Dining in Dallas

Midwinter attendees won’t want for a good meal.

January 4, 2012


The informal parts of Midwinter—those personal meetings that take place outside of the official sessions, often over a good meal—can be among the most rewarding. Fortunately, Dallas offers plenty of options for tasty meals. Here, several Dallas librarians have shared some of their favorites.

Near the convention center

Within walking distance of the Convention Center, Susi Grissom, librarian at Travis TAG Vanguard and Academy of the Dallas Independent School District, recommends Wild Salsa for Mexican food authentic to Latin culture, such as mole poblano chicken, lamb shank barbacoa, or gulf redfish a la plancha. 1800 Main St., Suite 100. L Mon.–Fri., D Mon.–Sat. $8–$30 entrees. 214-741-9453.

Also nearby is Iron Cactus, a Mexican grill and tequila bar with both a full and gluten-free menu. Grissom suggests sitting upstairs for a great view of downtown. 1520 Main St. L, D daily. $10–$19 entrees. 214-749-4766.

Neiman Marcus contains two restaurants and an espresso bar, although the sense of retail history may be the prime reason to eat there. The downtown location is the chain’s original store, making it “sort of iconographic for Dallas,” says Bonnie Case, librarian at Highland Park Library. NM Cafe serves a variety of soups, sandwiches, and salads, while the more formal Zodiac offers elegant, classic meals. NM Cafe: 1525 Commerce St., street level. L Mon.–Fri., $9–$16 (most under $11) entrees, 214-573-8250. The Zodiac: 1618 Main St., level six. L daily. $14–$23 entrees. 214-573-5800, reservations recommended.

Located inside the restored 1940s-era Belmont Hotel, Smoke is a barbecue joint that is a regular on the city’s best-of lists, says Grissom. It’s near the Convention Center, but a lack of public transportation and the barrier of I-35 mean that to get there, your best option will involve a short cab ride. 901 Fort Worth Ave. B, L Mon.–Fri. D daily. $11–$25 entrees. 214-393-4141.

While not immediately adjacent to the Convention Center, the Uptown neighborhood warrants special consideration for Midwinter attendees. It is dotted with excellent restaurants and served by the McKinney Avenue trolley, a free transit line running on antique electric trolley cars from Ross Avenue (near the Fairmont Dallas, one of the conference hotels) to Blackburn Street. Case recommends the S&D Oyster Company for oysters, shrimp, and broiled fish. The ambience is classic New Orleans, complete with black-and-white tile floor, waiters decked out in long white aprons, and a central water fountain. 2701 McKinney Ave. L, D Mon.–Sat. $4–$18 entrees. 214-880-0111.

For seafood, Eva Poole, director of nearby Denton Public Library, offers a pair of recommendations in Truluck’s and Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen. At both spots, she says, “I always just ask for the special, and whatever it is, it’s always perfect.” Truluck’s menus are updated weekly with seafood, steak, and chicken options and a late-night menu. While a short walk from the trolley, Pappadeaux has a menu that includes seafood classics, grilled options, and cajun specialties. Truluck’s: 2401 McKinney Ave. L Mon.–Fri., D daily. $19–$46 entrees. 214-220-2401. Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen: 3520 Oak Lawn Ave. L, D daily. $10–$35 entrees. 214-521-4700.

Mi Cocina serves Tex-Mex classics like tacos, enchiladas, and fajitas. Poole recommends the beloved local chain for its outstanding vegetarian options (though plenty of dishes include meat as well). It also has an extensive gluten-free menu. Several locations, including 3699 McKinney Ave. L, D daily. $9–$22 entrees. 469-533-5663.

Cab or DART

Many of Dallas’s best restaurants aren’t near the Convention Center. Cabs or Dallas Area Rapid Transit, with two lines that serve the Convention Center, are necessary to reach these venues.

For gastropub-style food with a large beer selection and plenty of vegan options, Nicole Pagowsky, instructional services librarian, University of Arizona Libraries (previously librarian III, Dallas County Community College District), recommends the Anvil Pub in Dallas’s Deep Ellum neighborhood not far from the Convention Center. It’s a bike-friendly place also known for its grease-free green kitchen. 2638 Elm St. L Sat.–Sun., D daily. $7.50–$12 entrees. 214-741-1271.

