Dallas, Texas is all about its restaurants — they’re the city’s crown jewel, even after the pandemic forced closures and created labor shortages. Great restaurants are so abundant throughout the city, it’s easy to get gastronomically spoiled and find that your biggest problem is trying to decide among 80 places for your birthday party.
This list offers every kind of “special” — from 360-degree views of the skyline to award-winning steaks to wine lists that boast hundreds of international wines to fun culinary experiences: cooking your own food on a private grill, waiters who carve meat tableside right onto your plate, an after-dinner hookah.
Whether you’re celebrating an accomplishment or an anniversary or just the joy of making it through 2020, Dallas has quaint bistros, sprawling steakhouses, and hidden treasure restaurants that will elevate any meal to an occasion.
Dress “business casual or better” for this chic, elegant, and always-celebratory modern Italian spot where chef and owner Danny Grant, who led a Chicago restaurant to two Michelin stars, serves up wood-fired delicacies from the hearth. The pasta is homemade, the cocktails are expertly crafted, and diners get the best view of downtown in the city: The space on the 49th floor of The National offers wrap-around windows for a 360-degree look at Dallas. Try the Alaska king crab, served whole.
Dining in the restaurant: The skyline at eye level is stunning, but so is the restaurant’s interior, with its open kitchen and spiral staircase. Don’t forget to head one more floor up to Kessaku for a sake nightcap.
Takeout: Monarch does not offer takeout or delivery.
Café Pacific (Highland Park)
Quaint and elegant with black-and-white marble flooring, white linen table cloths, and fine art paintings on the walls, this 40+-year-old Highland Park seafood restaurant is well-suited for a quiet proposal over after-dinner drinks or an intimate anniversary dinner. Though billed as a seafood restaurant with standout dishes such as poached lobster risotto and grilled Texas Gulf red snapper, Café Pacific is also a hidden gem for steak options like pepper-crusted prime filet with cognac sauce. Don’t miss the restaurant’s signature “pecan ball” dessert, a toasted pecan-encrusted ball of vanilla bean ice cream served in house-made chocolate sauce and garnished with an almond tuile. Beautiful service — attentive and never stuffy — completes the flawless fine-dining experience.
Dining in the restaurant: On cooler nights, diners may choose to eat al fresco, a charming place to enjoy lobster rolls and chardonnay.
Takeout: Diners can order takeout through the OpenTable website.
St. Martin’s Wine Bistro (Lower Greenville)
If you picture a neighborhood French restaurant, you’re probably picturing something a lot like old-guard Dallas staple, St. Martin’s Wine Bistro in Lower Greenville: Think dim lighting, escargot, a menu written in French (don’t worry, the translations are right there), a couple hundred wines, and white linen table cloths. Add live piano music and you have a spot for a romantic anniversary celebration—one that’s been there since 1977. Try the brie champagne soup and don’t skimp on dessert.
Dining in the restaurant: Scoring a parking spot on Greenville is about as likely as pulling up a stuffed animal in that arcade claw game, but not to worry: The restaurant offers complimentary valet seven nights a week. Seating is indoors only.
Takeout: Call the restaurant to order takeout for a cozy night at home with some duck a l’orange. Delivery is not available.
Tei Tei Robata (Henderson)
The menu at executive chef Katsutoshi Sakamoto’s intimate and authentic Japanese restaurant centers on robata, an extremely precise and detail-oriented method of grilling (think white charcoal with a highly specific carbon content). From sweet potatoes to artichokes to jumbo shrimp to whole trout — ingredients you wouldn’t necessarily think to throw on the grill — the food at Tei Tei Robata is surprising and delightful, a unique experience for a special night. The sushi is also stand-out, and so are the six kinds of Japanese whisky.
Dining in the restaurant: Grab a seat at the bar if you want to watch the robata magic happen. The restaurant does not offer outdoor seating.
Takeout: Order takeout through the OpenTable website. Delivery is not available.
Kenny’s Wood Fired Grill (Addison)
Chef Kenny Bowers, owner of five popular Dallas restaurants, grills everything to perfection at this bustling bistro — oysters, asparagus, burgers stacked taller than an open mouth. Thanks to warm hospitality, a solid wine list, some of the best steaks in Dallas, and a willingness to prepare any dish to the diner’s specifications, Kenny’s draws a lot of regulars. The most renowned part of the menu is the seafood, and the hickory-grilled Idaho red ruby trout, served with lemon butter, shrimp, and tomato basil salad, is a must-try. The motto at this beloved culinary staple? “Every day’s a holiday and every meal’s a feast.” Talk about special occasion.
