Oak Lawn: A Mecca Of Tasty Treasures For The Diverse Palate

Along with being celebrated as one of the most gay-friendly districts in the country, Oak Lawn, located minutes from downtown, is also undoubtedly one of Dallas' hottest neighborhoods for dining. No matter what kind of cuisine you’re after, the options are diverse enough to satisfy just about every culinary craving and budget.

Want to paint the town red? Here's where you'll find some of the city's most famous eating establishments. First up is the legendary Mansion on Turtle Creek, an opulent restaurant housed in the former estate of a 1920s-era cotton magnate. The restaurant showcases modern American and French cuisine and has served everyone from royalty to rock stars.

More celeb sightings and tasty treasures can be had at Al Biernat's, a neighborhood stalwart for over 15 years that's known for its impeccable steaks, wild game and seafood. There's also Nonna, a pocket-sized trattoria that consistently receives rave reviews from restaurant critics and locals alike.

Further cementing the area's status as a food destination is Uchi, Chef Tyson Cole’s sushi paradise– which, at the moment, is the most sought after reservation in town.

For something more casual, try the killer sammies at East Hampton Sandwich Co. or the gourmet pub grub at The Meddlesome Moth. There's also eatZi's, an epicurean marketplace and cafe that's great for grab-and-go.

Some of the city's best seafood can be had at TJ's Seafood Market & Grill, a cozy eatery that churns out insanely delicious lobster rolls. And if a lively neighborhood bistro is more what you have in mind, head over to Parigi, a local favorite serving up stellar seasonally-inspired dishes.

Finally, be sure to stop in at the Cosmic Cafe, not only for its vegetarian fare, but also to check out the eclectic decor.


eatZi's Market & Bakery
Photo courtesy of eatZi's Market & Bakery

With its piped-in opera music and diverse culinary offerings, this gourmet food emporium-cum-cafe has remained a popular foodie pit-stop since it first opened back in 1996. Since then, eatZi's has spawned several more locations throughout the metroplex. Designed to recreate a European market, the 8000-square-foot space features a bakery, a sandwich station, a grill, a chef's case of prepared meals and shelves stocked with specialty finds. With endless options of house-baked breads, pastries, main courses, salads, sides and even sushi, not to mention chocolates, cheeses, snacks and wine, this place is definitely not for the indecisive. They offer breakfast, lunch and dinner and also have a small covered patio for those who want to hang-out rather than take their meal on the run. The store is worth a visit, if only to taste all of the free samples doled out, but be prepared to encounter crowds no matter what time of day you come.

Recommended for Oak Lawn's Best Restaurants because: eatZi's is a foodie paradise for takeaway gourmet goodies.

Ilene's expert tip: Every day from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. customers can purchase food from the Chef's Corner and receive a second item of equal or less value free. Also on Fridays, between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. eatZi's offers pizzas for $10. Add in a salad and a bottle of wine for only $20.

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East Hampton Sandwich Co. Turtle Creek Village
Photo courtesy of East Hampton Sandwich Co. Turtle Creek Village

Pretty much everything tastes better between two slices of bread, and this industrial-chic gourmet sandwich spot, named after the posh seaside village, delivers the lot. First off, everything is house-brined, hand-carved, fresh baked and also locally sourced. You'll find your Cubans, as well as turkey BLTs, and even killer burgers, including one loaded up with hickory sauce, bacon, fried razor onions and cheddar. Not to be missed are the scrumptious lobster rolls-- loaded with chunks of succulent crustacean on a grilled buttery brioche and served with homemade potato chips. In fact, there's enough options to choose from and ways to customize your own sandwiches and salads, that you could easily eat here on a daily basis without ever growing bored.

Recommended for Oak Lawn's Best Restaurants because: Not only is this place the best sandwich shop in Dallas, it also has insanely good lobster rolls.

Ilene's expert tip: Follow East Hampton Sandwich Co on twitter to find out about sandwich specials and events.

