Brian Luscher has a tenderness for chef-owned restaurants, which is why he spends most of his time and money supporting fellow culinary entrepreneurs. When he's not chewing the fat with fellow chefs at one spot, he and his wife are becoming regulars at another.
From homemade tortillas to his own Chicago-style hot dogs, Luscher lists his favorite noshes in D-FW and where to find them.
For the picturesque burger joint experience -- Dairy-Ette
For Luscher, eating at Dairy-Ette is as much about the experience as it is the food. The '50s-style diner serves as a time-machine for the chef, who spent his childhood in a similar setting.
"It reminds me of my grandfather and uncle [who] had a burger place in the city we grew up in outside of Chicago. They would hold me up to flip the burgers on the griddle," Luscher reminisces. "When I go in [Dairy-ette], I'm a kid again; eating double-bacon cheeseburger baskets with homemade french fries and a big frosty mug of house root beer."
Punctuating his fondness for the burger joint, he notes: "As far as I'm concerned, it's an East Dallas institution."
- 9785 Ferguson Rd., Dallas.
For a feast with fantastic fundido -- Resident Taqueria
Luscher can't get enough of this new Lake Highlands taqueria. "[My family and I have] been going there darn near once a week since they've opened," Luscher says. What keeps the chef coming back? Homemade tortillas, which he describes as "cloud-like," and a mouthwatering mushroom queso fundido.
The key to eating at Resident Taqueria, Luscher explains, is knowing that more is more. So, he and his wife will order six tacos, up to five sides, and the queso fundido to split.
- 9661 Audelia Rd. #112, Dallas. residenttaqueria.com.
For some of the best steak in Dallas -- Knife
"In the land of steakhouses, [Tesar] has nailed the steakhouse," Luscher proclaims. That's a bold statement, but he's prepared to back it up. "Every single time I go to John's place, my eyes are rolling in the back of my head -- it's so good."
He says anything out of Knife's dry-aging room is top-notch, though he recommends diners ask their server what the chef favors at the moment. For anyone who isn't a fan of red meat, Luscher highly recommends the pasta selections. For anyone who is, Luscher says indulging in some of the menu's costlier entrées is "well worth the investment."
- 5300 E. Mockingbird Ln., Dallas. knifedallas.com.
Forget Subway, this is where to eat fresh sandwiches -- Goodfriend Package
Ask Luscher where to get an honest-to-goodness pastrami sandwich and he'll send you to Goodfriend Package without hesitation. "Fresh bread, handmade luncheon meats and charcuterie ... nothing could be more up my alley," he says to describe the deli-style sandwich shop.
The beauty of the place is its lack of pretense. Anyone can walk in and order something as simple as a ham sandwich, just as they could at any sandwich chain. But, with Goodfriend Package, the difference is in the details: They'll make your sandwich with ham they smoked and cured in-house. It doesn't get any fresher than that.
- 1155 Peavy Rd., Dallas.
Calling all Chicagoans! -- Luscher's Red Hots
Luscher is particularly proud of his Combo sandwich -- made with sweet 'n' hot Italian sausage -- but even more so, he's thrilled about how he stacks up next to a Chicago institution. "I personally think my Italian beef is as good [or] better than Portillo's'," he says.
- 2653 Commerce St., Dallas. luschers.com.
The place to let your server decide dinner for you -- Lucia
Luscher claims choosing from the menu at Lucia is like choosing which child you love the most. Melodrama aside, he has a point: Sometimes your best option is to let the server decide what you'll be eating. With a menu as robust and excellent as Lucia's, Luscher says there's no chance you'll end up eating anything less than delicious.
If you're a fan of fois gras, you may want to dine at Lucia on a night when Luscher isn't. The chef can't get enough of the foie-gras-stuffed prunes. "I tell [David Uygur, chef-owner] - 'I want all the prunes.' [He says], 'How many?' And I say, 'No, no. All of them.'" Those who are able to nab a few before Luscher finishes them off can purchase the prunes for $1 each.
- 408 W. Eighth St., Ste. 101, Dallas. luciadallas.com.
For understated excellence -- Small Brewpub
Small Brewpub is on Luscher's shortlist of places to try. He has sampled food by Executive Chef Misti Norris at festivals and events, but says it's all been a "tease" that only augments his desire to see what she's serving at Small Brewpub.
Without having dined at her restaurant, Luscher has great respect for Norris' culinary approach. "Sometimes the creativity gets over-the-top with some people. ... I don't think Misti is trying to be over-the-top. That's what is so super alluring to me," he says. Rather than make each plate a bombastic showcase of the tools she has in her arsenal, Luscher says Misti lends a quiet sheepishness to her dishes that increases their intrigue.
- 333 W. Jefferson Blvd., Dallas. smallbrewpub.com.
For a quick refuel or recovery -- Snap Kitchen
After a recent surgery, Luscher found himself eating Snap Kitchen for the first time. Though eating from the chain isn't in keeping with his proclivity to give his money to locally-owned businesses, he tried the to-go health food chain and made this proclamation of lukewarm sentiment: "I think I like you, Snap Kitchen."
Luscher loves the concept of the chain -- to make fresh, pre-cooked meals available on-the-go -- and admits that, though he thoroughly enjoys dining out on decadent dishes, sometimes food is just fuel. The health factor inherent in Snap Kitchen's brand doesn't mean its food can't be delicious; it only means it's probably what you'll want to eat when you've overindulged elsewhere and want to get your body back on track again.
- Various locations. snapkitchen.com.
Love to hear about chefs' favorite restaurants?
Check out the top picks from chef Stephan Pyles (of Stephan Pyles, Stampede 66); John Tesar (of Oak, The Royale, El Bolero, Knife); Lisa Garza-Selcer (of Sissy's Southern Kitchen); Matt McCallister (of FT33 and Filament); and Samir Dhurandhar (Nick & Sam's).