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Where to Eat Now: and the year’s best new restaurants are . . .

Numerous factors account for the urbanization that has transformed Texas over the past forty years. But perhaps the most important is an amendment passed by the state legislature in 1970 that paved the way for restaurants in Texas to sell liquor by the drink. It seems odd, but before then, alcohol was not such a kingpin in the world of upscale dining (today, many restaurants with bars count on making a third of their revenue from the sale of cocktails, beer, and wine). By underwriting the cost of fancy chefs, lavish ingredients, and designer interiors, liquor by the drink bankrolled the fine-dining explosion that continues to this day. On the following pages, you’ll find a list of the best new restaurants of 2012 in each of our major cities, along with examples of where people were eating out four decades ago. (To be considered for our best new restaurants list, a place must have opened between November 1, 2011, and November 1, 2012. Second locations are not eligible.) What a difference one law has made.


The country club set repaired to Green Pastures, a gracious historic home, for milk punch and prime rib at Sunday brunch. At the Barn, steaks and giant blocks of Swiss cheese cheered many a dad on his birthday. The Old Pecan Street International Café introduced crepes and quiche to folks who weren’t entirely sure how to pronounce the words. There was also the Capital Oyster Company, a New Orleans–style seafood spot where people table-hopped till the wee hours. And that was about it. Forty years later, Austin supports a thriving culinary scene, exemplified by last year’s best new restaurants.

Elizabeth Street Café

The best seat in the house is the table in the front corner, especially in the morning, when sunlight is pouring through tall windows onto aqua-blue banquettes. Snag that spot for a breakfast bánh mì; one version comes layered with fried eggs, crispy pork belly, avocado, and mint. A lunchtime tête-à-tête with your smartphone at the bar calls for the house special, bún bò huê, a pile of soupy noodles zapped with lemongrass. In the evening, check out the bánh cuôn, squishy crepe-like noodles filled with savory pork and wood ear mushrooms. Owner-chefs Tommy Moorman and Larry McGuire, of Lamberts and Perla’s, understand Americans’ tastes, but the final effect is charmingly exotic. 1501 S. First (512-291-2881). B, L & D 7 days. elizabethstreetcafe.com

Salty Sow

When people are scraping their plates for every last bite of candied pork belly and collard greens with soy-balsamic syrup, it hardly matters that some folks think the craze for pig parts is passé. Chefs Harold Marmulstein and Richard Velazquez blew into Austin from Sarasota and Atlanta, respectively, early in 2012, bringing with them the Deep South’s salty, crackly, piggy flavor profile. The two tricked out a modest space on Austin’s East Side and forged a menu that focused on Dixie, with frequent liberties taken. Their oyster boudin fritters, for instance, come with a dollop of pink chipotle rémoulade. Their frilly brussels sprouts leaves are tossed with golden raisins and pecorino. We Texans love us some barbecue, Tex-Mex, and steaks, but Southern traditions speak to our souls too. 1917 Manor Rd (512-391-2337). D 7 days. saltysow.com

Honorable Mentions:

Clark’s Oyster Bar, Lenoir


In Dallas in 1973, a three-course dinner at a nice restaurant would set you back $5 to $8 a person—$10 if you went crazy. Wine was another $5 to $12 a bottle. Where would you go? Arthur’s and Jamil’s were the default steak destinations. The Old Warsaw, Ewald’s, Patry’s, and Mr. Peppe had a lock on the French-continental end of the spectrum, while Taxco and Ojeda’s could be counted on for Mexican food. What difference have four decades made? Back then, classic recipes were set in stone. Today—as our selection of the past year’s top new restaurants shows—rules are out the window and may the best chef win.


The year’s best restaurant art may well be the color-shifting video oak tree at, of course, Oak. Its trembling leaves turn from azure to magenta as you scan a menu that throws everyday expectations to the wind. For a mod surf and turf, try chef Jason Maddy’s braised octopus and crispy pork jowl with dabs of cilantro purée and a pert aji panca vinaigrette. For a contemporary boeuf bourguignonne, check out the tender wagyu cheek in a deep-flavored red-wine braise, cozied up to carrots, cipollini, and pudgy quark spaetzle. At the end of the evening, you may find yourself reluctant to leave, so comfy are the Nutella-hued leather couches, so serene the spacious dining room. Don’t fret; you will be back. 1628 Oak Lawn Ave (214-712-9700). D Mon–Sat.


