33 Classic & Historic Dallas Restaurants that Haven’t Lost their Swagger

Bob's Steakhouse Dallas Historic Restaurant

With hot, new, sexy restaurants cropping up seemingly every day in our restaurant-obsessed town, it’s easy to forget about some of the solid-as-rocks mainstays that have laid the foundation for Dallas to become the culinary hotspot that it is. Allow me to specify the ground rules for being named to this list. A restaurant with old school swagger has to have a consistent level of quality in service and food, a general ambiance of confidence (AKA swagger), and must have been around for 5 or more years. Sure, there are exceptions here and there, but for the most part, the following list conforms to those conditions. Why 33, you might ask? Because I said so.

Here we go, in no particular order.

SWAGGER ON AN EXPENSE ACCOUNT

The following list includes high-end swagger-full spots where it costs a pretty penny to dine. But you will be rewarded with an experience you can count on and a belly full of Dallas class.

Abacus Dallas Historic Restaurant

Sexual foie gras at Abacus. Photo and drool by foodbitch.

Abacus

The quintessential Dallas spot for folks with money to spare and a love for lobster shooters. Chef Kent Rathbun, despite his growing empire of restaurants and sauces for home cooks, has his hands all over Abacus, and that’s a very good thing. He has amassed a team of all-stars, from his pastry chef who makes one of the best breadbaskets in town, to his sushi chef who he’s worked with for over a decade.
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Perry's Steakhouse

That crazy-big pork chop. That’s what you’ll remember, anyway, after you dine in the cavernous restaurant on McKinney Avenue. The pork dish actually comes with three cuts of the pig: the chop, the X and the “eyelash,” which looks like a tender piece of brisket, if one could make brisket from a pig. And it gets better: On Fridays Perry’s sells that famous pork plate for $12 at lunch, so better make that reservation ASAP.
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Nick & Sam’s

Those crazy guys have one of the best steakhouses in Dallas. It takes a lot of swagger, and by swagger in this case I mean balls, to sell cuts of meat approaching $60 each. And that’s of course after you just might have ordered a good amount of caviar to start. But the quality is outstanding and you’re likely to have a meal you remember long after your credit card bill has been paid.
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Bob’s

Oh Bob’s. All five of Bob’s DFW-area steakhouses are full of an odd combination of loudly squawking businessmen on expense accounts and quiet, loving couples on a well-earned night out. It’s a Dallas steakhouse, all the way, somewhere between the craziness of III Forks and the more formal air of Nick & Sam’s. You really can’t go wrong at Bob’s, which is why it’s more of an everyman’s steakhouse, as long as the man’s got a decent paycheck coming his way.
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Fearing’s

Fearing's Dallas Historic Restaurant

Don't skip dessert at Fearing's. Photo by foodbitch.

One of the younger spots on this list, I’m giving Fearing’s a pass because it’s clearly here to stay. Chef Dean Fearing has put together a very large and admirable place inside the ritzy Ritz-Carlton Hotel that serves up Texas-sized food with prices to match. His buffalo steak gets much praise, but I’m a big fan of lunching at the place, where prices are more reasonable and it’s a lot more casual. Dean’s award-winning pastry chef is doing fabulously fun and delicious things. So what I’m saying is, don’t you dare skip dessert.
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Stephan Pyles

The third in the trinity of Dallas celebuchefs with serious swagger is chef Stephan Pyles. His namesake restaurant is a playful yet confident exercise in molecular gastronomy that doesn’t take things too far. The menu strikes that perfect balance between food that’s interesting enough to hold people’s interest and food that’s too out there and might scare folks away. And Stephan Pyles’ downtown location makes it perfect for business or pleasure.
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The French Room

Pastry chef Joe Garza might end your meal at the only 4-star hotel restaurant in Texas, but you’ll do well to start your evening in the small and intimate French Room Bar. The staff inside this hand-painted, gilded gem of a restaurant is at the top of their game; having worked in foodservice for long enough to be called veterans, no doubt. There’s simply no room for error at a place like The French Room. I’m certain countless marriage proposals, anniversaries and birthdays have been celebrated there, and it’s a lovely place to do so.
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III Forks Dallas Historic Restaurant

Lobster porn via III Forks' Facebook page

III Forks

This place makes me laugh, in a good way. It’s like they crammed everything the world loves about Dallas the television series, in Dallas the city. It’s huge antler chandeliers, giant portraits of rich socialites, and servers older than your grandpa. And call me nostalgic, but I get a kick out of the small-but-confident menu and family-style sides. The creamed corn harkens back to the days folks simply didn’t give a shit about things like cream, salt and butter. The bright red slices of perfectly ripe tomato are always on point, like there’s some sort of tomato elf farming magic plants out back or something. And the wine menu lists both Manischewitz and Boone’s Farm in the back of the leather-bound book. Gotta love that.
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Dakota's

