These 16 restaurants will help define the Dallas dining scene in 2021.
After a tumultuous 2020, Dallas diners seem hungry for hope. Luckily — and amazingly — the future of our dining scene seems as vibrant as ever.
2021 will bring a delicious bite of nostalgia to the pie-shaped building at Commerce and Cesar Chavez Boulevard in Dallas. Restaurateur Nick Badovinus (Town Hearth, Neighborhood Services) is fascinated with the 100-year-old structure that opened as a service station in the 1920s. It was home to KLIF Radio in the ‘60s and ‘70s. And in 2021, it’ll become a 10,000-square-foot restaurant with a rock ‘n’ roll identity named National Anthem.
“I’ve been looking at that building for 25 years,” Badovinus says. “You could go your whole career and never have the opportunity to animate a building this special, this physically gifted in a decidedly urban, gritty and historical way.
“It truly is one of a kind, and if I didn’t do it, I’d think about it for the rest of my life.”
Other restaurants opening in Dallas in 2021 are beloved in other cities — like Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams from Columbus, Ohio, and Hattie B’s Hot Chicken out of Nashville, Tenn. Both shops are opening in Deep Ellum, easily the hottest restaurant neighborhood in Dallas right now.
Still other restaurateurs are simply looking for a new beginning in 2021. Jimmy Park, who spent much of his career working at Japanese restaurant Nobu in several states and more recently at Nori Handroll Bar in Deep Ellum, is betting that diners will want to eat beautiful, special food post-pandemic. His coming-soon place on Greenville Avenue in Dallas will be a 12-seat omakase restaurant, where diners trust the chefs to make what inspires them.
Park was raised by a single mom in Hawaii. One of her friends, a sushi chef, would send California rolls and spicy tuna rolls home to Park when he was a kid.
“I memorized the flavors,” he says of the sushi rolls. And he immediately wanted to be a sushi chef. He has since worked in restaurants for 17 years. In 2021, he’ll open his first restaurant — the first place “that is actually mine,” he says.
Businesses are listed in chronological order by expected opening date.
Landlords didn’t want to take a chance on Ame. That’s how Afifa Nayeb and her daughter Sabrina Nayeb felt as they pitched their restaurant, an upscale Indian concept with French techniques. “As soon as they heard about the concept, they were always a little hesitant,” Afifa Nayeb says of the businessowners she approached. They’d ask: Can you add a burger or a taco to the menu? But Afifa Nayeb didn’t think those would work at a high-end Indian restaurant with a French-European speakeasy. “I have to be true to my concept, I have to be true to myself,” the chef-owner remembers telling doubters. The mother-daughter duo finally found a fit in the Bishop Arts District, in place of beloved restaurant Hattie’s. The two operate several other restaurants, including 8 Cloves and Laili at the Dallas Farmers Market, where the food is quick, spicy and hearty. Ame will be different, Sabrina Nayeb says: refined and soulful, but not heavy.
- Opening date: January 2021
- Cuisine: Upscale Indian food with French influences
- Address: 418 N. Bishop Ave., Dallas
Irishman Feargal McKinney is tripling down on Henderson Avenue by opening his third bar in a half mile. Spider Murphy’s is situated between The Old Monk and The Skellig, in a funny-shaped building that once was Vickery Park and Bar Stellar. While Spider Murphy’s looks and feels like an Irish pub, it will have the company’s most non-traditional menu. “I’ve lived here more than half of my life now, so I’m more comfortable leaning in to Texan and Tex-Mex flavors,” McKinney says. Plus: “I can’t have three places on the same street serving fish and chips.” McKinney and co-owner Charles Reis hired chef Oliver Sitrin (formerly of the Blind Butcher on Greenville Avenue and most recently of Bullion in downtown Dallas) to create an approachable menu, one that so far includes elotes fritters and shrimp mezcal shooters. Anyone missing the old Idle Rich Pub should stop at Spider Murphy’s: The old sign is hanging on one wall.
- Opening date: Early 2021
- Cuisine: Inventive pub food
- Address: 2810 N. Henderson Ave., Dallas
Christies Sports Bar & Grill, open for 29 years in Uptown Dallas, closed mid-pandemic with no word on its future. But what 2020 took away, 2021 will return: Christies is shortening its name — though still not adding a grammatically-correct apostrophe — and moving to Lower Greenville in Dallas. This new bar will be a little bigger, with a rooftop patio and a spruced up interior. It’ll still be a simple sports bar with wings, pool tables and “TVs everywhere,” co-owner Jordan Carson says. Some things never change.