It must be the Year of the Octopus. Get the critter in the form of a carpaccio appetizer kicked up by a garlicky Meyer lemon vinaigrette, or go all out with an entrée of smoky char-grilled octopus with marble potatoes that have been wickedly roasted in duck fat. Modest, sometimes cacophonous, always interesting, Driftwood has become Dallas’s seafood destination of choice in gentrifying Oak Cliff. You can order a land animal like milk-poached chicken or a duo of rabbit, but why would you when chef Omar Flores’s Naked Cowboy Oysters in Rio Red grapefruit mignonette beckon so brazenly? 642 W. Davis (214-942-2530). D Tue–Sat.


“French but not too French” is the way co-owner Brooks Anderson and chef-owner Nathan Tate describe their hit bistro. It occupies a sunny ninety-year-old building in Oak Cliff, where gilt-framed mirrors hang on the walls (French) but the waiters wear plaid shirts (not too French). The menu, too, goes its idiosyncratic way. Knowing his audience, Tate puts hot sauce in the casino butter that melts over smoky grilled oysters, and he cooks tender Berkshire pork cheeks in a root beer braise. Most shockingly, he ditches bouillabaisse’s hallowed Mediterranean fish broth for one based on lobster stock. Dallasites are lapping it up, mais oui. 408 N. Bishop Ave (214-942-1828). D Tue–Sun. B Sun.

Fort Worth

Fort Worth has always self-identified as both an oil town and a Western one. By 1973 that duality had spawned two parallel but very different dining trends. Cattle barons, oil millionaires, and other would-be swells congregated in clubby dining rooms (that is, when they weren’t at their actual clubs). Of those restaurants, the best known was the Carriage House, dishing out trout amandine, veal milanese, and thick, juicy steaks. Catering more to the average joe were eating places that rose out of the working-class side of Texas’s cattle culture, with its strong vaquero element: Angelo’s barbecue joint, Cattlemen’s steakhouse, and Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican food emporium (all three of which are still open, by the way). Our choice for the best new restaurant to have opened in Fort Worth this past year draws on both parts of the historic divide.

Woodshed Smokehouse

Size matters. At the Woodshed—chef-owner Tim Love’s modern spin on Texas’s barbecue and Mexican traditions—a whole bone-in beef shank known as the Shin is the menu’s crowning glory. Weighing in at a minimum of three and a half pounds and borne ceremoniously to the table on a cutting board, the monster feeds a small army. After recovering from shock and awe, recipients grab the accompanying house-made tortillas, spicy ricotta, Mexican limes, and more and turn the hickory-smoked beef into bulging tacos. Unquestionably, meat is the raison d’être at this casual spot, with its roll-up garage doors and open-air courtyard, but the accommodating menu also offers oak-smoked redfish in parchment, baby artichokes doused with lemon and Parmesan, “fancy mushrooms,” and a fantastic white-fish-and-cream-cheese dip. You don’t have to be a carnivore to love Texas. 3201 Riverfront Dr (817-877-4545). B, L & D 7 days.

El Paso

Back in 1973, the best dining in El Paso was in Juárez. You could walk across the international bridge and down curio row, a.k.a. Avenida Juárez, without a care in the world. A night on the town started with a margarita at the Kentucky Club. Then it was on to Julio’s Café Corona for salpicón, a dynamite cold meat salad, or to classy Casa del Sol for first-rate seafood. On the American side, folks headed to Jaxon’s for pub grub or trekked nearly forty miles for a top sirloin at Cattleman’s, in Fabens. After 2000, drug-trafficking violence along the border eventually made Juárez off-limits. Today, contemporary El Paso restaurants like Red Mountain Bistro, one of our favorite new places of the year, combine a variety of trends into one package.

