that brings the community together through its lively downtown hub, local events, and even a ball game or two,” Fortune says.

Among other highlights, Fortune notes Sugar Land’s “outstanding schools,” the Sugar Land Space Cowboys minor-league baseball team, Sugar Land Town Square, and high-quality health care at Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital.

In Sugar Land, the median home price is $399,250 and the median household income is $121,665, according to Fortune. The suburb is home to around 110,000 people.