Dallas and Fort Worth certainly have some great steak and barbecue places, but there’s much more to the dining scene there these days. Southwestern Cuisine was invented at at Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, and it’s still a maturing and growing movement. There’s also small family restaurants, husband-and-wife chef/owners, gastropubs, trattorias, and ethnic places.

Here’s our favorites:

1. Fearings

Fearing's

Fearing’s Chef Dean Fearing became known as the €œFather of Southwestern Cuisine€ while serving the long-time chef at Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek. He left to open his own restaurant in the Dallas Ritz-Carlton Hotel in 2007, and Fearing’s has since won numerous awards. Fearing’s is refined, yet comfortable. The food is Southwestern and innovative, often taking simple street foods and elevating them to a higher level with the use of fresher ingredients, unique combinations, and amazing presentations. The numerous dining areas each feature their own unique décor. The service is dependable without being overbearing. Be sure to stop by the Rattlesnake Bar for a pre-meal cocktail – read more here (Photo by Sarah_Ackerman)

2. SMOKE

SMOKE Restaurant

SMOKE is a perfect marriage between an awesome barbecue joint and a slightly upscale farm-to-table eatery. Chef Tim Byres, formerly of Stephan Pyles, opened the place in 2009 with partners Christopher Jeffers and Chris Zielke. At SMOKE, the barbecued beef brisket is served on china on tables with white tablecloths. All of the meats are smoked on-site and the jellies, jams, and butter are made in-house. Don’t just go for dinner either – Southern Living proclaimed SMOKE as having the “Best Breakfast in Texas.” SMOKE is located in the historic and lively Belmont Hotel. The inside has an oddly fashionable 1970’s flair, and the place is bustling with a central bar and two dining rooms – read more here (Photo by John Tornow)

3. Stephan Pyles

Stephan Pyles

Stephan Pyles is located in a modern space in the Dallas Arts District and offers post-Southwestern cuisine with Mediterranean influences. Simple, traditional foods of the Southwest such as catfish, peppers, and black beans are used in innovative ways to create a brand new cuisine. Cooking methods include lots of mesquite and hickory. The ceviche bar, the glass-enclosed kitchen, and the 20-seat communal table create a warm, convivial atmosphere. Stephan Pyles, the chef, is regarded as one of the founders of Southwestern cuisine along with Dean Fearing – read more here (Photo by Brad Murano)

4. Hattie’s Restaurant

Hattie's Restaurant

Hattie’s Restaurant serves upscale Southern comfort food that leans a bit toward low-country. The restaurant is located in Oak Cliff€™s revitalized Bishop Arts District – in fact, it was one of the first restaurants in the area when it opened in 2002. The space features a split-level dining room with high tin ceilings and a tiny bar that turns out awesome cocktails. The vibe is a bit hipster and yuppie, but friendly – read more here (Photo by Kristen Taylor)

5. Tei-An

Tei-An

Tei-An is an upscale soba noodle house in the Arts District in downtown Dallas. The decor at Tei-An is sexy and opulent, with dim lighting and minimalist design. Cozy seating surrounds a large central rock fountain, and the rooftop dining offers a perfect spot to enjoy a cocktail with an excellent view of downtown. The soba noodle dishes are a great choices for lunch or a solid dinner. To go all-out at dinner, consider the seven-course omakase dinner. Tei-An Chef/Owner Teeich Sakurai is a James Beard award nominee for Best Chef Southwest – read more here (Photo by Brad Murano)

6. Jimmy’s Food Store

Jimmy’s Food Store

Jimmy’s Food Store offers amazing deli sandwiches piled high with house-cured meats, plus homemade Italian sausages and meatballs, pastas, cheeses and Italian wine – all in an East Dallas market. Jimmy DiCarlo opened the place in 1966 as a grocery and originally catered to the local Latin American. In 1997, the DiCarlo family decided to capitalize on their heritage and concentrate on Italian foods. Their house-made Italian sausage became such a hit that they now make 2,500 lbs. every week and sell much of it to Dallas restaurants. They make homemade meatballs using an old family recipe. Ironically, the Cuban sandwich is a customer favorite – read more here (Photo by Luis Tamayo)

