Dallas is filled with barbecue joints, but none can compare with the smoky goodness coming out of this rustic barbecue haven. Pecan Lodge's 'cue is so good that Texas Monthly named it one of the top BBQ joints in the state, and Food Network's Guy Fieri featured it on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Here, people line up daily just to get their fix of house-made sausages, mesquite smoked brisket and mouthwatering ribs. They also churn out fab fried chicken and sublime sides. And if you haven't tried the hot mess, a sweet potato stuffed with shredded brisket,chipotle cream cheese, butter and green onions– then you've really been missing out. There's also Aunt Polly's banana pudding--get that too.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: When you're after serious barbecue but can't make a trip down to Central Texas, Pecan Lodge is your place.
Ilene's expert tip: Pecan Lodge hosts live music regularly, be sure to check the website under events for the schedule.
With a serious reputation for homemade pasta, wood-fired specialties and wicked desserts, it's no surprise that locals consider this handsome pocket-sized trattoria to be one of the top restaurants in town. Just be prepared, getting a table in the intimate dining room is unlikely without a booking, but if you're lucky there may be a spare seat in the bar. Chef/owner Julian Barsotti whips up a seasonally inspired roster of modern Italian fare, which includes the likes of everything from tagliatelle with white truffles to Neapolitan style pizzas and a drool-worthy duck breast with fennel crema. However, it's Barsotti's lobster ravioli, featuring paper thin pasta pockets stuffed with Maine lobster, that clearly steals the show. A well thought out Italian wine list, and desserts--think persimmon cheese cake with caramel or praline nougatine semifreddo-- seal the deal.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Hit up Nonna when you want an epic feast of beautiful Italian food.
Ilene's expert tip: Be sure to check out Sprezza, an equally excellent Roman-inspired restaurant by the same chef and owner of Nonna.
With its location on the twenty-seventh floor of the Hilton Anatole hotel, the views from SER (pronounced sear) are, as you might expect, stunning. And if the views alone don't wow you, then the black angus tomahawk encrusted with smoked blue cheese surely will. Carnivores can also find everything from elk loins, bison and aged prime rib-eyes to pork rib and rack of lamb. And the kitchen hits the mark when it comes to apps: Think house-made charcuterie, deconstructed Caesar salads and deviled eggs with Akaushi beef tartar and smoked trout roe. Don't overlook the striped bass with red rice grits either. Wines are well-chosen and the handcrafted cocktails are worth exploring as well. Ditto for the desserts– there's a creme brulee panna cotta, with burnt sugar crystals, pistachio dust and pistachio ice cream, calling your name.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: SER is one of the city's most romantic dining spots with unbeatable views of the Dallas skyline.
Ilene's expert tip: Be sure to park with the valet and have the restaurant validate your ticket. Check the Facebook page for monthly wine tastings and wine dinners.
This rustically-modern eatery, with a menu majoring in inventive farm-to-table fare– has been making waves with locals ever since it landed on Greenville Avenue at the end of 2015. Which isn't really surprising since the kitchen is headed up by one of the city's top chefs (and part owner), Graham Dodds, the same guy who put Henderson Avenue's Hibiscus restaurant on the foodie map. While the menu changes often, depending on the chef's local finds (some of which he harvests from his urban garden on the patio), expect to see everything from smoked lamb brisket with sweet onion purée and hominy flapjacks topped with braised pork to showstopping vegetarian dishes like a charcuterie board featuring lentil sausage and foie gras made with sunchoke puree. It's just as well that portions are large enough to share as you'll undoubtedly have a difficult time choosing just a few. Whatever you do, be sure to kick start your meal with one of the signature Wayward Son cocktails– made with gin, chartreuse and jalapeno.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Wayward Sons is the perfect place to go when you have meat-eaters and herbivores in tow.
Ilene's expert tip: Wayward Sons has one of the best weekend brunches in the city and it also offers hand crafted cocktails for $6 during Happy Hour– Monday-Friday from 4 to 7 p.m.
Getting a table at this Dallas Arts District hot spot has been a challenge ever since it opened in 2008. Understandably so, as Tei-An is considered to be one of the best restaurants in Dallas. And its chef/owner, Teiichi Sakurai, has been a James Beard nominee several years in a row. The restaurant's elegant and serene setting bodes well for Sakurai's array of imaginative dishes. Along with a selection of exceptional sushi and sashimi, the menu features a host of specialties, including a delicious white seaweed salad, crab and uni risotto and shungiku(edible chrysanthemums)tempura. Be sure to try one of the soba dishes, it's the restaurant's specialty. End on a sweet note with soba ice cream and black honey.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: When you want to venture beyond the usual sushi selections, Tei-An promises an tasteful experience on every plate.
Ilene's expert tip: Tei-An's seven-course omakase tasting menu ($80 per person) is amazing. The restaurant also offers a smaller omakase dinner for $50 per person.
