Things are smoking in Deep Ellum where this acclaimed BBQ spot opened this past November. The restaurant comes by way of twin brothers Mike and Mark Black whose family's barbecue roots go back to 1932 when the first Black's Barbecue opened in Lockhart, Texas. Set in a sprawling 11,000 square foot space, Black's serves up everything from brisket to ribs, turkey and sausage which they cook over post oak wood in offset smokers on the property. The meat is offered by the pound or in sandwiches; and sides include baked potato salad, cole slaw, mac-n-cheese, cream corn, pinto beans, green beans and Mexican rice. Save space for desserts like peach cobbler and banana pudding.
Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: Terry Black's Barbecue is ranked one of the top barbecue joints in the state by Texas Monthly.
Ilene's expert tip: Terry Black's has its own parking lot. They also sell whole slabs of frozen brisket for $17 per pound.
Cajun and Vietnamese cuisine come together at this breezy Uptown eatery by Joseph Lee, co-founder of Ikigai Udon and Sucre Café in Plano. Lee's mission was to expand beyond the traditional idea of Viet-Cajun cuisine which focuses mainly on fresh crawfish, and instead offer a broader variety of Viet-inspired offerings that incorporate fresh shrimp, scallops and calamari. To that end, expect to find chef Phat Tran's Cajun take on dishes such as drunken calamari, sea salt shrimp and scallop sate in addition to straight-up New Orleans-style picks like gumbo, crab claws and fried catfish. Also on the menu are raw gulf coast and east coast oysters as well as fresh lobster, blue crab, king crab legs and mussels. Chase it all down with beer, wine or cocktails like the blueberry spritz with Western Sons Blueberry Vodka, St-Germain and sparkling wine.
Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: Crab House Seafood & Oyster Bar is a great casual and affordable option for fresh seafood.
Ilene's expert tip: Score discounted drinks and food all day on Crabby Tuesdays. Crab House features a drag brunch every other Sunday.
Unveiled on December 15 in the Dallas Design District is the chic Virgin Hotel and its equally stylish restaurant and lounge headed up by one of the city's most exciting chefs, Matt McCallister. Designed to feel like a modern social club, the seasonally driven menu follows a French meets Texan theme with many of the items cooked via live fire in a charcoal-burning oven and wood-fired rotisserie. Expect to see various large-format dishes such as grilled grouper with sauce bourride and root vegetables, black pepper-crusted wagyu ribeye roast and rotisserie roasted chicken with stewed onion créme fraiche. Other enticing options include tuna and pickled golden beet crudo as well as roasted scallops in the half shell dressed in citrus brown butter and hazelnut crumble.
Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: The Commons Club is a terrific place to take a date.
Ilene's expert tip: Guests dining at Commons Club receive complimentary valet. Hotel guests can score complimentary cocktails in the lounge during Spirit Hour by signing up for a free "In The Know' membership on the website. Keep an eye out for live entertainment in the lounge.
Making its first U.S. landing near downtown Dallas last fall is 400 Gradi, an Australian-based Italian concept by renowned chef Johnny Di Francesco. Known best for its award-winning pizzas (Di Francesco was crowned 2014 champion at the World Pizza Championships in Parma, Italy), the menu features fifteen Neapolitan pizza combinations, all of which are prepared according to the rules set out by Naples' Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana and baked in a wood-fired oven at 400 °C (hence the name). And not only do they ship the restaurant's ingredients in from Italy, they also make the dough with specially formulated water that replicates the water qualities found in Naples. You can't go wrong with any pie here but Di Francesco's world best winning margarita is the one folks rave about the most. Also find a lineup of antipasti, salumi, house-made pastas and mains like roasted branzino and veal Milanese.
Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: 400 Gradi is where to find unique pizza and pasta combinations.
Ilene's expert tip: Score specials on wine, draft beer and cocktails during Happy Hour, from 4-7 p.m., Monday-Friday. Gradi offers valet (2.5 hours for $5) and there is free parking in the garage next door with validation from restaurant.
Featuring sumptuous food in stunning, art-filled surrounds, Ellie's is the all-day dining concept inside the HALL Arts Hotel, which debuted in the Dallas Arts District in early December. Named after founder Craig Hall's late mother Ellie Hall, the restaurant features an elegant dining area along with an adjacent lounge and outdoor terrace overlooking the Texas Sculpture Walk. At the helm is executive chef Eric Dryer (formally of Fearing's at the Ritz-Carlton, Dallas) who has designed a Napa-inspired, modern American menu with dishes ranging from eggs Benedict with potato latkes, shaved corned beef, poached farm eggs and créme fraiche for breakfast to crab Louie cobb salads at lunch and maple glazed Bay of Fundy salmon during dinner. Also find a stellar bar program showcasing wines from the Hall's Napa Valley winery along with seasonal cocktails and local craft beer.
Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: Ellie's is terrific place to go for lunch and dinner while visiting the Arts District.
Ilene's expert tip: Live music and entertainment are on offer in the lounge five nights a week.
