Looking for a great restaurant to check out this weekend? Well, Restaurant Critic and Dining Editor for the Dallas Morning News, Leslie Brenner, offer’s up one of the most delicious round-ups yet — Best in DFW Southern and Texan restaurants!
From Leslie Brenner:
It may come as no great surprise that our little piece of the prairie is home to some very fine Southern and Texan cooking. But as I dined around seeking the best of the best, I was surprised at how many places in our area do delicious justice to these two intertwined cuisines. Everywhere I looked I found outstanding chicken-fried steak, Texas quail, shrimp and grits or brisket tacos.
One thing I love about this list is its range. Not just in terms of prices, but in terms of ambience – from the down-home charm of Celebration to the sparkle of Fearing’s at the Ritz-Carlton. You can spend less than $20 per person for a three-course dinner including tax and tip at Babe’s Chicken Dinner House, or $41 for a single plate of smoky, wood-fire-roasted prime rib at Jasper’s.
Here, in alphabetical order, are the Southern and Texan spots that I look forward to going back to again and again.
The decor may be a little hokey (and sometimes the staff does the hokeypokey), but the Southern charm is real at this family-friendly, sit-down-and-order fried-chicken chain. More than that, the chicken is terrific. Order it fried, and you get a generous half-bird for just $10.99, and that includes a green salad (OK, not the best thing there), creamed corn, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans and biscuits, all served family-style, and you’re welcome to seconds. Want to know a secret? The smoked chicken may be even better than the fried. (It’s available at all the locations except Roanoke.) There’s no alcohol, but you can bring your own wine or beer. For dessert, $2.49 gets you a remarkably good slice of coconut meringue pie or pineapple upside-down cake, among other choices. And here’s some good news for football fans: An Arlington outpost is opening soon.
1006 W. Main St., Carrollton; 972-245-7773. Visit www.babeschicken.com for other locations.
Southern cooking is the inspiration at this gracefully stylish Fort Worth restaurant where 2007 Top Chef finalist Casey Thompson heads the kitchen. Thompson’s well-crafted dishes celebrate the very best Texas produce, which she takes great care to source from local farms. Her excitement about it shows up in a brilliant succotash that dresses up grilled wild striped bass, and in the pretty pickles that come with potted pork – even in the house cocktails (McKinney orchard plums with blueberries and gin!). Thompson’s fried okra? Insanely good. But one bite of her saucy barbecue pork riblets or meltingly tender wagyu beef cheeks will convince you that it’s about more than just the greens. Brownstone is one of the most appealing spots to open in the D-FW area this year.
840 Currie St., Fort Worth. 817-332-1555. www.brownstonerestaurants.com.
If there’s a less pretentious restaurant in Dallas than this 39-year-old mama of a place, I haven’t found it yet. The down-home cooking is simple (meatloaf, fried catfish, sautéed trout and the like), but good local produce takes it all up a notch. And it’s a real bargain to boot: Dinners average about $13, and come with soup, salad or fruit (cherry tomatoes and mozzarella with basil recently, or slices of local melon), house-made breads, plus three vegetables served family-style. (Love the black-eyed peas!) Still hungry? They’ll bring you more meatloaf or catfish – gratis.
4503 W. Lovers Lane, Dallas. 214-358-0612. www.celebrationrestaurant.com.
Yes, there are Asian touches on his menu, but there isn’t a chef in Dallas who speaks Texan more extravagantly and joyfully than Dean Fearing. Pop one of those tender little lobster tacos into your mouth and you’ll know what I mean. Ever hear of tortilla soup? Fearing put it on the map. In the kitchen and smokehouse, the affable chef communes with the likes of Texas antelope and bobwhite quail, whose apricot glaze and barbecue treatment is a wondrous thing indeed. The snazzy dining room is Dallas at its best.
The Ritz-Carlton Dallas, 2121 McKinney Ave., Dallas. 214-922-4848. www.fearingsrestaurant.com.
