- Russian Banya – Carrollton
Russian Banya is just that—a Russian spa experience—but they also offer the Volga Restaurant, where you can enjoy a traditional Russian meal while overlooking the plunge pool (be forewarned, this can make for an unusual people-watching experience, as clothing is optional in the spa area). Spend a few hours relaxing in the sauna before your meal—you’ll build up a surprising appetite. Come prepared, because the restaurant is BYOB. Menu items include Russian, Ukrainian, and other European cuisine. Try the unbeatable pelmini, vareniki, and manti, three traditional varieties of dumpling.
- East Hampton Sandwich Co. – multiple locations
The name conjures your garden-variety neighborhood sandwich shop, but East Hampton Sandwich Co. is anything but. This is not a place to drop by as you rush around on errands. Come at a time when you can sit back and enjoy your meal to the fullest, because the food is worth it. They turn familiar classics like the Cuban, ranch BLT, and lobster roll into gourmet works of art.
- Velvet Taco – Lower Greenville
This place may be technically Tex-Mex, in that it was founded in Texas and the food comes wrapped in tortillas, but that’s about the extent of the resemblance. True, you’ll notice a few familiar ingredients like beef barbacoa, but then you’ll notice it’s paired with egg frittata and served in a hibiscus corn tortilla. Give in and embrace the weirdness. Favorite include the shrimp and grits, ahi poke (raw tuna), falafel, and Cuban pig—and to be clear, yes, those are all tacos.
- Barbacoa Estilo Hidalgo – South Dallas/Oak Cliff
If you are craving authentic Mexican food, look no further than Barbacoa Estilo Hidalgo, a hidden, inconveniently located gem that is absolutely worth the drive. In fact, its out-of-the-way location is probably a good thing, since it gets slammed every weekend as it is. Note: they are only open Saturdays and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Much of the crowd is there for takeout, but stay to eat in the cinderblock converted auto shop for the full dining experience. Order the beef barbacoa (note: arrive early, because they do run out) with steaming hot handmade tortillas.
- Café Momentum – Downtown
Café Momentum is unique dining concept – a non-profit restaurant that doubles as a culinary training facility for at-risk youth. Juvenile offenders learn to cook upscale cuisine and you get to eat it—a win-win. Despite the fact that most of its staff is there for training (front and back of the house), the restaurant consistently gets excellent reviews. Favorites include the roasted cauliflower head, the shrimp and grit beignets, and the octopus tiradito.
- 20 Feet Seafood Joint – East Dallas
Try to imagine an upscale hipster New England seafood shack—and this is what you’ll get at 20 Feet Seafood joint. The place looks like a grownup Long John Silver’s, but the main draw is the food. Try the lobster roll, shrimp and grits, and ramen. You won’t be disappointed.
- Joyce & Gigi’s – East Dallas
Ever had Bolivian food? It’s good—really good. But don’t come to Joyce & Gigi’s looking for authenticity—the place specializes in a unique take on the traditional cuisine, and it works.
The charming atmosphere makes it a great place for an intimate dinner with friends or a date. The empanada trio—stuffed with cheese, beef, and duck—is a must-try appetizer, as is the wine-infused beef heart pâté.
- Eight Bells Alehouse – Fair Park
This brand-new gastropub may be the first upscale dining establishment where you can order canned tuna, sardines, and other seafood tinned goods. But before you roll your eyes, no, we’re not talking Chicken of the Sea. This is artisanal canned tuna—an entirely different beast— plated expertly, and it might just start a new trend in the area (the concept is ubiquitous in Portugal). It’s styled more as a bar than a fine dining restaurant, and the beer selection is accordingly good.
- Monkey King Noodle Co. – Deep Ellum
Not standard Chinese-American restaurant fare, not fully authentic Chinese, Monkey King Noodle Co. pretty much does its own thing—and does it very, very well. They’re basically a food stand, with a sitting area out back that overlooks the employee parking lot. Their menu is simple, with a few noodle, dumpling, and soup options. Try the chicken noodle soup dumplings and wontons in chili sauce.
- Frank – Deep Ellum
Not actually a restaurant—Frank bills itself an underground, private dinner party experience—Frank still makes it on our list as the most unique dining option in Dallas. To dine with them you have to join their email list and enter a lottery for one of their events. Frank is run by two former MasterChef finalists, Jennie Kelley and Ben Starr, and their passion for food shines at each event. The luscious five-course meal is served at massive communal table. Each menu is different, but you’ll enjoy local and artisan ingredients prepared in creative takes on classic recipes. Each course is paired with its own beer or wine.