Dallas' first pincho bar is set to open in Oak Cliff on January 10th and with it comes a more sophisticated version of Spanish tapas served in a wood-adorned Spanish taberna style setting. Named after the Miles Davis album, Sketches of Spain comes by way of Garcia del Moral and Paco Vique, the same folks behind neighboring indie bookstore, The Wild Detectives. Also on board is San Sebastián, Spain native chef Iñaki Betran, whose culinary cred includes working in the Michelin-starred restaurant, Arzak. As for the edibles, the menu features everything from salt cod stuffed piquillo peppers to stuffed squid in black ink sauce, braised pork cheeks with sweet potato puree and paella with chicken and rabbit. And of course, there will be Spanish wine and other libations to wash it all down.
Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: Sketches of Spain is a terrific place to come whether you want to have a full meal or just a bite and drinks with a friend.
Ilene's expert tip: Sketches of Spain will offer Happy Hour every day, check the website for more details. Pinchos run around $3.50 and larger dishes are priced at $10 to $16.
After operating a regular stall at the Dallas Farmers Market as well as various pop-ups around town, husband and wife team George Kaiho and Yuyee Sakpanichkul Kaiho are now slinging spicy green curry, dumplings and other authentic Thai street eats out of a tiny, counter-service eatery which opened in December. Located across the street from the Shed at the Dallas Farmers Market, the menu features around seventeen small plates that are unique to the Isaan region of Thailand. So expect to find things like som tum (green papaya salad), gyao grob (fried wontons wrapped around boiled quail eggs), moo yang (marinated grilled pork shoulder) and tom yum moo sub, a spicy pork broth-based rice noodle soup with ground pork and fish balls.
Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: Ka-Tip offers unique Thai street food dishes that are not commonly found in Dallas.
Ilene's expert tip: While Ka-Tip is awaiting its liquor license, guests are invited to bring their own wine. There's no corkage fee and they'll even provide Riedel glassware to drink it in.
Landing its first U.S. location on Henderson Avenue mid-January is a hybrid tapas bar and gourmet store by renown Spain-based ham specialist, Enrique Tomas. And we're not talking about just any ham; this place is all about jamón iberico, an intensely flavored cured ham made from black Iberian pigs, which many consider the pork version of Kobe beef. On the store side, they'll be peddling a select range of cured meats, cheeses and wines. As for dining, expect to find a menu featuring jamon croquettes, Spanish omelets with iberico de campo shavings, jamon-laced sandwiches and iberico de bellota burgers. Also on offer are non-porcine options such as black rice seafood paella and fresh fish with saffron cream. Desserts like deep fried soft milk and créme Catalan with cardamom look equally appealing.
Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: Enrique Tomas is the only place in Dallas that offers an iberico ham tasting experience.
Ilene's expert tip: Until Enrique Tomas is open, a variety of items can be ordered from the website.
Dallas' Italian food scene got a boost this fall when husband and wife duo, Dino and Megan Santonicola opened the city's first authentic Southern Italian restaurant in the historic Titche-Goettinger building downtown. Not only does the restaurant offer a panoply of Napoli style dishes (think shaved to order prosciutto di Parma, fried artichokes with pancetta and house-made paccheri pasta topped with slow cooked pork and beef ragù), it also churns out phenomenal pizza. Of course this should come as no surprise considering Dino holds the prestigious title of Fiduciary of Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. The classic margarita is always a good choice, but the surprise standout is Dino's Montanara pizza, which earned him a gold medal at the AVPN Olympics. The pie is similar to the margarita except the dough is flash-fried before being finished in the pizza oven. An affordable Italian wine list, Italian-inspired cocktails, Italian coffees and Southern Italian desserts like tiramisu complete the picture.
Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: Partenope is the only place to find a pizza Montanaro (aka pizza fritta) on the menu in Dallas.
Ilene's expert tip: Happy Hour is offer from 4:30 - 6:30 p.m. Monday â" Friday, where you'll find beer and wine for $3-$4 as well as select bar bites for $5-$7. This restaurant also provides gluten friendly substitutions for pasta and pizza. Metered street parking is free after 6 p.m.
Dallas is set to get a little sweeter this January when world-renown La Tarte Tropézienne opens its first location outside of France under The Joule Hotel. The Saint-Tropez-based bakery, established by Alexandre Micka in 1955, is best known for its eponymous tarte, which is essentially a rich cream-filled French brioche coated with pearl sugar. Word is, that at the time Micka opened his shop, Brigitte Bardot was there making a film and loved the pastry so much she came up with the idea of naming it after the town. As for the offerings: expect to find the famed tarte and other delectable sweet treats along with charcuterie, salads, sandwiches and quiches. Oh, and a wine and bubbles bar with caviar will be featured, too.
Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: La Tarte Tropézienne is a must visit for those with a penchant for French pastries.
Ilene's expert tip: Until it officially opens, La Tarte Tropézienne will be offering customers the option to pick up orders at the restaurant. Happy Hour is also in the plans.