Eat Like a Local at These Favorite Dallas Neighborhood Restaurants

Herb roasted chicken | Credit: Al Biernat’s

Editor’s Note: At the time of publication, Dallas is allowing both indoor and outdoor dining. Keep up with the latest restrictions on dining in cities across the U.S. and Canada.

An old Dallas adage is that the city is a great place to live, but a mediocre place to visit. But the city is quickly proving this to be a dated reference, boasting a vibrant arts scene, burgeoning neighborhoods, and an embrace of its history.

Once a hidden treasure on the culinary map, Dallas has recently begun to receive the recognition it deserves for its standout restaurants, ranging from extravagant steakhouses to low-key barbecue joints. Though new places are popping up all the time, these are the beloved local favorites that Dallasites return to again and again.

Pangea (Garland)

In 2016, Dallas chef Kevin Ashade made a coq au vin so delicious, it beat out Bobby Flay’s on the Food Network’s show “Beat Bobby Flay.” In other words, everyone knew Ashade was a fighter long before he faced a global pandemic at the helm of a three-month-old restaurant. Ashade’s Pangea has weathered the storm featuring — true to the restaurant’s name — a menu of international offerings ranging from pot stickers to Jamaican beef patties to Texas redfish.

Dining at the restaurant: Pangea is open for limited capacity indoor dining, where diners can sample the famous coq au vin alongside a full menu of classic cocktails and wines.Takeout: Diners can place takeout orders by calling the restaurant. Don’t miss the lobster mac and cheese; instead of lobster chunks, the dish packs a full roasted lobster tail into five-cheese pasta.

Howard Wang’s China Grill (Southlake)

Beef and broccoli

Howard Wang’s beef and broccoli | Credit: Jeremiah Jhass

In true Dallas fashion, this upscale Chinese restaurant is nestled in a totally unremarkable strip mall. But step inside and you’re transported from Anywhere USA into an opulent world of lantern chandeliers, sleek furniture, and bamboo. The restaurant’s expansive menu covers dim sum classics, hearty mains such as whole Peking duck, and Chinese American staples such as General Tso’s chicken. Dallas now has four Howard Wang’s restaurants, but the Southlake location is the original. 

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant currently allows limited indoor dining and also boasts a tranquil patio where diners split a dim sum sampler next to a soothing waterfall.

Takeout: Howard Wang’s delivers via third-party apps and also offers curbside pick-up through the restaurant’s website or by calling directly.

Mot Hai Ba (Lakewood)

It’s almost worth hitting this Vietnamese-French fusion restaurant just to check out the plating — every dish is a work of art, incorporating tiny flowers and artful touches. Chef Peja Krstik combines the two cuisines in innovative ways in dishes such as kimchi and foie gras dumplings and brisket buns with shallot marmalade, landing the restaurant awards and spots on best-of lists, including Dallas Culture Map’s 2019 “Best Neighborhood Restaurants In Dallas.”

Dining at the restaurant: Mot Hai Ba is open for indoor dining with limited capacity. Ask to see the cocktail list, which makes use of the kitchen’s deep pantry of ingredients in drinks such as the Le Sang, which mixes gin, turmeric, celery, and citrus.

Takeout: Mot Hai Ba offers curbside pickup, as well as delivery through the third party apps, so fans of the restaurant enjoy ban bhao or curry in the comfort of their own homes.

The Island Spot (Oak Cliff)

Richard Thomas, the owner of this popular Jamaican restaurant, imports spices directly from Jamaica, ensuring that his jerk seasoning has an authentic balance of depth and spice. The Island Spot is a nod to the owner’s experiences growing up on the island, and is a standout place to try traditional dishes such as ackee and saltfish, Jamaica’s national dish. Ackee is a fruit that’s cooked down, providing a creamy, nutty backdrop to the saltfish, typically made from salted cod.

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is open for limited indoor seating. For those who choose to dine in, be sure to talk to your server about the restaurant’s large selection of rums — the bar packs almost 30 varieties.

Takeout: Pickup is available through the restaurant’s website and delivery is available via third-party apps. If you feel like going beyond the traditional, pick up an order of the Island Spot’s jerk nachos with jerk-spiced cheese sauce.

Medina Oven & Bar (Victory Park)

This cozy Moroccan spot has created a plush, textured dining room through ornate lanterns, intricate ironwork details, and colorful rugs and throw pillows. Locals head there for the lamb sausage brochettes (skewers), sea bass tagine, and herb-filled cocktails such as the Moroccan mojitos that bring flavors of Marrakesh to downtown Dallas.

