Since Oak Lawn is one of the tony parts of Dallas , it should come as no surprise that this is where some of the city’s most exquisite restaurants are located. For years, the über-exclusive Mansion on Turtle Creek (2821 Turtle Creek, 214/559-2100, open daily, $17–43) represented the height of luxury, as Texas’s only five-star, five-diamond hotel and five-diamond restaurant. However, times have changed, and the Mansion is loosening up its black tie these days. Jackets are no longer required to partake of the restaurant’s famous Southwestern gourmet offerings; in fact, even (gulp) jeans are allowed in the main dining room. Of the many top-notch options, several are supremely spectacular: the filet of tenderloin au poivre, porcini-crusted filet mignon, and Niman Ranch lamb. This meal will set you back a pretty penny, but for some, it pays to dine finely among the elite. Reservations are recommended.
Less glamorous yet nearly as delectable is Craft (2440 Victory Park Ln., 214/397-4111, open daily, $16–32), a New York transplant that has cemented a reputation for fine dining without the fuss. The dishes at Craft are extraordinary in their elegant simplicity—the focus is on the pure flavor of the offering (particularly steak or seafood), prepared without an abundance of seasoning or exotic sauces. The mushrooms are especially flavorful. Reservations are recommended.
Technically located just north of Oak Lawn in the Park Cities area, the legendary Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse (2202 Inwood, 214/357-7120, open daily, $7–15) is a must for those in search of authentic Texas-style barbecue. Traditional meats are the way to go here—try the triple crown of brisket, pork ribs, and sausage—and the sauce offers the perfect tangy topping that ties it all together. If that weren’t enough, the building itself provides an ideal atmosphere, with its smoke-drenched walls and old wooden school desks and picnic tables. There aren’t too many places like this outside the Lone Star State, and judging by the long lines of locals clamoring to get in for lunch each day, there aren’t many others quite as good in Dallas.
You’ll notice the brightly colored Cosmic Café (2912 Oak Lawn Ave., 214/521-6157, open daily, $7–14) from blocks away, and the punchy flavors waiting inside will also get your attention. This vegetarian landmark offers excellent traditional Middle Eastern staples such as falafel, samosas, and hummus as well as flavorful sweet treats like brownies, homemade ice cream, and fruit smoothies.
For standard diner fare, check out Lucky’s (3531 Oak Lawn Ave., 214/522-3500, open daily, $6–12), which offers sandwiches and burgers along with its big draw: chicken-fried steak topped with peppery cream gravy. Pour some of it on a mound of nearby homemade mashed potatoes, and you’ll be feeling Lucky (and sleepy) for the rest of the afternoon.
In the 1970s and ’80s, Mia’s (4322 Lemmon Ave., 214/526-1020, open daily, $6–13) drew huge crowds, including the cast of Dallas, along with legendary Dallas Cowboys  coach Tom Landry and many of his players. Though it’s since lost much of its star luster, Mia’s still serves some of the city’s most authentic and tasty Tex-Mex. Standard fare like enchiladas and chicken tacos are certainly worthwhile, but make a point of trying the perfectly battered and seasoned chiles rellenos or the tender brisket tacos for a truly distinctive Mexican-food experience.
One of Oak Lawn’s most popular Mexican restaurants is Herrera’s Cafe (4001 Maple Ave., 214/528-9644, $4–10). Don’t be dismayed by the sketchy exterior—the food awaiting within is high-quality authentic goodness. The salsa is spicy and garlicky, the cheese is gooey and satisfying, and the beef and chicken are tender and perfectly seasoned.