Red Mountain Bistro

At Red Mountain, old wooden beams from a once grand El Paso building have been repurposed into a bar, and the charming patio includes part of a giant sign from a now-defunct newspaper. A creative seasonal menu matches the rustic-hip decor. A side sauce of chipotle-spiked crème fraîche mellows out deftly skewered nibbles of “Still Smoking Salmon,” while fresh figs with balsamic-mascarpone cream on toast points make a sweet-tart preamble to tender grilled rack of lamb sided by Swiss chard and currants. Lobster—arriving live daily—is beautifully poached, and Sunday brunch always includes Red Mountain’s famous brisket machaca blended with asadero cheese, scrambled eggs, and spicy, but not blistering, peppers. 631 N. Resler (915-585-6940). L & D Mon–Sat. B & D Sun.


Forty years ago, a fine meal out in Houston meant steaks, seafood, or—zut alors!—French and European cuisine. When folks wanted to put on the ritz, they went to Maxim’s (French-Belgian) and Tony’s (French-Italian and still going strong). Except for cornball theme joints like Sonny Look’s popular Sir-Loin House, nice restaurants resembled proper dining rooms. For everyday eating, though, you went to a homegrown gem like the Hobbit Hole (which still exists, as the Hobbit Cafe). Embracing the health-food movement, the Hobbit Hole specialized in hearty soups and crusty, sprout-laden sandwiches. You can even say it anticipated the locavore movement that informs our choices for the best new restaurants to have opened in Houston this past year (eligibility rules are on page 103).


There are no secrets when you’re sitting a few feet from a kitchen where someone is arranging nasturtium blossoms on a plate with tweezers. Not all of the thirty seats in this tall, gauzy-curtained room are quite that close to the action, but everyone can see husband-and-wife chef-owners Justin Yu and Karen Man hard at work. Some of their creations are wild, like cucumber-spiked beef tartare under a crystal-clear aspic lid. Some are sublimely simple, like a lush persimmon, squash, and almond soup. And as for Man’s sweet frozen Greek yogurt with bracing grapefruit curd and mint meringue, just shut up and eat. 1302 Nance (832-830-8592). D Thur–Mon.


Glance around at your fellow diners in tiny, welcoming, humble Roost. Fully three fourths of them will be chowing down on the fabulous roasted cauliflower and pine nuts in miso dressing, with its crown of surreally waving bonito flakes. The creativity of 27-year-old chef-owner Kevin Naderi doesn’t stop there; it continues throughout his eclectic international menu, where you’ll find the likes of a gorgeous filet of Patagonia salmon dappled with truffled goat cheese and a fig-and-ricotta risotto heady with red wine. Little space, big talent. 1972 Fairview (713-523-7667). D Mon–Sat.


“The eyes eat first,” the saying goes. If that includes gazing around a lofty room outfitted with sleek blond furniture, sculptural lights, and a striking two-toned floor, you might be full before you even open the avant-garde menu. What turns chef Ryan Hildebrand on is culinary magic, like tiny balloons of mango purée in transparent skins or an earthy mushroom mousse formed into clever cylinders. But many things are simple, and simply delicious. The colorful charcuterie platter alone is worthy of a pedestal. 2815 S. Shepherd (713-527-9090). L Mon–Fri. D 7 days.


Chris Shepherd is the Mario Batali of Houston—a big, brawny, passionate advocate for this city of more than two million hungry people. He embraces the region’s farmers and ranchers (sometimes literally, in his mighty bear hug); he champions its seafood, especially the underappreciated bycatch. But most of all, he lauds its ethnic cuisines and homespun traditions, on display in the sprawling modern farmhouse that is Underbelly. One bite of his tilefish on masala-seasoned baby okra or Mama Shepherd’s zucchini bread and you too will believe. 1100 Westheimer Rd (713-528-9800). L Mon–Fri. D Mon–Sat.