Dining in the restaurant: Cozy and classy, the interior boasts polished wood, exposed brick, and a warm ambiance. Weekend brunch is always a hit. Seating is indoor only.
Takeout: Order from OpenTable’s website and enjoy curbside pickup. Lobster mac ‘n’ cheese is ideal for sharing on a special night in. Kenny’s does not deliver.
12 Cuts (North Dallas)
Thanks to a selection of large private dining spaces, as well as the option to rent out the entire restaurant, this Brazilian steakhouse is a fun choice for larger group celebrations. Brazilian husband-wife team Juarez DeConto and Alda Boiani moved to the United States in 1997 to open the country’s first famed Fogo de Chão, where they worked for two decades before partnering with De Jair Zuliani to open this Brazilian-Argentinian churrascaria. Here, waiters appear tableside with skewers or slabs of meat to carve straight onto diners’ plates. A grand buffet at the center of the restaurant holds a variety of sides and salads. Traditional and elegant, 12 Cuts offers a portal into Brazil.
Dining in the restaurant: 12 Cuts serves not just a meal, but an experience in a sprawling dining room with a full bar. Definitely arrive on an empty stomach.
Takeout: Those who want a carnivorous night in can order curbside pickup through OpenTable’s website.
Even the sides on the menu are the talk of the town at chef Kevin Ashade’s sophisticated Garland establishment. The collard greens, for example, stewed in African spices and served with turkey, are a crowd favorite, as is the homemade cornbread topped with cinnamon butter. The menu offers Cajun favorites (gumbo, blackened catfish topped with crawfish étouffée) alongside international treats (Argentinian steak, jerk-roasted lamb shank). In 2016, Ashade won Beat Bobby Flay with a coq au vin recipe, and that’s on the menu, too.
Dining at the restaurant: Diners can pile into cozy booths indoors or opt for patio seating.
Takeout: Place orders for curbside pickup through the OpenTable website for dishes such as lobster mac ‘n’ cheese that make for a next-level night in. Pangea also offers delivery.
Niwa (Deep Ellum)
For an intimate and exciting night out, try cooking your own meal at the table at this Deep Ellum yakiniku (Japanese barbecue) where diners choose from a wide variety of seasoned meats and vegetables and grill them up themselves on the grates at the center of each table. Delicious dipping sauces complete the meal. For those who find no pleasure in cooking on their night off from, well, cooking, kitchen-made delicacies include buta kakuni (soy ginger-braised pork belly, pickled mustard greens, ajitama egg, mustard greens, and scallions) and karaage (Japanese-style fried chicken with yuzu kosho aioli and house pickles). Niwa’s industrial-chic space boasts cool flourishes like a bonzai tree and abstract wall hangings and its cocktail list is not to be missed — try the Japanese old fashioned with kiuchi no shizuku, demerara, and orange bitters.
Dining in the restaurant: Niwa renovated the patio during the pandemic, but grilling at the table is only available indoors. The 29th of every month is “Meat Day” when Niwa slings two different carnivorous feast options for $29 each.
Takeout: Niwa does not offer pickup or delivery.
Table 13 (Addison)
Live piano and showroom-style entertainment can turn any evening into a fancy little party at this 1960s-throwback. An American fine-dining restaurant with an old-school Vegas vibe, everything about the place is classic, from the white linen tablecloths to the vintage cocktail list (try the manhattan or old fashioned) to delicious menu options you may not have thought of in decades — deviled eggs, beef Wellington, bananas foster. Hot as it can get in Dallas, flip-flops are frowned upon and men are encouraged to wear jackets and collared shirts. Don’t worry: the air conditioning is one thing that isn’t vintage.
Dining in the restaurant: The “13 for $13” lunch offers 13 menu items at $13 each and includes either a glass of Champagne or a dessert. Lunchtime $3 martinis are another ’60s relic that Table 13 preserves.
Takeout: Head over to the OpenTable site to order pickup.
