As we jog toward the busiest time of the year, this month’s Hot List will add a special theme: celebratory restaurants and bars in Dallas. These spots are wonderful gathering places to celebrate a successful year, toast to a friend, remember a birthday or anniversary, and get into the holiday spirit.
Bring one person, bring 10 — all of these places offer a dash of delight to a hectic season.
We’ve chosen to limit the list to Dallas only, to keep it concise. Email email@example.com if you want a celebratory restaurant recommendation in another North Texas city.
on Greenville Avenue in Dallas
Dip into one of Dallas’ most interesting cocktail bars, Apothecary on Greenville Avenue. It’s a dark and mysterious place, often selected as an after-dinner cocktail spot, although Apothecary serves ambitious bar snacks if you’re hungry, too. Cocktails can be playful, like the Toomami that’s made with cereal milk and dark rum. They can also be peculiar, like the Kimchini that’s made with kimchi-infused vodka, mushroom soy and gochujang. End with the Candelabra dessert: a trio of candles that are lit on fire. You blow out the candles, then eat them. It’s a fun party trick.
Apothecary is at 1922 Greenville Ave., Dallas. It’s open Tuesday through Sunday, evenings only. Walk-ins are available, but it’s better to make a reservation.
in downtown Dallas
My No. 1 place in Dallas to celebrate anything right now is Brass Ram, Nick Badovinus’ new prime rib restaurant in downtown Dallas. He’s managed to make a giant cut of meat sexy while you load up on mac and cheese, French onion soup, steak frites and crab cakes. Toss in a plate of $41 lobster bucatini or a $27 burger, because hopefully somebody else is paying, right? Brass Ram is expensive, opulent and a hell of a good time. It’ll be one of the toughest reservations to get this season.
Brass Ram is at 2130 Commerce St., Dallas (on the second floor, above National Anthem). Reservations are recommended. Call 469-677-6170 Tuesday through Saturday between 2 and 5 p.m., or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carbone’s Fine Food and Wine
near Highland Park
You’ve likely heard by now that Carbone’s Fine Food & Wine on Oak Lawn Avenue will close on Jan. 1, 2023. After an elaborate food fight between Carbone’s and new Italian restaurant Carbone, the smaller, local company has agreed to take a knee. Owner Julian Barsotti plans to close, then reopen his Italian restaurant — exactly the same spot, similar menu — in spring 2023, with a new name. Get to Carbone’s before New Year’s Eve for Sunday-night gravy. You won’t regret it in early 2023, when you’ll have to go without.
Carbone’s Fine Food and Wine is at 4208 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas. Call for reservations: 214-522-4208.
in University Park
Home cooks, here’s one for you: Custom Meats is a new specialty butcher shop on Lovers Lane near the Dallas North Tollway. Stop in for your family’s typical steak order — it’s a rib-eye for him, a filet for me, in my house — or ask the knowledgeable butchers about a more interesting cut. They also sell house-ground hamburger meat, beef tallow, duck eggs and raw dog food.
Custom Meats is at 4333 Lovers Lane (near the Dallas North Tollway), University Park.
Delucca Gaucho Pizza & Wine
in the Dallas Design District
Bonus: Delucca also has restaurants in Fort Worth, Plano and Southlake
Doesn’t matter your age, if you like pizza, you’ll enjoy Delucca. (And if you don’t like pizza, first, why?) There’s no need for a dinner menu at Delucca because servers bring around lobster bisque, salad, meatballs and slices of pizza for a flat fee of $24.50 per person. It’s like a buffet, but you never have to get up. A bottomless pizza party, if you will. I love it.
Delucca Gaucho Pizza & Wine is at 1628 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas. Reservations not required, but consider them for larger parties.
in the Dallas Design District
After you’ve eaten dinner, wherever that may be, pop into Double D’s for a nightcap. The room is a trip: It’s seriously ‘70s, with velvet couches and wood-paneled walls. Cocktails are thoughtful but not fussy. You know how your high school friends want to meet up after the holidays, before they fly back home? Double D’s is the place to take them.
Double D’s is at 1404 N. Riverfront Blvd., Dallas. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. No reservations needed.
Escondido Tex-Mex Patio
in Preston Hollow
The newest restaurant at Preston-Royal is Tex-Mex shop Escondido. Save it for that weeknight in late December or early January when your family members are tired of eating leftovers and just need to get out of the house. Entrees include ancho butter fajitas; chicken tinga tacos; chile relleno and the like. You want a margarita? They have 12.
Escondido Tex-Mex Patio is at 5950 Royal Lane A, Dallas. Reservations available but not required.