Another of Pagowsky’s favorites in Deep Ellum is Monica’s Aca y Alla, a local favorite serving contemporary Tex-Mex and Mexico City dishes. Specialties include a Mexican lasagna; tilapia with olives, capers, and marinara salsa; and Tex-Mex classics such as enchiladas and burritos. Many dishes can be made vegetarian or vegan. 2914 Main St. L daily, D Tue.–Sun. $8.50–$17 entrees. 214-748-7140.

Pizza lovers have a couple of convenient options. Cane Rosso specializes in authentic Neapolitan pizza. Pagowsky recommends it for its high-quality ingredients, including dough made from stone-ground wheat flour, water, sea salt, and natural yeast; hand-crushed San Marzano tomatoes; and fresh mozzarella hand-pulled in-house daily. 2612 Commerce St. L Tue.–Sat., D Wed.–Sat. $10–$15 entrees. 214-741-1188.

Pizza Lounge is near the Fair Park stop of the DART Green Line. It offers original concoctions like a Hawaiian pizza with steak, macadamia nuts, pineapple, and Kona coffee; and the Spicy Muchacho with plenty of peppers that vary depending on what’s locally available. Both Cane Rosso and Pizza Lounge offer plenty of options that are vegan or can be made vegan on request. 841 Exposition Ave. L, D daily. $6–$22 entrees. 214-887-6900.

The DART Red Line, which has a stop serving the Convention Center, offers service to several good restaurants. Lee Shuey, retired director of University Park Public Library, recommends the Trinity Hall Irish Pub just off the DART Mockingbird Station. The pub offers food updated from traditional Irish recipes such as the blarney cobb salad and Dublin Bay casserole. There are also plenty of events: live music Thursday through Sunday, a weekly pub quiz on Sundays, a Monday night poker game, and regular soccer and rugby telecasts. 5321 E. Mockingbird Lane, second floor. L, D daily. $9–$22 entrees. 214-887-3600.

“Continue on the train to Northpark and you have your choice of good food,” Shuey said. Selections near the station include familiar chains such as McCormick & Schmick’s, Maggiano’s Little Italy, Corner Bakery, and T.G.I. Friday’s. Less familiar, but a good spot for tasty Tex-Mex, is Luna de Noche. 8687 N. Central Expressway, #1804 (and other locations). L, D daily. $6.25–$10.95 entrees. 214-389-9520.

Kalachandji’s is a gourmet vegetarian Indian buffet inside a Hare Krishna temple that has made a number of local best-of lists. The menu changes daily; check the website for current offerings. Pagowsky praises its “really nice outdoor seating area and dessert options.” 5430 Gurley Ave. L, D Tue.–Sun. $9–$12 (though all prices are suggested donations). 214-821-1048.

While it’s also a cab ride away, Pagowsky recommends Spiral Diner and Bakery, a kitschy, inexpensive all-vegan diner in Oak Cliff that serve salads, sandwiches, and hot plates. On Sundays, try the all-you-can-eat pancake brunch for $6. 1101 N. Beckley. L Tue.–Sun., D Tue.–Sat. $6–$10 entrees. 214-948-4747.

The Bishop Arts District is home to a number of good restaurants. Grissom recommends Hattie’s for upscale Southern food that changes seasonally, including “great shrimp and grits and fried green tomatoes.” The district is a short cab ride from the Convention Center. 418 N. Bishop Ave. L daily, D Tue.–Sun. $9.50–$33 entrees. 214-942-7400.

For local seasonal produce and meat, the Dallas Farmers Market is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The market is about a 15-minute walk from the St. Paul Station of the DART Red or Blue Line, which both serve the Convention Center. 1010 S. Pearl Expressway. 8 a.m–6 p.m. daily. Prices vary. 214-939-2719.

Javier’s Gourmet Mexicano is “not your typical Tex-Mex at all,” Case says, eschewing tacos and enchiladas for authentic Mexico City chicken, seafood, and beef dishes. 4912 Cole Ave. D daily. $21–$30 entrees. 214-521-4211.

