Attention, citizens of Dallas. This is not a drill. We repeat, this is not a drill. It has come to our attention that many of you call yourselves Dallasites, yet haven't done your culinary due diligence. Or perhaps you're new to the city and simply want to bone up on the best steaks and fried chicken, dip your chip into some binge-worthy queso or hold on tight to the most beloved on-a-stick food in all the land. This list will help ensure your street cred and allow you to keep your 214 area code phone number. There's a fine line between iconic and overhyped to be sure, but these 20 dishes are classics (old and new), no matter how you slice 'em, slurp 'em or hold 'em.
Fried chicken at Sissy’s Southern Kitchen
The Henderson Avenue spot’s buttermilk-brined chicken pretty much kicked the high-end fried chicken fad into high gear in Dallas with metal buckets becoming perfectly acceptable vessels for dinner service.
2929 North Henderson Ave.; 214-827-9900
Smoked brisket at Pecan Lodge
This juicy, wonderfully seasoned slab of beef is among the city’s best versions of the classic barbecue dish, justifying the long lines that continue to stretch around the block of this Deep Ellum favorite.
2702 Main St.; 214-748-8900
Cheeseburger at The Grape
Though sitting in your car with a Keller's burger should happen at least once in your life, one of the most memorable Dallas burger experiences can be found at this Lower Greenville bistro. Named one of the 30 Best Burgers in America last year by our national team, this marriage of a 10-oz. freshly ground beef patty, house-cured peppered bacon, Vermont white cheddar, Nathan's horseradish half-sour pickles and Dijonnaise on a soft, toasty pain au lait bun can only be had on Sundays and Monday nights, so plan accordingly.
2808 Greenville Ave.; 214-828-1981
Fletcher’s Original State Fair Corny Dog at the State Fair of Texas
Once a year during the State Fair of Texas, corny dogs become the hottest dish in town. Though the iconic hot dog on a stick (which celebrates its 75th birthday this year) has made rare appearances at festivals other than the fair, there's nothing like eating one at the fairgrounds under the shadow of Big Tex.
Lobster shooters at Abacus
Created by chef Kent Rathbun for a meal he cooked for the legendary Julia Child, this dish has been a fan favorite for nearly two decades. And even though the chef is no longer associated with his Knox-Henderson fine-dining restaurant, the crispy lobster dumplings and red chile–coconut sake shooters keep his legacy alive.
4511 McKinney Ave.; 214-559-3111
240-day dry-aged 103 Niman Ranch rib-eye at Knife
It's all about the aging process and duration when it comes to fine steaks, and at John Tesar's modern steakhouse he's serving up this hunk of richly marbled dry-aged rib-eye. Nutty and complex, this limited-supply cut of beef is sold by thickness before being expertly seared to your desired temperature. Many superb steaks have come before and since, but this one is a real treat, indeed.
5680 N. Central Expwy.; 214-443-9339
Chicken-fried steak at Norma's Cafe and Street's Fine Chicken (tie)
Many locals consider chicken-fried steak the official dish of Dallas and for good reason. When it's done right, it's fantastic. That's why we had no choice but list two longtime favorites in the category. Norma's Cafe has been serving CFS for more than 60 years, and you can even order it as an off-menu grilled cheese. But the Street family brought the dish into the national spotlight with its version at the dearly departed Black-Eyed Pea restaurants. The classic is back, however, at Street's Fine Chicken on Cedar Springs with a pan-fried version (pictured above) that still wows decades after it was first introduced.
Norma's Cafe: Multiple locations
Street's: 3857 Cedar Springs Rd.; 469-917-7140
Butch's brisket tacos at Mia’s Tex-Mex
This famed dish, named after cofounder Butch Enriquez, delivers tortillas stuffed with tender, slow-braised shredded beef, Jack cheese, roasted onions and poblanos. It's served with a side of natural gravy for dipping, but you won't even need it.
4322 Lemmon Ave.; 214-526-1020
Tortilla soup at Fearing's
Chef Dean Fearing began thrilling diners' taste buds with this soup back in his days heading the kitchen at The Mansion Restaurant (where you can still order it), and it's still one of the most popular dishes at his eponymous establishment inside The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas. Servers pour the piping-hot broth tableside over chicken, avocados and tortilla strips for a presentation that elevates soup to a new level. A vegetarian version can be ordered too, as well as Dean's Tortilla Mary, which uses a chilled version as the base.
