Dallas' dining options, which range from fast food to James Beard Award semi-finalists, are as diverse as the city's neighborhoods. Want to experience these areas' cultures? Turn to local restaurants that reflect their unique neighborhoods through their histories, servers and food.
Here are five worth visiting.
Café Momentum — Downtown Dallas
Nonprofit restaurant Café Momentum began with some inspiring ice cream. Years ago, chef Chad Houser headed to Youth Village juvenile facility to teach ice-cream making. When these teens called Houser "mister," a name he never hears in a kitchen, it shattered his preconceived notion about juvenile offenders. Houser wanted to prevent these teens from remaining in a cycle of incarceration by teaching them culinary skills, and that's how Café Momentum was born.
Every year, the restaurant hires about 20 previously jailed kids to year-long internships as dishwashers, bussers, and servers. According to the restaurant's community manager, Torie Reed, 48 percent of juveniles in Texas return to detention centers within a year. Of Café Momentum's teens, only 15 percent return, she said. Café Momentum's farm-to-table, experimental cuisine tastes even more delicious when paired with their service to the Dallas community.
- 1510 Pacific Ave., Dallas. 214-303-1234. cafemomentum.org.
Gazeebo Burgers — Preston Hollow
Although tucked away in a shopping center at the corner of Preston Road and Royal Lane, Gazeebo Burgers can be easily spotted by its picturesque white gazebo. The six flags of Texas hang there and '50s cartoon drawings hang on the walls. Diners are likely long-time customers, greeted at the counter by Pete Sopithakul, an employee of 20 years who can comment on how big their kids have grown. In its neighborhood, Gazeebo Burgers fills the place of a second home for many local families.
- 5950 Royal Ln., Dallas. 214-368-3344. gazeeboburgers.com.
Gold Rush Cafe — East Dallas
Brenda Sanchez ate at Gold Rush Cafe as a teenager in the '80s, when the restaurant only sold donuts and sandwiches. She would sit at one of the five tables and be served by one of the owner's five kids. Other patrons were usually artists or musicians, who flocked to cheap housing in the area. If Brenda had to use the bathroom, she walked through the kitchen.
Brenda began waitressing there and eventually married George Sanchez, the son of Gold Rush's owner. Through the eyes of a customer, an employee, and finally a member of the family, Brenda watched the Gold Rush Cafe expand and evolve into a breakfast-and-lunch diner with slightly different customers. Despite the changes, "there is still a freak factor," she said.
- 1913 Skillman St., Dallas. 214-823-6923.
Mesa — Oak Cliff
Mesa owners Raul and Olga Reyes and their old Dallas neighborhood both share a characteristic resilience. The Reyes' first restaurant, La Palapa Veracruzana, ultimately failed. Undeterred, the couple opened Mesa, a different concept that still incorporated their heritage from Veracruz, Mexico. Mesa prides itself on dishes like its mole enchiladas, which originated from a generations-old recipe. Mesa has become a magnet for celebrities, including Beyoncé and Jay-Z, who visited the restaurant in 2013 on the recommendation of a friend, according to the Dallas Observer.
- 118 W. Jefferson Blvd., Dallas. 214-941-4246. mesadallas.squarespace.com.
Tacos Mariachi — West Dallas
Jesús Carmona, owner of Tacos Mariachi, can be easily spotted handing out customers' orders or explaining unique dishes like the octopus tacos or mole fries. While Tacos Mariachi serves classic meat tacos, it sets itself apart from other Dallas taco joints with a predominately seafood menu. After working in Cabo San Lucas, Carmona brought back the flavor of the area's seafood street tacos to Dallas with a gourmet twist.
With its white exterior and colorful lettering, Tacos Mariachi stands out on Singleton Boulevard. The area is currently being developed to include apartments and retail shopping, as an extension of Trinity Groves. As a businessman, Carmona appreciates how the community is expanding. As a Hispanic, however, Carmona empathizes with those forced out of the neighborhood due to raised rent.
- 602 Singleton Blvd., Dallas. 214-741-1239. tacosmariachi.com.