It was all the very best food and drink at the 2021 Dallas-Fort Worth Tastemaker Awards, CultureMap's celebration of the top restaurants, bars, and culinary masters, held at the Fashion Industry Gallery in downtown Dallas on August 19.
Dozens of bars and restaurants dished out spectacular tastes in a hedonistic feast. A portion of the proceeds benefited Harvest Project Food Rescue, which fights food insecurity in Dallas. The annual event, coming back from an all-virtual edition in 2020, proved to be the most delicious one yet.
Lines formed quickly for small plates and samples from some of Dallas-Fort Worth's most popular and influential eateries. Buzzy dishes included smoked pheasant and goat cheese grits from Backyard at Hotel Drover; garlic ginger steak with chili orange noodles from Cafe Modern; Mendocino Farms' “Not So Fried” chicken sandwiches; wagyu sliders from Jaxon Texas Kitchen & Beer Garden; and slipper lobster "pancakes" from Saint Ann’s.
Those with a sweet tooth delighted in Bobbers Burgers' Dole Whip vegan soft-serve cups and dainty but delectable personal-sized Route 66 Pecan Pies from Haywire.
Chefs from Omni Dallas passed out the most Instagrammable plate of the night, with their colorful cheese ball "towers" — a dried date with blue cheese mousse, red grape with boursin and pistachio, and heirloom cherry tomato with herb goat cheese mousse — stacked high on a skewer for easy photo-snapping and snacking.
VIP ticket-holders could arrive early to valet park easily and mingle in a lounge just for them. Beer drinkers made themselves at home in the Beer Garden presented by Deep Ellum Brewing Company.
The main bar poured signature cocktails featuring the spirits of sponsors Maestro Dobel Tequila and Stranahan's Single Malt Whiskey. A fan favorite was the Summer Garden (created by last year's Dallas Bartender of the Year winner, Josh Hendrix), made with Boodles Rhubarb & Strawberry Gin, fresh watermelon and lime juices, and FeverTree Pink Grapefruit Soda. Guests paced themselves at the Topo Chico Hydration Station.
But this party wasn't just a feeding frenzy; we had some awards to present. Celebrity emcee, comedian CJ Starr, announced winners in 14 categories from restaurants and bars across Dallas-Fort Worth. They were selected by judges consisting of past winners, food and beverage industry experts, and CultureMap editors: Chas Martin, Toby Archibald, Gavin Secchi, Diana Zamora, Josh Hendrix, Jacob Tindall, Lisa Stroup, Marc Ramirez, Kim Pham, Fabian Hernandez, Jamil Bata, Vu Ly, Stephan Courseau, Janice Provost, Alex Gonzalez, Sarah Hooton, Markus Kypreos, Mike Hoque, Malcolm Mayhew, Celestina Blok, Samantha Calimbahin, Eric Griffey, Connie Bally, Henry Abuto, Stephanie Merry, and Teresa Gubbins.
One of the biggest awards of the night was for Best New Restaurant, voted on by the CultureMap readers. The winners were La Onda in Fort Worth and Monarch in Dallas. They were greeted with some of the heartiest cheers of the evening.
Winners accepted gorgeous glass trophies onstage and posed for pictures; some groups even streamed the presentation live on social media for their fans to watch at home.
Two special awards were given to individuals who contributed greatly to the local dining scene during the pandemic; they went to chef Jon Bonnell (Waters, Bonnell's) in Fort Worth and Meadors Ozarow (Empire Baking) in Dallas.
Between feasting and celebrating, guests stopped to snap Insta-worthy photos at the photo booth and bought raffle tickets benefiting Harvest Project Food Rescue. A DJ kept the beats lively all night.
Spotted in the crowd, having great foodie fun, were Dallas dining VIPS, award nominees, and guests Dayne and Ashley Weaver, Jett Mora, Grant Morgan, Troy Gardner, Liz Mitchell, Marisol Leiva, Caroline Sheridan, Paulina Leiva, Grace Kelly, Christian Kelly, Laura Russell, Tara Hollis, Darlene Hollis, Claudia Randalls, Gustavo Guevara, Darren Chankhamany, Tina Le, Amber Bufkin, and Faith Heitz.
Hungry to be a part of it all next year? You can read about all the winners here, and we'll see you in 2022. Cheers!