14 of Dallas’s outstanding spots for celebrating special occasions

The chic and always-celebratory Monarch. | Credit: Monarch

Dallas is all about its restaurants—they’re the city’s crown jewels, scattered throughout Texas’s cultural hub. Whether you’re celebrating an accomplishment, anniversary, or just the joy of making it through the year, the city’s quaint hideouts and sprawling steakhouses turn any meal into a special occasion.

This list offers every kind of “special.” There are steaks and skyline views for milestone birthdays. For a more unique celebration, cook your own food on a private grill at a Japanese spot in Deep Ellum. Or toast your special someone at a charming wine bistro in Lower Greenville, plucked straight from the streets of Paris.

Dallas’s most outstanding restaurants for celebrating are highly sought after destinations—so book your table at one of these 14 places now.

Monarch (Downtown)

Monarch’s menu features wood-fired Italian delicacies. | Credit: Monarch

Dress “business casual or better” for this chic and always-celebratory modern Italian spot. It’s helmed by chef and owner Danny Grant, who led a Chicago restaurant to two MICHELIN stars. At Monarch, he serves up wood-fired delicacies from the hearth. The pasta is house-made, 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 skyscraper offers wrap-around windows for a 360-degree look at Dallas. Try the Alaska king crab, served whole.

St. Martin’s Wine Bistro (Lower Greenville)

If you picture a neighborhood French restaurant, you’re likely imagining something like this vintage Dallas staple. Think dim lighting, escargots galore, a menu written in French (don’t worry, the translations are right there), and a couple of hundred wines. 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.

Café Pacific (Highland Park)

Crab remoulade at Café Pacific. | Credit: Café Pacific

This long-standing Highland Park seafood spot is quaint and elegant, well-suited for an intimate anniversary dinner. The decor includes black-and-white marble flooring, white linen tablecloths, and fine art on the walls. Though it’s 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 dessert, a toasted pecan-encrusted ball of vanilla bean ice cream served in house-made chocolate sauce, garnished with an almond tuile. Beautiful service—attentive and never stuffy—completes the flawless fine-dining experience.

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 involving white charcoal with a highly specific carbon content. From sweet potatoes to artichokes to whole trout —ingredients you wouldn’t necessarily think to throw on the grill— the food at Tei Tei Robata is surprising and delightful, fueling a unique experience for a special night. The sushi also stands out, as do the six kinds of Japanese whisky.

Kenny’s Wood Fired Grill (Addison)

Kenny’s Wood Fired Grill features some of Dallas’s best steaks and seafood. | Credit: Kenny’s Wood Fired Grill

Chef Kenny Bowers, owner of five popular Dallas restaurants, grills everything to perfection at this bustling bistro, including oysters, asparagus, and a tall stack of burgers. 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 plenty 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.

12 Cuts Brazilian Steakhouse (North Dallas)

Thanks to a selection of large private dining spaces, plus 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 festive portal into Brazil.

Pangea (Garland)

Even the sides on the menu are the talk of the town at chef Kevin Ashade’s sophisticated Garland establishment, good for group gatherings and special date nights. 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.

Niwa (Deep Ellum)

In addition to Japanese barbecue, which diners grill at their own tables, Niwa offers a range of kitchen-made dishes. | Credit: Niwa

For an intimate and exciting night out, try cooking your own meal at the table at this Deep Ellum yakiniku (Japanese barbecue) joint. Diners choose from a wide variety of seasoned meats and vegetables and grill them up 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, house mustard, and scallions) and karaage (Japanese-style fried chicken with yuzu kosho aioli and house pickles). Niwa’s industrial-chic space boasts cool flourishes including a bonsai tree and abstract wall hangings. And the cocktail list is not to be missed—try the Japanese old fashioned with an orange peel and coriander-infused beer, demerara, and orange bitters.

Table 13 (Addison)

Nightly 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 Table 13 is classic, from the white linen tablecloths to the vintage cocktail list (try the manhattan or old fashioned). Delicious menu options you may not have thought of in decades include lamb chops, beef Wellington, and 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.

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. 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. Unique dishes such as Texas wild boar chops with mango-raspberry chipotle chutney or vegan grilled portobello 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.

Baboush (West Village)

Lebanese and Moroccan plates make up the menu at Baboush. | Credit: Baboush

This Lebanese and Moroccan spot, decked with dreamy cushions and lanterns, is loved for the homemade hummus, kebabs, and tagines. Globetrotter and restaurateur Yaser Khalaf (also of Darna Euro-Mediterranean Market in Plano) designed a 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.

Alice (Downtown)

Just east of downtown and a little off the beaten path, this funky 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 Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Highly Instagrammable retro flourishes, including neon signs and flamingo print, pair well with playful craft cocktails such as the Alice mule (tequila, lime, mango, ginger beer, and Thai chile). 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 more. The space is small and the restaurant is beloved, so do be sure to make a reservation.

Pakpao Thai (Design District)

With its open kitchen, oversized drop lights, and minimalist green furnishings, Pakpao Thai offers a beautiful space to celebrate. The menu is filled with Thai and pan Asian plates such as crispy tamarind duck and crab fried rice. The plates pair well with tropical cocktails like a sake mojito or a Phuket cooler (vodka, dragonfruit, mango, and lemon). For those who would rather celebrate over brunch, Pakpao offers a highly original one, starring Thai omelets and Chiang Mai sausage hash. Don’t forget the house mimosas, flavored with fruit juices like lychee, passionfruit, and guava.

Jose (Park Cities)

In a city full of Tex Mex, Jose offers a refreshing alternative: Mexican recipes straight out of the state of Jalisco, prepared by Eater Dallas’s 2018 Best Chef of the Year, Anastacia Quiñones-Pittman. Carne asada and chile rellenos meet street food favorites straight out of Guadalajara, including tacos and elotes. Jose is the place for a boisterous birthday celebration, courtesy of two outdoor seating areas in addition to a bustling indoor space. At the latter, people belly up to the horseshoe bar to enjoy signature margaritas, made with any of the 100-plus tequilas on the menu, or sit at the tables against a cool mural wall.

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

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