Chef Stephan Pyles has lived in Dallas long enough to have seen decades of dining trends. He helped establish Southwestern cuisine as a growing cuisine in Dallas, and he's been called one of the fathers of Modern Texas cuisine.
Pyles will be opening a new restaurant in spring 2016. In anticipation of the new place, Flora Street Cafe, we asked Pyles to dish on what other restaurants take Dallas dining to a new level.
For a meal to remember: Remedy
When Pyles recalls memorable meals he's had recently, the first that comes to mind is Remedy's Nashville hot duck. The dish consists of fried duck leg served with sweet and spicy sauce over griddled challah bread, house dill pickles, blue cheese pecan slaw and potatoes.
"It's one of those dishes where you just keep thinking about it and saying, 'I want some more of that!'" he says. Though he has enjoyed other dishes at Remedy, Pyles says he'd go back to the restaurant just for the duck.
2010 Greenville Ave., Dallas. remedydallas.com.
For casual Tex-Mex: Mr. Mesero
Chowing down on brisket tacos and sour cream chicken enchiladas is how Pyles satisfies his cravings for Tex-Mex. He considers Mr. Mesero to be "part of my family" and has an appreciation for owner Mico Rodriguez's iteration of the popular food.
"Mico has always taken Tex-Mex and refined it just a little," Pyles says. "It's fancy by no means, but it's definitely got kind of a culinary spin on it. It's simple but it's always just a little step up from down-and-dirty Tex-Mex, and that's why I like it. It's very personal."
4444 McKinney Ave, Dallas. mrmesero.com.
Because he's not ashamed to be a true Texan: Whataburger
Whataburger's cheeseburger is the only fast-food burger Pyles will eat. Ever since he was a young kid growing up in Big Spring, Texas, the beloved burger chain has been a must-stop place on road trips.
"When I'm traveling, I do two things: I stop at Whataburger on the road ... and I stop at the Dairy Queen for a [Heath crunch] blizzard," he says. "It's not a road trip if I don't do that."
Find a location near you at whataburger.com.
For a phenomenal first impression of Dallas: Fearing's
Though he never has to order because the kitchen always sends food to his table (perks of being a chef, right?), Pyles recommends typical diners order "anything [chef] Dean does with quail" as well as the tamales and the lobster tacos, the latter of which has become one of Fearing's most iconic dishes.
2121 McKinney Ave., Dallas. fearingsrestaurant.com.
For seafood: 20 Feet Seafood Joint
This seafood spot in East Dallas is worth the trip.
"The fried clams -- I crave," he says. "I've got to have those once a month." If clams aren't your style, the chef says you can't go wrong ordering 20 Feet's lobster roll, which Pyles classifies as "superb."
1160 Peavy Rd., Dallas. 20-feet.com.
For "really good" sushi: Yutaka
Pyles describes himself as "extra picky about everything [he eats]" -- and sushi is no exception for the Southwestern-style chef. He likes Yutaka's tuna and salmon sashimi.
Pyles prefers dining at Yutaka over Dallas' hyped new sushi joint, Uchi, because he'd rather "support [Dallas'] homeboys and girls" -- that is, locally-based restaurants like Yutaka. (Uchi, hailed by some as one of the state's best Japanese restaurants, is based in Austin and opened its Dallas restaurant this summer.)
2633 McKinney Ave. #140, Dallas. yutakasushibistrodallas.com.
For brisket or breakfast: Smoke
"Tim [Byres, co-owner and chef of Smoke] is doing something that is really Texan in a very modern approach." The restaurant, which originated in West Dallas and now has a second location in Plano, is known for its smoked and barbecued meats.
The restaurant is also known for its brunch, which is something of an institution in Dallas. Pyles says Smoke's brunch is "probably the best in Dallas," and favors the pancakes, which he says are "thick and luscious." Yum!
901 Fort Worth Ave., Dallas. smokerestaurant.com.
For style and culinary savvy: FT33
There's no doubt that Matt McCallister is one of the most inventive chefs in Dallas -- Dallas Morning News restaurant critic Leslie Brenner gave FT33 five stars and lauded the restaurant in 2013 as "the most exciting dining experience Dallas has to offer at the moment."
But even when food is taken out of the equation, Pyles says FT33 is notable for its ambience alone.
"The style of [FT33] ... that's what's happening in Dallas right now," he says. "I don't know if that's the essence of the Dallas restaurant, but it appears to be that that's the essence that a lot of the Dallas restauranteurs are trying to achieve."
1617 Hi Line Dr., Dallas. ft33dallas.com.
Love to hear about chefs' favorite restaurants?
Check out the top picks from chef Lisa Garza-Selcer (of Sissy's Southern Kitchen); Matt McCallister (of FT33 and Filament); and John Tesar (Knife, Oak, El Bolero and coming-soon restaurants The Royale and Gravy).