Fancy a pint and a plate of fish and chips? Then you're in luck. A bit of Ireland has taken up residence on the ground floor of the historic Mercantile Building near Main Street Gardens. Owned and operated by Dublin native Alan Kearney, this wood-clad neighborhood tavern rocks a menu filled with traditional Emerald Isle favorites and then some. Find everything from scotch eggs, shepherd's pie and Irish stew to a host of salads, sandwiches and burgers. And the drink selection is nothing to scoff at either: there's over 200 types of whiskey plus craft beers, wine, cocktails and coffees. Keep an eye out for live music, nightly drink specials and weekend brunch.
Recommended for Downtown because: The Crafty Irishman is one of the best spots in Dallas to get a taste of the Emerald Isle.
Ilene's expert tip: Take advantage of select, discounted food and drinks (everything is priced at $5 and less) during Happy Hour, offered 2-7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Note: The Playwright Irish Pub at One Arts Plaza is also by the same owner.
This favorite West End eatery is a classic for big plates of hearty comfort-food standards, ranging from fried chicken and chicken fried steak to sandwiches, salads and burgers. But the thing Ellen's is most famous for is grits (the restaurant's motto is "Grits Rule"), which are served every which way, from cheesy Cajun shrimp grits to deep fried grits, and even eggs Benedict grits. And what's not to like about a restaurant that serves breakfast at all hours of the day? Better still, most everything on the menu can be had for under $20. Expect to find a crowd on weekends.
Recommended for Downtown because: Ellen's Southern Kitchen serves up the best Southern comfort food in Downtown Dallas.
Ilene's expert tip: Score half-price select food and drinks from 5-9 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Sure, they've got terrific enchiladas and tacos here, but this colorful cantina's specialty is updated takes on classics from the regions of Central and Southern Mexico. We're talking cochinita pibil (a Yucatan-style pork dish braised in citrus and achiote); Oaxacan moles; and Budin Azteca, a multilayered tortilla casserole that's similar to lasagna. Speaking of tacos, there's a taco-to-go window (La Ventana) adjacent to the restaurant's courtyard that serves burritos, quesadillas, salads and tacos loaded with everything from chunks of braised pork to beef tongue. Did we mention that they crank out awesome margaritas too?
Recommended for Downtown because: Meso Maya is a great place for upscale Mexican food in a festive setting.
Ilene's expert tip: Meso Maya has a lunch special that includes a salad (or soup) an enchilada (or taco) as well as rice and beans for $12. There's also bar snacks and drink specials on offer during Happy Hour, Monday through Friday from 3-6 p.m. Take note that there are also locations in Preston Forest Village and Lakewood.
Named for the Central Business District for where it stands, this perennially popular all-day brasserie in the Joule hotel wins fans for its modern American, farm-to-table fare served in a rustically appealing space. Most, if not all the plates here are for sharing, from charcuterie boards to steaks to roasted pig's head carnitas. Cocktails, created by acclaimed bartenders Chad Solomon and Christy Pope are also a highlight. Speaking of cocktails: don't leave without an after-dinner drink at the subterranean cocktail den (Midnight Rambler) tucked away in the basement of the hotel. Keep this place on the list for breakfast and weekend brunch too.
Recommended for Downtown because: The approachable menu and comfortable vibe make CBD Provisions a terrific place to dine for any occasion.
Ilene's expert tip: The pig's head carnitas must be ordered 24 hours in advance. Note that there is free valet parking available in front of the hotel.
Fresh off a recent multi-million-dollar makeover, the storied French Room, which opened with the Adolphus hotel in 1912, has once again regained its status as one of Dallas' finest dining experiences. The surrounds are still opulent, the service is still smooth as Bearnaise and the menu is everything you'd expect a restaurant of this caliber to be. Expect to find a seasonally changing a la carte menu filled with the likes of foie gras torchon, veal sweetbreads, dry-aged rib eyes and Long Island duck. For those who want to go all out, there's also a five-course tasting menu going at $135 a pop.
Recommended for Downtown because: The French Room is a must for any fine dining Dallas bucket list.
Ilene's expert tip: Want to enjoy the French Room without emptying your wallet? Stop in for a $25 cheese plate and pair it with a nice glass of wine.