7. Tillman’s Roadhouse

Tillman's Roadhouse

Tillman’s Roadhouse serves upscale cowboy cuisine in a casual, funky establishment in the eclectic Bishop Arts District of Dallas. The decor is rustic and has a hipster/hunting lodge feel with reclaimed wood, red velvet, antlers on the wall, and chandeliers. The lively bar is one of the coolest around. The restaurant was originally known as Tillman’s Corner and has been open for over 20 years. Sara Tillman started the restaurant with her husband, Ricky, and she took the leadership role when he passed away in 1997 – read more here (Photo by Mercy For Animals MFA)

8. S&D Oyster Company

S&D Oyster

S&D Oyster Company serves fresh Gulf seafood in a historic building that seems lost in time. In fact, the decor was essentially unchanged for the past three decades until a recent expansion and renovation was completed. The Dallas institution is reminiscent of an old New Orleans seafood house – bow-tied waiters offer courteous and quick service, cocktail sauce is made table-side, cold beer is served in large goblets, and the oysters are fresh. The menu is simple, everything is good, and the prices are reasonable. With the new addition, S&D now has a courtyard for outdoor dining, two wood-burning fireplaces, and a full bar – read more here (Photo by blakeburris)

9. Mansion at Turtle Creek

Mansion at Turtle Creek Restaurant

Mansion at Turtle Creek Chef Bruno Davaillon prepares contemporary American cuisine with French influences in one of Dallas’ most highly regarded restaurants. Guests can dine inside in the elegant dining room or outside on the candlelit terrace, and meals can be ordered either a la carte or from a selection of chef’s tasting menus with optional wine pairings. The romantic restaurant is perfect for special occasions – read more here (Photo by Joye~)

10. Nonna

Nonna

Nonna is an authentic and charming small Italian restaurant on the edge of Highland Park. Chef and owner Julian Barsotti makes everything – from thin-crust Neapolitan pizza from a wood-burning oven to sophisticated lobster ravioli – all using local, organic, and sustainable ingredients whenever possible. The menu changes according to ingredients available. The intimate setting is actually located in a strip mall, but entering the charming space is like traveling to the old world. Start with the house-made salumi and cheese before moving on to the crisp and inventive salads. There are usually 10 freshly pastas from which to choose, and there is also a five-pasta tasting plate available, plus delectable daily entree specials – read more here (Photo by Luca Nebuloni)

11. Lonesome Dove Western Bistro

Lonesome Dove Western Bistro

Lonesome Dove Western Bistro serves up “Urban Western Cuisine” in Fort Worth’s Historic Stockyards District. Chef Tim Love is a former winner of the Iron Chef Showdown, and his menu starts with western ingredients and traditional dishes, but things get elegant quickly, and rules get broken along the way. For quenching a thirst, Lonesome Dove has an impressive wine list, and signature cocktails include a Jalapeno Cucumber Margarita and a frozen shot of Tuaca liqueur. Lonesome Dove has a well-worn, saloon-type feel, and the restaurant recently renovated with a deck, new art and light fixtures, and new wood flooring – read more here (Photo by dbrooksNY)

12. La Duni Latin Cafe

La Duni Latin Cafe

La Duni Latin Cafe offers European tradition mixed with Latin American passion in this casual Highland brassiere. Husband and wife team owners Dunia and Espartaco Borga opened their restaurant in 2001 as a way to follow their passion for cooking, and the dishes reflect their many years of travelling through Latin American countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Perua, Colombia, and Venezuela. The wine list is excellent and specializes in South American and Spanish varieties. La Duni is enjoyable any time of day and is perfect for a coffee, wine, snack, or a meal, but be sure to save room for their Quatro Leches Cake – read more here (Photo by Jeff Eaton)

13. Cane Rosso

Cane Rosso

Cane Rosso makes authentic Neapolitan pizza with fresh ingredients and super-thin crust in Dallas’ Deep Ellum neighborhood. Founder Jay Jerrier became obsessed with pizza on his honeymoon in Italy. When he returned from his trip, he constructed a pizza oven in his backyard. Things grew, and now he has his own restaurant in Deep Ellum. Everything is authentic: the tomatoes are San Marzano and are crushed in-house, the mozzarella is made in house, and many of the meats come from a New York Salumeria. Good beer and solid wines are available to accompany the pizza – read more here (Photo by The Travelista)