2121 McKinney Ave.; 214-922-4848
Bob Armstrong dip at Mattito's
Everybody knows Bob Armstrong, but it's more likely they know the chile-con-queso namesake over the former Texas Land Commissioner for whom the dish is named. Seasoned ground beef, guacamole and sour cream swim in golden cheese sauce for a crowd-pleaser responsible for many a local's annual intake of fried corn tortilla chips.
Lobster roll at 20 Feet Seafood Joint
For a landlocked city, this is the least likely candidate for an iconic Dallas dish, but so perfect is chef Marc Cassel's version that it draws people to his casual (BYOB!) Lake Highlands eatery for the sandwich alone. The Maine attraction features buttery challah-like rolls made from scratch each morning before being grilled with softened butter and stuffed with lobster tossed in mayo, lemon zest, salt and pepper.
1160 Peavy Rd.; 972-707-7442
Chocolate Glob at Parigi
Chef-owner Janice Provost created this decadent treat back in 1984 by pure accident. A batch of brownies came out of the oven a bit early, but still tasted heavenly (and so much better than all those lava cakes so many restaurants still mindlessly serve). Order it up at her Oak Lawn Italian mainstay and you may never eat a fully cooked brownie again.
3311 Oak Lawn Ave.; 214-521-0295
Duck fat fried rice at Chino Chinatown
Quite possibly the best fried rice ever, this signature dish has been a guest favorite since this Latin-Asian fusion restaurant opened three years ago. Studded with Chinese sausage and shrimp and topped with a farm fresh egg that your server will happily mix in at your table, the addictive rice dish gets even more hoard-worthy when a seared duck breast joins the party.
3011 Gulden Ln.; 469-513-7457
Cheese enchiladas at El Fenix
For 99 years, this Tex-Mex plate has been synonymous with the word enchilada in Dallas. Wisconsin cheddar and diced onions fill corn tortillas that are topped with a luscious chili con carne for an ooey-gooey feast that includes refried beans and Mexican rice. Better still, the dish can be had every Wednesday for just $5.99.
Cheddar fries at Snuffer's
You can find cheese fries on hundreds of menus across the city, but this legendary spud dish has been drawing legions of devoted fans since its inception in 1978 at the Lower Greenville Avenue original. Two layers of 90-day-aged Wisconsin cheddar, freshly crumbled bacon, green onions and pickled jalapeños meld with hand-cut Idaho potatoes for a six-napkin indulgence that wouldn't be complete without at least one full ramekin of housemade ranch dressing.
Onion rings at Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse
The original Inwood Road location has been feeding BBQ appetites since 1958, and even though it's perfectly acceptable to be drawn there for the old-school charm and the vast array of smoked meats, this side dish alone makes the trip worthwhile. Cut by hand and double-dipped in a secret batter, each orb of onion floats in a savory blanket of crunchy perfection that just begs to be dumped in barbecue sauce. Or added between the buns of a chopped beef sandwich.
The “All the Way” pizza at Campisi's
In 1946, Carlo "Papa" Campisi was asked by a cousin to make one of those popular New York "pizza pies." The rest, of course, is history. Claimed to be the first pizza in Dallas made at the first pizzeria in Texas, the signature "All The Way" pizza, loaded with salami, sausage, mushrooms, green peppers and green onions, continues to be a customer favorite and deserved best-seller.
5610 E. Mockingbird Ln.; 214-827-0355
Frozen custard at Wild About Harry's
Even though its 21-year run may be short by most standards of history measuring, there's an undeniable old-fashioned nostalgia at this duo of frozen custard and hot dog joints, especially the Knox Street original. Generations of Dallasites flock to these stores during cold snaps and heat waves alike for ever-changing flavors of frozen custard, scooped into sundaes, shakes or topped with nuts, cookies and candies.
French ham Benedict at Bread Winners Café & Bakery
Long before brunch was a weekend ritual that could be enjoyed at nearly every restaurant in Big D, Bread Winners became a veritable sensation with crowds flocking to the McKinney Avenue spot for Bloody Marys, mimosas and a variety of freshly baked goodies. Drive by midday on a Saturday or Sunday and you'll see the devotion hasn't ceased one bit. Though they serve five different Benedicts, this freshly baked croissant version with asparagus and hollandaise wins every time.
Pig's head carnitas at CBD Provisions
Serving half an animal head at a Downtown gastropub inside one of the city's most chic hotels really takes guts (though you'll have to order those elsewhere). Easily one of the most photographed dishes in town, these pull-the-Berkshire-pork-yourself carnitas make for most excellent tacos, which can be piled high with roasted tomatillo salsa and radishes. Don't worry, only the pig is watching.
1530 Main St.; 214-261-4500