Another spot where downtown expense accounts abound is Dakota’s. Whether for lunch or dinner, Dakota’s has been churning out plate after consistent plate of swagger for years. And its location is memorable enough. With an entrance above ground, surrounded by a glass enclosure, you dine just below the hustle and bustle (well, not really, this is Dallas) of the city above.
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Adelmo’s

If you’re not paying attention, you might have missed Adelmo’s. It’s a teeny two-story house on Cole Avenue just south of Knox where Italian magic happens. I remember spending an anniversary there, with duck two ways that made me realize that sometimes the best things come in very small, unassuming packages.
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The Mansion

Mansion Dallas Historic Restaurants

A photo of The Mansion, courtesy of The Mansion

What’s more iconically Dallas than The Mansion on Turtle Creek? Nothing, I tell you. A place where the privileged quietly eat Michelin Star Award-winning cuisine prepared by much-lauded chef Bruno Davallion. Fine diners might find swagger by the fork in the likes of milk-fed veal loin with yellowfoot mushroom, black truffle sauce and crispy leeks. It’s part of a chef’s 5-course tasting menu, which costs $95 (plus $65 for wine pairings). Entrées climb to a hefty $65 for Dover sole, so rest assured, the Mansion is not for the faint of wallet.
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The Pyramid

The “longest-running AAA/Four Diamond restaurant in the city” sits quietly perched atop the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Dallas. Offering private dining, a chef’s Tasting Room for small special events and a stellar menu, this place has swag for days. Fun fact: they grow many of the fruits, herbs and vegetables they use on the hotel’s 3,000-square foot rooftop garden.
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The Palm

Where else can you dine with the likes of Dolly Parton, George Bush senior and Rusty Wallis all at once? The Palm features an upscale yet approachable menu, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Just watch out for the giant lobster, or before you know it, it might be sitting across your plate. Go ahead, take a photo with him. He won’t mind.
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The Grape

Confidence and longevity, comfort and a friendly atmosphere are what make The Grape Restaurant so special. Owners Brian and Courtney Luscher go to great lengths to assure the food and experience of dining at The Grape is a memorable one. This spot is my go-to for first dates, birthdays, anniversaries … and brunch. But perhaps the most swaggerful part of The Grape is that legendary, large-and-in-charge burger, named Best Burger in Dallas by more than a few local publications.
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Javier's Chips Cowgirl Chef Dallas Historic Restaurants

Javier's famous chips and salsa AND BUTTER

Javier's

Javier is a major see-and-be-seen sort of place, tucked away in Uptown, yet always busting at the seams with folks, many of who are of the partial- to all-plastic variety. The thing about Javier’s is that the food is coastal Mexican, none of that Tex-Mex business, so the fish dishes are plentiful. My favorite dish, however, is the pollo al ajillo, on-the-bone chicken rubbed with caramelized garlic. And I must say Javier’s has my favorite chips and salsa in town. They dole out both a green and red variety, and they’re served warm with a ramekin of soft butter as well. Yeah, that’s right. Oh, and watch for the after dinner coffee cocktail the server lights on fire, tableside. Then watch the domino effect as table after table says “We’ll have what they’re having.”
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Hotel St. Germain

Another set of big balls can be found at the Hotel St. Germain, where dinner comes in the form of an $85 prix fixe menu by advance reservation only Tuesdays through Saturdays. Lobster tail, ribeye, a cheese course and other items with French accents will delight you real hard for that price. And the hotel’s small stature tells you it’s a well-kept secret in town for those who know, and who can afford to know really well, what it’s like to dine with French Quarter luxury in the heart of Dallas.
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The Crescent Club

If swagger = big balls, The Crescent Club has some big ones. For one thing, you have to be a member to dine there. And this ain’t no country club; we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars to join. But once inside, you’ll discover exquisite views of the city, a beautiful dining room and personalized service from Executive chef Juan Rosado and his team. Private rooms at the club are just the beginning of the benefits lucky members receive. And entrees like Texas Roasted Quail with foie gras cornbread stuffing and cherry sherry jam ($28) are just the icing on a very expensive cake.
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Parigi Dallas Historic Restaurant

The award-winning Caesar salad at Parigi. Photo by foodbitch.