Dallas has long had a love affair with celeb chef Dean Fearing-- whose modern take on Southwestern cuisine has earned him numerous accolades over the years, including a James Beard Award for best chef of the Southwest. Here at his namesake restaurant in the swanky Ritz Carlton, Fearing and his chef de cuisine Eric Dreyer turn out hits like wood grilled pork tenderloin glazed with sorghum, mesquite grilled salmon with peach barbecue glaze, and of course, Fearing's signature tortilla soup. The dining experience is all the more enhanced by the restaurant's seven distinctive indoor and outdoor settings-- including a formal room with chandeliers and soaring eighteen-foot ceilings; an intimate wine cellar; and a romantic glass pavilion. If you plan it right, you can snag a seat in Dean's Kitchen where you can have a ringside view of the action and perhaps a chat with the exuberant Fearing himself.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: When you're in the mood for a bit of glamour, Fearing's ticks all the boxes.
Ilene's expert tip: If you can't score a table in one of the main dining venues, you can enjoy a meal in the Rattlesnake Bar without a reservation. Also don't miss the free guacamole and mini-margaritas on offer at the Rattlesnake Bar every night starting at 6 p.m.
The hype surrounding James Beard award-winning chef Tyson Cole's Austin-based sushi paradise hasn't diminished in the least since it landed in Dallas the summer of 2015. And as such, getting a reservation here can be a challenge. Fortunately, the restaurant does try to keep around 40% of its tables available to walk-ins. But make no mistake, the place definitely lives up to its stellar reputation and it's not just the sushi that's creating a stir among area foodies. At the helm, chef Nilton "Junior" Borges, Jr. is turning out some of the most bedazzling Japanese fare in town-- think Akami Crudo with pickled ramps, pumpkin seeds and iberico lardo; nigiri with seared foie gras and Hirame Usuzukuri, a sashimi of flounder with candied quinoa. It's not just the raw delicacies that are tempting diner's taste buds. Dishes like farm duck with matsutake mushrooms and persimmon, 72-hour braised Wagyu beef short ribs and oak-grilled escolar with candied citrus are equally inspiring. Be sure to save room for the fried milk dessert, folks say it's nothing short of a revelation.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Uchi is where to go when you want a Japanese culinary experience like no other.
Ilene's expert tip: For bites and sake priced at $3 to $6, check out Uchi's Sake Social, daily between 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Named by Bon Appétit as one of the Top 50 New Restaurants of 2013-- FT33 (restaurant lingo for "fire table" number 33) was already creating a buzz before it opened late in 2012. The restaurant is the brainchild of James Beard Award semi-finalist Matt McCallister, whose ingredient driven ethos and cutting-edge cuisine has redefined Dallas' culinary landscape. The sleek industrial decor with its exhibition kitchen serves as a showcase for McCallister's eye-popping plates. And though the menu may change by the hour, depending on what's been foraged or sourced that day, you can expect to find dishes that range from salads of wheat berries, nettles, radishes and wild watercress to main courses of ricotta gnocchi with wild onion, walnuts and aerated raclette cheese. Desserts, like a salted chocolate sable with iced milk and mint chocolate cream–are equally sublime.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: FT33 is where you want to go for a Michelin-style dining experience.
Ilene's expert tip: FT33 has an off-menu 5-course tasting option featuring smaller portions of selected a la carte items for $75. This one can be ordered when you come in to dine.
If you ask any discerning foodie which is the hottest restaurant in town, they'll point you to David and Jennifer Uygur's rustically charming 36-seat Bishop Arts trattoria. But be warned, the place is so popular that you have to either book two months in advance or try your luck at scoring one of the counter seats saved for walk-ins. The focus is on Italian home cooking, with a rotating menu full of regional must-haves, ranging from house-cured meats and fresh crudo to handmade pastas, wild game and seafood. Expect to find selections like spaghetti with sea urchin butter and Wagyu beef with celery root and truffles. Be sure to order a few of the foie-gras-stuffed prunes to start. And for dessert-- the milk chocolate panna cotta with sanguinaccio and malt gelato-- is nothing short of genius.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Lucia is the place to go when you crave authentic Italian, but can't spare the time or dime to go to Italy.
Ilene's expert tip: Don't let the long wait list deter you from coming-Lucia saves four counter seats overlooking the kitchen for walk-ins and also posts last minute cancellations on its social media.
Trying to get a table at this sleek Dallas Arts District restaurant (especially at dinnertime) can be tricky. Which is no surprise, as this is the new flagship restaurant from James Beard Award winning chef Stephan Pyles. And though it may be one of the most beautiful restaurants in the area (think: walls of glass with dazzling views of the Meyerson Symphony Center) you'll probably be too distracted by the Instagram-worthy dishes to notice. But the pretty presentation is only part of the story: Good flavor combinations and cutting-edge cooking techniques are also in play here. Showcasing elevated Texas cuisine, the menu offers up everything from pork barbacoa tacos and lobster tamales to coffee-and-brown sugar marinated Wagyu rib-eye steaks. The wine list is of a caliber to match the food as are the inventive cocktails. Don't skip dessert, not-to-be-missed is the chocolate sponge cake with hazelnut cream.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Flora Street Cafe offers some of the most innovative cuisine in the city.
Ilene's expert tip: Flora Street offers a terrific menu of creative snacks in the bar and a seven course tasting menu at dinnertime.