Dallas will always be a Tex-Mex nirvana, but when the novelty of bubbling queso wears off (does it ever?), locals find respite in the many salsa-free restaurants turning out creative cuisine.

Both urban and sophisticated, the culinary landscape in Dallas has been shaped by fine-dining heroes like Dean Fearing and Stephan Pyles. But in recent years, the rise of offbeat neighborhoods—such as the Design District and Bishop Arts—sparked a wave of more low-key, chef-owned alternatives to fancy hotel dining rooms.

As expected in tortilla territory, taco-fueled margarita binges are one way for a stressed-out Dallas chef to unwind; another is eating a burger in a joint that time forgot, or escaping to a suburban strip mall in search of fiery post-shift Sichuan.

Here, a baker’s dozen of Dallas chefs reveal the ethnic and old-school dives that welcome them during those rare moments when they take a breather from their own kitchens.

Dean Fearing

Chef/partner at Fearing’s
Favorite under-the-radar spot: Sichuan King (400 N Greenville Ave, Richardson; 972-907-1186)
Fearing says: “This is great, authentic Chinese food. I go for the scallion pancakes, soup dumplings, and hand-cut noodles.” (Photo: Yelp/Katherine W.)

Stephen Rogers

Chef/owner at Gemma

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Sakhuu Thai Cuisine (4801 Bryan St; 214-828-9300, sakhuu.com)

Rogers says: “The food is awesome, and another bonus is that it is BYOB. I usually order the ground chicken laab and the “white” pad thai with shrimp, a secret off-the-menu dish that is similar to pad thai but without the super-sweet peanut sauce. You have to ask if the chef will make this for you. It is fragrant and spicy.” (Photo: Yelp/Brian C.)

Kyle McClelland

Executive chef atProof + Pantry

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Great American Hero (4001 Lemmon Ave; 214-521-2070, greatamericanhero.us)

McClelland says: “This is the most authentic East Coast-style sub shop. They slice meat to order and have great bread. I get the number four on the menu, which translates to turkey and roast beef on white that they load up with condiments. Always ask for the works.” (Photo: Yelp/Hashem D.)

Tim Byres

Chef/owner at Smoke

Favorite under-the-radar spot: El Ranchito (610 W Jefferson Blvd; 214-946-4238, elranchito-dallas.com)

Byres says: “This place is very Dallas-Mexican. They do a roasted cabrito dish with a fresh tortilla station that’s legit. Plus, the surrounding area has a lot of history. It’s like old-town U.S.A. is now Mexican U.S.A., with piñatas and mercados. It’s really awesome.” (Photo: Yelp/El Ranchito)

Lisa Garza

Chef/owner at Sissy’s Southern Kitchen & Bar

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Koryo Kalbi Korean BBQ (2560 Royal Lane; 972-406-0087, koryobbq.com)

Garza says: “International, family-style foods are my go-to. When dining out on my own dime and time, I want authenticity without pretense— the real deal, preferably in a place where the server speaks the language of the cuisine’s origin. This one hits the mark on all counts. I am totally addicted to Korean pancakes in any form, and their haemul pajeon—salty, sweet, and crispy with a custardy center—is perfection. For their BBQ grilled tableside and served with banchan, I always ask for a side of rice, chile sauce, and lettuce wraps to make Korean tacos with the grilled meat. My favorites are the yangnyeom galbi and chadol baki.” (Photo: Yelp/Juan H.)

Matt McCallister

Chef/owner at FT33

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Kalachandji’s (5430 Gurley Ave; 214-821-1048, kalachandjis.com)

McCallister says: “I have a fairly vegetable-driven diet, and Kalachandji’s, located in a Hare Krishna temple, has been serving vegetarian Indian food for over 32 years. The dishes are very simple, straightforward, and super reasonably priced. I order the vegetable curry, dal, and tamarind tea.” (Photos: Robert Strickland, Yelp/Sunny V.)

Oliver Sitrin

Chef/owner at Blind Butcher

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Vietnam Restaurant Bar and Grill (4302 Bryan St; 214-821-4542, vietnambarandgrill.com)

Sitrin says: “I like it because it’s a good, fast, and fun place. I get the crispy pork spring rolls and special combo pho and add in spicy lemongrass.” (Photo: Yelp/Emily M.)

Brian Luscher

Chef/owner at The Grape and Luscher’s Red Hots

Favorite under-the-radar spot: The Dairy-ette (9785 Ferguson Rd; 214-327-9983, dairyette.com)

Luscher says: “It’s been around forever in a city that’s constantly changing. I get the double bacon cheeseburger, hand-cut fries, and a large frosted mug of homemade root beer. The burger is as good or better than most in the city, and the look, feel, and smell of the place instantly transports me to my childhood.” (Photo: Yelp/ViJay K.)

Richard Blankenship

Executive chef at CBD Provisions


Favorite under-the-radar spot: Royal Sichuan (400 N. Greenville Ave; Richardson, 972-234-8889)

Blankenship says: “I’ve had my birthday dinner at Royal Sichuan for the past two years. It’s in a strip mall with several other Asian establishments and it’s authentic and damn delicious. I always order their lamb with cumin sauce, the spicy double-fried chicken—which has more chile peppers than chicken—and their wok-fried green beans with garlic and peppercorn. And of course, the price is fantastic. You could order half the menu and still get out of there for less than $100 with drinks.” (Photos: Alison McLean, Yelp/Stephen K.)

John Tesar

Chef/owner at Knife

Favorite under-the-radar spot: The Corner Bar & Grill (4830 McKinney Ave, 214-219-8002)

Tesar says: “They stay open late, and they serve decent food. I love the nachos, quesadillas, and onion rings.” (Photo: Yelp/Knox K.)

Randall Warder

Chef/owner at Clark Food & Wine and C’Viche

Favorite under-the-radar spot: The Ivy Tavern (5334 Lemmon Ave; 214-559-4424, theivytavern.com)

Warder says: “It has great bar food and the best patio in Dallas. It’s just a cool place to hang out and people-watch with a pimento or brisket grilled cheese sandwich.” (Photo: Facebook/The Ivy Tavern)

Chad Houser

Chef/executive director at Café Momentum

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Dallul Restaurant (2515 Inwood Rd, #117; 214-353-0805)

Houser says: “Dallul is an Ethiopian restaurant that additionally offers several random Italian entrees. I like to start off with the injera salad, and then the lamb stew and chopped collard greens stewed with garlic and onions.” (Photo: Yelp/Chad P.)

Danyele McPherson

Executive chef at Remedy


Favorite under-the-radar spot: Taqueria La Ventana (1611 McKinney Ave; 214-484-6803, taquerialaventana.com)

McPherson says: “La Ventana gives you the small taqueria feel with the Dallas skyline as its backdrop. The food is great and the price is right. For some reason, sitting in old cafeteria-style chairs in the blazing Texas heat is badass when great tacos are a part of the plan. I go for the al pastor and lengua, a frozen margarita—theirs is the perfect pillowy texture with a great balance of lime and tequila—and a churro filled with cajeta.” (Photo: Yelp/Joey S.)