Al Biernat’s (Oak Lawn)
Restaurateur Al Biernat opened his Oak Lawn location in 1998 and the popular steakhouse has only gotten better through the years, landing on all the “best-of” lists and attracting visitors and locals alike. Known for celebrity sightings, a truly impressive wine list (at nearly 700 bottles, it’s one of the largest in Dallas), and its peerless steaks, seafood, and sides, Al Biernat’s is the classic choice for a special occasion dinner. Interesting dishes, such as Texas wild boar chops with mango-raspberry chipotle chutney or vegan grilled portabella enchiladas meet classics like Chilean sea bass and filet mignon. The restaurant is elegant and always hopping — be sure to have a pre-dinner drink at the bar, where the domed ceiling is covered in a mesmerizing contemporary painting.
Dining at the restaurant: Both the dining room (elegant casual attire) and the patio (dressy casual attire) are open.
Takeout: Diners can order both pickup and delivery through the restaurant’s website.
Baboush (West Village)
Loved as much for the homemade hummus, kebabs, and tagines as for the Moroccan-style cushions and lanterns that transport diners to the enchanting nooks of Marrakesh, Baboush is a top-notch West Village pick for fancy Lebanese and Moroccan street food. Globe-trotter and restaurateur Yaser Khalaf (also of Shawarma Bar in Fort Worth and Darna Euro-Mediterranean Market in Plano) designed the menu that keeps diners coming back for more. The mezze platter has something for everyone — hummus, baba ganoush, falafel, Moroccan olives, sweet tomato and harissa labneh. For a special night out, it’s fun to feel transported to the other side of the world and share kibbeh, shawarma, and couscous with friends.
Dining in the restaurant: Outdoor seating is a great opportunity to fire up the hookah, as well as swap out the hot mint tea for a Moroccan old fashioned.
Takeout: Diners can order pickup through OpenTable’s website.
Nick & Sam’s (Park Cities)
Park Cities steakhouse Nick & Sam’s is the 20+-years’ “it” spot on the Dallas fine-dining scene — you might see a celebrity or two as you sip your wine and cut into your 20-ounce prime aged porterhouse. Nick & Sam’s is serious about its service and serious about its sides, including two kinds of fries (sweet potato and “damn good”) and three kinds of mac ‘n’ cheese to accompany the myriad steak and seafood offerings. Maybe you’ve seen the towering rainbow cake on Instagram — it adds spectacular color to any celebration.
Dining in the restaurant: Nick and Sam’s does not offer outdoor seating, but sitting inside is part of the experience: Swanky and stylish, the interior boasts grand chandeliers and oversized contemporary art.
Takeout: Order pickup through OpenTable’s website. Nick & Sam’s does not deliver.
Coco’s Fire and Ice (Bishop Arts District)
Situated in the Bishop Arts District, this Mexican restaurant in Dallas has been a source of excitement among the city’s foodies since it opened in 2018. Coco’s Fire and Ice (the fire refers to the cooking, the ice to the drinks) is a family-run spot that serves the cuisine of the central Mexican state of Jalisco, where tequila comes from, and where Guadalajara is located — think pozole, flautas, tortas, and huitlacoche quesadillas. The menu also features recipes from the Mexican state of Guanajuato, including “miner enchiladas” (the capital of Guanajuato is an old miner city). The tequila is flowing, of course, and the decor is south-of-the-border festive.
Dining in the restaurant: Diners can choose between indoor and outdoor seating.
Takeout: Coco’s Fire and Ice offers takeout through the OpenTable site.
Just east of downtown and a little off the beaten path, this funky and intimate pan-Asian restaurant and lounge is a hidden treasure, ideal for a first date or a classy bachelorette party. The vibe is lively, especially when the DJ shows up on Friday nights. Highly Instagram-able retro flourishes, including neon signs and flamingo print, pair with fun craft cocktails like the Alice mule (tequila, lime, mango, ginger beer, and Thai chili). The menu mixes and matches the cuisines of Asia in dishes such as a colorful ahi tuna tower; hot and crispy duck pot stickers; kimchi lo mein; and Tomahawk ribeye steak with hoisin maple glaze, Himalayan salt, and grilled bok choy in flavor profiles that are surprising and delightful.
Dining in the restaurant: The space is small and the restaurant is beloved, so do be sure to make a reservation.
Takeout: Order takeout and delivery through OpenTable.