The 100 Best Restaurants in Dallas: How I Picked Them

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Click the image and the list shall be revealed.

We decided to do the 100 Best Restaurants in Dallas about a year ago. The last time D Magazine published a list like this was in August 1990. At that time, D employed three food writers: Mary Brown Malouf, Betty Cook, and Lawson Taitte. To achieve their list, they used the inspiration of food essayist Waverley Root who once wrote of Parisian restaurants, “Only a very rash person would attempt to list these restaurants in their order of merit. Let us be rash.”

Malouf, Cook, and Taitte weren’t entirely impulsive. They devised and traded quirky lists and held anonymous voting polls over a course of several months. They argued a lot. The only thing they agreed on was that they unmasked the “subtle and not-so-subtle nuances that make restaurants memorable.”

I wasn’t as methodological mainly because I wrote the list myself, and only the demons in my brain fought it out. I wanted to call it The Best Dallas Restaurants in Dallas because, to make the task easier, I cut out Tarrant County, which includes Grapevine, and eliminated restaurants that were not born in Dallas (Sorry, Pappas Bros.) I battled myself for months. I started with a database of 1,600 restaurants, which is divided into cuisine categories. I picked the top two or three or ten of each category (obviously some are larger) and put them on a spreadsheet in no particular order. I manipulated the list every day. I asked friends, family, and colleagues for their opinions, and, in some cases, I even listened to them. I have been writing about restaurants for almost 17 years; in the end, I trusted my instincts. My goal was to answer the question I get asked most often: “What is the best restaurant in Dallas?” I gave you my picks. The top 20 places are restaurants where I spend my own money. The cutting room floor is littered with exceptional restaurants.

To the haters, I say this: Nobody bought his or her way onto this list. Also, magazine advertising dollars do not enter my mind. They never have and they never will and I am lucky to have a publisher who backs me up and allows me to spend a great deal of money to honestly review restaurants.

After we went to press, Escondido Restaurant (#60) closed. The first alternate, Local, is now at spot 100 and all the restaurants from above 60 have moved up one spot. That is the function of long lead time for magazine deadlines.

You can agree or disagree with me. That is the nature of creating lists like this. I welcome your thoughtful criticisms and observations. The Dallas restaurant scene is at an all-time high. We have so many talented, energetic people working to feed us. I wanted to showcase that. I now turn it over to you.

Click here for the full list of the 100 Best Restaurants in Dallas.

38 comments on “The 100 Best Restaurants in Dallas: How I Picked Them

  1. Although I don’t agree with some of your numbers I can appreciate how hard this would be. Nice to not see a steakhouse on top!!!

  2. Thanks for all the hard work…I love lists like these. Don’t listen to the haters, everyone is going to have their own opinion and no two are alike. Some people just like to complain (especially when they can do so anonymously).

  3. Well, here’s a little lovin for all the hard work and dedication. The better one knows you the better one knows what a unique gift you are to our city and its restaurants. Thanks for the list, by the time D gets around to doing another one I hope to have eaten my way through at least half of the 100.

  4. Good list. Don’t understand Mi Cocina being on the list, much less ahead of Meso Maya. Same for Kuby’s.

    But as Moskowitz put it: ” I’ve helped people get what they want by recognizing that there’s no perfect product. I helped identify the fact that there’s a plurality of perfection, and that what you like is not necessarily what I like.”

    http://m.npr.org/story/151899611

  5. Reads like high school most popular list. I guess Egyptian doesn’t count. It’s been around longer than most. What does that count for? I assure you they sell more pizzas in a week than Cane Rosso does Ina month.

  6. Quantity does not make quality. And I’m not even a Cane Rosso fan as I prefer Cavalli’s pizzas.

  7. “Take it or leave it”, “To the haters”, “You can agree or disagee”…if it’s not food, it’s design, or any other topic. D writers have a negative tone and defensive nature to the way they report and this is why I don’t buy the magazine(s). Bees with honey…

  8. What about Joyce & Gigi’s! Best Sea Bass you’ll ever have in your life…

  9. Great food & chef Nick, great wine guy Brandan. Love the location Lovers Ln.

  10. I have torn out the list and plan to eat my way through it. My restaurant bucket list.

  11. Pingback: Ask Nancy About 100 Best Restaurants and She Will Answer | SideDish

  12. You should try The Varsity Grill located at Forest Lane & Abrams in Lake Highlands behind CVS. It has been open since Oct 2010. Outstanding burgers, wings, salads, etc. Everything is made fresh to order. Extremely clean and owner Thom Turnock knows his clientele by name.

  13. My chef friend says he is ill but not in the sick way. Read between the lines.

  14. How can Ocean Prime be the # 3 steakhouse in D Magazines ranking but not be in the top 100 restaurants??

  15. How can Ocean Prime be rated the # 3 steakhouse by D Magazine but not be in the top 100 restaurants??

  16. You and Nick have been in a physical relationship for 10+ years. It’s no surprise to anyone that he’s #1 on your list. It seems you and he think you are fooling everyone–I suggest you think again.

  17. I know for a fact that is not true! Nancy Nichols has been in a physical relationship with George Clooney for the last 10+ years. She’d never double time him.

  18. Hah! Oh this makes me laugh. I haven’t been in any relationship for ten years! Believe me, if I was in a physical relationship with Nick Badovinus, I would be sitting at home eating chocolates and watching HGTV instead of typing restaurant reviews. I love your authoritative spin. I suggest you think again.

  19. I prefer the term Relationship over Friends with Benefits, but who am I to argue with the people involved.

  20. Umm read the post Ocean Prime is a chain restaurant from another state.

  21. No relationship for 10 years, huh?

    “My relationship with Dick Washburne, an investor in M Crowd, was never a secret and it has been over for three years.” Nancy Nichols, Sept 27, 2012, Source: Sidedish

  22. Fish Willy is correct. Ocean Prime is a Cameron Mitchell restaurant originally from Columbus, Ohio.

  23. So, what is your point? I wan’t in a relationship with him for ten years and I haven’t been in any other relationship for ten years. Unless you count my ex-husband who lives in LA.

  24. Don’t you have to have been to the restaurant in the last year? Your mention of Tei Tei’s owner running the robata grill is wrong. He moved to making rolls and sushi over a year ago!! New guy has been there for months. FAIL.

  25. I didn’t feel it was necessary to go to all 100 restaurants for a list like this. Tei-Tei has always been a reliable, well-run restaurant and I keep tabs on many places by listening to the experiences of my trusted dining partners who frequent it. I would have to go back to the original fact checked document to see if I made a mistake and it wasn’t caught. I appreciate your eagle eye and will correct it if it needs to be corrected.

  26. Uh, Carol, Nancy may be minding his manners but I am sure George is seeing other women.

  27. So what ever happened to Washburne’s legal attack on Mi Cocina Hondureana?

  28. Nancy, thx for the FB update. I am glad to see them still going strong. Did MCorp relent on the trademark issues?

  29. I’ll have to start at #100 and start eating my way through. But if you haven’t dined at Canary by Gorji, please try it. You’ll get hooked, and will have to bump it up about 30 spots.

  30. Nancy,

    This is so lovely, helpful and an answer to each night’s question; thank you. Not only did you do a great job on this, so did the Website technician/designer. This functionality is great.

    As for my comments (not complaints), one item jumps out at me. I have never understood the attraction of Fireside Pies. The pizza is okay. But, it is not even the best pizza on Henderson (Louie’s I find to be way better). Nothing else on the list jumped out at me as WTF? Thank you.