Cuisine in Texas is as diverse as the landscape of our great state, but there are a few things we will always be known for best. Brisket, steaks, barbecue, pork chops and chicken-fried anything are among the dishes in which we take so much pride. All of these can be found on restaurant menus all over Texas, but several chefs from Dallas–Fort Worth to Austin, San Antonio and Houston are redefining the genre and taking Texas cuisine to new heights. Here are 16 chefs at the top of their Lone Star Sate game.
Stephan Pyles at Flora Street Cafe
One of Dallas' most beloved celebrity chefs, Pyles has long been elevating Texas cuisine, particularly at Stampede 66. But it's at his new Flora Street Cafe in the Dallas Arts District where he's taken Texas favorites and given them a fine-dining upgrade in a spectacular setting.
Must-try dishes: Summer posole; lobster tamale pie (pictured); Texas Akaushi Wagyu rib-eye with bone marrow custard
2330 Flora St.; 214-580-7000
Eric Lea at Texas Scratch Kitchen
At this new Park Cities restaurant, Texas dishes abound. By incorporating techniques and creative twists from regional cuisines he mastered at gigs everywhere from Vegas to Miami, Lea presents traditional Texas fare that's perfectly executed with contemporary presentation.
Must-try dishes: Crispy fried chicken sandwich; Texas braised BBQ short-ribs (pictured); Gulf shrimp and grits
5600 West Lovers Ln.; 469-917-8810
Danyele McPherson at HG Sply Co.
Whether she's at Remedy next door or at this popular Lowest Greenville restaurant known for all-natural ingredients and a menu that allows vegans, vegetarians and carnivores to all dine together, McPherson is always reinventing popular staples and infusing them with robust flavors.
Must-try dishes: Vegan chile con queso (pictured); pulled pork nachos; pan-roasted Texas chicken with smoked almond romesco
2008 Greenville Ave.; 469-334-0896
Graham Dodds at Wayward Sons
At this Lower Greenville hot spot, Dodds finds a nice balance between meats and vegetables in his preparation of Texas favorites. He's also known for reinterpreting iconic dishes to give them more modern sensibilities, whether it's supporting ingredients or the main protein attraction.
Must-try dishes: Smoked lamb brisket with sunflower sprout slaw (pictured); braised pork shoulder with hominy flapjacks; poached goose egg salad with beef bacon
3525 Greenville Ave.; 214-828-2888
Marcus Paslay at Clay Pigeon Food & Drink
The chef-owner focuses on seasonal ingredients for his scratch-made classics at this cozy Fort Worth spot. Many of the dishes' fresh vegetables and herbs are grown on-site in a patio garden and fish and meats are all butchered on-site.
Must-try dishes: Roasted bone marrow with lemon and fennel (pictured); house charcuterie; herb-crusted lamb chop with goat cheese spinach
2731 White Settlement Rd., Fort Worth; 817-882-8065
Tim Byres at Smoke
Before opening this duo of barbecue restaurants in West Dallas and Plano, chef Byres was in the world of fine dining. So when he opened Smoke in 2009, he wanted to bring that same level of execution to his menu of soul-comforting classics with Mexican and Cajun twists thrown in from time to time.
Must-try dishes: Cabrito and masa; the "Big Rib" (pictured); pork jowl and fermented cucumber salad.
John Tesar at Knife
Steak is probably one of the most iconic Texas dishes imaginable and John Tesar has thoroughly modernized the steakhouse from the aging room to the dining room at this Mockingbird Station-adjacent restaurant at The Highland Dallas. The big emphasis is on aging, whether it's his signature rib-eye or 365-day aged foie gras.
Must try dishes: 420-day air-dried pork tenderloin; 240-day aged rib eye (pictured); bacon flight of five different varieties
5300 E. Mockingbird Ln.; 214-443-9339
Matt McCallister at FT33
The three-time James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef Southwest opened this Design District restaurant in 2012 and followed it up with Filament last year. But it's at his first restaurant where his artistic interpretation of Texas ingredients continue to win praise from critics and diners alike.
