Dining in Big D: The 5 Essential Dallas Dishes Everyone Needs to Eat

Prior to my arrival in the great state of Arkansas, I spent four years to a little city just southeast of us…a town they like to call “Big D” (and it’s not “the” Big D…that’s a surefire way to single yourself out as an outsider). It was my first time in Texas, and to be completely honest, I didn’t know what to expect. Cowboys? Elephant-sized steaks? Tex-Mex? It was a strange new land.

But I quickly grew to love Dallas with my whole heart…and one of the primary reasons I embraced her, was the fantastic food scene. Austinites and Houstonians love to look down on Dallas as if it were some sort of inferior monstrosity of a city, but that’s just ridiculous. Anyone who’s really taken the time to explore her knows that Dallas is multifaceted, quirky, classy, cultured, and, yes, occasionally douchey. And that’s what makes her great.

Nowadays, I make the short 4 hour trip to Dallas as often as possible. And if you even remotely respect your tongue and enjoy excellent eating, you should too. Dallas continues to grow, new restaurants are sprouting up almost daily, and admittedly, I haven’t kept up with all the new kids on the block like I should. But when I visit, there are always a few joints I have to hit, some spectacular dishes I have got to get in my belly. So here you go…my 5 fantastic Dallas dishes everyone needs to eat.

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1. Pizza from Cane Rosso: I’ll just put it bluntly…it’s the best pizza I’ve ever eaten. Ever. Anywhere. In my whole life. Need I say more? Fine, I will…it’s Neapolitan pie in its most perfect form. Soft, chewy and just slightly charred crust. Exceedingly simple but delicious sauce. The finest meats, housemade mozzarella. Do yourself a favor, just go. My go-to order is usually the “Luana,” with spicy soppressata, local sausage, and mushroom. But a more recent discovery is in serious contention for my top slot. It’s “off menu,” so only those in the know have eaten this fine creation, but it’s worth ordering. The “Honey Bastard” is topped with spicy habenero honey, soppressata, and salty-sweet bacon marmalade. Yes…you read that correctly.

Pecan Lodge brisket (photo: Kevin Marple, TX Monthly)
Pecan Lodge brisket (photo: Kevin Marple, TX Monthly)

2. Brisket from Pecan Lodge: Let me just lay it all out there…and I’m venturing into some seriously sensitive material here. Brisket is the most difficult meat to smoke and execute correctly. But when done right, I believe, it’s also the highest form barbecue can take. Good brisket in Arkansas (at this time) is practically non-existent…that’s the painful truth. Every self-respecting barbecue fan owes it to themselves to experience brisket in its perfect state at least once in their life. Pecan Lodge serves such a brisket. Fatty, peppery, smoky, tender. Dammit…I am craving some hard right now. The line is long, you’ll have to wait at least an hour at peak hours…but every second it worth it…I can guarantee you that much. And guess what? Everything else they do at Pecan Lodge is fantastic as well…sides, fried chicken, beef ribs, sausages, even the sodas.

Blueberry Pancakes from SMOKE (photo: Kevin Marple, D Magazine)
Blueberry Pancakes from SMOKE (photo: Kevin Marple, D Magazine)

3. Heavy Handed Blueberry Pancakes from SMOKE: Dallasites really enjoy brunching. Brunching is a way of life for most. And where does everyone want to brunch when the weekend hits? Usually, it’s SMOKE. Why? Because of these effing pancakes. They’re heavy handed…but still soft and light. And they come with vanilla poached apricots and cream. You will not find a finer flapjack in your life…I’m speaking from personal experience here, because I’ve looked. “These pancakes are good…but they’re not as good as the heavy handed blueberry pancakes at SMOKE” is something that comes out of my mouth constantly. Constantly, y’all. I’m starting to annoy my friends.

Paris, TX Taco from Good 2 Go (photo: foodspotting.com)
Paris, TX Taco from Good 2 Go (photo: foodspotting.com)

4. The Paris, TX Taco from Good 2 Go Taco: Guys, it’s Texas. You may hate them, but you know they know a thing or two about tacos. And the ladies behind Good 2 Go Taco have assembled the Olympic Dream Team of fancy tacos. Go for breakfast, go for brunch (Dallas people love brunch, remember?), or go for lunch. Any time of day is a good time for tacos…and these are some of the finest in Big D. They’re big and hefty, but also assembled from locally sourced materials. The “Paris, TX” taco features grilled hangar steak, spinach, egg, potato, and jalapeño hollandaise. It’s scary good. So good it was featured on The Food Network. And one thing we can all agree on is TV never lies.

Chicken and Waffles from Jonathon's Oak Cliff (photo: Sara Kerens, Dallas Observer)
Chicken and Waffles from Jonathon’s Oak Cliff (photo: Sara Kerens, Dallas Observer)

5. Chicken and Waffles from Jonathon’s Oak Cliff: I know what you’re thinking. “I’ve had chicken and waffles, like, a billion times. It’s played out.” Stop thinking that. You have not yet eaten Jonathon’s C&Ws. Go eat them and then maybe we’ll talk. Jonathon Erdeljac makes the thickest, lightest, fluffiest waffles this side of Belgium. Then he tops it with a shatteringly crisp boneless, fried chicken breast. Then comes the thick, high-quality maple syrup. But it’s really the rich, creamy pepper gravy blanketing the whole dish that brings everything together. The gravy is key here. It’s an absolute gut-bomb and possibly 6,000 calories…but you won’t have any problem putting down the whole plate after your first taste.

(Bonus! Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcake from Trailercakes. Nuff’ said. You will not regret it.)

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Dining in Big D: The 5 Essential Dallas Dishes Everyone Needs to Eat