San Antonio

The most surprising thing about San Antonio’s dining scene circa 1973 is not that it was dominated by Mexican food but that it wasn’t. Yes, enchilada palaces like Karam’s and Casa Rio ruled the roost, but the city boasted competing Italian restaurants (Naples and Paesanos), the all-American Earl Abel’s (famous then, as now, for fried chicken and apple pie), a stellar Chinese emporium (King Wah’s), and La Louisiane (which was swathed in burgundy velvet drapes and specialized in French classics like trout amandine and crepes Suzette). Today, the best new restaurant in the city packs multiple cuisines onto one wide-ranging menu.


You’ll think “bliss” after a single bite of the lobster risotto. To make one of the year’s most sumptuous dishes, chef-owner Mark Bliss folds together creamy carnaroli rice, chanterelles, aromatic green leaflets of Mexican mint marigold, and gorgeous chunks of fresh lobster. When he left San Antonio three and a half years ago, the locally renowned chef seemed tapped out. The leave restored him. Now he’s ensconced in his own place, where gleaming stainless- steel shingles set off rustic brick walls. His menu mirrors that contrast. Vegans grow faint over a gorgeous array of roasted beets, Calabrian peppers, and much more in a bright oregano vinaigrette, while meat lovers tear into rosy duck breast napped with a black pepper–orange gastrique. The most compelling theme may be no theme at all. 26 S. Presa (210-225-2547). D Tue–Sat.

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Wandering Chef: Matt McCallister in New York City

Chef Matt McCallister of FT33 restaurant in Dallas’s Design District recently made a quick trip to New York City. He found time to stop at his go-to haunts, as well as check out a few new spots.

“Every trip to New York includes lunch at Aquagrill in SoHo. It is my go-to lunch place. I always order the seafood platter. If you like seafood, then you have to eat here.” 210 Spring St., (212) 274-0505, aquagrill.com

Booker & Dax
“This is a really cool new experimental-type bar in the old Momofuku Milk Bar space next to Momufuku Ssäm Bar in the East Village. The inventive snacks and drinks owed to the genius of chef David Chang collaborating with Dave Arnold, the director of culinary technology at the French Culinary Institute. They do really cool stuff like bottle their own gin and tonics and use a centrifuge to make clarifications. Tons of innovation is happening here. And you can also order the awesome pork buns from Ssäm Bar from the menu.” 207 2nd Ave., (212) 254-3500, momofuku.com

Mission Chinese
“The food here is super vibrant. The restaurant is super loud, yet somehow still laidback and you can still hold a conversation. I’m not used to New York City’s tight seating style. I don’t mind it as a diner, but it would never fly in Dallas. At Mission Chinese, you are packed in, but it’s worth it for the food. I tried the salt cod fried rice with slow-cooked mackerel, Chinese sausage, and egg. That was a really solid dish. The Taiwanese clams with soy caramel, basil, and fried garlic was over the top. And you can’t miss the thrice-cooked bacon, which comes with Shanghainese rice cakes, tofu skin, and bitter melon. The thrice cooked bacon was pretty spicy, but not s spicy as the cold spicy noodles at Momofuku Noodle Bar. Now that is hardcore.” 154 Orchard St., (212) 529-8800, missionchinesefood.com

Ippudo NY
“Right before I left I went to Ippudo. This place rocks. My sous chef had been several times and I’ve always meant to check it out but find myself at Momofuku Noodle Bar instead. The black sesame ramen was delicious and I would say the pork buns are better than the famous pork buns at Momofuku Ssäm Bar. I nearly missed my flight because of the pork buns.” 65 4th Ave., (212) 388-0088, ippudony.com

Blue Ribbon
“Whenever I’m in New York my go-to late night spot is Blue Ribbon for amazing shellfish, especially oysters. The vibe is always really relaxed, the service is great, and you know the food is always going to be good.” 97 Sullivan St., (212) 274-0404, blueribbonrestaurants.com

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Matt McCallister And Getting Back To The Land

From rising through the ranks of mentor Stephan Pyles’ restaurant empire (read our coverage of Pyles’ newest venture here) and helming the Stephan Pyles restaurant-in-a-restaurant Fuego to co-founding Chefs for Farmers and his first fine-dining eatery, FT 33 — shorthand for restaurant industry lingo “Fire Table 33” — Dallas’ culinary whiz Matt McCallister is hot. Through it all, the chef-restaurateur has advocated the use of local, seasonal ingredients in cooking. We’re calling it living off the land. And there’s no better place for living off the land than Texas. It’s something Texans have always done.