Must-try dishes: Heritage pork collar with baba ghanoush; grilled Windy Meadows chicken with coconut, green papaya and chiles (pictured); smoked trout
1617 Hi Line Dr.; 214-741-2629
Brad Phillips at Asador
Inside the Renaissance Dallas, this "hotel restaurant" has quietly become a destination over the past few years since Brad Phillips joined the team in 2012. The aromas from the mesquite-fired grill hint at the smoke-infused dishes to from a menu packed with ingredients from local food artisans.
Must-try dishes: Texas tomahawk pork chop with braised mushrooms (pictured); Texas heirloom tomato and queso Chihuahua sandwich; family-style Texas Wagyu cowboy steak
2222 Stemmons Fwy.; 214-267-4815
Oliver Sitrin at Blind Butcher
Nearly everything on the menu at this Lowest Greenville meat haven has origins in Texas, from venison and chicken to green beans and okra. Hand-cranked sausages are a specialty (including brisket-cheddar-jalapeño and bacon bratwurst). Sitrin is also responsible for making pig ears popular to entire new generations of diners.
Must-try dishes: Pickle tasting; sausage board; chicken-fried quail
1919 Greenville Ave.; 214-887-0000
Blythe Beck at Pink Magnolia
Not only does this chef think pink from her chef's coat to the decor, she cooks Texas favorites with a penchant for the outrageously decadent. Her charming Bishop Arts area restaurant welcomes diners like family and presents them with a feast for the senses from first course to last.
Must-try dishes: Chicken-fried rib-eye with bacon gravy; chicken-fried oysters Rockefeller; tarragon lemon-roasted chicken with wild mushroom gravy (pictured)
642 W. Davis St.; 469-320-9220
Richard Blankenship at CBD Provisions
This Downtown Texas brasserie is the culinary playground for Blankenship to experiment with ingredients and presentation to completely reinvent Texas cuisine with produce, cheese, meats and poultry, all sourced locally.
Must-try dishes: Pig's head carnitas (pictured); Gulf shrimp and crab cocktail; pimento cheese toast
1530 Main St.; 214-261-4500
Bob Stephenson at FnG Eats
Out in Keller, Texas-born Stephenson started as a short-order cook at age 13 before working in corporate kitchens of some of the biggest restaurant chains to hail from Texas. His culinary approach infuses Texas dishes with global flavors, but also takes international dishes and gives them some Texas flair.
Must-try dishes: Gruyere- and apple-stuffed pork chop with pear and potato hash (pictured); Texas poutine; deviled eggs with caviar
201 Town Center Ln #1101, Keller; 817-741-5200
Hugo Ortega at Backstreet Cafe
Down in Houston, Hugo Ortega has been a fixture on the restaurant scene for many years, most notably for his Mexican eateries. However, his Texas inspirations trace back to Backstreet Cafe, where he started as a dishwasher and busboy in 1984. It's here that he gets to showcase some iconic favorites with welcome twists.
Must-try dishes: Fried green tomatoes with crab remoulade; pecan-crusted fried chicken with red pepper reduction (pictured); Gulf Coast beignets
1103 S Shepherd Dr., Houston; 713-521-2239
Jason Dady at Two Bros BBQ Market
In San Antonio, Dallas native and James Beard semifinalist Jason Dady has several restaurants, but his award-winning Two Bros BBQ Market is where Texas cuisine truly shines, primarily with his low-and-slow smoked meat presentations.
Must-try dishes: Smoked stuffed jalapeños; beef brisket (pictured); cherry-glazed baby back ribs
12656 West Ave., San Antonio; 210-496-0222
Jason Stude at Boiler Nine Bar + Grill
New on the Austin dining scene is this highly anticipated grilled meat paradise inside a rehabilitated power plant with Texas favorites like Frito pie, burgers and Gulf seafood.
Must-try dishes: Crispy giardinera (pickled veggies) with hot sauce (pictured); wood-fired brisket; Texas eggplant with feta, mint and fire-roasted roots
800 W Cesar Chavez St., Austin; 512-220-9990