We Texans love to show guests a great time, and nothing does the trick better than inviting them out to eat. Whether you're entertaining family or friends, trying to wow a potential employee from out-of-state or welcoming folks who have just moved here from elsewhere, we've got the restaurant to suit the mood.
What follow, in alphabetical order, are The Best in DFW: Great Places to Take Out-of-Towners — including top destinations for barbecue, Tex-Mex, steaks, modern Texas cuisine and more.
If your guests are looking for the land of cowboy rib-eyes, they very well might love to eat a big ol' steak. Al Biernat's is my favorite place to do that -- first because the steaks, cooked faithfully as ordered, are some of the greatest around, and also because Al's is a quintessential Dallas scene, with service that's top-notch. The dry-aged, Texas-raised cuts from Local Yocal are superb, as are many others; ask your server to walk you through the steak offerings and any off-menu wine specials. Salads and sides are excellent, too.
Al Biernat's, 4217 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas. 214-219-2201. Lunch Monday-Friday; dinner nightly; Sunday brunch.
There's nothing flashy about Bolsa, and it doesn't scream "yee-haw, Texas!" But the restaurant that pioneered Dallas' farm-to-table movement is a fun, laid-back (and noisy!) hang out that will give your guests a chance to see how local food lovers roll. More than eight years after its debut, it's still a restaurant that matters. Lately executive chef Matt Balke has been turning out delicious rustic plates, such as a sumptuous goat stew with hominy, potatoes and cream, or flatbread topped with sausage and banana peppers. Before or after dinner, take the gang on a stroll around the Bishop Arts District.
Bolsa, 614 W. Davis St., Dallas. 214-367-9367. Dinner nightly; brunch Saturday-Sunday.
The casual dining room in downtown Dallas' most stylish hotel is a top spot for modern Texas cuisine. Want to really wow your guests? Order pig's head carnitas: The halved head makes quite a statement (oink?!) when it lands on the table. Brining, steaming and then roasting it results in super-flavorful meat you pull apart and wrap in warm corn tortillas. Executive chef Richard Blankenship's produce-driven and seafood dishes -- including main-course salads at lunchtime -- are a different kind of sensational. Lately his grilled heads-on gulf shrimp were terrific, served on an amped-up green goddess sauce with summer squash, corn and gorgeous squash blossoms. The cocktails are some of the best in town.
CBD Provisions, in the Joule Hotel, 1530 Main St., Dallas. 214-261-4500. Breakfast daily; lunch Monday-Friday; brunch Saturday-Sunday; afternoon snacks daily; dinner nightly.
Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck
The service can be comically confused, and prices are, um, sky-high, but the food is usually wonderful at the revolving landmark restaurant atop Reunion Tower, where the 360-degree views of Dallas are nothing short of spectacular. Five Sixty's lacquered Chinese duckling with lo mein noodles is one of my favorite dishes in the city. Reserve a table by the windows to best enjoy the show. Don't skip dessert.
Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck, 300 Reunion Blvd., Dallas. 214-571-5784. Dinner nightly.
Lockhart Smokehouse in Plano
The Dallas-Fort Worth area has lots of amazing barbecue, but it often comes with obstacles -- such as long lines, lunch service only or no alcoholic beverages -- that may be less-than-ideal for out-of-town visitors. Happily, Lockhart Smokehouse in Plano has everything: killer smoked meats, a Texas-cool dining room with extra seating upstairs, a full bar that offers a fine selection of local craft beers, good sides. Lockhart's brisket (best ordered fatty) is luscious and lovingly smoked; its pork ribs have just the right balance of tenderness and tug; and its sausage -- brought up from the owner's family's famous Kreuz Market in Lockhart, is snappy and spicy. Live a little: get some tender, moist smoked pork chop, as well. After the feast, go for a walk around historic downtown Plano; your guests will love seeing what still feels like an old-fashioned Texas town.
Lockhart Smokehouse, 1026 E. 15th St., Plano. 972-516-8900. Lunch and dinner daily.
Rafa's Cafe Mexicano
Low-key, casual and welcoming -- with top-notch margaritas -- this neighborhood spot is a well-kept secret. There are Tex-Mex places with more alluring dining rooms (the original El Fenix downtown), and Tex-Mex places with buzzier scenes (Mi Cocina in Highland Park Village or Mr. Mesero on McKinney), but when it comes to all-around great cooking, from guacamole and tortilla soup to tri-color enchiladas banderas or pan-fried tacos, Rafa's is the place.
Rafa's Cafe Mexicano, 5617 W. Lovers Lane, Dallas. 214-357-2080. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.
When I brought a 14-year-old friend visiting from New York to Stephan Pyles' modern Texas restaurant a few months ago, he said, "This isn't just the best restaurant I've ever been to in Dallas. It's the best restaurant I've ever been anywhere." Stampede inherited a few old favorites from Pyles' namesake restaurant when it closed in early 2016, including a Southwestern Caesar salad with jalapeño-polenta croutons and "Heaven and Hell" cake. The cooking isn't rarefied, as it is at Pyles' new Flora Street Cafe in the Arts District, nor is it always on the mark (a cowboy rib-eye piled with onion rings was cooked sous-vide to a perfect medium rare but lacked a good sear). Much of the cooking is very likable, though, especially tacos, tamales, fried chicken and seafood dishes. And the cowboy chic dining room with a Texas-centric country music soundtrack is rollicking good fun.
Stampede 66, 1717 McKinney Ave., Dallas. 214-550-6966. Lunch Monday-Friday; dinner nightly (including a fixed-price three-course Sunday supper).
If your visitors are serious food lovers, you must take them to Teiichi Sakurai's Japanese place in One Arts Plaza, whether for a casual basket of handmade soba noodles at the counter at lunchtime, or for an elegant dinner. Tei-An is quite simply one of the most outstanding Japanese restaurants in the country. It may even be the finest restaurant in Dallas at the moment; it's certainly the most consistently impressive now. It's not a sushi bar, and sushi is not its strong suit. But just about everything else you'll find on the menu is remarkable -- from cold oroshi soba (with grated daikon) or crazy-good ramen; a platter of spectacular sashimi cut from fish flown in from Japan; smashing okonomiyaki, tempura or other daily specials (when I order, I focus on the specials menu). Or go all-out and spring for a multicourse omakase (chef's choice) dinner, best ordered at least a day in advance.
Tei-An, One Arts Plaza, 1722 Routh St., Dallas. 214-220-2828. tei-an.com. Lunch Tuesday-Friday and Sunday; dinner Tuesday-Sunday.