Recently, McCallister took time out of busy schedule to answer some questions for Cowboys & Indians readers.

Cowboys & Indians: You opened FT33 in late 2012, with great success. The fine-dining restaurant, for those who might not know, serves a local and seasonal Texas menu, but not the meat-and-potatoes kind. In contemporary jargon, it’s locavore. That sense of local and seasonal isn’t new. It’s what many would call living off the land. How did you come to be a champion for living off the land and for farmers, and how did Chefs for Farmers play into the opening of FT33?

Matt McCallister: I have always been a big supporter of hyper seasonal cuisine, and over the years I have developed some great relationships with farmers and purveyors that like to work with my style of “give me what you have and I will create the menu.” Chefs for Farmers was created by my wife and I to become a catalyst for farmers and artisans to be a part of the same event that 30 chefs are a part of. What better marketing for them is that?

C&I: How did you go about selecting your purveyors?

McCallister: I have visited all the farms I get produce from and all the artisans I get product from. I have several people I select pigs from and they range from Berkshire, Red Wattle, Large Blacks, and Mangalitsa. Lamb, eggs, beef, chicken, all have a place on my menu and I have relationships with their producers.

C&I: Not all your ingredients are sourced from farms, others are picked from the ground by your own hands. What are some of the unique ingredients you’ve found foraging in North Texas? Are there any plants you would jump head over heels for if you found them while foraging? What is/are they? What would you make with them?

McCallister: There is a great amount of stuff you can find in the woods in North Texas On my last outing I came back with oyster mushrooms, wood ear mushrooms, chickweed, oxalis, and watercress. Throughout the years there are stinging nettles, wild onions, and garlic, morel mushrooms, chanterelle mushrooms, mache, wild spinach, curly dock, sheepshead sorrel, elderflowers, mulberries, muscadine grapes, wood violets. … the list can go on. What I make with them all depends on the bounty of harvest. You will find them on our menu in different applications.

C&I: Do you find that diners are surprised or not surprised by your use of local, seasonal ingredients?

McCallister: If they know me, not really.

If you’re in Dallas, FT33 is a required eating, and not just for dinner. Beginning February 5, FT33 will begin its special Swine & Wine Tuesdays. The new happy hour event with pork-themed bar snacks, including ciccioli — a munchie made from pork fat — with fried pickles and wild onions as well as pork liver mousse with wild oyster mushroom conserva and crostini. The menu will also feature paired beer and wine offerings and Texas Cosmos made with Tito’s handmade vodka and Spruce Goose pinot noir juice with prices ranging from $3 – $10.

1617 Hi Line Dr., Suite 250
Dallas, Texas 75207

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The Best of Dallas 2012

As 2013 swiftly moves into position, we took pause to review our photos from this past year selected some of our very favorite dishes, people and places. Looking back, 2012 was an excellent restaurant year for Dallas with many new openings that definitely elevated our palates. Innovators such as chef Matt McCallister are making Dallas a dining destination and will most assuredly be sought out with national culinary awards in the coming year.

This year brought us closer to the sea with forward thinkers such as Jon Alexis at TJ’s Seafood Market, Omar Flores at Driftwood, and John Tesar with his very new restaurant, Spoon. We also enjoyed a new rush of oysters in the Dallas area with the promise of even more in coming months. Look for the Establishment to open soon with 14 varieties on hand daily.

2013 should bring even more changes in the food community, but today we take you back to check out our list of favorites for 2012.

Best Food Event 2012: Chefs for Farmers

Chefs for Farmers is the brainchild of Matt and Iris McCallister which started as a way to band a handful of chefs together and highlight local farmers and ranchers. This past year the event swelled to include a larger selection of chefs chaired by the three tenors of Dallas chefs, Stephan Pyles, Dean Fearing and Kent Rathbun with funds going to local farmers and charities. The event was held in the sweltering Dallas heat in May, but this not deter the happy crowds that read as the who’s who of Dallas culinary elite.

