Chef John Tesar is plenty opinionated about restaurants in Dallas.

Chef John Tesar is plenty opinionated about restaurants in Dallas.

Carter Rose

It's no secret that chef John Tesar has a thing for steak. After all, he named one of his restaurants "Knife," at which he serves a 240-day dry-aged rib eye among a bevy of other cuts of beef. But sometimes the outspoken chef likes to dine on something different.

The plates are nearly perfect at fine dining Japanese restaurant Tei-An, chef Tesar says.

The plates are nearly perfect at fine dining Japanese restaurant Tei-An, chef Tesar says.

Kye R. Lee

When he's not noshing on steak or preparing for the opening of The Royale -- his new burger concept opening in Plano later this year -- Tesar follows his tastes to these seven D-FW restaurants.

For one of the best dinners in Dallas: Tei-An

"After work, I like to go to someplace that has energy," Tesar says. The native New Yorker describes the ambience at Tei-An as, "like going to a bar on Madison Avenue at night." What should you expect when you dine at the Japanese restaurant? According to Tesar, only the best. "The decor is fabulous, the service is impeccable, the tradition is just so much in place...the hospitality is just overwhelming."

He says one of the two best meals he's ever had in D-FW was omakase (a Japanese word for "chef's choice") at Tei-An. 

If it's steak you seek: Pappas Bros. Steak House

The other best meal he's had in D-FW? Steak at Pappas Bros. "Along with burgundy," he clarifies. "You have to put that in there." He edits himself further, hoping to make his affection for Pappas Bros something poetic. "[Omakase ranks] right next to a good steak and a bottle of expensive burgundy at Pappas Bros." 

He says the dry-aged steak at Pappas Bros. is second only to his own at Knife.

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New York pizza done right: ZaLat

Late at night, Tesar's tastes take him to ZaLat Pizza for a slice of home. "They make the best New York style pizza I've had in the South. I would swear to it," he says. Tesar has several qualifications for New York pizza: 

1. You have to let it cool down before you eat it.
2. It has to be durable enough to stand up straight.
3. The sauce should be orange, not red.
4. The cheese? Cheap mozzarella. 

"They deserve credit because that's not easy," he says of good, authentic New York-style pizza. 

For a taste of showbiz: Nick and Sam's Steakhouse

Nick and Sam's Steakhouse is one of the sexiest seats in town.

Nick and Sam's Steakhouse is one of the sexiest seats in town.

Nathan Hunsinger

There's an "old world risqué nature about Nick and Sam's," Tesar says. The steaks are big, the wine comes decanted and the dessert menu includes a cloud of cotton candy glowing in neon light. 

"It's theatre," Tesar says. "It's like you just walk[ed] into the Playboy mansion or something; it's kind of debaucherous but it's also hospitable. You expect to see men drinking brown whiskey and smoking cigars there." (And sometimes they do. They also might be sipping Champagne, priced $150 a glass.)

All the barbecue you can eat (plus a little bit more): Pecan Lodge

"When my friends want [an] out-of-town Texas experience, I take them to Pecan Lodge for barbecue," says the chef. Tesar orders the trough -- a meatlover's smorgasbord that serves four to five people and includes more than two and a half pounds of meat. He chows down on the award-winning barbecue with industry friends, tourists and writers.

Because he had to: Knife

"I think I've created the ultimate place for the steak, and I know that sounds arrogant, but I don't mean it that way," Tesar insists. "The dining room is full every night. Even people that own Pappa's Bros. and Nick and Sam's are like, 'Wow, it's great, it's reinvented the steakhouse.' That's the only reason why I would choose my own venue, and I really stand behind it." 

Don't believe him? He's ready to prove his point. "I challenge everybody from around the country [to] come to Knife and tell me that we don't have, if not the best steak, one of the best steaks you've ever had." Challenge accepted.

Best reinvention of a classic dish: The Mansion Restaurant

The Mansion Executive Chef Bruno Davaillon is one of the best chefs in the city, chef John Tesar says.

The Mansion Executive Chef Bruno Davaillon is one of the best chefs in the city, chef John Tesar says.

Tom Fox

Tesar hails Mansion Executive Chef Bruno Davaillon as a "master at reinventing classic French food." Having been trained in the style of French cooking, Tesar knows a great Provençal dish when he tastes one. He cites Davaillon's bouillabaisse -- a fish stew that originated in France -- as an apt example of using new-world style to recreate old-world meals. "It's not done in the classic steps" he explains. "[But it] captures the essence of [the classic version]." 

  • 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd., Dallas.
Chef John Tesar is involved with several Dallas restaurants including Oak, Knife, El Bolero and coming-soon Plano place The Royale.

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