The Finch is my pick for ladies’ brunch this holiday. Restaurant owner Imran Sheikh has turned the former Cafe Express at Mockingbird Station into a friendly brunch, lunch and dinner spot. It has daily specials like chicken and dumplings on Mondays, shrimp and grits on Wednesdays, plus a tried-and-true list of entrees like crispy striped bass, pan-seared salmon and steak frites. If you’re going for brunch, start with the blue crab dip, then choose your own adventure: Wagyu pastrami eggs Benedict? Bruleed bananas French toast? Shakshuka arrabiata? If it’s a deal you’re seeking, change the plan to happy hour from 3-6 p.m. weekdays, when it’s half-price cocktails, bubbles, starters and oysters.
French Room for high tea
in downtown Dallas
For decades, the quintessential holiday to-do in Dallas has been to go to high tea at the French Room. This year, it’s a bit more historic because the hotel just turned 110 years old. Dinner at the French Room has not returned post-COVID yet, but director of sales and marketing Sam Tucker says his team is working on it. (“It has to be perfect,” he says.) So tea it is, in one of Dallas’ most refined dining rooms, in our oldest continuously operating hotel. Dress your best.
The Adolphus is at 1321 Commerce St., Dallas. High tea is Wednesday through Sundays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. You’ll want to make a reservation.
near Oak Lawn
Sometimes, around the holidays, you just want to go where somebody knows your name. Head to the Grapevine Bar on Maple Avenue in Dallas, long considered one of the best dive bars in town. Grapevine Bar will close and move in 2023, so if you’re coming in from out of town — or entertaining out-of-town bar enthusiasts — you’ve gotta get there at least once this holiday season.
The Grapevine Bar is at 3902 Maple Ave., Dallas. Open seven days a week, 3 p.m. to 2 a.m.
on Oak Lawn
The word “homewood” is just right for chef Matt McCallister’s homey, inviting restaurant. The menu is upscale — you can spend $48 on halibut and butternut squash, for instance — but it’s neither dainty nor discriminating. Almost everything’s good here, but I often recommend McCallister’s chicken. McCallister has said that a chicken dish is a good indicator of how good the chef is. Homewood’s is excellent.
Homewood is at 4002 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas. Reservations recommended.
Leela’s Wine Bar
on Greenville Avenue in Dallas
Your favorite person just came into town and you want a cozy spot for the two of you to tell stories and have a glass of wine. Leela’s Wine Bar on Lowest Greenville is decked out for the holidays and will serve as a lovely backdrop for an intimate evening. Beyond wine, the bar has holiday themed cocktails like a bourbon and rye cocktail called Little Full, Lotta Sap; and a fig and cinnamon-infused rum drink called Drink Up Grinches. Thin-crust pizzas make for a simple, delicious dinner.
Leela’s Wine Bar is at 1914 Greenville Ave., Dallas. Reservations not required.
Leela’s has a second location at 2980 TX-114 Frontage Road, Trophy Club.
in downtown Dallas
Midnight Rambler, the basement bar at the Joule Hotel in downtown Dallas, is your favorite bartender’s favorite bar. Come here if you’re impressing a date or celebrating a friend’s birthday with one more round. Barman Gabe Sanchez got involved with Midnight Rambler in January 2021 and has continued to make it one of the best places in town for a drink.
Midnight Rambler is at 1530 Main St., Dallas. Closed Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Reservations recommended.
on Knox in Dallas
So it’s pizza you want. The most interesting new pizza joint — and the most high-profile pizzeria opening in years in Dallas — is Pizzana on Knox Street. The Sprinkles cupcakes founders opened it with a Hollywood actor, and Italian-born chef Daniele Uditi runs the kitchen. Friends or family not from Texas might especially love the Affumicata, a pie with Pecan Lodge brisket, jalapeños and an Italian barbecue sauce. Hey, that’s barbecue, without the long lines!
Pizzana is at 3219 Knox St., Dallas. Reservations recommended but not required.
Dallas is stocked with steakhouses, and many will offer the quintessential celebratory vibe you may be looking for this December. (See Town Hearth, Nick & Sam’s and Al Biernat’s.) STK is Dallas’ newest steakhouse. Here, you are “vibe dining,” or eating inside a restaurant that will soon become a nightclub blasting with DJ music and popped bottles of Champagne. Think Las Vegas, but in Dallas. What’s the occasion? Celebrate a business deal, a landmark birthday or a divorce here.
STK is at 2000 McKinney Ave., Dallas. Reservations recommended.
What restaurants should have been on this list? Email email@example.com.
Or, check out past Hot Lists to see which restaurants moved on and off: