Take A Culinary Tour Around Oak Cliff's Best Foodie Haunts

Home to some of Dallas' hottest eateries, Oak Cliff, especially its northern quadrant, is rapidly becoming one of the city's best dining destinations– offering a world of flavors packed into just a three-mile radius.

For Italian cuisine, it doesn't get any better than Lucia– one of the most talked-about restaurants in the city and the place that put Oak Cliff on the foodie map. There's also newcomer– Ten, a pigeon-hole sized spot ladling out the best ramen in town. But don’t just take our word for it–ask the hordes of happy slurpers who line up for a fix of the popular Japanese noodle dish every day.

If the crowds are too thick at Ten, then hit BBBop Seoul Kitchen R&D for ramped bibimbap and killer Korean fried chicken.

Craving Mexican food? No problema. Mesa turns out the best Veracruz-style fare this side of the border, and for Northern Mexican eats and mammoth-sized margaritas to match, El Ranchito can't be missed.

In the mood for something entirely different, say pig's trotter served with fermented strawberry preserves? Then wander over to Small Brewpub, where house-made microbrews team up with an adventurous menu of decidedly high-end delicacies at refreshingly low end prices.

How about barbecue done differently too? Smoke, located adjacent to the retro-cool Belmont Hotel, fires up a slew of wood-grilled hits, ranging from coffee-cured beef brisket to fully-loaded burgers and pit-roasted cabrito.
And these don't even cover half of the good eats to be found in this foodie 'hood. But if you're going to narrow down the list, make sure to add the following restaurants to your dining itinerary.


Jonathon's Oak Cliff
Photo courtesy of Jonathon's Oak Cliff

Don't be surprised to find long lines outside of this charming 1930s bungalow because Jonathon's is something of an institution, and for good reason. The place not only serves terrific comfort food favorites, ranging from burgers and pork chops to chicken pot pie, it's also the go-to-spot for some of the best brunch options in town. Though the menu churns out everything from eggs benedict to Danger Dogs (a glorious concoction of pancake battered, deep-fried turkey sausage links), it's the southern-style chicken and waffles that really reign supreme. Jonathon's takes the dish's sweet and savory mix to new heights by loading massive hunks of crispy fried chicken onto thick Belgium waffles before crowning the whole thing with pepper gravy. Finished off with a splash of warm maple syrup and the dish becomes pure magic. Best of all, you don't need to wait for weekends to get your chicken and waffle fix--Jonathon's dishes up its brunch options all day long.

Recommended for Oak Cliff's Best Restaurants because: Jonathon's is a Dallas institution for chicken & waffles.

Ilene's expert tip: Jonathon's boasts dual happy hours, offering $5 house cocktails, $2 domestic cans, $1 off drafts, $2 Lone Star drafts and a few select wines--from 7-10 a.m. and from 3-7 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday.

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Spiral Diner & Bakery
Photo courtesy of Spiral Diner & Bakery

Whether you're a vegetarian or not, this retro-style meatless mecca reinvents homespun American and Tex-Mex fare into seriously delicious 100% vegan dishes that will convert even the staunchest of carnivores. The extensive menu covers everything from tacos and cashew cheese nachos to grilled seitan barbecue sandwiches, veggie burgers and pasta. You'll also find blue plate specials boasting vegan soul food (meatloaf with mac and cheese, greens and cornbread) as well as hearty brunches turning up tofu scrambles and sumptuous all-you-can-eat pancakes. Though, it's not only the food that's vegan, the beverage menu offers a terrific selection of organic, vegan beer and wine, along with coffees, teas and juices. And sugar fiends never had it so good: Desserts, which run the gamut from cakes, pies and cookies to smoothies, shakes and ice cream sundaes--are definitely worth saving room for.

Recommended for Oak Cliff's Best Restaurants because: Spiral Diner's spectacular vegan fare will impress even the most die-hard carnivores.

Ilene's expert tip: The diner also offers gluten and soy-free menus. Follow on Facebook to find out about daily food specials.

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El Ranchito
Photo courtesy of El Ranchito

It's kitchy, boisterous, and hands down, undeniably popular. So don't be surprised to find a line snaking out the door, especially on weekends. But it's not just the strolling mariachi bands, Elvis impersonators (Wednesday nights) and eclectic décor (piñatas, wagon wheel chandeliers and the works) that lures folks to this decades-old institution, the real show here is the food. Famous for its Northern Mexican or Norteño cuisine--El Ranchito cranks out the kind of food your abuela might make, like mollejas (beef sweetbreads), fried tripe and its signature cabrito a la parrilla (grilled baby goat). However, if all that seems a little too adventurous for your taste buds, you can dig into some pure Tex-Mex fare as well. Tacos, burritos, enchiladas, nachos it's all there. Desserts are also excellent, especially the sopapillas. Terrific food, massive-sized margaritas and friendly service--what's not to love?

Recommended for Oak Cliff's Best Restaurants because: No visit to Dallas is complete without authentic Mexican and Tex-mex fare at El Ranchito.

Ilene's expert tip: Along with Elvis nights on Wednesdays, El Ranchito offers happy hour from 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

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Bbbop Seoul Kitchen R&D
Photo courtesy of Mario Zie

The third offshoot of this industrial-chic bibimbop bastion offers eight different renditions of the Korean staple-- ranging from the traditional version with short rib to coconut curry with tofu and spicy chicken & dumplings. And if you don't like the configured choices, there's the option to create your own from a wide assortment of goodies. But it's not just the usual Korean suspects of bibimbap on offer here, the menu also has a few wild cards up its sleeve, including smoked, glazed pork belly, kalbi short ribs and a gloriously spicy-sweet Korean fried chicken. Unlike the other locations, this spot turns out a variety of experimental items (hence the R&D)-- for diners to try out before they make it as permanent menu fixtures. Think acorn soba noodles topped with kimchi relish and boiled egg. Along with tasty provisions, there's also Asian beer, soju tea and exotic signature cocktails. Be sure to check out the bocce ball action on the patio. Want to eat on the run? No problem, there's a handy walk-up window providing KFC and bibimbap for the taking.

Recommended for Oak Cliff's Best Restaurants because: Already one of the city's most popular spots for bibimbop, this location also offers eclectic cocktails and a bocce ball court.

Ilene's expert tip: Follow bbbop Seoul@bbbopseoul on Twitter to score freebies and discounts of food and drinks.

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Ten Ramen
Photo courtesy of Ten Ramen

Miniscule in size, massive in quality, this Tokyo-inspired ramen shack has taken Dallas by storm with its stellar bowls of silky smooth, slurp-able soup noodles. Located in the Sylvan Thirty complex, Ten Ramen (Ten, meaning heaven in Japanese) is the brainchild of James Beard nominated chef Teiichi Sakurai, who also owns the popular Tei-An restaurant in the Dallas Arts District. So it's little wonder that the place was creating quite the buzz before it even opened up in 2015. The menu, which is displayed on a large blackboard, offers three ramen choices, plus a weekly special and a few rice bowls thrown in for good measure. Expect to find shoyu, tonkotsu and mazemen (dry ramen with pork jowl) as well as innovative options such as venison chili ramen and even gumbo ramen. For a bit more oomph, you can have it topped with things like pork belly and poached eggs. There's a serious downside, though--it's standing room only. A small price to pay when you're getting the real deal.

Recommended for Oak Cliff's Best Restaurants because: Ten is billed as Dallas' best spot to get exceptional ramen.

Ilene's expert tip: Check Ten's Facebook for weekly specials. Come early to avoid the lines, or be prepared to slurp and dash in order to make space for other ramen worshipers.

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CiboDivino Marketplace
Photo courtesy of CiboDivino Marketplace

Situated in the buzzing Sylvan-Thirty development, CiboDivino (which means divine food in Italian) is a venerable foodie festa for area Italophiles. The brainchild of longtime restaurateur and Sicilian born chef Daniele Puleo, this market-cum-café, resembling an industrialized farmhouse, takes its cue from Dean & DeLuca-- boasting delectable products from around the world, as well as doling out scrumptious prepared foods, homemade sandwiches, antipasti, pastries and killer Neapolitan style pizzas. The 4,400 square foot space also offers fresh Angus beef, free-roaming chicken breasts (both locally sourced) and in-house cured turkey, beef bacon and fish. There's craft beer (local, seasonal and limited release) and wine too--including around 350 carefully curated labels (some offered by the glass) from Italy and California. Should you decide to kick back for a while, you'll find a few tables inside, plus additional seating out on a wrap-around patio. Even better is a lush grassy area that's perfect for picnicking with the family.

Recommended for Oak Cliff's Best Restaurants because: If food is your thing, then CiboDivino, with its abundance of gastronomic delights, is the place to go.

Ilene's expert tip: Keep on the lookout, via Facebook, for wine and craft beer pairing dinners as well as cooking classes and other ongoing events.

