Chef of the Year: Graham Dodds
You can't talk farm-to-table in Dallas without mentioning Graham Dodds. While the term is used (and often, abused) by practically every new restaurant in town these days, much of the credit for popularizing it in Dallas goes to him. This year Dodds helped complete Hibiscus's transition from a popular but somewhat stagnant steakhouse to one of the city's finest examples of locally-sourced New American cooking; now he's off to open a new venture, Wayward Sons on Lower Greenville, and we can't wait to see what he's got in store.
Bartender of the Year: Eddie Eakin
Boulevardier’s Eddie Eakin already had a reputation as one of the best bartenders in town, and his imaginative libations at recently opened Rapscallion have only served to cement that status. The colorful tiki mugs behind the bar provide a small hint to Eakin’s passion for the tropical retro drinks, and he’s putting fresh spins on the classics, like a Mai Tai made modern with a dose of bitter Campari. The brunch drink menu is full of clever concoctions, too, like the bourbon-spiked Cinnamon Toast Punch that puts a seriously adult twist on breakfast cereal.
Restaurant of the Year: Cafe Momentum
Cafe Momentum made a major leap this year when it moved on up to its very own brick-and-mortar restaurant downtown. With a team led by chef Chad Houser, the nonprofit that began its life as a series of pop-ups offers real-world hospitality experience to juvenile offenders to help set them on the straight and narrow. But it’s more than just a worthy cause — Cafe Momentum also happens to be a mighty fine restaurant serving up some seriously sophisticated plates, from fancy toasts and octopus tiradito to handmade pastas and a whole roasted head of cauliflower.
Stone Cold Stunner: Madrina
Misery Loves Company’s second restaurant venture posits itself as “French-Mex,” and it would have been easy for the restaurant group to overdo the fusion theme with the decor. Instead, they showed an admirable amount of restraint and allowed the focus to remain where it should: on chef Julio Peraza’s artful plates. A soothing neutral color palette gets a punch of pizzazz from geometric tiling, unusual tentacle-like lighting fixtures, and thoughtfully placed mirrors, adding up to a dining room that manages to feel warm and inviting yet totally cool at the same time.
Festival of the Year: Chefs for Farmers
Not all food festivals are created equal. To make this event stand out from the pack, Chefs for Farmers head honcho Iris Midler knew her team had to do something a little different. CFF is the self-described “down-home, no-fuss culinary event of the year” — and the laid-back vibe is precisely what keeps a chefs and diners alike coming back. Rather than placing celebrity chefs on a pedestal, the event honors what it views as truly important: the farmers responsible for cultivating the goods that supply the city’s top restaurants day-to-day.
So Hot Right Now: Rapscallion
Considering the success of brothers Brooks and Bradley Anderson’s first restaurant, Boulevardier, expectations for the Southern-tinged Rapscallion were high — and the Lowest Greenville hot spot has more than lived up to them. Chef-partner Nathan Tate’s Sichuan take on Nashville-style hot chicken, duck confit cornbread, and crawfish hush puppies keep the crowds coming back, making Rapscallion the hottest table in town right now.