This permanently buzzing cantina has been a Tex-Mex go-to spot for over two decades, not only for area locals but for A-list celebrities as well. The attraction? Undoubtedly the place turns out an impressive spread of tacos, nachos, fajitas, enchiladas and the like. And there's something to be said about its mind-blowing queso blanco and endless servings of homemade salsa and chips. But the big draw here is the Mambo Taxi, a frozen margarita swirled with brandy-laced sangria. Word is that if you drink more than two of them you'll need a taxi to get you home. Did we mention there's an amazing rooftop lounge here too?
Recommended for Highland Park's Best Restaurants because: Mi Cocina is where to go, not just for Tex-Mex, but also for celebrity spotting and potent libations.
Ilene's expert tip: Mi Cocina offers a children's menu for $5.95 and a business lunch special of fajitas for $13.95.
A fine dining outpost in Highland Park Village since 1980, Café Pacific continues to serve up seafood and steaks to a loyal following of dedicated regulars. The setting is elegant, the vibe is sophisticated and the menu features everything from escargots to grilled snapper, fresh lobster and beef tenderloin with béarnaise. Don't leave without trying the chocolate pecan ball, Kerry Vincent of Food Network's "Best Thing I Ever Ate," declared it the best dessert she's ever had. Just be sure to put your glad rags on when you come, no T-shirts, shorts or flip flops are allowed.
Recommended for Highland Park's Best Restaurants because: Café Pacific is a good place to go for a power lunch or celebratory occasion.
Ilene's expert tip: Cafe Pacific offers a smaller bar menu for those who want to just stop in for drinks and a snack. Valet parking is available.
A Highland Park stalwart since 1977, this perpetually popular restaurant boasts a menu filled with modern Mexico City fare. So don't come here looking for tacos and enchiladas. Instead, find dishes like cabrito fajitas, Mayan-style slow-roasted pork and ancho chile marinated charbroiled quail. Start with grilled cheese and chorizo panela prepared tableside and end with an order of cajeta crepes. If cigars are your thing, be sure to check out Javier's super swanky cigar bar after dinner. Don't be surprised if you run into a few A-list celebrities while there.
Recommended for Highland Park's Best Restaurants because: Javier's was named one of the top Mexican restaurants in the U.S. by Travel + Leisure magazine.
Ilene's expert tip: Reservations are a must and are only accepted by phone. Note that they adhere to a dress code of no shorts.
With all the de rigueur trappings of a proper bistro, Café Toulouse would sit just as comfortably on the Left Bank of Paris as it does in Dallas. Open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch, the menu features everything from mussels to croque madames, frog legs, bouillabaisse and duck confit. An extensive selection of wine by the glass is a bonus. Soufflé is a must, just make sure to order it in advance. Try to snag a seat on the terrace so you can watch the action along the Katy Trail.
Recommended for Highland Park's Best Restaurants because: Toulouse Cafe is top pick for excellent brasserie food in a casual setting.
Ilene's expert tip: Score half-priced bottles of French wines all day on Mondays. Happy Hour is offered from 3-6 p.m., Monday-Friday.
This rustic Italian gem is massively popular, and for good reason: the prices are reasonable and there's something on the menu for just about everyone, even for those who are gluten-adverse. The restaurant is part of a burgeoning empire by long-time Dallas restaurateur Alberto Lombardi, who also has Toulouse Cafe next door and Bistro 31 in Highland Park Village. Risotto (offered in six variations) is a specialty as are the wood-fired pizzas, but the menu also covers house-made pasta, fish, veal and beef. A wide range of antipasti, wallet-friendly wines and desserts like homemade cannelloni are more reasons to come.
Recommended for Highland Park's Best Restaurants because: Taverna is a go-to spot for delicious and reasonably priced Italian fare.
Ilene's expert tip: If you don't want to pay for valet, you can park for free around the corner on Abbott Avenue. Score $2 mimosas and bellinis during Saturday and Sunday brunch.
