3656 Howell St., Uptown
State pride is strong at this Uptown restaurant and bar—note the life-size metal longhorn outside the front door and the huge Lone Star flag made of Shiner beer cans that hangs over the bar. The pretty outdoor space, named Pat’s Backyard for part-owner and country singer Pat Green, has live music on the weekend, and there’s tons of room for kids and dogs to run around.
1510 Pacific Ave., Downtown
The entire team at this beautiful New American dinner spot is made up of teenagers released from juvenile delinquent facilities. Their yearlong internships at the Café give them both life and job training. The seasonal, local menu from head chef Chad Houser is fresh and original, and the vibe is in every way uplifting: One wall is devoted to a collaborative art piece titled the “I’m Thankful Plate Project,” where past interns have written about gratitude on plates from the restaurant.
The French Room
1321 Commerce St., Downtown
When the French Room opened in 1912, it was one of the fanciest restaurants in Dallas. More than a hundred years and a serious restoration later, it still is. The dining room is very Versailles, with pastel glass chandeliers and gilded crown molding. Chef Michael Ehlert’s menus are all prix fixe—three or seven courses. The latter is deliciously experimental, full of surprises and thoughtful wine pairings.
1101 N. Beckley Ave., Oak Cliff
Incredibly delicious vegan nachos, burgers, cheesesteaks, and fresh ginger shots are the reason the Spiral Diner has been wildly popular for fifteen years and counting. Plant-based comfort foods, whether we’re talking about BBQ sandwiches or ice cream sundaes or fresh juices, are what we (and local superstar Erykah Badu) love most. It’s also super cozy, especially if you can snag one of the booths.
2808 Greenville Ave., Lower Greenville
If it’s your first time at this Greenville Avenue institution, we suggest you order the burger. They make only ten a day, and they sell out. Pair it with a glass of dry champagne. Yes, really. We also love the mushroom soup, and we really love Sunday brunch (you’ll need a reservation). At night, the Grape turns into a romantic date spot with a fantastic wine list.
5904 N. Figueroa St., Highland Park
It can be hard to get really excited about vegetarian food (that can easily go vegan), but Kitchen Mouse makes it wildly appealing—both in the form of their cafe and catering (they do a brisk business in both). They're also nut- and soy-free. Must orders: Crispy Gomasio Rice Cakes and the breakfast sandwich.
HG SPLY CO.
1008 Greenville Ave., Knox/Henderson
HG SPLY CO. offers all the benefits of a healthy menu without any white-washed "healthy" restaurant aesthetic, making it the perfect place to take your boyfriend when he wants a beer and you're craving a green juice. Their paleo-inspired menu is light and clean yet substantial—favorites include the tex mex quinoa bowl, pulled pork nachos, and texas steak bowl. The fire pits, twinkle lights, and red picnic tables, plus the well-chosen beer list, make their rooftop a pretty perfect place to spend a long, drawn-out evening.
2702 Main St., Deep Ellum
The wait can be a long one, especially because Pecan Lodge sticks to a schedule that’s dictated by meat quantities. In other words, if they run out of meat in their on-site smoke pit that day, you won’t be enjoying Dallas’s best BBQ. We were, however, lucky enough to get our hands on their world-renowned brisket, and it was perfectly smoked, absolutely decadent, huge, and totally delicious. The ribs are equally insane.
4115 Lomo Alto Dr., Oak Lawn
Luckily it’s not on Mars, but even if it were, fans of chef Julian Barsotti’s trattoria would tell you it’s worth the trip. Tucked away in a nondescript Highland Park strip mall (which locals will describe as “across from Whole Foods”), the upscale Italian joint is one of the city’s most beloved destinations for salumi, perfectly crisp thin-crust pizzas, and classic bolognese, with a terrific wine list to round out the meal.
1530 Main St., Downtown
This gem at the Joule does far more than serve the hotel's own guests with a tight, well-edited menu of exactly what we all want at every meal: In the morning, it’s the frittata; at lunch, it’s a healthy quinoa bowl; and at dinner, it’s pretty much anything that can be served with a side of their award-winning fries. Beyond feeding the hotel’s guests—and from very early in the morning until very late—it stands as one the best casual dining destinations in Dallas.