I grew up just outside of Arlington, and now that I’ve moved away, I find myself missing the diversity. While my friends were obsessed with Six Flags, I spent most of my time…eating. Arlington has a surprisingly huge variety of ingredients, recipes, and cooking traditions, thanks — at least in part — to the international appeal of the University of Texas at Arlington, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Texas Rangers. It’s a legit melting pot.
As a result, Arlington natives and tourists alike have access to global cuisines that can be found almost nowhere else in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and you should really try them all. It’s impossible to harness the full bouquet of flavors and put them on a page…but that doesn’t mean it’s useless to try. Here’s a starter kit of six Arlington foodie hot spots worth planning a trip around.
Sprouts Springroll & Phở
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10:30am-9pm; Sunday, 10:30am-4pm
Address: 780 E Road To Six Flags Suite 2
If you’ve ever seen the Man Vs. Food Nation episode where Pete MacGillis takes on five pounds of phở in under 30 minutes, that’s this place. It’s called the Super Phở Challenge, and you should definitely not accept it. You’ll have better odds of enjoying yourself if you don’t try to be a “phở killa.” (Though take a second to check out the wall of failures.)
Sprouts Springroll & Phở is exactly what it claims to be. This joint shines with its wide, wide, wide variety of spring rolls and all different types of phở, but it also blends a mean smoothie and bubble tea. You’ll find other cuisines and items filling out the menu, but start with the namesake. The duck and mango spring roll, the chicken basil spring roll, and pretty much any of the phở varieties should be your 101 lesson. This place is inauthentic in its twists, but super authentic in its ingredients, so if you see something you don’t recognize? That’s why.
Damian’s Cajun Soul Café
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-4pm
Address: 185 S Watson Rd #101
At some point between 11am and 4pm, it’s mandatory that you stop by Damian’s Cajun Soul Café — at least once, if not twice — and yes, we mean per day. You can get all kinds of Southern staples here, though the gumbo, fried catfish, and smothered pork chops are all must-trys. Damian’s is a family-run business, and all of the food is prepared fresh by Damian L. Placide, Sr. himself, a native of New Iberia, Louisiana.
Like all good things, they’re only open for a narrow window of time and are closed nights and weekends. But that isn’t too much of an issue — it just means you’ll need to take your weekend red-beans-and-rice fix to go in advance. Be prepared for a tiny spot, but Damian’s makes up for its compact dining space with big flavor.
Prince Lebanese Grill
Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 11am-9pm; Friday-Saturday, 11am-10pm
Address: 502 W Randol Mill Rd
If you think you’ve heard of this place before, you’re probably right. Guy Fieri — of the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and of the flames of Flavortown — profiled Prince Lebanese Grill on TV. But popularity hasn’t affected its quality. It’s still so tasty you’d think someone’s grandmother was in the back cooking her tush off (I asked, and that’s not the case). You’ll get great service with even better food, plus it’s located in an old-school Sonic drive-in.
The owner, Francis Kobty, has a few business ventures, and he uses the skills he’s learned in those areas to perfect the Lebanese atmosphere. Kobty popularized lamb in the DFW area and showcases how delectable it is in dishes like the Prince Special (a variety of meat over rice). There are plenty of equally well-prepared vegetarian options, like the falafel wrap, that’ll have you living in Flavortown, too.
Taste of Europe
Hours: Wednesday-Friday, 5pm-10pm; Saturday-Sunday, 12pm-10pm
Address: 1901 W Pioneer Pkwy
The fact that this restaurant specializes in cuisine from Eastern Europe is enough to get most of us in the door. Who doesn’t want the dilemma of choosing between Hungarian goulash, German schnitzel, and Ukrainian pirogues? And, yep, Guy Fieri ate here, too. We told you Arlington was a big deal.
You might initially get distracted by the small Russian gift shop inside Taste of Europe, but the smells will get you to your seat soon enough. This is one of those places where it’s hard to recommend anything because you’ve got to try it all: platters of potato pancakes and koldunys (stuffed potato pancakes). Pelmeni (dumplings) and sauerkraut pierogies. Chicken blintzes and borscht. There’s also a long dessert crêpe menu, but odds are your sweet tooth is going to be benched for this one.
NAMOO Korean Bowl
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11am-9pm
Address: 300 E Abram St #170
A self-serve seaweed and sauce bar? Try not to be intrigued already. Add the chill and unpretentious atmosphere, consistently good food, and location close to UTA, and we’ve got ourselves a winner.
When you enter NAMOO, walk up and take in all the pictures of the bowls — that’ll help. Gangnam (chicken), Dae Bak (spicy pork), and “Do You Know Tofu?” are all stellar options; add a portion of Galbi (Korean BBQ ribs) or egg rolls if you’re feeling famished. Pay, and then wander over to the water cooler and the self-serve bar. You may not think seaweed is your thing, but try it out anyway.
Your food will be brought out pronto, and even though this is a pay-at-the-counter kind of place, note the presentation. You’ll probably want to bust out your phone — if you can wait to dive in.
Hours: Tuesday, 12pm-8pm; Wednesday-Thursday, 11:30am-12am; Friday-Saturday, 11:30am-3am; Sunday, 12pm-9pm
Address: 1020 W Arkansas Ln
I felt it was important to end this list with a wildcard. There have been plenty of times my friends and I have found ourselves in Arlington googling “Things to Do Near UTA.” As you’ve already learned, you’re spoiled for options when choosing dinner, but, if it’s a Thursday through Saturday night, there’s a decent chance you won’t be ready to go home when most mom-and-pop restaurants close. So if you wanna eat well and have some fun, Jamaica Gates is the spot.
If you’re new to Jamaican food, you can never go wrong with jerk chicken. I’ve been here with friends till the wee hours (well, the wee hours of closing time) to gnaw the last bit of meat off a bone and enjoy the vibes. Caribbean music is always playing in the background, and the feel can be closer to a lounge than a typical restaurant. (That eccentricity comes with the opportunity to show your creative side by participating in the occasional poetry reading.)
If you’re not one for dancing and social environments, you can get the same good food during more regular business hours. They do lunch, happy hour, and they even cater. But if you’re not willing to chow down on their oxtails, I don’t know what you’re even going for. Just like Arlington’s many other international restaurants, this one tastes best when you dive in.