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is open for indoor dining at limited capacity and also has patio seating for those who would rather enjoy a spread of mezze plates and savory phyllo appetizers al fresco.

Takeout: Takeout is available by calling the restaurant or via third-party apps.

Nonna (Highland Park)

Fresh pasta lovers have been flocking to this little neighborhood favorite since chef Julian Barsotti opened its doors in 2007. In the ensuing years, Barsotti has opened three more Italian restaurants in Dallas, but Nonna remains a favorite among locals, a hidden gem in a hard-to-find strip mall. Homemade pastas may take center stage, but those in the know always add an order of the white clam pizza.

Dining at the restaurant: The small restaurant feels even more intimate with capacity restrictions, which also means it’s best to make a reservation as seating is limited.

Takeout: Diners can call the restaurant to order takeout and bring home a selection of thin-crust pizzas.

Ziziki’s (Preston Forest and Travis Walk)

Restaurant patio

Ziziki’s patio | Credit: Ziziki’s

A family-owned modern Greek restaurant known for its warm customer service, Ziziki’s has been slinging gyros, moussaka, and spanakopita to Dallasites since 1994. Classic touches, such as checkerboard flooring, white tablecloths, and chandeliers lend a fun, old-world vibe. But the wine list is distinctly modern, featuring organic and biodynamic wine flights from unsung Greek wine regions.

Dining at the restaurant: Ziziki’s offers limited indoor dining and additional seating on the restaurant’s patio. Locals flock to the Sunday Champagne brunch and never end a meal without an order of custard pie.

Takeout: Curbside pickup is available by calling the restaurant or ordering through its website; delivery is also available through the major apps. Don’t forget to grab some of the house-made artichoke hummus dip and baklava for dessert.

Reservations for Preston Forest Location:

Reservations for Travis Walk Location:

Off the Bone Barbeque (South Dallas)

Texans are particular about their barbecue — anyone you ask will claim a different favorite spot — but chef Dwight Harvey’s Off the Bone Barbeque comes up frequently. Chef Harvey started off doing catering, but quickly earned such an avid following that he was able to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant. As the name suggests, pecan wood smoked ribs fall “off the bone,” the pulled pork sandwiches are juicy, and regulars love the deep-fried corn on the cob. 

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is doing limited indoor dining, with tables spaced out in the former garage space it occupies.

Takeout: Takeout is available by ordering online through the restaurant’s website. For families, try the family pack or the Southern meal sampler. Delivery is also available through the major apps.

Local (Deep Ellum)

The best way to experience the splendor of Dallas celebrity chef Tracy Miller’s upscale contemporary American restaurant is to order the seven-course tasting menu with wine pairings. On any given night, diners might receive dishes such as Syrah-braised short rib paired with a Malbec from Mendoza, or herb-marinated scallops with a California Chardonnay. Local is all about the details, from the dazzling symmetry of both the plating and the modern décor to the pear sorbet palate cleanser.

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is currently open for indoor dining at limited capacity.

Takeout: Call the restaurant for curbside pickup or delivery; for a comforting dinner at home, pick up a crispy fried chicken sandwich and an order of the well-charred Brussels sprouts.

Lovers Seafood & Market (Park Cities)

When Tracy Rathbun and Lynae Fearing of Shinsei opened Lovers Seafood in 2017, it quickly became a local favorite. The sleek interior features white walls, lots of wood paneling, and ocean blue chairs, all of which create a seaside vibe to pair with the restaurant’s lobster rolls and raw oysters. Fish takes center stage here; the market selections change daily and diners can choose among three preparations: grilled, blackened, or seared.

Dining at the restaurant: Diners can enjoy the restaurant’s Cajun-spiced shrimp cocktail at the limited indoor seating or on the restaurant’s patio.

Takeout: Lovers offers takeout via the restaurant’s website.

Sloane’s Corner (Downtown)

A cozy all-day American bistro with a light international touch, Sloane’s offers market-driven comfort foods such as brûléed brie and charred tomato bisque. Though it only opened in 2019, Sloane’s quickly became a popular lunch and happy hour spot for the downtown office worker crowd — during the pandemic, it’s offering homestyle lunch options for the work-from-home crowd. Keep an eye on the restaurant’s social media for the pizza pop-up, Pizza Leila, that serves up Sicilian-style pies at dinnertime. 

