Dallas is stocked with delicious neighborhoods right near the city center. In just a few miles, there’s Deep Ellum, the Design District, Trinity Groves, Oak Lawn, Uptown and downtown. We’ve picked the 20 essential restaurants in all of those neighborhoods.
Out of towners, use this as a guide, whether you’re looking for a swanky place for date night or a quick spot for a burger. Dallasites, consider it a challenge: How many of these restaurants have you visited in the past year?
Our list of notable restaurants in or near downtown Dallas are listed in alphabetical order:
Bread Winners Cafe and Bakery
Brunch is worth the wait at Bread Winners. And wait you will if you catch it on a Saturday or Sunday, midmorning, in Uptown. The bar offers “hangover elixirs” such as a Brunch Punch made with sparkling wine, St. Germain and cranberry. Brunch, lunch and dinner dishes are uncomplicated and good.
- 3301 McKinney Ave., Dallas. Other locations in Dallas, plus Plano, Fort Worth and Trophy Club.
The Herrera family has been a Tex-Mex fixture in Dallas for decades. This newish Cafe Herrera celebrates some of the best-known dishes on the “legados” (which means “legacy”) section of the menu: chile con carne cheese enchiladas, guacamole tostadas and the like. Go here if you want traditional Tex-Mex.
- 665 S. Lamar St., Dallas, in front of the Omni Dallas
Truly one-of-a-kind, Cafe Momentum is a higher-end restaurant that employs nonviolent juvenile offenders. Our restaurant critic Leslie Brenner has called it an “impressive” place -- and that refers to the food, the level of service and the awesome idea to give kids a chance to get themselves on the right path. Recent menus have included main courses such as sweet potato ricotta ravioli or rabbit pot pie.
- 1510 Pacific Ave., Dallas
This Neapolitan pizza place in Dallas has baked up locations in other parts of Dallas, Fort Worth and the suburbs, but it’s the Deep Ellum original that’s still our favorite. Our critic Brenner has said the pies are “some of the best in Dallas.”
- 2612 Commerce St., Dallas
CrushCraft’s Friday and Saturday hours -- open-till-3-a.m. -- are popular with the late-night Uptown party crowd. (And the colorful decor makes it feel like a party no matter the time of day.) CrushCraft serves inexpensive Thai street food in an order-at-the-counter setting.
- 2800 Routh St., Suite 150, Dallas
El Fenix Restaurant
It isn't fancy. But it is traditional Tex-Mex, sold for low prices at a Dallas institution that's been around for nearly 100 years. If you've never had Tex-Mex, El Fenix is a great place to start.
- 1601 McKinney Ave., Dallas
Chef Dean Fearing, one of Dallas' best-known chefs, serves what he calls "elevated American cuisine" with a southwestern flair. This former chef of the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek is beloved for his Dean's Tortilla Soup. Inventive dishes starring quail and buffalo are also popular at Fearing's Restaurant, located inside the Ritz-Carlton. Grab a drink at the swanky Rattlesnake Bar before dinner if you want to feel like a true Dallasite.
- 2121 McKinney Ave., Dallas
Call ahead and dress up if you want to dine at FT33, chef-owner Matt McCallister's inventive restaurant in the Dallas Design District. McCallister is always cooking up something unexpected, and he in fact forages himself for some of the rarer ingredients on his menus. Order dish by dish, or go for the $65 four-course tasting menu. The $155-per-person menu will get you a bite of everything on the menu.
- 1617 Hi Line Drive, Dallas
One of Dallas' most exciting craft beer bars, the Meddlesome Moth serves a menu of mussels, pot pies and more. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was recently spotted here, but you don't have to be a celebrity to get a table.
- 1621 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas
Mudhen Meat and Greens
The team behind notable Dallas beer bar Meddlesome Moth flipped the script with Mudhen Meat and Greens, a health-minded restaurant that makes eating your vegetables seem fun. The cavernous restaurant gets noisy, in a fun way, and the patio is packed during pretty weather.
- 900 S. Harwood St., Dallas
Nick & Sam's
One of the best places in Dallas to spot a celebrity, Nick & Sam’s steakhouse offers a spectacularly “Dallas” experience with its pricey steaks, swanky atmosphere and see-and-be-seen bar. The restaurant is both fun and fabulous, and best enjoyed if somebody else is paying.
- 3008 Maple Ave., Dallas
Fast-casual restaurant Off-Site Kitchen serves some of the best burgers in Dallas. You’ll likely stand in line if you go during peak hours, but the wait is fun, because OSK has a biker vibe with all sorts of odd decor to gawk at while you decide between the green-chile-bacon cheeseburger or the jalapeno-bacon cheeseburger. The secret’s definitely out on this place, but that shouldn’t keep you from going.
- At Trinity Groves, 331 Singleton Blvd., Dallas
Pecan Lodge is possibly Dallas’ best known barbecue place right now. Brisket is the thing here, but consider adding a piece of fried chicken or the cute-named “hot mess” (that’s a loaded sweet potato) to your plate, too. On occasional weekend evenings, Pecan Lodge’s patio plays host to lively concerts. Lines can be long, but the food is worth the wait.
- 2702 Main St., Dallas
S & D Oyster Company
You’ll feel like you stepped back in time at S & D Oyster Company, the decades-old Uptown Dallas restaurant where the servers wear bowties and aprons and treat you like family. Ask for a seat in the back; there’s a new addition with a porch and a bar that feels like a New Orleans secret hideaway.
- 2701 McKinney Ave., Dallas
This New York City burger stand made its way to Dallas in mid 2016, and locals are still lining up at lunch and dinner. On a sunny morning or afternoon, Shake Shack is one of the best spots in town to grab a burger and sit outside. The Link Burger -- made with a Pecan Lodge sausage link -- is popular, but the straight-ahead ShackBurger is where it’s at.
- 2500 N. Pearl St., Dallas
Dallas isn’t known for its Italian restaurants, but talented chef Julian Barsotti could change that. His four-star Roman taverna, Sprezza, is a lively place with exciting food. The items on Barsotti’s ever-changing menu are thoughtful and delicious. Call ahead.
- 4010 Maple Ave., Dallas
Stephan Pyles Flora Street Cafe at Hall Arts
Chef Stephan Pyles might be one of the most influential chefs in Texas history, says Brenner. After he closed his eponymous restaurant in downtown Dallas, he opened Stephan Pyles Flora Street Cafe at Hall Arts, an even fancier spot nearby in the Dallas Arts District. The restaurant is stylish and the cooking is elaborate. You’ll need a reservation.
- 2330 Flora St., Dallas
It’s known best for its drinks: The Rustic is one of Texas’ highest-grossing standalone bars for alcohol sales. Grab a cold one inside the restaurant, at the bar or outside on the expansive backyard. At 20,000 square feet, this place is big.
- 3656 Howell St., Dallas
Uchi & Top Knot
Call ahead if you want dinner reservations at ultra-cool sushi restaurant Uchi. Its sibling, the more casual Top Knot, located directly above Uchi, is a good second option if you’re craving creative Asian food. Dress in your trendiest outfit for both.
- 2817 Maple Ave., Dallas: Uchi is downstairs, Top Knot is upstairs
Uncle Uber's Sammich Shop
Uncle Uber’s one of the most casual spots on this list, and it has one of the silliest names, but don’t discount it for quick, serious sandwiches. This family-friendly spot is great if you’re short on time and want a glimpse of Deep Ellum, a Dallas neighborhood with a lot of history.
- 2713 Commerce St., Dallas