Hundreds of restaurants opened across the Lone Star State, and Sharpe and a team of freelancers fanned out to try Texas’ best bites — all consumed outside or via takeout, a special challenge brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Their favorites are listed in a magazine spread called “Where to eat now” in the March issue of Texas Monthly, on newsstands Feb. 17 and online now.
The story names 35 dishes at Texas restaurants that Sharpe and her cohorts say are the best bites from new restaurants across the state. Ordinarily, it would be a ranking of Texas’ best new eateries. But in the era of COVID-19, the 20th iteration of this annual story had to be different, the critic says.
“Doing a ranked story, in a year that was so bad for business, didn’t seem fair, honestly,” Sharpe says.
“We can’t do business as usual. It has to look and feel different in the pandemic. It has to be more inclusive and broader.”
Her list includes 13 dishes in Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano and Garland. As you read the list, snowed in and perhaps without electricity in North Texas, take the magazine title “Where to eat now” as aspirational, not literal. These restaurants will likely be there when the winter weather clears.
Dallas-Fort Worth restaurant dishes on the list:
- Grilled pork riblets at Elm + Good, chef Graham Dodds’ new restaurant in Deep Ellum: It’s “a starter that could stand as an entrée,” the blurb says. The riblets are served with chimichurri sauce and preserved figs.
- Roasted carrots with chimichurri at Tinie’s in Fort Worth: They’re “heavenly,” the tasters say. This restaurant was supposed to open in 2019 but got tangled in construction delays. Tinie’s opened in early March 2020, about a week before dining rooms were shut down by the pandemic.
- Texas lobster roll at Nick Badovinus’ latest restaurant Yo! Lobster in Highland Park: You can get nearly any kind of lobstah roll here, but it’s the fried lobster nuggets drizzled with herb-buttermilk dressing and topped with bacon and jalapeño that wowed Texas Monthly’s crew.
- Beer sirloin fajitas at Eat Fajitas in Fort Worth: Restaurateur Lanny Lancarte is focusing on one great dish, the fajita, in its ghost kitchen born during the pandemic.
- Arrachera taco at La Resistencia in Deep Ellum: Revolver Taco Lounge owner Regino “Gino” Rojas’ taco tasting room is really great. The grilled skirt steak, or arrachera, is tops, TM says.
- Jerk-spiced lamb shank at Pangea in Garland: If there’s one big takeaway from this list of Dallas-Fort Worth restaurants, it’s here: Get to Pangea for impressive food made by a Nigerian chef with Texas roots. Celebrity chef Kevin Ashade — who was on Beat Bobby Flay on the Food Network — is serving a menu that’s diverse and impressive, Sharpe says in an interview. “Even though we don’t do the burbs that much,” she notes, “we thought this was worth making an exception.”
- Grilled trout hoppin’ John at Provender Hall in Fort Worth: This restaurant opened July 4 in Mule Alley, the major development bringing new life to the Fort Worth Stockyards.
- Fried chicken thighs at True Kitchen + Kocktails in downtown Dallas: Although owner Kevin Kelley is possibly best known for his viral statement on twerking in his restaurant, it sounds like we should redirect our attention to its fried chicken.
- “Dial oil” noodles and dragon eggplant at Uncle Zhou in Plano: It was an interesting, if odd, story in early 2020: An NYC restaurant lauded by the Michelin Guide popped up in an unassuming strip center in Plano. It appears to be worth the drive.
- Adult banana pudding at Carpenter’s Cafe & Catering in Fort Worth: The name alone is enough for us. This is boozy banana pudding.
- La Paloma at Commons Club inside Virgin Hotels Dallas in the Design District: This little work of art seems worth ordering, if only for the spectacle: “The painterly orange sphere nests in a tequila-grapefruit compote; break it open and spoon up a carnival of flavors: fluffy citrus chiffon mousse, melt in-the-mouth white chocolate shards, and juicy bursts of fresh grapefruit,” TM reports. Wonder how it holds up if you order it to go?
- Bourbon-coffee bean ganache cheesecake at Wild Acre Camp Bowie in Fort Worth: It’s cool to see a brewery on the list. Apparently they do a Cheesecake of the Week.
- La Perla cocktail at Ático in Fort Worth: Chef Tim Love’s new hotel bar serves a good tequila-sherry-pear liqueur cocktail, Sharpe’s team says.
Beyond the restaurants named in D-FW, Texas Monthly’s list includes favorite new spots in San Antonio, Houston, El Paso, Austin and more.
Sharpe has two favorites in the Austin area, for anyone going that way: the Thai coffee ice cream at a little shop named Gati — which never would have been named in a “normal” year, Sharpe says; and Summer House on Music Lane, a hotel restaurant whose eggplant toast was so great, Sharpe served it on Thanksgiving.
Read the Texas Monthly article here.