14. Abacus

Abacus

Abacus is a sleek Kent Rathbun restaurant that opened in 1999 and quickly set a new standard for Dallas dining. Offering globally-inspired cuisine with Asian overtones, the restaurant elevates comfort food to an impressive level. The menu is offered as either a la carte or tasting menus with wine pairings from the vast cellar. Kent Rathburn has since become a celebrity chef after an appearance on Iron Chef America in 2008 – read more here (Photo by California Avocados)

15. Lucia

Lucia

Lucia is small and extremely popular – Dallas locals make a reservation a month in advance before flocking to this intimate Bishop Arts District trattoria. Set in a historic 1920’s building and containing only 32 seats – plus 4 seats at the bar, Lucia celebrates Italian food and the communal spirit of dining in a charming space. Chef David Uygur runs the open kitchen while his wife Jennifer oversees the front of the house. The pastas at Lucia are homemade, but the dishes are not strictly Italian – they use Italian as a base for more creative tangents, which makes dining there an exciting adventure. The flavor combinations are unexpected, but always seem to work. Most everything is house-made and worth sampling, from the salumis to the bread, pasta, and gelato – read more here (Photo by Luca Nebuloni)

16. Hibiscus

Hibiscus

Hibiscus opened way back in 2005, but the restaurant has aged gracefully and learned enough new tricks to remain one of Dallas’ best dining destinations. The restaurant is located in a historic building in the funky Knox-Henderson district. Inside, a California redwood bar fronts an open kitchen, and the stylishly rustic decor features a fireplace, deep woods with iron and stone accents, and deep leather booths. Chef Graham Dodds joined Jason Ferraro at Hibiscus in 2013, and together they have created an excellent farm-to-table restaurant featuring New American fare with a West Coast influence. The elemental cooking the menu changes seasonally according to what’s available, but diners can always depend on bold flavors and creative preparations. To accompany the food, there are enticing cocktails and a large, 14-page wine list – read more here

17. Spiral Diner & Bakery

Spiral Diner & Bakery

Spiral Diner & Bakery in an astonishingly good vegan, organic restaurant in Dallas’ Oak Cliff neighborhood. Even diners who are not vegan line up on Sunday mornings for their unlimited Vegan Pancakes with Organic Agave Nectar. Everything at Spiral Diner is fresh, organic and vegan – and darn tasty. Amy McNutt founded Spiral in 2002 in the Fort Worth Rail Market. The place became popular immediately, and in 2004 the restaurant moved to its current location in a 1932 building on Magnolia Avenue. A Dallas location in the Bishop Arts District opened in 2007 – read more here (Photo by YoLaGringo)

18. Pappas Bros. Steakhouse

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse is actually part of a small chain that’s headquartered in Houston, but it’s consistent ranked as one of the best steakhouses in the country. All steaks except for the filets are dry-aged in-house, and even more-flavorful bone-in cuts are available for a few dollars more. The wine list seems endless at over 2,300 selections, and there are four sommeliers on staff to help with it. The restaurant is one of only two restaurants in Texas to earn The Grand Award from Wine Spectator magazine, which is their highest honor – read more here (Photo by stu_spivack)

19. Meddlesome Moth

Meddlesome Moth

Meddlesome Moth is a Dallas gastropub with and eclectic menu designed for sharing and over 40 quality beers on draft. The space is sleek and modern with plush booths and stained glass artwork of Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, and Elvis. There’s a fun outdoor patio in the back. Beer suggestions are listed next to the menu items. For those not in a beer mood, there’s also a great selection of wines and craft cocktails – read more here (Photo by Daniel Lobo)

20. Twisted Root Burger Company

Twisted Root Burger Company

Twisted Root Burger Company is a chef-driven burger joint that also makes its own root beer and ice cream. It first opened up in 2005 and is located in the Deep Ellum neighborhood of Dallas. The restaurant doesn’t just have regular beef burgers – Twisted Root is famous for crazy meats like camel, elk, ostrich, alligator, and beaver. In fact, there many choices to be made before placing your order – burgers choices include 11 different types of meat, plus a veggie burger. There’s also 3 types of buns, 23 burger toppings, 5 fried side items, 28 bottles beers, and 9 kinds of shakes – read more here (Photo by Collin Harvey)

Featured photo by Luis Tamayo. All photos CC-BY-2.0.

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