Read more about East Hampton Sandwich Co. Turtle Creek Village →

The Meddlesome Moth
Photo courtesy of Meddlesome Moth

The district started becoming known as foodie destination in 2010 when this popular gastropub flew in offering a solid lineup of brews,(over 100 global varieties) and a menu full of gourmet grub. Food-wise, you'll find a unique assortment of dishes that range from Prince Edward Island mussels, prepared four different ways-- to bacon lollipops with maple hollandaise, beef bone marrow with salsa verde and rabbit pot pie. Not only is the menu eclectic, but the decor is as well. The handsomely decked out space, located in a former tile showroom, features floors made from a hodgepodge of tile samples (leftover from its previous occupant) as well as a triage of stained glass windows, depicting Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, and Elvis--that feature prominently on the back wall. In addition to the massive, and we mean massive-- selection of beer, the Moth also serves wine and craft cocktails.

Recommended for Oak Lawn's Best Restaurants because: The Meddlesome Moth is arguably the best gastropub in Dallas and offers an incredible selection of brews and bites.

Ilene's expert tip: There's always some type of event going on, from new beers being tapped to pairing dinners and daily specials. Stay in-the-know by stalking the Moth's Facebook and Twitter feeds.

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Cosmic Cafe
Photo courtesy of Cosmic Cafe

It's virtually impossible to miss this place. Furnished with a riot of wall-to-wall Indian kitsch (think expansive wall murals, Hindu art work, Buddha statues and the like), this neighborhood restaurant is anything but subtle in looks. In fact, the mesmerizing decor is worth a trip here on its own. Not to mention, the place offers a swarm of free activities to feed the soul, including yoga, ecstatic dance and meditation. And for fueling your body, the cafe rolls out a line-up of vegetarian hits that are sure to please even the most staunch carnivores. The menu features everything from Indian samosas, pakoras and dahls to veggie tacos, pizzas, burgers and falafal. To drink, there's smoothies, lassies, juices and unlimited chai tea, along with alcoholic offerings of worldly beers and organic wines. And if you're wondering what's up with the odd prices on the menu ($8.01, $3.06 etc.), it's because all the digits add up to nine, a significant number in Hindu mythology.

Recommended for Oak Lawn's Best Restaurants because: The Cosmic Cafe offers a unique experience both in terms of food and decor. Kids will love coming here too.

Ilene's expert tip: The parking in back is extremely limited. The best bet is to find a space to park across the street.

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TJ's Seafood Market & Grill-Oak Lawn
Photo courtesy of TJ's Seafood Market & Grill-Oak Lawn

It should come as little surprise that one of Dallas' best seafood eateries happens to be tucked inside of a fish market which boasts a daily supply of freshly-caught seafare flown in from all over the world. Served in a breezy, nautically inspired space, the menu offers a bounty of tasty selections that range from buttery lobster rolls and crab cake sliders to pistachio crusted Chilean seabass and scallops & grits. It's also a superb spot to slurp down an assortment of freshly shucked East Coast bivalves. Or for those feeling a little fancy, TJ's rocks it with caviar and champagne. To drink, there's cocktails, craft beer and a nice wine list that includes around ten selections by the glass.

Recommended for Oak Lawn's Best Restaurants because: TJ's is Dallas' go-to, one-stop shop and eatery for all things seafood.

Ilene's expert tip: TJ's regularly offers deals and coupons on sites such as Groupon, LivingSocial and Gilt City. TJ's also features lobster night every Monday featuring a dinner of lobster, corn, potatoes, mussels and clams for $35.