Parigi

For over 25 years, this small but mighty bistro on Oak Lawn Avenue has been pleasing diners in the know. Chef Janice Provost used local, farm-to-table ingredients before it was cool to create classic dishes with Italian, American and French flair. Parigi has big city swagger, providing a consistently excellent dining experience reminiscent of a bistro in New York City. I’m a big fan of Parigi for brunch or lunch (especially the award-winning Caesar or the deconstructed California roll), but it’s also fabulous for impressing clients or out-of-town guests. Especially when you spot a local celebrity or two during dinner.
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SWAGGER ON A BUDGET

Swagger ain’t all about cash, folks. It’s a state of mind. And in Dallas, it’s also about staying power in a restaurant scene fraught with quick closures and fighting the Fickle 500 all the way. Here are a few mainstays that don’t even give a damn. They just do their thing, just like they’ve been doing for years. And it works.

Terilli’s

Terilli's Dallas Historic Restaurants

Terilli's, as viewed from Greenville Avenue

It burned, but now it’s back. The phoenix of Greenville Avenue, Terilli’s is a jazz-loving, Italian nacho-inventing Dallas mainstay. What’s an Italian nacho, you ask? Well, “italchos” are pizza chips with your choice of toppings. They’re first on the menu at Terilli’s, followed by Italian classics like Escargo Terilli, Minestrone and Calamari Fritti, as well as entrees like Spinach Ricotta Ravioli, Lobster Fettuccini and Pork Osso Bucco. End your swagger-filled evening with tiramisu, one of 16 specialty martinis … or both.
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Campisi’s

It’s pizza. It’s thin-crust. It’s Egyptian? Campisi’s has been around since 1946, when they took over a place called the Egyptian Lounge and couldn’t afford to change the sign. That’s how an Italian place becomes Egyptian, I guess. A true family business, Campisi’s doesn’t serve the most gourmet or even authentic pizza in the world (by far), but it does see generations of families sharing squares of pizza and memories in its large dining rooms. And with a whopping eight locations plus a Fort Worth one opening soon, there’s room for everybody.
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Ali Baba Dallas Historic Restaurant

Don't miss Ali Baba's buffet at lunchtime. Just don't. Photo by foodbitch.

Ali Baba

Mediterranean Mecca Ali Baba has been around for decades, starting out a small space on Greenville, expanding, closing a couple locations and then expanding again. Now with three Dallas locations, the purveyor of babagonouj, hummus and lamb on a spit has really come into its own. In fact, it’s changing its name to Terra Mediterranean Grill. Same food, same owners, just a new name. Ali Baba’s specific brand of swag comes in when you consider the sheer amount of garlic used in the food. Anything that can make your breath smell that bad for that long after eating had better be worth it. And it is.
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Royal China

Royal China is often praised as the best Chinese food restaurant in town, and in fact it is also the oldest, family-owned Chinese restaurant in Dallas. And since it opened in 1974 by a man named Buck Kao, families have been dining there, enjoying dumplings, hand-pulled noodles, chef specialties like crispy duck and Chinese food classics like shrimp with lobster sauce. The name Buck Kao alone makes for an incredible amount of swagger, don’t you think?
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HP Cafeteria

Highland Park Soda Fountain Dallas Historic Restaurants

It doesn't get more old fashioned than the Highland Park Soda Fountain

It’s definitely a cafeteria, but it’s not in Highland Park. As for me, I haven’t had enough swagger yet to saunter in and order up an Ambrosia, Lime Whip or Tomato Aspic, but there are certainly enough octogenarians in town who have. Walk in there and it’s like you’re transported to another time and place. A place where eating Ham & Limas at 5:00 pm is totally badass.
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HP Soda Fountain

Nestled in the corner of Knox and Travis streets, sits an old-fashioned soda fountain that just celebrated its ONE HUNDREDTH anniversary last year. That is serious swagger. Whether you’re up for a pimento cheese sandwich (regular or jalapeno, $4.99), a Frito® Chile Pie ($3.29) or my personal favorite, an old-fashioned “Egg Cream” Soda ($2.99), you’re in for a throwback kind of treat.
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Keller’s Drive-In

Where else can you find a jalopy next to a Jaguar, next to a stationwagon, next to a souped up old Thunderbird, next to a Harley? The answer is Keller’s Drive-In. Because even though a hamburger at the cash-only drive-in is just $2.20, the nostalgia cannot be denied. If you really want to splurge, the No. 8 Double Meat burger comes with two patties, chili, cheese and onions for $2.69. Oh, and the carhops will bring you a beer. Or a case.
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Lucky’s Diner

Cornbread. Biscuits. Cobbler. Greasy spoon diner food. That’s what you can expect at Lucky’s in Oaklawn. Great for families, date night, brunch or just whenever, Lucky’s impresses with their friendly customer service and surprisingly low prices.
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Rise Dallas Historic Restaurant