Dining at the restaurant: Indoor dining is available at limited capacity and the restaurant also has a tented patio with a firepit, a comfortable place for soaking up the weekday happy hour.

Takeout: Sloane’s is open for curbside pickup through the restaurant’s website and delivery through the apps. The international riff on a hot fried chicken sandwich is a must — boasting buttermilk crispy chicken, pickles, pickled red fresno chili peppers, and togarashi, a Japanese blend of chiles, ginger, and orange peel.

Napa Thai Asian Cuisine (Colleyville)

Credit: Napa Thai Asian Cuisine

Ten miles west of DFW Airport sits a chic Thai restaurant tucked into the back of a shopping center. Beautifully prepared entrees like fresh red snapper in ginger sauce or pan-seared day-boat scallops served over coconut-lemongrass risotto sit alongside crowd favorites such as pad see ew, pad Thai, and green curry. Check out the cocktail list for specialties such as the Phuket colada, the restaurant’s twist on a piña colada with the citrusy addition of sour mix.

Dining at the restaurant: Napa is open for limited indoor dining and also has a nice outdoor seating area surrounded by lush greenery, ideal for a lycheetini, a glass of rosé, or some truffle edamame.

Takeout: Curbside pickup is available by calling the restaurant or ordering online. Delivery is not currently available.

Al Biernat’s (North Dallas and Oak Lawn)

One of the top steakhouses in the city, Al Biernat’s is definitely a splurge, but it never disappoints. It’s a special occasion restaurant, a business deal lunch spot, and the site of frequent Dallas celebrity sightings. The staff delivers impeccable service — one might see Al himself making the rounds in the dining room — along with perfect prime rib and more than 700 wines. Even the non-meat eaters can find an appealing option on the restaurant’s extensive seafood menu and selection of vegan dishes.

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant offers limited indoor dining as well as seating on the newly expanded patio area. For either area, take advantage of the opportunity to put on some real clothes — the dress code at Al Biernat’s is “casual elegant,” and it’s closely followed by diners.

Takeout: Curbside pickup and delivery options are available through the website. Eating at home is an opportunity to load up on Al Biernat’s famous sides such as wild boar bolognese, lobster risotto, and skillet potatoes with caramelized onions (while in your PJs, if you’d like!).

Reservations for North Dallas Location:

Reservations for Oak Lawn Location:

Mi Día From Scratch (Plano, Grapevine, and Flower Mound

Chef Gabriel DeLeon opened Mi Día From Scratch in Grapevine back in 2010; it’s since been such a runaway hit, he opened two more locations. His success comes from his ability to represent many different sides of Mexican cuisine. Arranged in geographic sections, it offers Tex-Mex favorites like fajitas, New Mexican dishes, Mexico City street-style tacos, and original creations such as tequila-infused enchiladas. The menu also caters to vegetarian, soy-free, and gluten-free diets.

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is seating indoors at limited capacity, and all three locations offer outdoor seating, great for munching tacos and sipping margaritas through Dallas’s mild winters.

Takeout: Mi Día offers a family-style to-go menu that serves four or six people and is available for curbside pickup by calling the restaurant.

Reservations for Plano Location:

Reservations for Grapevine Location:

Reservations for Flower Mound Location:

Edoko Sushi & Robata (Frisco and Richardson)

This fun neighborhood sushi spot is marked by its black and off-white modern décor and the restaurant’s menu of creative rolls, including the Green Hulk (fried shrimp, fried crawfish, crab, avocado, wasabi, and eel sauce) and the French Rainbow (spicy crab, asparagus, cucumber, “chef’s select fish,” and French ginger sauce). For those who prefer meals from the land, the restaurant also offers robata, or Japanese barbecue, where skewers are grilled over charcoal and served with a variety of dipping sauces.

Dining at the restaurant: Edoko is open for limited indoor dining at both the Frisco and Richardson locations.

Takeout: Takeout is available through the restaurant’s website, and delivery is available via third-party apps. The extensive takeaway menu offers everything from sashimi to snapper with mushroom risotto to green tea cheesecake.

Reservations for Frisco Location:

Reservations for Richardson Location:

Diana Spechler is a novelist and essayist whose work appears in The New York Times, The Guardian, Washington Post, Harper’s, and elsewhere.