Food & Drink

9 Legendary Dallas Restaurants

Indulge yourself at some of the oldest restaurants in Dallas.

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El Fenix on McKinney Ave
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David C Justin
Posted on Mar 1, 2022

There's a simple rule of thumb to follow when it comes to trying a restaurant you've never been to before - if it opened its door more than 40 years ago, there's a safe bet that the food is probably worth it. To prove this rule as fact, I went to nine of the oldest restaurants in Dallas and I was not disappointed.

 

El Fenix

1601 McKinney Avenue

Officially the oldest restaurant in Dallas, El Fenix first opened its doors in 1918. It wasn't long before founder Miguel Martinez began experimenting with his dishes, introducing Mexican flare to what would soon be known as the original Tex-Mex. Now, 103 years later, El Fenix has fed generations of Texans and continues to satisfy the appetite of all who walk through the door. While every dish on the menu is delicious, you can't go wrong with the El Jefe platter. With three different enchiladas, a beef tamale, crispy taco and rice and beans, it's the perfect sampling of what Tex-Mex is all about.

 

Campisi's Egyptian Restaurant

Campisi's Egyptian Restaurant

5610 E Mockingbird Lane

While there are nine Campisi's located throughout the DFW Metroplex, there's only one Campisi's Egyptian Restaurant. Credited with bringing the first pizzeria to Texas, the Campisi family took over the vacant Egyptian Lounge to open Campisi's Restaurant in 1950. The only problem was that they didn't have enough money to buy a new sign so they took off the 'Lounge' and added 'Restaurant' and created a Dallas staple that has catered to politicians, professional athletes and even the infamous Jack Ruby. While the grilled chicken marsala is a personal favorite, you can't go wrong with the classic lasagna.

 

Kuby's Sausage House

6601 Snider Plaza

Kuby's Sausage House can trace its roots back to 1728 when Friedrich Kuby opened a neighborhood meat market in his small town of Kaiserslautern, Germany. Luckily for us, his descendent, Karl Kuby, immigrated to the U.S. and brought his sausage-making know-how to Snider Plaza in Dallas. Opened in 1961, Kuby's has since become the best place to enjoy traditional German-style sausages where the recipes, spice formulas and techniques have been passed from father to son for more than 10 generations. However, if you plan to dine in, go early because the restaurant is only open for breakfast and lunch. Ask for the chicken Jager Schnitzel and you'll walk out very happy.

 

Keller's Drive-In

Keller's Drive-In

6537 E Northwest Highway

It doesn't get any more old-fashioned than Keller's Drive-In on Northwest Highway. Founded in 1965, they're so old-fashioned, they finally started accepting credit and debit cards this year. They don't even have a website and that's okay because the truth is - they don't need one. Everything on the menu is so good people still come from miles around despite having no online or social media presence. And with all the burgers under $3, they're affordable, too! Do yourself a favor and just ask for the No. 5 Special - double meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, special dressing, all on a poppy seed bun. I don't know why the poppy seeds make a difference, but they do.

 

Jimmy's Food Store

4901 Bryan Street

Anyone can make a sandwich. Just slap some meat between two pieces of bread. What Jimmy's has been doing since 1966 is more like Renaissance art. Seriously. Founded and operated by the DiCarlo family for more than 50 years, Jimmy's offers a variety of artisanal sandwiches that make you reconsider every terrible food choice you've ever made in your life. Just don't expect to sit down and make yourself at home; while Jimmy's hosts wine dinners and tasting events, their award-winning sandwiches are to-go only. While I'm always up for a date with their famous muffuletta, for a true culinary experience, go with the prosciutto panino.

 

Burger House

Burger House

6913 Hillcrest Avenue

Few things have changed since the doors to this award-winning neighborhood burger joint first opened in 1951. The burgers and buns are still delivered fresh six days a week, the shakes and malts are still made the old-fashioned way and everything is still seasoned with their secret blend of seasoning salt. Although I'm a purist when it comes to my cheeseburgers, I couldn't resist trying the once-secret Texas Hamburdog - two beef patties, a grilled hot dog, bacon, chili, grilled onions, jalapenos and mustard. You'll never forgive yourself if you don't try it at least once.

 

S&D Oyster Company

2701 McKinney Avenue

If you think you have to drive all the way to the Gulf Coast to get the best seafood, you're in for a surprise. The owners of S&D Oyster Company, Herb and Mary Kay Story, have been bringing the freshest seafood to Dallas since 1976. With Cajun influences and a dedication to oysters, shrimp and loafs (what they call po'boys), S&D is a great place to indulge in your seafood obsession. If you're a first-timer like I was, I recommend the manager's taster sampler so you can taste almost everything they have to offer. 

 

Norma's Cafe

Norma's Cafe

1123 W Davis Street

Opened in 1956, the original Norma's Cafe serves Southern comfort food the same way your grandmother did when you were a kid. And there is nothing in the world better than grandma's homemade biscuits… except Norma's. With belly-filling country breakfasts to start your day, delicious lunches to keep you going and home-style dinners to keep you out of the kitchen, this Oak Cliff institution offers the southern food in Dallas. While Norma's offers a different dinner special each day of the week, all you need to know is Saturday's special is Chicken and Dumplings.

 

Javier's Gourmet Mexicano

4912 Cole Avenue

Where do I start with Javier's? Opened in 1977, the high-end Mexican restaurant is a maze of small, intimate dining rooms with servers so personal you'll want to add them to your Christmas card list. The bartenders give a master class in how cocktails should be made. And then there's the food. While some might argue that the Barra de Navidad (jumbo shrimp sauteed in their special diablo sauce) is the reason Javier's most loyal customers return time and time again, the real attraction is the Filete Durango - a tenderloin filet stuffed with Monterey cheese and peppers.