Whether work or play has brought you here, one of the best things about being in Dallas is its fantastic foodie culture. Chefs from all over the globe flock to North Central Texas to serve up innovative fare for an audience they know will appreciate their talents. And while there’s no shortage of established culinary favorites in Downtown Dallas — from Deep Ellum to the Historic West End — sometimes you just want to get away from the crowds and long waits.
Luckily, Downtown Dallas is also home to a number of lower-profile spots that offer plenty in the way of both eats and atmosphere. But don’t wait too long to try them out. As of today, the secret’s out on some of the downtown area’s best little-known restaurants.
No matter how long you’ve been able to call yourself a Dallasite, the sight of the city’s distinctive skyline never gets old. The best views are to be found not far from Downtown, such as in Trinity Groves or east-side near the Baylor District. There, at Bryan Street Tavern (4315 Bryan Street), you can drink in Downtown Dallas’ bright lights from their spacious back patio. While things are looking up, you can also enjoy cold craft beer and superb stone-fired pizza featuring local ingredients like Italian sausage handmade by the Tavern’s neighbors at Jimmy’s Food Store. And, if this hangout is your last stop of the evening, be sure to check out their late-night (10 p.m. to 1 a.m.) menu.
Seeking live music with a kick? Head down to The Free Man Cajun Café & Lounge at 2626 Commerce Street in Deep Ellum. The menu sports New Orleans-style Cajun comfort foods such as jambalaya, fried catfish and po’boy sandwiches. Happy hour stretches from 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays, and your odds of hearing canned music in the evenings are pretty slim. Jazz, swing and Dixieland acts take the stage from 7 to 10 p.m. every night, and Sunday diners can cut a rug during an extra 2 to 5 p.m. set. The late-night crowd, meanwhile, can enjoy live rock, alt-country, punk or hip-hop from 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
You don’t need to know the password to get an authentic taste of Deep Ellum’s 1920s heyday. The speakeasy at High & Tight Barbershop (2701 Main Street, Suite 180/190) is technically a secret, but the truly thirsty are never prohibited from entering. While the storefront is all business and specializes in vintage hairstyles for men, stroll past the pomades and straight razors to the bar where High & Tight’s dapper mixologists show off their skills with vintage-inspired libations.
The Zodiac at Neiman Marcus’ Downtown Dallas headquarters (1618 Main Street) is just as historic, only more “Mad Men” than “Bonnie and Clyde.” The culinary staff at this upscale (literally; The Zodiac is located on the sixth floor) restaurant aim to create a menu for both the health- and socially conscious. Ingredients are in-season and locally sourced when available, but make no mistake — this is no hippie hideaway. How many other lunch spots eschew the chips and dip and start you off with a demitasse of chicken broth and a warm popover accompanied by a generous pat of strawberry butter? The Zodiac’s hours are 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
If you’re entertaining out-of-town guests, take them to CBD Provisions at 1530 Main Street. This modern Texas brasserie is known for its commitment to local and sustainably sourced ingredients that highlight the flavor and culinary traditions of DFW. Pay special attention to the wine list, which emphasizes small producers from Texas, California and France. Beer offerings, meanwhile, highlight the achievements of the local craft brewing community.
Other eateries to add to your list include Uncle Uber’s (2713 Commerce Street), a “sammich” emporium that’s especially famous for its deliciously greasy fries; Caribbean Cabana (920 South Harwood Street), a Trinidadian haven in the Farmer’s Market; the West End’s Latin Deli (701 Commerce Street, #120), one of the few places in all of Dallas where you can find Peruvian pickled onions (salsa criolla); Dakota’s (600 North Akard Street), a steakhouse in the Arts District best described as an underground phenomenon, in part because it provides patio diners with a view of a waterfall; and Green Door Public House (600 South Harwood Street), a historic bank-turned-bar-and-restaurant known for its comfort foods and easygoing atmosphere.
What are you favorite holes-in-the-wall and hidden gems in Downtown Dallas? Which Downtown destinations have only recently popped up on your restaurant radar? Share your cravings and recommendations with us on Facebook and Twitter.