When I went to Dallas people joked about how I was going to have to stick to steak everyday, and for the first week (not knowing any better) thats what I did - and a New York steakhouse at that. A little enthusiasm on the Internet showed me, however, that Dallas had a very lively dining scene with choices like seafood and even salads in quaint neighborhoods and hidden nooks that would compete favorably with the best in the country. Many of them were beautiful restaurants, some tiny, some huge, decorated with vert individual styles and serving excellent and distinctive food. Here are my favorite ones so far, not ranked in any order. They all serve essentially the same cuisine - modern American with southern and mexican touches. Surprisingly enough, most places are heavy on fish - but in landlocked Dallas excellent quality nevertheless.
The one I've been to most often is Jaspers; its right by where I work and is open for lunch and serves a sophisticated take on American food with southern comfort touches married to the haute in a large but very stylish dining room. The supremely unhealthy chips with melted blue cheese are (probably literally) to die for, but pretty much nothing on the menu disappoints. Jasper has a cousin restaurant in downtown - Abacus - which was a similar combination of style and substance, only with still more beautiful people.
Quite the other end of the spectrum was York Street - a tiny tiny restaurant with exactly thirteen seats and a kitchen you could fit into a Manhattan apartment. It's right next to a gas station in an area that seems extremely unlikely to offer anything better than fried chicken, but thats before you take the first bite. York Street offers foie gras, kobe beef tongue and unusual fishes in a menu that changes every day - and the restaurant is tiny enough that the chef both toils away and talks to you.
The Green Room is located in the Elm Street entertainment districts - another area that looks the epitome of urban decay but houses a line of slick restaurants and clubs behind crumbling facades. A vintage bar is attached to a pleasantly old-world dining room, and topped by an open-air live music venue. They have the best deal in the city on a pre-fixe, and the food - again modern American - is great. Salmon to die for, a thrilling salad, baby back ribs with a great take on barbecue sauce - there's enough on the menu to keep me happy for a few repeat visits.
Iris was the most offbeat of the restaurants I went to. It seems to be the norm in Dallas to hide restaurants in unexpected places, and Iris was no exception. Hidden in a strip mall along with a furniture store and cheap chinese, it took me three passes and a close inspection of the address numbers before I found it. The search was rewarding - yielding an outstanding sea bass; the best dish I've had in Dallas so far. (I also orderd a mexican cheese plate that failed to impress, but the fish made up for all sins).
The last on the list is Hatties, which is worth visiting just to walk about the Bishops Arts District in one of the oldest areas of Dallas. The area itself is just a couple of blocks, but well worth walking around - and it also helps build appetite for Hattie's solid offerings. In particular, the fried green tomatoes lived up to the hype - the dish sounds silly but I'm glad I followed the critics and ordered it. My trout was good too, and from what I could see on other tables a repeat visit is definitely on the cards.