Rise's delicate and beautiful lavender soufflé. Photo by foodbitch

Rise No. 1

For a truly Parisian experience, from soup to soufflé to dessert soufflé, head to Lover’s Lane and Rise No. 1. The cheese cart alone is the stuff of dreams, stocked with so many choices it’s hard to pick just 3 or 4 to try. But man cannot subsist on cheese alone (trust me, I’ve tried), and there’s so much more goodness at Rise. For one, the “marshmallow soup.” It’s a rich, delicious tomato soup topped with tiny soufflé “marshmallows.” And at Rise, soufflés come sweet and savory, so save room for dessert. There’s always a seasonal dessert soufflé to try, so bring a friend and dig in.
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Chip’s Old Fashioned Hamburger

Since 1981, Chip’s has been serving up burgers, burgers and more burgers to loyal fans who like things the old fashioned way. But if you’re not a burger person, well, what the hell is wrong with you, but in any case, there’s a full menu of salads, sandwiches, platters and whatnot to keep you happy, including some major baked potato action. Next time you’re in University Park with a hankering for an old-school burger and fries, head to Lovers just east of the Tollway. You can’t miss it. Web | Facebook | Twitter

Stoneleigh P

I often wonder how many wedding after parties end up at Stoneleigh P, with a bride in her big, white, fluffy dress scarfing down a burger and fries at the close of the best night of her life. Across from the historic Stoneleigh Hotel on Maple Avenue, the dive bar serves up a very highly regarded burger. Just don’t ask for ketchup. Rumor has it they won’t give you any. House rules.
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Eatzi’s

Eatzi's Dallas Historic Restaurants

You can almost taste the free samples.

Founded and owned by restaurateur Phil Romano, Eatzi’s is a small chain with only three locations in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Head there during peak hours (lunch or right around dinner) and the line for the sandwich bar will be half way around the inside of the place. But it’s worth it. You can’t get a more personalized sandwich with a variety of high-quality ingredients anywhere else in town. From bread to spreads and everything in between, a sandwich from Eatzi’s is a work of art. Laying off the carbs? The salad bar is just as stellar. And that’s before you get to the chef’s case, with all sorts of foods ready to take home and pass of as your own cooking. Pro tip: folks in the know head there at 9:00 p.m. each night when certain items get “red dots.” Those stickered foods are buy one get one half off.
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Gloria’s

Gloria’s has a long, triumphant history. What began as a humble restaurant adjacent to a hotel, Gloria’s has grown into a 15-restaurant chain in Dallas, Houston and Austin. And it’s not Tex-Mex, either. Gloria’s owners, Gloria and Jose Fuentes are from El Salvador, and though the menu includes many classic Tex-Mex dishes, it’s those Salvadorian specialties that really shine. But just try to make room after bowl after bowl of delicious black bean dip, salsa and chips. And if you can make it work, the chocolate flan is the perfect ending.
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Sushi on McKinney

Sushi On Mckinney Staff Dallas Historic Restaurants

The adorable and friendly staff at Sushi on McKinney, via their Facebook page

This quaint and confident spot on McKinney was in one location for over two decades before closing down for a stint after their owner moved back to Japan. To the delight of their formerly heartbroken loyal fans, one New Year’s Eve fans who had submitted their contact information before Sushi on McKinney shuttered received an email announcing the triumphant return. Now owned by some the original restaurant’s staff, Sushi on McKinney came back bigger and better in a space less than a block away from the original location. Favorites like the Robb Roll and the Ahi Special keep folks coming back week after week, and the nigiri is always fresh and delicious. For the price, there’s little better in town for sushi.
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Wild About Harry's

The quintessential American hot dog and custard joint, Wild About Harry’s on Knox Street is as classic as it is simple as it is delicious. Born and raised in Dallas, hot dog creations are named for cities all over the country, all around $5 or less each. Corn dogs, Frito pie and even a roast beef sandwich also make strong showings. But don’t you dare leave without having some of that incredible custard. Though they’re offered with a bevy of topping options, my favorite way to enjoy Wild About Harry’s custard is a straight up single dip. Peppermint, please. The photos on the walls tell a story of Harry’s; its history is woven into that of the city of Dallas. While you’re there, you just might run into Harry; on one occasion I saw him giving directions to out of town guests after their meal.
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Do you have a swagger-filled favorite spot in town that didn’t make my list? Don’t hate; there’s room for everybody in this food-obsessed town. Let us know in the comments. I hope you’ve found a new classic to check out next time you’re looking for a sure thing.

Now go eat something good.

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