Best Dish 2012: Lamb Duo at FT33

The lamb duo has undergone some changes since it was debuted at the grand opening of FT33, the beautiful new restaurant owned by Matt McCallister in the Dallas Design District. The dish is served with a pair of supple and crisped lamb breast wedges and a double lamb chop. The richness of the sweet lamb shines bright on this plate, and in a year of fantastic dishes this one stayed in our thoughts for the past several months.

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2012’s Best New Restaurants, Part 2

Last week, we presented three of the best new restaurants in town, serving up everything from fried chicken to whole lobsters and pound-and-a-half porterhouse steaks.

Wrapping things up, here are the top three restaurants of 2012 to get on your New Year’s post-resolution list.

#3: High-Flying Fish: Spoon Bar & Kitchen
Even though Spoon was one of the last restaurants we featured in 2012, it quickly rose to the top of the list thanks to innovative (if very expensive) seafood dishes from Top Chef Seattle contestant John Tesar. Oyster and black truffle chowder and big eye tuna with foie gras are great places to stick your spoon first.
8220 Westchester Dr., University Park (855-947-7666)

#2: Haute Truck Stop: Stampede 66
The gourmet Frito Pie is already the stuff of legend, as is the pig sculpture made entirely out of pork rinds. Yet for all the over-the-top Texas whimsy, Chef Stephan Pyles proves dish after dish why he was the first chef in the Southwest to win the James Beard Award for Best Chef.
1717 McKinney Ave, #100, Uptown (214-550-6966)

#1: Designer Cuisine: FT33
Being served too pretty to eat is a problem. Thankfully, Chef Matt McCallister manages to make food so creatively displayed that it makes you want to eat it even more. Whether it’s sea urchin and chive pancakes, pork jowls with black truffle, or wild boar Sloppy Joes, dining at FT33 is akin to visiting a museum where you get to eat the masterpieces.
1617 Hi Line Dr., Design District (214-741-2629)

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What & Where Was Your Best Meal of 2012?

As 2012 comes to an end, we’re surveying friends, readers, critics, and bloggers about the year in dining. Now, we ask folks to recall their single best meal of the year. Readers, feel free to weigh in via the comments.

Q: What and where was your single best meal in 2012?

Whitney Filloon, editor, Eater Dallas: “Probably Ippudo in New York. Pork belly steamed buns, pork tatsuta-age, the ‘Modern’ ramen bowl, and an icy cold Kirin… just unspeakably delicious, which is why I’m so excited that Tanoshi Ramen is coming to my ‘hood soon. As far as Dallas goes, FT33 blew me away with their pork jowl dish with crushed pork rinds, and an amazing chicken dish with peanuts and chanterelles. Where else can you eat food like that while listening to the Wu-Tang Clan?”

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Best in DFW: New Restaurants of 2012

It’s been a crazy, tumultuous year in Dallas dining. Wonderful restaurants closed: Nana, Craft Dallas and Screen Door. Talented chefs and restaurateurs unexpectedly abandoned their posts: André Natera (the Pyramid Restaurant), Jeffery Hobbs (Sissy’s Southern Kitchen and Cocktails), Monica Greene (Monica’s Nueva Cocina), Colleen O’Hare and Jeana Johnson (Acme F&B).
And a slew of terrific restaurants opened.
In fact, it started to look like choosing a Restaurant of the Year for 2012 would be a daunting task. On the one hand, we had Oak — the beautiful Design District establishment from Tommy DeAlano and Richard and Tiffanee Ellman that opened last year, too late to be considered for The Best in DFW: New Restaurants of 2011. And then we had Driftwood, the wonderful seafood spot Jonn Baudoin opened in Oak Cliff in the spring. In October, Matt McCallister introduced FT33, just around the corner from Oak, completely shaking things up. November brought Stephan Pyles’ new Stampede 66 and John Tesar’s Spoon, neither of which could be counted out.
All in all, it has been an exceptional year — what a group of outstanding debuts!
But in the end, the choice for Restaurant of the Year was clear: FT33 is the most impressive debut not just of this year, but of the last two years. Read on to find out what makes it so exciting. The other top newcomers are listed in alphabetical order.
We’re guessing you have your own favorite restaurants that opened in 2012, and we’d certainly love to hear about them. Please turn to Page 25 to learn how to share your choices.

