When people say “Everything is bigger in Texas,” it’s quite possible they are talking about the great state’s food choices and things to do. One area that’s exploding with fine-tasting fare is Dallas-Fort Worth. According to the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington Metroplex is the No. 1 visitor and leisure destination in all of Texas. And there is good reason Dallas and its surrounding cities are becoming a mecca for meetings and conventions: There is something for everyone.
For sports fans there’s the Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks, Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars; for sightseers there’s The 6th Floor Museum, Reunion Tower, Fort Worth Stockyards and Klyde Warren Park; and for foodies, there are options in abundance. These three eateries, in particular, stand out when it comes to authentic Texas flavor.
One Oak Cliff eatery enjoying some newfound attention is El Corazon. Just a stone’s throw from the popular Bishop Arts District, El Corazon is the rebranding of this West Davis historic restaurant. Living up to the restaurant’s name—which means “the heart” in Spanish—authentic Mexican food has been the heart of the Cuellar family, which has owned this classic building since 1955. Owner and operator Gilbert Cuellar Jr. is excited about his family’s legacy and the building. “We are all about vintage Tex-Mex, and we are in a wonderful vintage building to do it,” says Gilbert.
As you walk into the 1930s structure, you can’t help but feel like you’re walking into another era. Every step is full of history. The walls are colorful and adorned with classic pictures and paintings. Cuellar describes it as a “vintage fiesta.” In the center dining area, a mammoth metal chandelier from one of the original El Chico’s hangs next to a giant painting of the family matriarch, Adelaida “Mama” Cuellar, who started the family legacy by selling enchiladas and tamales at the Kaufman county fair.
Today the Cuellar-owned restaurant serves popular Tex-Mex from the families’ past, like enchiladas and tacos, but also has contemporary offerings for vegans and vegetarians. There are plenty of sizzling favorites rounding out the menu, like fajitas and chalupas. The serving sizes are large, the food is fresh and the tortillas are handmade.
El Corazon is a great venue for meetings and celebrations. A private dining area (just left of the full-service bar) has a seating capacity of 80, or can seat up to 60 if you’d like a dance area or open space for your event. The restaurant offers to decorate with festive and traditional Mexican colors, linens, authentic Mexican collectables and flowers to help add to the ambience of the classic Mexicana room.
If your group is looking for a venue with Texan flare, a place where you can throw your cowboy hat and yelp “yee haw” next to a fire pit, then look no further than Stampede 66 in Uptown Dallas. Stampede 66 is a Texan wonderland that is a playful homage to celebrity chef Stephen Pyles’ childhood in Big Spring. “I grew up in a pit-stop diner my family owned called Phillips 66,” says Pyles.
A vintage Phillips 66 sign that looks like one from Pyles’ parent’s restaurant decorates the Texas centric restaurant. A mix of fine dining and cowboy boots, Stampede 66 is full of what Pyles refers to as an “in-your-face Texas experience.” Every corner has meaning to Pyles. A large pinewood pavilion reminds him of trips to the lake with his aunt, while a life-size steel driftwood tree reaches to a Texas sky that changes colors as the evening progresses. Everywhere you look there is a story and a west Texas connection. Even television screens give the appearance of looking outside a ranch window, complete with real cowboys and horses.
The food features Texan classics with a modern twist. Overlooking some recently cooked brisket and biscuits, Pyles explains the inspired food pallet: “You know, fried chicken and peach cobbler, cowboy cookery, steaks and barbecue, and certainly the Mexican influence, tacos and tamales.” The modern Texas cuisine also includes honeyinjected fried chicken and venison meatloaf.
The 7,000-square-foot restaurant has a large exhibition kitchen and a seating capacity for 120 patrons. This includes a private state-of-the-art dining room that seats between 12 and 30. The room includes wireless Internet, a 60-inch TV screen and other A/V options upon request.
Chef Point in Watagu, just outside Fort Worth, started drawing national media attention when it was first featured on Guy Fierie’s Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. When you first arrive, it may seem like any other gas stop, but once you step inside, the smell of five-star food beckons you to have a seat and grab a menu.
For some, having a diner in a gas station would seem like a curse, but co-owner and chef Franson Nwaeze saw it as a blessing. “It’s not by my will or by my strength,” he says. “Look around. I’m in a gas station. I started with four tables and 12 chairs. Now I can seat 300 people and cater parties of thousands of people. People call me every day to do parties for them, so it is a blessing.” It’s this humbleness, mixed with some impressive food, that keeps people coming back and telling their friends. With items like chicken fried steak, Better Than Sex Chicken and a monstrous concoction known as The Bloody Best (a double order of spicy Bloody Mary, Better Than Sex Chicken, a slider and waffle fries, all in one glass), it’s not surprising to see people taking pictures of their food orders.
Chef Point’s banquet room holds 85 to 100 people and the outside patio with TVs and a bar seats 75 to 100-plus. The outside patio also has a stage for entertainment. The restaurant can cater larger groups at events or other locations with its food truck.