Read more about TJ's Seafood Market & Grill-Oak Lawn →

Photo courtesy of Parigi

Comfortably chic with a bustling atmosphere and a friendly vibe to match, Parigi (meaning Paris in Italian) is a cozy neighborhood bistro, that even three decades in, remains as popular as ever. Owner and chef Janice Provost deals in delicious platefuls of seasonal ingredients from which she mostly sources from local farmers and purveyors. The menu, with its Italian, American and French influences-- is a frequently changing list that takes in everything from starters such as deconstructed California rolls (a fan fave) and portobello fries with truffle buttermilk cream to main courses of grilled fish, pecan crusted chicken, risottos and even pizzas. To finish, the chocolate glob, a mainstay on the menu since it opened, is as decadent and gooey as it sounds. Do try to take a seat on the tiered sidewalk patio, it's the ideal place to sip a glass of bubbly or one of Parigi's signature cocktails.

Recommended for Oak Lawn's Best Restaurants because: Parigi is one of Dallas' most beloved neighborhood bistros.

Ilene's expert tip: Parigi serves an awesome brunch as well. Just make sure to reserve before you come or be prepared to wait for a table, the restaurant is small and always busy.

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Al Biernat's
Photo courtesy of Al Biernat's

Enduringly popular with Dallas' movers and shakers, Al Biernat's has been a neighborhood stalwart for over 15 years. And there's as much buzz around the celebs who dine here as there is about the food. The attraction is a combination of faultless service, an extensive wine list (650-selection) and a menu that keeps on giving. The main event is the meat; all impeccably-sourced and flawlessly prepared. The selection covers the gamut from wet or dry aged N.Y. strips and cowboy cut ribeyes to prime rib, buffalo and melt-in-your-mouth Japanese A5 Kobe (priced at $30 an ounce). But the menu doesn't limit itself to beef alone, diners can also tuck into a medley of fresh seafood, fish, quail, and even indulge in Petrossian caviar. Of course, your credit card is sure to get a battering here, but it's an experience that every omnivore should have at least once.

Recommended for Oak Lawn's Best Restaurants because: For sensational steaks in a swanky setting, Al Biernat's always delivers.

Ilene's expert tip: For something a little easier on the wallet, hit Al Biernat's during Happy Hour--weekdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.--when you can enjoy discounted drinks and bar bites (think mini beef Wellingtons and Wagyu angus sliders)for half-price.

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Photo courtesy of Instagram user 361_k2thaj

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 Oak Lawn's Best Restaurants because: Nonna is one of only a few restaurants in Dallas that serves truly remarkable Italian cuisine.

Ilene's expert tip: The best way to score a table is to reserve through the website in advance. However, more availability is usually found after 9 p.m.

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The Mansion Restaurant at Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek
Photo courtesy of The Mansion Restaurant at Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek

Dallas has no shortage of fine dining options, but the Mansion Restaurant, tucked inside the iconic Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek hotel-- has remained a standout for more than 35 years. Luxuriously kitted out with sleek contemporary furnishings, Palladian windows and ornate ceilings, this former estate of a 1920s-era cotton magnate oozes all the lavishness you'd expect to find. And the cuisine, showcasing modern American dishes with French influences, is equally exquisite. The – la carte menu features everything from an appetizer of a 63-degree sous vide egg served with porcini mushrooms, smoked pork and Parmesan to mains such as tea smoked pheasant and a gloriously marbled 42-day dry-aged Akaushi ribeye. For a show-stopping special occasion dinner, the gourmand tasting menu (priced at $115) is definitely worth seeking out. And as is the way with these kinds of places, everything can be matched with wine, including the indulgent desserts--think chocolate mouse atop a hazelnut financier with Nutella ice cream or vanilla cr–me br–l–e with strawberry gel–e and basil sorbet. If you're looking for the ultimate Dallas dining experience, this is the place to go.

Recommended for Oak Lawn's Best Restaurants because: This legendary restaurant has served everyone from royalty to rock stars.

Ilene's expert tip: Be sure to check out the Mansion's swanky bar featuring live jazz in the evenings and terrific craft cocktails. The bar also offers half-price wine and beer by the glass during Happy Hour from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Read more about The Mansion Restaurant at Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek →

Uchi Dallas
Photo courtesy of Erica Wilkins

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 Oak Lawn's Best Restaurants because: Uchi is Dallas' hottest dining destination for serious food lovers.

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.

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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