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Mesa Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Mesa Restaurant

For an off the beaten track Mexican restaurant, located along a sketchy shopping strip in Oak Cliff-- to attract the likes of Beyoncé, Jay Z and Conan O'Brien-- you have to figure that the place must be special. And it is-- not because it's posh and expensive--as it's neither. The decor is casually modern, filled with recycled woods, concrete and exposed brick. And the food is nothing short of spectacular. The specialty of the house is Veracruz-style cuisine, which shows up in the form of things like cochinita pibil (slow roasted pork marinated in citrus juices and annatto seeds) and lobster enchiladas smothered in yellow pepper cream. A must-try is Mesa's signature mole mama cata-- a dish with braised duck legs in a family recipe mole sauce. It's incredibly flavorful and insanely comforting. Team it up with a spicy margarita, made with chili spiked (serrano, habanero and jalapeno peppers)tequila.

Recommended for Oak Cliff's Best Restaurants because: Mesa has been consistently hailed by food critics as one of the city's best restaurants.

Ilene's expert tip: Mesa offers half priced cocktails from 5-7 p.m. – Tuesday through Thursday and $25 bottles of wine from 5-7 p.m. every Friday. Be sure to like Mesa on Facebook to receive a complimentary Torito shot(made from cane-based alcohol and fruit extracts).

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Smoke Restaurant Dallas
Photo courtesy of Smoke Restaurant

At Smoke, a cozy rustic-chic restaurant adjacent to the Belmont Hotel, Dallas chef and James Beard Award winning author, Tim Byers, pays homage to campfire cuisine by cooking nearly everything on his farm-to-fork driven menu over seasoned hardwoods. Items like coffee-cured beef brisket and a mammoth-sized beef rib are definitely a draw, but the wood-fired fare goes well beyond your typical barbecue. More hits can be found in dishes such as pit roasted cabrito, served inside a masa shell and dressed with a sauce of goat's milk cajeta and green apple salsa verde. The fire roasted oysters, swaddled in scampi butter and topped with a smoky ash salsa is another winner as well. Boozy liquids inlcude a margarita, made with cedar wood infused tequila, agave nectar, orange liqueur and fresh lime. Smoke also offers an overwhelming popular weekend brunch-- featuring everything from blueberry ricotta pancakes to smoked brisket cornbread hash.

Recommended for Oak Cliff's Best Restaurants because: Smoke is where to go when you're in the mood for elevated wood-fired fare in a rustic chic setting.

Ilene's expert tip: Smoke offers a great selection of discounted booze options during Happy Hour-- weekdays from 4-7 p.m.

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Small Brewpub
Photo courtesy of Small Brewpub Instagram

Tucked away in the historic Jefferson Tower, this wood-laden hop haven, lined with picnic tables, brewing equipment and bags of barley, was the most buzzed-about beer bar to open in 2015. And it's not only the enticing lineup of house-made brews tapped here: think fruit beer made with wild plums and pilsner imbued with black pepper. The place also serves some of the most inventive bar bites in town, which happened to land it on Bon Appetite's nominee list for "America's Best New Restaurants 2015. Of course it's all only fitting since its chef, Misty Norris, previously worked at Dallas' five-star FT-33 restaurant. Norris' compact menu is filled with the sorts of things you'd find in a cutting-edge restaurant, imaginative and Instagram-worthy, but for a fraction of the cost. Items such as house-made charcuterie and fermented vegetable boards are a must. But the most interesting options are ones that push the boundaries, like lamb tartare with puffed rice, dill pollen and soured honey; and pig's trotter served with fermented strawberry preserves. Cocktails, like the Penultima (tequila, smoked tea and ginger), are also worth a try.

Recommended for Oak Cliff's Best Restaurants because: Tasty craft tipples and innovative five-star food for affordable prices, what's not to like?

Ilene's expert tip: Join Small Brewpub for its $5 classic cocktails happy hour; from 4-7 p.m. daily (and all day Tuesday and Wednesday. Also check out the events section of its Facebook page for upcoming live concerts, backyard barbecues and weekly jazz nights.

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Lucia Dallas
Photo courtesy of Evans Caglage

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 Oak Cliff's Best Restaurants because: Lucia serves the most creative Italian food in the state and its chef, David Uygur, is one of the best chefs in Dallas.

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.

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Meet Ilene Jacobs

As a perpetual wanderer, foodie freak and wannabe chef, Ilene is always on the lookout for the best places to see, eat, drink and sleep. When she's not writing about the latest happenings in...  More About Ilene