Big Flavor in the Big D
A dining tour of Dallas’s burgeoning culinary scene, big hats and hair not included.
by Amanda Wells
It’s often said that everything is bigger in Texas. While some of us proud folks from other parts of Dixie may beg to differ, there’s a place in the Lone Star state that’s burgeoning by the minute. When one thinks of Dallas, dated stereotypes of big hats, big hair, big steaks and big money may spring to mind. Rest assured, there’s much more to this Texas city than that (not that I’m complaining about the steak).
When it comes to spots to wine, dine, and indulge, Dallas boasts an ever-growing culinary scene where bold flavors are surely putting the “big” back in the “Big D” and allowing for residents and visitors alike to treat themselves to a bevy of unique, interesting flavors. Like I said, you’ll find much more here than simply a Texas-sized slab of meat, although if that’s what you happen to be after, rest assured you’ll be fed.
From barbecue to Tex-Mex to high-end, inventive cuisine, Dallas has it all. I recently had the chance to eat and revel my way through this born-again city and am here to share my favorites. Hope you’re hungry.
Reunion Tower marks the Dallas skyline. This distinctly recognizable glowing ball 560-foot landmark is now home to master chef Wolfgang Puck’s revolving restaurant, Five Sixty. Soak in the city over Asian fusion concoctions or my personal favorite, the “Locked & Loaded,” a cocktail made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, maple syrup, Carpana Antica Formula vermouth and a splash of lemon juice.
Located at Dallas’ innovative, newly constructed Klyde Warren Park (a 5.2-acre deck park built atop the Woodall Rodgers Freeway), Savor is a refreshingly modern gastropub where natural light and fresh flavors are in abundance. Executive Chef John Coleman delivers a modern twist on some Southern favorites, like the deviled eggs with spiced pecan brittle and pepper relish or the chicken and corn oat waffles served with nutella.
At Savor, you’ll also find yourself on the cutting edge of Dallas’ wine scene. Coleman has partnered with Free Flow Wines to bring the city’s first premium wines on tap to diners and drinkers alike. Take it from me, Savor is the perfect spot to sit, sip and well, savor.
A long-running Dallas favorite, Abacus is the concept of Iron Chef America winner Kent Rathbun. Here, you really can get whatever tickles your fancy at the moment, whether that’s sushi, steak or something in between. But, let’s face it, go for the steak. Cooked to perfection and hearty and filling, Abacus is known for a big, juicy slab of Allen Brothers steak. You also can’t go wrong with the lighter, refreshing lobster and scallion shooters. For your sweet tooth, get the “Cocoa Pops,” a decadent chocolate soufflé served with sweet corn ice cream and caramel popcorn.
Celebrated Chef Tim Byres’ commitment to local ingredients shines at Smoke, his refreshing take on traditional Texas barbecue. Rustic cooking from scratch melds just perfectly with a little nod to fine dining at Smoke. Stop in for a breakfast that will knock your socks off in the smoked brisket cornbread hash, served with a poached egg, green chile rajas and onions.
Trinity Groves is a haven for up-and-coming chefs and restaurateurs. Located at the base of the new Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge (formerly referred to as the “bridge to nowhere,” but no longer thanks to the Trinity Groves development), this dining destination is a new concept in the world of restaurants, introduced in 2012 by Phil Romano, founder of Macaroni Grill.
The thread that runs through Trinity Groves is the Restaurant Concept Incubator program, wherein chefs and restaurateurs present innovative restaurant concepts to the powers that be behind Trinity Groves, who decide which ones to incubate in the development’s once abandoned warehouses. Don’t miss Chino, an Asian and Latin fusion, and Babb Brothers Barbecue.
Chef Stephan Pyles is a Dallas superstar. Owner and chef of three establishments — Stampede 66, San Salvaje and Stephan Pyles — Pyles has mastered the art of cooking adventurously and satisfying customers. At Stephan Pyles, you can’t miss the scrumptious tamale tart with crab and a smoky tomato sauce. Dining at Stampede 66 calls for anything and everything that contains oxtails and a molecular margarita, made tableside of course. Trust me on this, they’re perfection.
When it comes to sourcing goods from local purveyors, Company Café does it right. Serving delicious, comfort food that also happens to be healthy and organic is clearly the passion here. Dine on grass-fed bison or indulge in gluten-free French toast.
You can’t leave Texas without a little taste of Mexico. Abraham Salum’s Komali is a departure from typical Tex-Mex. Here, Salum’s authentic Mexican preparations and flavors reign. Chili sauces are replaced with more delicate tomatillo sauces and unique moles, tortillas are made from scratch and by hand and queso fresco is house made with herbs and spices combined with dried chiles. Top all of those flavors off with a taste of bona fide street food, churros.
Modern Texan. That basically sums up CBD Provisions, a brasserie located downtown adjacent to the Joule Hotel. At CBD, Texas tradition and agricultural bounty is celebrated and expanded upon. Served with fries or greens, the Whole Hot Cuban features bread and butter pickles, country ham, gruyere, jalapeno mustard and will make you let out a big Texas yelp.
Photos by Amanda Wells; from top, steak at Abacus, Five Sixty, dessert at Komali, Trinity Groves dining, Tex-Mex plate at Komali.
See more from Wells’ trip to Dallas on her blog.