It’sIt’s been two long, strange years for the restaurant industry, and after a 2020 hiatus, Eater Dallas is excited to announce the best new restaurants in the city. These are restaurants and bars that have opened despite unprecedented challenges, bringing a tropical escape to Greenville Avenue; a vegan take on a favorite fast-food snack; comforting, modern Southern food; stunning Brazilian cuisine; and delicious onigiri to Dallas diners.
Please join us in celebrating this year’s group of winners, who will also be receiving a traditional Eater tomato can trophy.
Restaurant of the Year
For the most part, Dallas diners’ exposure to Brazilian food is limited to all-you-can-eat chain churrascarias. But chef Junior Borges, who was raised in a small town north of Rio de Janeiro, and who has worked in several big-name kitchens in New York City and North Texas, seeks to upend that notion with his restaurant Meridian at the Village.
Nestled amongst a grove of live oak trees, the modern Brazilian eatery offers diners a fresh and vibrant take on the country’s cuisine. Seafood is one of the main stars, with fluke crudo, cod croquettes, and blue prawn moqueca stew among the highlights. Even before that, the restaurant’s daily bread service gives a hint of the care and variety that Borges has put into his menu, with sides like whipped butter, ‘nduja, and saba.
But perhaps the most stunning dish is the whole charred octopus, brushed with a chili vinaigrette sauce and cooked on Meridian’s wood-fired hearth. Pair it with a fresh, limey caipirinha, and be transported to the beaches of Borges’s youth.
Chef of the Year
Tiffany Derry of Roots Southern Table
Tiffany Derry first came to diners’ attention with a 2009 stint on Bravo’s Top Chef. Her full-service restaurant Private Social, which closed in 2013, was lauded by critics and diners alike and was the birthplace of Derry’s signature dish — duck fat fried chicken. After opening a few locations of fast-casual joint Roots Chicken Shak, Derry is back to full service with Roots Southern Table, which opened in June.
At Roots, Derry is exploring the full range of what “Southern food” can be, with dishes like crab-topped gumbo inspired by her mother’s recipe, anchovy and mozzarella-stuffed squash blossoms, and jerk-spiced lamb chops.
“Southern food doesn’t get the recognition that it deserves, and people have a misconception of what they think ‘Southern food’ really is,” she told Eater back in July. “It’s all about who stirs the pot. When you’re in New Orleans, and you see this large Vietnamese community, those people are still Southern, and they’re cooking Southern food. Everyone who settled in that area created dishes based on what was in that area, and a unique cuisine developed. I’m more focused on telling those stories, and what we can do with native Southern ingredients.”
Best New Bar
Dallas lost one of its last vestiges of mid-century Tiki culture in 2010, with the brief reopening, and then closure, of the original 40-year-old Trader Vic’s on Mockingbird Lane. But Swizzle, which opened in late 2020 after five years in the works (and several Covid-19 setbacks) has brought rum-soaked, umbrella-garnished drinks back to the city’s center. With an extensive list of sugarcane-based spirits, drinks like the Zombie, Mai Tai, and Dole Whip, and Polynesian-inspired dishes, including chicken katsu and macaroni salad, SPAM snack platters, and crispy, deep-fried lumpia, Swizzle makes the perfect spot to seek out a little escape.
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