- Opening date: Late January 2021
- Cuisine: Bar food
- Address: 2817 Greenville Ave., Dallas
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
Fans gush about Ohio-based Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in the same way that Texans go wild for Franklin Barbecue. They wait in line for it, too. Jeni’s has two shops in Texas, in Austin and Houston, and owner Jeni Britton Bauer says Dallasites “have been begging for years” for their own ice cream shop. The company has an obsessive dedication to its craft, down to the food the dairy cows eat. All of the ice cream will be made in the Midwest, at its dairies, and shipped to the Deep Ellum shop. Jeni’s will sell a variety of flavors, including Britton Bauer’s favorites like orange blossom buttermilk and brown butter almond brittle. When Jeni’s opens, Britton Bauer says passersby should be able to smell the waffle cones from down the block.
- Opening date: Spring 2021
- Cuisine: Ice cream
- Address: 2649 Main St., Dallas
Thunderbird Pies and its ice cream shop, Cow Tipping Creamery
Rejoice: A pandemic pivot that worked! The operators of Cane Rosso and Zoli’s Pizza started Thunderbird Pies as a Detroit-style pizza pop-up, its pies baked at the company’s existing kitchens as a way to try to reach hungry customers stuck at home during the pandemic. Demand was high enough that Thunderbird Pies will get its first standalone restaurant in spring 2021, in East Dallas next to Cane Rosso. While it may seem odd for one company to have two pizza places next door to one another, Chief Culinary Officer Jeff Bekavac says Thunderbird has its own personality. It’s an order-at-the-counter spot with an emphasis on delivery, and it will have a Cow Tipping Creamery inside. Here’s the quick lesson on Detroit-style pizzas: They’re made with Wisconsin brick cheese, which is sprinkled on top of the crust with no sauce. After the pizza is topped with veggies and meat, then baked, the signature finish is two “racing stripes” of red sauce on the very top.
- Opening date: March 2021
- Cuisine: Detroit-style pizza at Thunderbird; ice cream at Cow Tipping Creamery
- Address: 7328 Gaston Ave., Dallas
The theme at Harper’s, a globally-influenced restaurant opening in Deep Ellum, is “approachable opulence.” Co-founder and CEO Imran Sheikh wants Harper’s to feel buzzy and fun — the kind of place where you can spend all evening, listening to a DJ or a jazz singer after dinner. Sheikh and his team have invested heavily in Deep Ellum: They operate restaurants Stirr and Vidorra, which are open now; they acquired Serious Pizza and plan to reopen it in January; and they’re opening a new Citizen nightclub in the neighborhood soon. Harper’s executive chef Jacob Williamson (who worked for Wolfgang Puck) has created a menu with inspiration from India, the Sichuan province of China, Sheikh’s home country of Britain and more. The restaurant will have an air of luxury, punctuated by rich green hues in the decor, but there won’t be white tablecloths. Sheikh calls Harper’s “at the intersection of classy but approachable.”
- Opening date: March 2021
- Cuisine: Global
- Address: 2551 Elm St., Dallas
Monarch and its sushi lounge, Kessaku
Michelin-starred Chicago chef Danny Grant is opening two restaurants high in the sky in downtown Dallas. Monarch is a wood-fired modern Italian restaurant, and Kessaku is a sushi lounge. They perch on the 49th and 50th floors of The National, a historic building in downtown Dallas that recently reopened after a renovation. The luxurious Monarch will serve salt-roasted whole fish, octopus a la plancha, shareable steaks and decadent pasta dishes. Kessaku specializes in raw fish.
- Opening date: March 2021
- Cuisine: Wood-fired modern Italian at Monarch; sushi at Kessaku
- Address: 1401 Elm St. (inside The National), Dallas
Chef Jimmy Park’s Japanese restaurant on Greenville Avenue doesn’t have a name yet. But his restaurant has nearly everything else: It has a vision, as a small omakase restaurant making beautiful, fresh food. It has an address, in the former Daddy Jack’s on Lowest Greenville. And it has an executive chef, an unnamed person from Las Vegas who moved to Dallas to work with Park. “I want to grow as a chef and get better, but in order to do that, I can’t be the best chef at my own restaurant,” Park says. Diners will make reservations, then trust their chefs with a several-coursetasting.
- Opening date: March/April 2021
- Cuisine: Japanese
- Address: 1916 Greenville Ave., Dallas
One of the flashiest new restaurants opening in Dallas in 2021 is Carbone, the Michelin-starred Italian restaurant from New York. (Don’t confuse it with Carbone’s, an existing and unaffiliated Italian restaurant in Dallas.) Carbone will sell dishes like lobster fra diavolo, veal parmesan and whole branzino for big bucks, in a Design District restaurant space transformed from its former life as Wheelhouse and Sassetta. Stephen Summers, the Dallas investor who has been working for eight years to bring Carbone to Dallas, described the restaurant as “high energy, high theater, high drama. Everything about it is next-level.”
