Expert food critic recaps favorites

Clockwise from top left: Schnitzel Benedict at District 9 Draughthouse; chips and guacamole at Taco Heads; blueberry cobbler at Petra and the Beast; and an old-fashioned donut and a creme brulee donut at Jaram’s.
Photos by Sara Newberry

By Sara Newberry

It’s been nearly eight years since Nancy Black, the editor of the White Rock Lake Weekly, called me to ask if I’d be interested in writing restaurant reviews for the paper. (I’m forever grateful to the late Cheryl Collett, who recommended me to Nancy; I will always think fondly of her and of her encouraging and optimistic attitude.) I couldn’t imagine that I’d still be doing it eight years later. I have so loved exploring Dallas’ dining scene for the past years and will continue to do so on my own. I’ve watched amazing restaurants open and close, seen below average places improve and witnessed once-excellent spots lose their way. 

It’s been fascinating and fun. But as of this issue, I’m handing the reins over to a fresh voice. Before I go, however, I wanted to share some of my favorites from around the neighborhood.

La Banqueta is my neighborhood go-to for street tacos. They aren’t trying to recreate the taco, they just offer traditional fillings like pork al pastor, lengua and suadero. For “fancy” tacos, I crave Taco Heads. 

The tacos are all delicious, and the guacamole and thick tortilla chips are the stuff of dreams. (My dreams, anyway.)

I get very specific cravings for the burger from Flaming Burger. It is the perfect charbroiled specimen, and the fries served alongside are always crisp and fluffy. Takeout is the way to go — the dining room has zero ambiance — and the Marko’s Special or the Texas Special burger is what I choose. 

If I want a burger and a beer, Chip’s is my choice. You can have Snuffer’s cheese fries — I’ll take Chip’s every time. 

District 9 Draughthouse is our new family favorite; we are big fans of German food (and beer!) at my house. The potato pancakes (and that gingersnap sauce served with them) are among the best I’ve had, and the sausages are unbeatable. I love the Reuben there, too, but not as much as I love the Brewben at White Rock Alehouse. If I want a Reuben, I want that one. 

Petra and the Beast is the best restaurant in East Dallas (if not the whole city). It is across-the-board stellar, and it is the place I recommend to anyone and everyone that asks me where to eat in Dallas. The flavors the kitchen is putting out are innovative and inspired, and the presentations are gorgeous. 

Urbano Cafe is another spot that I love that seems to fly under the radar. Not only is the food excellent, the staff is lovely and welcoming. The Grape has also been consistently fantastic for decades now. I lament the loss of their brunch. 

If I get to go out for breakfast, Gold Rush is always an option for me. The enchiladas and eggs are a verified hangover cure, and my husband is fiercely loyal to their Huevos Rancheros. We’ve both been going there since the early 90s and have never had a meal that wasn’t exactly what we expected. 

Chubby’s and Buzzbrews are also always in the running for a breakfast out. If I just need a breakfast-oriented treat, I choose the Creme Brulee donut at Jaram’s or a Kouign Amman from Village Baking Co. 

I was a huge fan of the Green Room back when Marc Cassel was there, and I am just as avid a fan of 20 Feet Seafood Joint. 

The lobster roll is better than most I’ve had in the Northeast, and the fish and chips are an exercise in indulgence. 

Our “it’s a workday and we don’t feel like cooking” go-to is often El Vecino; the service is always friendly, and those brisket-guajillo enchiladas are never a bad choice. 

If Thai is what we want, we get it at Thai Opal. 

Dallas dining has changed so much in the last eight years, and I am so proud to have been a witness to so much exciting growth. 

I know I’ll miss getting to share my finds with all of you, but I’m excited to join the ranks of the readers who learn about their new favorite spots in these pages. Thank you for letting me share.