It’s not surprising that Al Biernat’s won in two categories this year. To begin with, Al serves the most juicy, tender steaks around, but that’s pretty common knowledge — and the basis for its win in the Steakhouse category. The real reason why this is one of the city’s favorite restaurants, however, lies in the luxe atmosphere (think ornate wood and art and beautiful people everywhere) and the way every customer — from Dallas’ rich and famous to its girl-next-door types — is treated like royalty.
Shinsei: From Shinsei’s dim, softly lit interior to its ornate statues of deities, we begin to relax as soon as we enter the door. The soothing continues as you order from the menu featuring exotic twists on seafood staples. With beef and chicken entrees as well (in case seafood isn’t your thing), there’s definitely something for everyone on the menu here.
Celebrity Cafe & Bakery: Apropos of its name, this cafe rolls out the red carpet. The staff oven roasts their turkey daily, uses fresh chicken, and prepares all of their salad dressings and bakery items in house and from scratch. Pair everything with a cup of the cult-followed Lavazza, known as Italy’s favorite coffee, and you’ll be ready for your close-up or anything else the day may bring.
Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse: A Texas staple for more than a century, Sonny Bryan’s is the stuff legends are made of. If you’ve been searching for meat so tender it practically falls off the bone and then melts in your mouth, look no further. Although Sonny Bryan’s is a Dallas go-to, it’s certainly no secret. The eatery has been featured in national publications, earned national awards, and been on the Food Network several times.
The Ginger Man: Legend has it that the Ginger Man’s original Houston pub, founded in 1985, was the first multi-tap specialty beer bar in America. While we may not be able to scientifically prove that, we did prove that they have the best beer menu this side of the Trinity, by asking our readers. And its easy to see why — with more than 100 beers on draught and in bottles, it’s almost hard to decide what to try first.
Bread Winners: The Hughes family has been providing Dallas with the perfect balance between casual and fine dining since 1994. In November, they opened a fourth location, in NorthPark Center, giving the community yet another place to get one of the finest home- cooked meals around. Winners in two categories, brunch and dessert, you can’t go wrong with anything you order. We recommend the Bananas Foster Waffle, a creation so decadent we can’t decide if it’s breakfast or dessert.
Bread Winners: See above.
Twisted Root Burger Company: The guys at Twisted Root say that their food is “slap-yo- momma good,” and while we wouldn’t exactly recommend doing that, we would recommend you bring your momma with you when you visit because it is that good. All three of the guys behind Twisted Root have culinary degrees and extensive experience working in acclaimed restaurants, which translates into burgers bursting with flavor and milkshakes so rich and creamy that they’re practically a meal on their own.
Drip Coffee Company: For coffee drinkers with an elevated palate, not just any major chain will do. This is where Drip, founded by coffee-business veteran Steve Thatcher, enters the picture. Unlike most chains and coffeehouses today, all of its coffees are hand-roasted on-site in small batches to guarantee the highest quality in freshness and flavor.
Celebration Restaurant: For more than 40 years, Celebration Restaurant has brought Dallas the freshest food around. Meals are served family-style in a charming house complete with a sprawling patio, stone fireplace, and fountain, so you feel like you’re dining at Grandma’s. Because they use real ingredients and seasonal items, their menu changes daily. We can’t guarantee what they’ll be serving on any given day, but we can guarantee that it will be fresh and delicious.
Mi Cocina: You can get margaritas and Mexican food on just about any corner in Dallas, but there are few places where you can get real margaritas and Mexican. Mi Cocina is one of the few places that serves the latter. Made from fresh ingredients and authentic Mexican techniques, their classic self-titled margarita and “Mama’s” tacos are legendary. Also noteworthy are all of the variations on the original concoction they offer, such as the agave margarita, fondly known as the “Nectar of the Gods.”
Mi Cocina: See above.
Patrizio: Dallas is no Italian village, but dining on Patrizio’s shady patio, you’d never believe that. From the trailing vines to the wrought-iron furnishings, this charming patio provides a shady escape. And with a glass of vino in one hand and a fork full of lasagna in the other, it’s not hard to imagine you’re in a quaint Italian villa.
The Porch: Specializing in “down-home food and Uptown cocktails,” The Porch serves up easy eats such as chopped brisket sliders, turkey chili, and fish and chips with panache. Most important, however, is the fact that their porch (well, patio, to be exact!) is pet-friendly. No longer is Fido restricted to the confines of your home while you dine out.
PIZZA & ITALIAN
Campisi’s Restaurants: In the 65 years that the Campisi family has been running their namesake restaurant, they’ve come just about as close to perfecting pizza as you can get. And while they might be most famous for their loaded pizza pies, their classic Italian pastas and entrees are just as tasty and legendary in their own right.
Hillstone: The folks at Hillstone understand that excellent service is paramount to a pleasurable dining experience. Since 1998, the eatery formerly known as Houston’s has been devoted to providing the best hospitality and food for a difference that you can see, feel, and taste. Anything that you order will be fresh and delicious, but it’s the stellar staff and service you receive that set Hillstone apart.
Al Biernat’s: See the “Ambience” category.
Taco Diner: Taco Diner stands out for doing one thing really well — tacos. Sure, there are other popular Mexican entrees on the menu, but why would you mess with a good thing? Their fish tacos are legendary, and they still make their tortillas by hand. If you thought that the only places to get authentic tacos were gas stations in other parts of town, think again.
Crú: With floor-to-ceiling wine racks that house more than 300 varieties from around the world, Crú is equally perfect for a date or a night out with friends. If you’re not a wine aficionado, the friendly and knowledgeable staff will be more than willing to help you pick the selection that best suits your palate. They’ve also got a menu full of artisan cheeses and gourmet entrees.