Mexican and Latin American
Deep Ellum’s Monica’s Aca y Alla (2914 Main St., 214/748-7140, closed Mon., $9–20) is perhaps best known for its late-night salsa dancing, but the Mexican food with Mediterranean accents is an equally spicy attraction. Regulars return often for the famous Mexican lasagna (chicken, black beans, and corn layered between tortillas), and the spinach and mushroom quesadillas are another flavorful favorite. Be forewarned: Monica’s can get extremely loud—especially on weekend nights.
Noteworthy for its convenient West End location, RJ’s Mexican Cuisine (1701 N. Market St., 214/744-1420, open daily, $6–16) offers a slightly different take on standard Tex-Mex by adding spicy peppers and fresh vegetables to spruce up the tacos and quesadillas. There are even some unconventional Mexican options, such as barbecued ribs and tuna.
Not in the heart of downtown but worth the five-minute drive southwest to Oak Cliff is
Gloria’s (600 W. Davis St., 214/948-3672, open daily, $7–14), known throughout the city for its delectable Salvadoran and Mexican specialties. Start with their signature black bean dip (with tortilla chips) and continue with Latin-American favorites like cheese pupusas, fried plantains, yucca, and empanadas. Top it all off with a horchata, a sweet Mexican cocktail made from rice that can double as a dessert.
Though many visitors are tempted by the flashy neon-lit Mexican restaurant across the street (Iron Cactus), they should resist the colorful lights and jump over to Sol Irlandes (1525 Main St., 214/744-9400, www.solirlandes.net, $9–20). Try to arrive at happy hour for the $3 margaritas and appetizers, and settle in for a hearty bout of savory Mexican food, including chicken enchiladas with sour cream sauce, tortilla soup, and fajitas that make it totally worth enduring the sizzling platter experience.
American and Southwestern
For those willing to spend a little extra money on a special downtown Dallas meal, consider Dakota’s (600 N. Akard St., 214/740-4001, open daily, $13–32), a romantic spot featuring New American cuisine and steaks. The wild game mixed grill is a signature dish, and the cuts of beef are dazzling—particularly the bone-in rib eye. For a more affordable option, consider the fixed-price lunch or dinner menu, consisting of an appetizer, a choice of three entrées, and dessert. Reservations are recommended.
Perhaps Dallas’s most famous chef is Stephan Pyle, known for his television shows and cookbooks. His namesake restaurant, Stephan Pyle’s (1807 Ross Ave., 214/580-7000, closed Sun., $15–36), offers all the appetizing reasons why he’s become a celebrity. Though he still maintains much of his signature New Millennium Southwestern style, Pyle has also branched out by incorporating some European influences into his out-of-this-world ceviches, tapas, and steaks. Be sure to try the roasted Texas corn soup and/or a Mexican chocolate tamale. Reservations are recommended.
For those seeking something more casual—think shorts and beers—head directly to City Tavern (1402 Main St., 214/745-1402, www.citytaverndowntown.com, $9–22). Pub grub is the specialty here, so order a cheeseburger, chicken strips (doused in a flavorful buffalo sauce), and a big ol’ plate of fries. One of the Tavern’s specialties is fried pickles—prepared with a perfect ratio of crispy batter and pickle nugget.
If you’re in the mood for sushi, the best option downtown is Deep Ellum’s venerable Deep Sushi (2624 Elm St., 214/651-1177, open daily, $5–14). The fresh tuna and spicy volcano roll are highly recommended, and even standard items like avocado-based rolls are bursting with flavor. Weekends are the best time to go, when you’ll get bonus enjoyment from the patio’s live music and lively pedestrian traffic.
Just south of downtown, check out the Brooklyn Jazz Café (1701 S. Lamar St., 214/248-0025, closed Mon., $6–15), where the brunch and sandwiches draw nearly as many patrons as the jazz music does. Especially notable are the Downtown Cheesesteak and veggie burger.
Another good lunch option is Deep Ellum’s Murray Street Coffee Shop (103 Murray St., 214/655-2808, closed Sun., $5–10). Although the premium coffees are the main draw, Murray Street’s tasty sandwiches and hummus are also nice ways to escape the hustle and bustle of downtown Dallas.
For a down-home experience, check out the laid-back Metropolitan Cafe (2030 Main St., 214/741-2233, $9–25). This family-run operation (the owner is usually behind the register and serving food while his wife and mother run the kitchen) offers a genuine home-style experience, complete with hearty breakfasts, high-piled sandwiches, savory soups, and, perhaps, best of all, cookies, cakes, and treats.
Dallas has fancier steak houses than Hoffbrau Steaks (311 N. Market St., 214/742-4663, open daily, $10–23), but this is about as low-key and comfortable as they get. Located in the busy West End district, the Hoffbrau has all the basic cuts of meat (they even process their own beef) without the stuffy atmosphere of other steak restaurants. This is the place to go if you prefer a rib eye and Shiner Bock over a filet mignon and Cabernet.
Another refreshingly laid-back downtown steak house is The Butcher Shop (808 Munger Ave., 214/720-1032, open daily, $10–30). All cuts of meat here are above average, but the service can be a little slow. Fortunately, The Butcher Shop pays close attention to the edible details (bread, sides—especially the asparagus), which make it quite recommendable.
© Andy Rhodes from Moon Texas, 6th Edition