As the business center of Texas, a state that does not mess around when it comes to cooking, Dallas has a food scene that is deep and good. Showing us the ropes there are James Tidwell (master sommelier at Four Seasons Resort and Club at Las Colinas) and Fana Yohannes (manager of Lucia, a top dining destination in Dallas).
If James Tidwell’s mind is set on a steak, he goes to Pappas Bros. Steakhouse: “Dallas has a lot of steakhouses, and this is the best. They dry-age their own steaks, and the execution is phenomenal. On top of that, they have one of the two best wine lists in the state. When I order steak at Pappas Bros., I just ask the waiter what cut is oldest and I go for that.” 10477 Lombardy Lane, (214) 366-2000, pappasbros.com
When Tidwell wants to impress a visiting foodie, he goes the Asian route at Tei-An soba house and sushi restaurant. “Back when Dallas did not have a lot of high-quality sushi restaurants, chef Teiichi Sakurai opened the first good ones. Then he sold them and went to Japan to perfect his soba noodle making skills. Now, Tei-An, in the Arts District, has the kind of Japanese food that you just do not see in many other places: needlefish sushi, green-tea soba with a mountain of vegetables that I did not recognize, and a white seaweed salad that I’ve never spotted anywhere else. The restaurant is truly Japanese.” One Arts Plaza, 1722 Routh Street, (214) 220-2828, tei-an.com
For brunch, Fana Yohannes inhales at Smoke: “It’s homey and feels kind of retro. The chef smokes his own meat, and the ricotta pancakes are ridiculously good. They do a roasted chicken cooked with a can of beer inside, which helps to keep the chicken moist and makes it particularly delicious. I like the smoked brisket cornbread hash, which comes out with a poached egg and green chili sauce on top. Make it a late brunch and you might catch an impromptu jam session inside.” 901 Fort Worth Ave., (214) 393-4141, smokerestaurant.com
Considered the birthplace of America’s obsession with food, San Francisco is a perfect city in which to taste the latest, greatest, and freshest. Michael Brill (CEO of Crushpad, where oenophiles can make their own wine) and Annie Somerville (executive chef of the vegetarian Greens Restaurant) tell us where to go.
When Annie Somerville eats vegetarian, she often makes a beeline for Cotogna: “I look for restaurants that I admire, and I order selectively from the menu. At Cotogna — which serves meat dishes — everything is extremely fresh. Last time I went there, I had an asparagus and spring-onion pizza, ravioli with cheese and peas, and a fritto misto that was like fried tempura batter with fava beans and little carrots inside. It’s a simple, low-key space, overseen by a chef, Mike Tusk, who recently won a James Beard award.” 490 Pacific Ave., (415) 775-8508, cotognasf.com
Michael Brill banks on RN74’s great wine pairings: “The food is straightforward French, not super complicated, and very wine friendly. Rajat Parr oversees the wine program, and he’s one of the top sommeliers in the state. What I really like, though, is that the restaurant has one of those old schedule signs from a European train station. They use it to show wines that are down to the last bottle and specially priced. So you can pay $40 for a California pinot that normally goes for $80. As far as the food goes, my personal favorites include the coq au vin and duck breast with foie gras. Entrees are under $30 and you can’t go wrong with the wine.” 301 Mission St., (415) 543-7474, michaelmina.net/rn74
If Brill has a yen for authentic ethnic food, he goes to Thai House Express: “I spent a year in Thailand and love Thai food. Thai House Express is not glamorous, but it is truly authentic and not dummied down. I go for the braised pork leg, which is incredibly tender and spicy. And I always get the yum pla dook foo, which is a spicy salad with fried catfish. In terms of wine, I tend to bring my own, usually a riesling.” 901 Larkin St., (415) 441-2248, thaiexpresssf.com