- Opening date: April 2021
- Cuisine: Italian
- Address: 1617 Hi Line Drive, Dallas
The creators of Miami supper club Villa Azur will open a Dallas restaurant by the same name in the first floor of the W Hotel in Victory Park. Co-owner Jean Philippe Bernard, who is from the French Riviera, says the menu will mirror the Miami original, which has Italian, Greek, French and Spanish influences. Decadent dishes like ravioli with truffle cream and a shareable 2-pound chateaubriand platter with bordelaise and bearnaise sauces will likely make the Dallas menu, he says. A cocktail called Illegal Tea, made with mezcal, is bound to be popular. Bernard describes the restaurant as an all-night affair where Dallasites dress their best.
- Opening date: May 2021
- Cuisine: French-Mediterranean
- Address: 2440 Victory Park Lane, Dallas
When restaurateur Nick Badovinus opens National Anthem on Commerce Street, he’ll give a boost to an emerging sector of downtown Dallas called the East Quarter. The 100-year-old Magnolia building has “timeless character,” Badovinus says: “It’s got cars, American industry, and rock ‘n’ roll in its DNA. You can feel it living and breathing while you’re there.” The restaurant will fill a large 10,000 square feet, with a menu that Badovinus coyly calls “a big city dining experience.” (He’s often been secretive about his menus.) He operates steakhouse Town Hearth and Texas cantina Desert Racer, both which have a signature Badovinus design element: on-display vehicles parked inside the restaurants. He wouldn’t say whether his resurrection of the Magnolia Petroleum Building will include flashy car displays, but we can hope.
- Opening date: June 2021
- Cuisine: New American
- Address: 2130 Commerce St. (at Cesar Chavez Boulevard), Dallas
Hattie B’s Hot Chicken
2020 was the year of Nashville Hot Chicken in Dallas, but it’s still on fire in 2021. Nashville company Hattie B’s is opening its first Texas restaurant in Deep Ellum, a neighborhood its real estate advisor Cal Marsh called “the best dining and entertaining district here.” Hattie B’s sells chicken breasts, thighs, tenders and wings doused in a cayenne-based spice rub ranging from mild to “shut the cluck up.” At the original in Nashville, there’s almost always a line.
- Opening date: Late summer 2021
- Cuisine: Nashville hot chicken
- Address: 3000 Main St., Dallas
Restaurateur Chas Martin, who runs The Charles in the Dallas Design District, is opening a more neighborhood-driven restaurant on Lower Greenville. The restaurant doesn’t have a name yet or a menu. Here’s what we know: This new restaurant will have “some of the DNA of The Charles,” Martin says, but it’ll probably be more dressed down. “It needs to fit the neighborhood,” he says. The restaurant is opening where The Grape restaurant operated for nearly 50 years. Diners should look out for “some nostalgic nods” to the Grape, Martin says. Fun.
- Opening date: August 2021
- Cuisine: European
- Address: 2808 Greenville Ave., Dallas
Four Corners Tavern Group has opened 18 concepts in its home city of Chicago, and now the co-founders are expanding its flagship restaurant-bar, Federales, to Deep Ellum. Four Corners co-founder Matt Menna describes Federales as a tacos and tequila beer garden with “a lot of energy and grit.” The giant space — 12,000 square feet — will have a retractable roof and walls to give it an indoor-outdoor feeling any time of year. The menu includes guacamole, queso, nachos and taquitos, plus tacos of all kinds. (Menna expects the Deep Ellum shop to have some Texas-specific menu items, but they aren’t set yet.) Eventually, Menna hopes to open as many as 10 Federales beer gardens in entertainment districts across the country.
- Opening date: September/October 2021
- Cuisine: Tacos and tequila
- Address: 2820 Commerce St., Dallas
HONORABLE MENTION: Loro
Barbecue pitmaster Aaron Franklin and Uchi chef-creator Tyson Cole planned to open their Asian smokehouse Loro in Dallas in 2020, but the pandemic had other plans. The high-profile duo now aims to open the restaurant in spring 2021, with a menu similar to the Austin original: main courses like smoked brisket with chili gastrique and Thai herbs or smoked salmon in cucumber-yuzu broth. Snacks include chicken karaage or crunchy cabbage salad. It’ll maintain that casual Austin vibe — order-at-the-counter, wear what you want — in a chill section of East Dallas, across the street from E Bar Tex-Mex.
- Expected opening date: Spring 2021
- Cuisine: Asian smokehouse
- Address: 1812 N. Haskell Ave., Dallas
Information provided by Dallas News