We’re getting controversial here, but Dallas just might be the culinary capital of Texas. Whether you’re looking for a prime steak or an authentic street truck taco, you’ll find something here to love -- and the longer you spend delving into the Big D’s restaurant scene, the more hidden gems you’ll discover.
If you’re not sure where to start, we have good news: You can find world-class restaurants in every Dallas neighborhood, though you’ll have to do some digging to find the best. Here are a few of our favorites.
1. Keller’s Drive-In
Texas is all about high-quality beef, and you can’t do much better than a burger at Keller’s Drive-In. This Dallas institution has been slinging satisfying sirloin since 1950, and it’s one of the last true drive-up restaurants in the country.
When visiting Keller’s, pull in, but don’t get out of your vehicle. A server will come to you, take your order, and then you’ll enjoy your meal from the comfort of your car (including a beer, if you’re so inclined). Most of the standard burgers will only set you back a few dollars, but they’re moderately sized, so if you’ve got a Texas-sized appetite, add on sides like tater tots, fries, or onion rings.
Our pick is the #5 -- a double cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, and special sauce on a poppy-seed bun. This is casual dining at its absolute peak.
2. Havana Cafe
Satisfy your craving for a great Cuban sandwich at Havana Cafe. Located in the Casa Linda Shopping Center, it offers an array of authentic Cuban dishes and desserts in an inconspicuous location.
Be sure to start with an order of croquetas (homemade croquettes) or a Cuban tamale. The famous Cuban sandwich is the clear star here, but don’t overlook the entrees -- the ropa vieja and cerdo asado are also delicious. All sandwiches come in at less than $10, and entrees cost less than $15, so you can get your fill without breaking the bank. Save room for dessert, since the Cuban flan is absolutely delightful.
3. Meshack's BBQ Shack
Meshack's BBQ Shack isn’t technically in Dallas -- it’s located in the suburb of Garland, about 35 minutes north of the downtown area. That said, it’s absolutely worth the trip. This is a small, walk-up-only spot, so be prepared to either eat in your car or bring your meal to a second location. Don’t let the weathered storefront scare you off -- this spot is one of the best places in Dallas to enjoy Texas barbecue.
Meshack’s serves up mouthwatering smoked brisket, ribs, and chopped beef at a fair price. You can order by the pound (a nice option if you’re traveling with the family) or choose a dinner plate or sandwich. Get there early, because the line gets very long during the lunch rush.
4. Mario's Mexican & Salvadorian Restaurant
Mario’s Mexican & Salvadorian Restaurant is a laid-back eatery that features foods from both Mexico and El Salvador. Here you’ll get the best of both worlds, with daily food and drink specials plus an extensive menu of appetizers, entrees, and desserts.
The pupusas are a must-try item, and so are the pollo con hongos and brisket enchiladas. Portions are ample and the ambiance is colorful and lively. With a plethora of Mexican and Latin American restaurants to choose from in Dallas, Mario’s is a local favorite for Tex-Mex with a twist.
5. ZaLat Pizza
Pizza is one of those foods of which everyone has a very specific opinion. That being said, you can get a truly delicious pie at ZaLat Pizza.
At ZaLat, you’ll find classic pies juxtaposed with some not-so-traditional ones. The Pho Shizzle (chicken, red bell peppers, caramelized onions, cilantro, basil, hoisin, and Sriracha swirl) and the OG (beef pepperoni, salami, cracked black pepper, and pickled giardiniera) are both popular, yet unusual, selections.
ZaLat says it themselves: “We’re on a mission from the gods to make the best pizza in the universe.” With their homemade dough and fresh sauce, they just might be on to something.
If you’re looking for a perfect steak, Knife cuts through the competition (see what we did there?). This self-proclaimed “reinvention of the steakhouse” is the project of James Beard-nominated chef John Tesar.
Knife focuses on serving up all-natural, Texas-sourced meats. You’ll find classic cuts, bacon tastings (with up to five varieties), and the signature dish: a 240-day dry-aged Niman Ranch ribeye. Be prepared to spend some money -- a meal for two can cost upwards of $100. For dedicated steak aficionados, though, that’s money well spent.
7. Mike’s Chicken
Mike’s Chicken is another not-so-hidden gem in Dallas, since locals certainly know about it. Out-of-towners often miss it, which is understandable; it’s a fried-chicken restaurant located in a laundromat, so we’ll forgive you if you’re skeptical.
Owners Tram and Son Dao moved to Dallas in the early 2000s with their son Mike, who was a notoriously picky eater. Determined to keep Mike fed, Tram perfected the art of making chicken tenders (the boy refused to eat chicken prepared by anyone but his mother). After purchasing J.R. Coin Laundry on Maple Avenue, Tram decided to turn a corner of the laundromat into a kitchen, and soon, customers were flocking there (pardon the pun) for some of the city’s best chicken.
A year later, the family added tables and seating, and after numerous requests from customers, Tram added bone-in chicken to the menu. Today, Mike’s Chicken is an essential stop if you find yourself on Maple Avenue.
Patience is key here, since everything is made to order. Be prepared to wait at least 15 to 20 minutes for your meal. The side options are fairly simple, but the portions are hearty, and Tram still prepares every recipe on the menu.
Tucked away in a historic building in the Bishop Arts District, Lucia is an adventurous Italian eatery with an unassuming facade. We’ll admit that when we think of dining in Dallas, we don’t think of Italian food, but we make an exception for this wonderful restaurant.
Lucia is a chef-owned restaurant, and most of the dishes on the menu are made from scratch with fresh, local ingredients. The ever-changing menu doesn’t offer too many options at any given time, but each course is meticulously crafted to guarantee a superb dining experience.
The space only has 36 seats, including bar seating, so snagging a spot can be difficult; if you’re headed here, try to make a reservation early. Lucia only accepts reservations over the phone and is often booked a month in advance, so getting a table can take some time.
Put in the effort, and you’ll be rewarded with hearty breads, handmade pastas, and delicious meats that are cured in-house. The menu is divided into four sections: starter, pasta, entree, and dessert, along with a thoughtfully curated wine list.
The Nammi food truck now has a brick-and-mortar location at the Dallas Farmers Market. Here, you can snag some Vietnamese food while shopping for local produce. Choose from a delicious selection of noodle bowls, rice bowls, Asian tacos, and banh mi sandwiches (for your first visit, we’d recommend sticking with the bahn mi).
The farmers-market location has an expanded menu and a climate-controlled seating area, which is absolutely essential during the summer months. These classic Vietnamese dishes are served up with few frills, but they’re flavorful and filling. The lemongrass chicken banh mi is a local favorite, but you really can’t go wrong with any of the sandwiches.
We’d recommend Nammi if you’re hoping for a Dallas food-truck experience, sans the actual truck. Nammi combines superb Vietnamese fare with a well-kept storefront, perfect for casual dining.
10. Food From Galilee
Just off the Southern Methodist University campus in Snider Plaza, you’ll find Food From Galilee. You might overlook this small but cozy eatery, since it hides among many other shops in the plaza, but that would be unfortunate -- it's a fantastic spot for kebobs, shawarma, gyros, and other Mediterranean delights. Food From Galilee also offers plenty of vegetarian options, including falafel sandwiches and world-class hummus platters.
A family-owned restaurant, it’s affordable, but the nice ambiance makes it an appropriate option for a sit-down meal. We appreciate the lighter tastes offered by Food From Galilee’s excellent menu; after enjoying the rich, smoky flavors of Dallas steaks and barbecue, subtler dishes are welcome.