Set within the swanky shopping haven of Highland Park Village lies Bistro 31, a popular chic retreat with a hip St. Tropez vibe and a gem of a cocktail-cum-sushi den tucked away at the top. The menu takes its inspiration from across the Mediterranean coast, so expect to find dishes ranging from lamb meatballs over polenta to whole roasted Branzino, steak frites and tagliolini with truffle cream. Beyond dinner, Bistro 31 serves lunch and weekend brunch where you can find items like quiche and savory crepes stuffed with Gruyere and ham. The drinks list champions champagne, wine, beer and specialty cocktails as well as an extensive selection of whiskey and tequila. Save space for desserts, they taste as good as they look.
Recommended for Highland Park's Best Restaurants because: Bistro 31 is the best place in Highland Park Village to sip cocktails and people watch.
Ilene's expert tip: Head upstairs to Lounge 31 for 1/2 price sushi rolls and discounted appetizers during happy hour, Monday through Saturday from 4-7 p.m. and all day on Sunday.
A relative newcomer to the area is this New York-inspired bistro which offers an eclectic menu filled with everything from charred Spanish octopus and ceviche tostadas to chicken schnitzel, lamb chops and grilled steaks. Unexpected hits include Jewish-inspired items like matzo ball soup and potato latkes topped with caviar and créme fraiche. Cocktails are excellent, and there's a curated wine list that includes around eighteen selections by the glass. Weekend brunch (served from 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.) brings forth challah French toast, chilaquiles and hot pastrami with gruyere on marbled rye.
Recommended for Highland Park's Best Restaurants because: Beverley's is an upscale haven for the well-heeled crowd.
Ilene's expert tip: Sunday is the best time to get a seat without a reservation. Note that this isn't the place to go for a quiet conversation, it tends to be on the loud side.
Celebrity chef John Tesar's swanky meat mecca inside the Highland Dallas hotel is an example of a steakhouse concept completely reinvented. Which means, not only can you dig into old school steaks like a 45-day dry-aged ribeye and filet au poivre, but you'll also find affordable new school cuts such as culottes, tri-tips, flat irons and chuck flaps. And if steak isn't your thing, the menu offers everything from an 18-hour braised crispy pig's head served with tortillas and salsa to oxtail ravioli, pepper-crusted tuna and whole roasted chicken. Burgers are equally worth pursuing, they're rated among some of the best in the state. This is definitely not a place to go with vegetarians in tow.
Recommended for Highland Park's Best Restaurants because: Knife is the perfect place to go when you're in the mood for a meat-up.
Ilene's expert tip: Snag Mojitos for only $7 every Monday from 4-7 p.m.
Situated on the edge of Highland Park off Oak Lawn, this jewel box of a dining spot wows with a flawlessly executed menu of Mediterranean-inspired cuisine which draws its inspiration from Southern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. That translates into an array of spectacular dishes for sharing and grazing, with options ranging from vegetable-laden meze platters (think roasted turnips with Syrian red lentil purée and yellow beet hummus) to Moroccan lamb chops, grilled branzino and Turkish lamb ragu. It's hard to go wrong with anything on the menu, but the best option is to come with a group and order the family-style menu (for 4 or more) where you can dig into a little bit of everything for $45 per person.
Recommended for Highland Park's Best Restaurants because: Sachet is the best place to go when you're in the company of those who like to share.
Ilene's expert tip: Sachet also offers a family-style lunch menu ($35) for parties of 10 or more upon request.
With a serious reputation for house-made pasta and wood-fired pizzas, it's no surprise that Julian Barsotti's handsome pocket-sized trattoria is considered to be one of the top Italian restaurants in town. Expect to find a roster of seasonal specialties ranging from Neapolitan style pizzas topped with fresh sardines to Maine lobster ravioli, grilled snapper, and shiitake mushroom risotto stuffed quail. A well thought out Italian wine list and desserts like dark chocolate molten cake with salted caramel gelato complete the picture. Can't score a reservation? No worries, the restaurant usually keeps a few seats at the bar open for walk-ins.
Recommended for Highland Park's Best Restaurants because: Nonna is a terrific option for a date night destination.
Ilene's expert tip: Note that Nonna serves lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays. The easiest time to score a table for dinner is after 9 p.m.