Reunion Tower is Dallas' most iconic landmark and Wolfgang Puck's Five Sixty restaurant resides at the top (560 feet up) of its glittering orb. The revolving restaurant is a destination for the setting alone. And the modern Asian menu only adds to the draw. Expect to find everything from sashimi and sushi to Wagyu brisket pot stickers, tamarind glazed baby back ribs and Mongolian-style Colorado lamb chops. Don't even get us started on the desserts. Can't decide what to order? No worries, there's a variety of prix fixe tasting menus to choose from too. Pro-tip: Come in time for sunset and score terrific happy hour deals (5-7 p.m., Monday-Thursday) at the same time.
Recommended for Downtown because: Five Sixty is the best place for a memorable dining experience at the top of the city.
Ilene's expert tip: You don't need reservations to eat and drink in the lounge, but there's a dress code (business casual) to get in.
From its start, Cafe Momentum has had all the makings of a great restaurant: a relaxed ambiance, reasonable pricing, and innovative, delicious food. But above all, this place doubles as a nonprofit that provides culinary training to at-risk youth. Though the seasonal menu is constantly rotating, expect to find house-made charcuterie as well as items like duck confit with blueberry-habanero jam, smoked fried chicken with all the fixings and coffee-rubbed, locally sourced NY strip. To drink, there's a strong list of wine starting at $20 a bottle and a terrific selection of craft beer. Oh, and because the staff is paid a living wage, any tip you wish to leave will be considered a donation to the restaurant's mission.
Recommended for Downtown because: Cafe Momentum is where to go when you're after a fantastic meal for a fantastically reasonable price.
Ilene's expert tip: Cafe Momentum features a Sunday night supper series once a month which includes a three-course dinner, live musical performances and complimentary wine, beer and bubbly for $85.
More than a decade in, celebrity chef Dean Fearing's eponymous restaurant in the swanky Uptown Ritz Carlton remains a consistent favorite with its sophisticated (yet unpretentious) vibe and locally sourced, modern Southwestern cuisine. The menu shuffles often, but expect to see things like barbecue shrimp tacos; chicken fried quail; glazed antelope; and some of the tastiest Texas Wagyu-Angus steaks in town. Pro tip: 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. Save space for the banana pudding tart or anything chocolate.
Recommended for Downtown because: Fearing's is nationally ranked as one of the city's best restaurants.
Ilene's expert tip: If you can't score a table in the restaurant, 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 6 p.m. in the hotel lobby. Note: Valet parking is free for guests of Fearing's.
Acclaimed Dallas chef Teiichi Sakurai's Arts District gem is regularly billed as one of the best Japanese restaurants in Dallas. And for good reason. The attention to detail that goes into every dish is extraordinary, the service is always top-notch, and the food is nothing short of spectacular. On the menu, you'll find everything from sushi, sashimi and tempura to exotic options like white seaweed salad and sea urchin-shrimp risotto. But the real specialty here is Sakurai's hand-crafted soba noodles, which are served cold or warm and come with an assortment of rich broths and sauces. The omakase (tasting menu), while not easy on the wallet, is the best way to experience all Tei-An has to offer. Also, don't skip dessert, the soba ice cream with black honey is outstanding.
Recommended for Downtown because: Tei-An is where to go when you fancy an authentic Japanese dining experience.
Ilene's expert tip: Tei-An offers three different omakase experiences, ranging from a pre-theatre 4-course ($80) to a chef ($150) and a premium ($200). All omakase dinners must be reserved ahead of time.
Erected like a golden spaceship above the ground floor of the former Belo Building, Michelin Star-awarded chef Bruno Davaillon's glam French brasserie has been drawing crowds since opening its doors in late 2017. Serving lunch and dinner, the seasonal menu ranges from steak frites and croque monsieurs for lunch to canard a l'orange and venison with poached pears at dinner. To complement the dishes, Bullion offers a terrific and affordable all-French wine list and an assortment of French-inspired cocktails as well. Speaking of libations: sharing plates over drinks in the stylish bar is also a good option. Don't overlook the mille-feuille with dulce de leche for dessert.
Recommended for Downtown because: Bullion is arguably one of the best French restaurants in Dallas.
Ilene's expert tip: Bullion also offers a terrific, wallet-friendly bar menu as well as L'apero (aka happy hour) from 4-6:30 pm, Monday-Friday.