A longtime presence on the Fort Worth scene (he was the founding chef of Reata), Grady Spears is the chef who brought cowboy cooking into the spotlight. At Grady’s, which he opened last year, Spears serves up one of D-FW’s best chicken-fried steaks, smothered in a fine, peppery cream gravy. The tangy house margarita’s fabulous, too (no mixes, no sirree). All too often, real hospitality is missing from our restaurants, but at Grady’s, the staff seems to have it in its DNA. Chiles rellenos filled with slow-cooked cabrito, crisp tostadas dressed up with red-chile-braised quail and sassy corn relish. Need I say more? On Friday and Saturday nights there’s even a winsome cowboy crooner.
2443 Forest Park Blvd., Fort Worth. 817-922-9980. www.gradysrestaurant.com.
The first time I tasted the fried green tomatoes at Hattie’s, I was so impressed I almost fell off my chair. Who knew they could be that good? Southern classics reign supreme at this Bishop Arts favorite, where succulent shrimp on creamy, rustic grits with tomato-bacon-Tabasco pan sauce is a signature dish. Hospitality is a strong suit here, too, and the dining room’s one of the prettiest in Dallas.
418 N. Bishop Ave., Dallas. 214-942-7400. www.hatties.com.
Kent Rathbun’s Plano flagship offers charms more masculine: a sleekly handsome dining room and the wonderfully smoky, meaty Texas fare that comes from the wood-burning oven. Slow-smoked baby-back ribs are showstoppers, chef Annika Sacher has a way with rellenos, and the wedge salad, slathered with good blue cheese, is one of the best around.
In the Shops at Legacy, 7161 Bishop Road, Plano. 469-229-9111. www.jaspers-restaurant.com.
It may feel like a Disneyland version of Texas when you walk into the cavernous establishment in Irving formerly known as Cadillac Ranch (its name changed in January), and there’s definitely a corporate feel. But chef Troy Walker’s cooking is surprisingly good. Don’t miss his rack of wild boar. The waiter may push for medium, but it was spectacular cooked medium-rare: full of character and superb flavor. Just about everything’s Texas-sourced (that boar’s from Devine; catfish comes from Hughes Springs; bobwhite quail’s from Lockhart). Pass up the candy-sweet margaritas for one of the many Texas beers on tap. There’s a nice selection of Texas wines, too. Or Dublin Dr Pepper! Local bands play Texas music every night but Monday.
857 W. John Carpenter Freeway, Irving. 972-506-7262. www.theranchlc.com.
Up in McKinney, some of the best Southern cooking around comes from the restaurant at the historic Grand Hotel on the square. Chef Paul Petersen is known for his barbecue; he placed second in the sparerib competition on the BBQ Pitmasters reality show. But based on the ribs at Rick’s, I think he was robbed. And if there were a reality show for fried chicken, he’d surely run away with the grand prize. Steak lovers will appreciate his bone-in cowboy rib-eye.
107 N. Kentucky St., McKinney. 214-726-9251. www.rickschophouse.com.
Chef David McMillan brings modern panache to Southern dishes in One Arts Plaza, setting seared foie gras with Southern Comfort sauce over stone-ground grits, for instance. It’s the extras that often elevate – a warm potato, andouille and blue cheese salad with a grilled rib-eye, or porky, cooked-just-so collard greens served in a cast-iron pan. Souffléd lemon pudding is a bright way to finish.
One Arts Plaza, 1722 Routh St., Dallas. 214-720-9111. www.screendoordallas.com.
Chef Tim Byres has really hit his stride with a terrific new menu at Smoke, the year-old dining room at Oak Cliff’s Belmont Hotel. House-smoked everything and garden-fresh vegetables are the theme, and rosy slices of smoked pork jowl bacon draped over a salad of house-made half-sour pickles spiked with sweet chile and mustard is a stunner of a new dish. Ditto the tacos: handmade corn tortillas filled with fried soft-shell crab and zucchini blossoms. Byres turns pimento cheese into heavenly hot croquettes and cures his brisket in coffee to fine effect (the sliced meat is good; the nubbins are killer). House cocktails, which didn’t wow me last year, have taken a turn for the better: I loved the Smoked Chelata made with Texas lager.
901 Fort Worth Ave., Dallas. 214-393-4141. www.smokerestaurant.com.
How we choose
The Best in DFW series presents critics’ and staff picks and asks readers to chime in with their favorites.
Critics’ picks are presented without ranking.
To view other dining features, check the Restaurants page at DallasNews.com.
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