Why Dallas Wasn't Featured in Bon Appetit List of America's 20 Most Important Restaurants

Categories: Food News

Lucia Agnolotti.jpg
Lori Bandi
Does Lucia's pasta deserve the national spotlight? Probably.
If you haven't heard, next month's Bon Appetit will name the 20 most important restaurants in America. Dallas didn't make the list. Texas got two nods -- both Uchi and Franklin BBQ in Austin were mentioned -- but instead of celebrating Lone Star Pride, I'd rather examine why Dallas was not included.

Let's look some of these restaurants on the list and see what they say about the restaurant scene in Dallas.

Tei An Ramen.jpg
I am quite certain this ramen bowl could hold its own against Momofuko.
Momofuko opens in the number one spot with an amazing online video I'm sure will get your salivary glands working. What's most interesting to me about the spot is that not only is chef/owner David Chang's cooking new and innovative, but also he's been creatively spinning classic flavors at the restaurant since 2004. Longevity is an important part of establishing a solid dining scene. Diners need to know they can depend on a place. La Bernadine, which is also featured in the list, opened in 1994.

Of the three five-star restaurants currently operating in Dallas, two are currently just over two years old. Lucia and Tei-An are definitely restaurants that can stand on a national stage. Will they be here in 2020?

Husk, in Charleston South Carolina, has been earning national attention for taking farm-to-table to the next level. Chef Sean Brock simply grows what he can't find, while also using his garden to help preserve rare heirloom crops that might otherwise sit dormant in a seed bank.

In Dallas some chefs make use of gardens. There's even an East Dallas café named after the plot sitting behind the restaurant. But none of these places uses their garden as a primary source of ingredients for their menus. An herb garden and the occasional okra dish is not enough to grab anyone's attention outside of the loop. Though, with the weather and soil here, maybe we should focus on other ways to grab the spotlight.

FT-33's kitchen is creative, but is it Alinea creative?
Alinea, in Chicago, pushes boundaries of creativity. It's one of the first restaurants to use the volcano vaporizer (I'm not sure what else these are used for ...) for extracting the aromas of herbs without combustion. The restaurant uses scent and sight like an abstract pallette to support the dishes. Alinea isn't a place you'll want to eat every night, but it will change the way you think about eating.

Roberta's, meanwhile, offers pizza and $180 tasting menu within the same restaurant group in New York. Oh, and a tiki disco party. I don't know of any restaurateur in Dallas willing to take risks like this, but honestly, I have to wonder if such a quirky concept would work here.

If you think all these restaurants made it into this list simply because of their PR Machine? Mission Chinese Food in San Fransisco doesn't have one, yet they're still featured in at least 13 major magazines last year, from The New Yorker to Playboy. Let's ignore how these restaurants get into magazines and lists and instead check in with the restaurants that have the best chance of being noticed outside of Dallas.

I've already mentioned Tei-An and Lucia. And while the Mansion on Turtle Creek is known for impeccable execution, I don't think they're doing anything inventive or new enough to get attention outside of Dallas.

That leaves me with FT 33, Spoon and Oak. These restaurants are starting to wake up the Dallas dining scene with new concepts and new takes on cuisine, while exhibiting the tight execution it takes to stand on a national stage. Now they have to stay in the game. They have to stay excited and work continuously to improve with every dinner service.

And Dallas diners have to keep rewarding those restaurants with repeated business. It's on all of us to recognize what is truly good and has staying power, while ignoring flash-in-the-pan restaurants that contribute nothing to the unique potential within in our dining scene. Dallas has to not only want to be a true culinary city, but it has to want it collectively and consistently for a very long time.

My Voice Nation Help

Sorry, but what's your point, Scott Weitz? You don't think it's enough for the Metroplex in general and Dallas specifically to patronize cookie-cutter restaurants just as cookie-cutter suburbs are occupied? It isn't enough that Dallas diners are fickle in nature and run to the 'next big thing' in droves just to drop it and move on to the next? As much as I enjoy reading Bon Appetit, it really shouldn't matter whether or not Dallas restaurants get put on some arbitrary list. Such lists are a dime a dozen and don't really mean much. I do agree that patrons should do more to support restaurants that specialize in localized food supplies as well as newer concepts such as farm-to-restaurant. However, the Dallas restaurant scene has been notoriously traditional, in part perhaps because of the image portrayed in the media and perpetuated by vapid TV series and 'reality' shows. Until that changes, Dallas will continue to be left in the dust and omitted from future lists. Better dust off those frequent flyer miles and has up your vehicle to find adventures in dining elsewhere.


Wow, finally i applaud a writer or just a Dallas person that understands whats going on. I've been a chef out here for 5 years and I've never seen so many people talking about restaurants that are just flashy lights like they are the next great thing. Please listen to this man and stop running to some crappy place in uptown just because its the new A-list spot. Food is an epidemic everywhere but here, which is funny to me seeing as "everything is bigger in Texas". Support your local chef and stop blasting everyone on Yelp just cuse they didn't server your favorite Tyson chicken breast. Time for a change


Last time I checked, 2012-2008 = 4 years for Tei An.


I would argue that Oxheart in houston should be included. That place is amazing and something that Dallas sorely miss

ChrisYu topcommenter

man i'm hungry. I could really go for something IMPORTANT tonight.


Nice article, and something I've thought about a lot.

It's not just trendiness...and it's certainly not political. La Bernardin and EMP are far from trendy. It's about influence and timeliness and lasting effect. I actually thought the list was pretty damn fair, and was happy that uchi got a nod.

I'm sure you'd consider most, if not all, the undisputed great culinary cities in the world "super liberal," everlastingphelps. That's a personal issue with you, not an issue with the list.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

"Most Important" is an unfortunate choice of words.  They should have listed "Most Trendy", or is that pejorative now?

everlastingphelps topcommenter

Honestly?  It's political.  Charleston is the only non-super liberal city on the list.

They're hacks where "how many people do I see like me?" (meaning, white, over-educated and liberal) at a place is all that matters. It's not the food.


Dallas has been Blue for the last couple presidential elections....no?


@scott.reitzNot sure about that one. I guess you could argue that it confirmed that a fast-food style burger can be elevated to a higher level, which is important since it's America's most iconic and ubiquitous food. But, I'm not sure anyone was ever really questioning that in the first place.

Or, you could view its importance from a branding perspective...flawless from pretty much every angle (design, product consistency, experience, etc...).

everlastingphelps topcommenter

@Mervis Don't try to confuse leftists with FACTS, it's PERCEPTION that matters.  (That's why we end up with fake suspension bridges.)

everlastingphelps topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz @everlastingphelps ^^^ Completely non-refuting comment, pure ad hominem.

scott.reitz moderator

@Michael_R @scott.reitz or simply for proof that "fast food" doesn't have to taste like garbage, while treating their employees like burger drippings.

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