Ambitious and dynamic, sophisticated and modern, FT33 puts Matt McCallister, a former top toque at Stephan Pyles, squarely in a league with some of the country’s most interesting and talented chefs.
The menu changes frequently according to the ingredients enthralling McCallister at the moment. With duck breast left over from a wine dinner recently, he made duck ham — which became the centerpiece of a sexy salad with Belgian endives, local new potatoes and a duck egg. Earthy sunchokes might meet up with Brussels sprouts petals, a gentle chile sauce and lightly candied pecans.
The marriages are surprising and fresh, yet absolutely harmonic; modernist flourishes keep things lively yet never trump deliciousness. And the plates just happen to be gorgeous. It’s a place to visit frequently, to see what kind of culinary magic McCallister is perpetrating at the moment, whether gorgeously pink pork loin served with butternut squash purée and kale, a chicken ballotine with giant leaves of crunchy savoy cabbage, or luscious uni-chive pancakes.
The feeling of the rustic, industrial-chic dining room is in perfect keeping with the cooking. It’s relaxed yet energized, formal yet friendly, a place you want to hang out. General manager Ryan Tedder’s wine list offers a world of pleasurable adventure. The cocktails are exquisitely balanced. The service is spot-on.
By no means is the place perfect — the desserts need work, and things fall apart a bit if McCallister’s not in the house, which doesn’t seem sustainable. Be that as it may, FT33 is an ambitious undertaking, only 2½ months out of the gate, and it has already led Dallas dining in an exciting new direction.
1617 Hi Line Drive, Dallas. 214-741-2629. ft33dallas.com

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The Top Restaurant Newcomers of 2012

As 2012 comes to an end, we’re surveying friends, readers, critics, and bloggers about the year in dining. To start things off, we posed a question about the city’s best new restaurants. Readers, feel free to weigh in via the comments.

Q: What are the top restaurant newcomers of 2012?

José Ralat-Maldonado, blogger, The Taco Trail: “Chicken Scratch, FT33, Spoon and Stampede 66. The latter is especially important to me. The chefs at Stephan Pyles’ newest restaurant are deftly walking the line between highfalutin and traditional with their taco offerings, and the tortillas are made from nixtamal. I’d like to see them play a little more, though. Huitlacoche (corn fungus) and chapulines (grasshoppers) deserve guest appearances. If there are off-menu tacos when you go—and you should go—request them.”

Rich Vana, editor, Entrée Dallas: “FT33 – It comes to mind first. And I think (along with everyone else, evidently) it’s one in particular that’s worth getting excited about. Sissy’s – I’ve liked all my experiences there, and while they’re definitely more than fried chicken, I still get it every time. I love fried chicken so much. Spoon – Haven’t eaten there yet, but it’s John Tesar, so it’s going to be a fun one to watch closely, at any rate. Plus everything I’ve heard sounds promising, to say the least. Boulevardier – I’m biased, because I’m pretty sure Nathan and Randall are two of the coolest people ever, so just listen to whatever other people say (with the exception of one or two, specifically). Nora – I have been a fan of the Afghan Grill for awhile, and love that Matt Pikar took his cooking to Greenville.”

foodbitch, blogger: “2012 has a thing for celebrity chefs (FT33, Stampede 66, Spoon), but I’ve got to give shootouts to Boulevardier and Oak.”

Whitney Filloon, editor, Eater Dallas: “Off-Site Kitchen, for serving the best sandwiches in town (that brisket is killer) at dirt-cheap prices, and always being consistent. Chicken Scratch/The Foundry, not so much for the food as for the space itself, although that fried chicken is pretty damn good. And FT33 for sure, the food wouldn’t be out of place with white tablecloths and considerably higher prices but they keep it approachable and relaxed, which is refreshing.”

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