While they are a cab ride away, several restaurants in the Snider Plaza shopping center on the north side of Southern Methodist University offer a variety of regional cuisines, says Shuey. Notables in or nearby include: Amore Italian Restaurant, 6931 Snider Plaza. L Mon.–Fri., D daily. $7–$20 entrees. 214-739-0502. Peggy Sue BBQ, 6600 Snider Plaza. L, D daily. $6–$15 entrees. 214-987-9188. Cisco Grill (Southwestern), 6630 Snider Plaza. L, D Mon.–Sat. $7–$20 entrees. 214-363-9506. Kuby’s Sausage House (German), 6601 Snider Plaza. B, L daily, D Fri.–Sat. $5–$16 entrees. 214-363-2231. Bubba’s (fried chicken), 6617 Hillcrest Ave. B, L, D daily. $6.50–$12 entrees. 214-373-6527. Bandito’s (Tex-Mex), 6615 Snider Plaza. L, D daily. $8–$18 entrees. 214-750-6100.

Four wineries within the Dallas city limits will be hosting a Dallas Wine Trail January 21. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., visit all four and taste their wines, sample their food, and talk with the owners and their staff. Advance tickets ($45) are required and include a free bottle of wine from one of the four wineries and a souvenir wine glass. Transportation between the locations is not included. Participating wineries are: Calais Winery, 3000 Commerce St., 214-453-2548; FUQUA Winery, 3737 Atwell St. #203, 214-769-1147; Inwood Estates, 1350 Manufacturing St. #209, 214-902-9452; and Times Ten Cellars, 6324 Prospect Ave., 214-824-9463.

Specialized Guides

A number of individuals and organizations have developed dining guides for specialized moods, tastes, or dietary needs. Explore these lists for more recommended dining options.

Radical Reference’s Alternative Guide to Dallas lists restaurants with vegan options near the Convention Center, as well as museums, resource centers, bars, and “cool, random stuff” that cater to lifestyles and interests that mainstream guides might overlook.

DallasVegan.com also offers a listing of vegan- and vegetarian-friendly restaurants, as well as a few reviews and a printable dining guide.

If you’re combining a special occasion with your Midwinter trip, Dallas Dines Out has created a list of the city’s best romantic dining spots.

The Dallas Ethnic Restaurants meet-up group hosts events at authentic ethnic restaurants that can be found “lurking beneath the flashy chain-restaurant scene.” Even if you don’t attend the group’s events, the listing of past and upcoming meet-ups give details about plenty of unique local spots.

The Slow Food movement supports fair and local food producers and educates people about how their food choices affect the rest of the world. Slow Food Dallas offers a list of restaurants, groceries, and food producers whose practices align with these principles.

Urbanspoon has created a list of Dallas’s best restaurants friendly to gluten-free diets.

The Dallas Observer’s annual Best Of list is an eclectic affair, recognizing the city’s best restaurants in categories traditional (best sandwich, best breakfast, best Italian restaurant) and offbeat (best place to dig on swine, best use of cheese, and best thing that sounds disgusting but is actually quite tasty).

The Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau has customized its site for Midwinter attendees. The site lists dining options, attractions, entertainment areas, and cultural hot spots, and will include discount coupons starting in January.

Network through Dine Around Dallas

Midwinter attendees can meet their peers in eight-person networking dinners at a variety of Dallas restaurants through Dine Around Dallas, a group of local hot-spot restaurants. Pre-set dinner reservations are available on January 21 and 22 at:

The Common Table, a laid-back gastropub with an eclectic wine and beer selection. 2917 Fairmount St. $9–$24 entrees. 214-880-7414.

Sambuca Uptown, a dinner club with live music daily. 2120 McKinney Ave. $12–$42 entrees. 214-744-0820.

Dallas Fish Market, serving upscale seafood, steaks, and sushi. 1501 Main St. $20–$54 entrees. 214-744-3474.

Dallas Chop House, an innovative steakhouse. 1717 Main St. $26–$48 entrees. 214-736-7300.

Wild Salsa, for authentic Mexican food. (See above for full recommendation.) 1800 Main St., Suite 100. $8–$30 entrees. 214-741-9453.

Attendees can sign up for a single seat or with a colleague at www.signupgenius.com and search for “lrosales@ala.org” under the Find a Sign Up tab, or email Lindsay Rosales at lrosales@ala.org.


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