Some people say you haven’t done Dallas if you haven’t been to The Perot, or a Cowboys/Mavs/Stars game … others would say that you have to visit Reunion Tower, the Dallas Zoo, or Pioneer Plaza to genuinely do Dallas right. While all of those experiences are uniquely Dallas, I would argue that you haven’t really done Dallas right until you’ve eaten at Y.O. Ranch.
Currently the oldest steakhouse in the city following the unfortunate closing of The Palm (we know Wally and Bruce will be back in even more legendary fashion before we know it), Y.O. is quintessential Texas. It’s chef-owned with a menu offering some of the best meats and game Texas has to offer with a Hill Country twang and a bar offering creative takes on classics.
The restaurant has all the romantic charms of ranch life; think antler chandeliers, brick arches, supple leather seats, a hostess stand wrapped in cow hide … it’s basically Texas in a restaurant. Soak in the ambiance as classic country plays and head to one of their two bars to try the new set of cleverly crafted cocktails.
I started with the cocktail of the month, a riff on an Old Fashioned, the El Jefe; a bold Anejo tequila-based drink with orange zest, agave nectar, and a dash of cinnamon. The Anejo is complemented well by the cinnamon and orange zest for a taste that has that familiar tequila zing, but the richness of a whiskey based drink. It starts to transform into something slightly sweeter that actually leans towards an Old Fashioned as the melted ice, orange oils, and cinnamon dovetail with the tequila at the bottom of the glass. Next up was a Black Manhattan. It’s an interesting new take a on the classic—rye whiskey, vermouth, and black walnut bitters. Smooth, sultry, and draped in rye; it’s a solid way to start and end an evening. Thus, I opted for another drink since the night was just beginning. The last spirit I imbibed before diving into dinner was the Dirty Marshall, arefreshing cocktail bristling with citrus from the lime garnished grapefruit beverage made with Herman Marshalls’ excellent rye whiskey mixed with mint simple syrup, The Dirty Marshall is an exceptional summertime sidekick.
After enjoying my spirited visit to the bar, I decided it was time to take the plunge into Y.O.’s renowned cuisine. The meal started with the Wild Game Mixed Grill, a wild boar sausage link, venison with mozzarella and jalapeño-wrapped in bacon, and chicken fried quail breast all resting on a bed of wild rice made me wonder why they led with a winner. The boar was spicy, juicy, and cooked just right. The bacon-wrapped venison hid cheesy, peppered, elk under its salty crunch; and it was delicious and exciting like the nostalgia of finding the hidden toy inside a box of Cracker Jacks. Finally, the chicken fried quail was an surprise with its eager crunch blanketing a moist and flavorful breast. All of this masterfully made game framed by precisely prepared wild rice was a superb way to start the meal.
The Tomato Burrata Salad (fresh buffalo burrata, beefsteak tomatoes, and fresh basil drizzled with EVOO and balsamic reduction) was a refreshing palate cleanser to prepare for the Chilean Sea Bass. Caramelized and crusted for the perfect crunch and served with a sweet miso glaze, it is buttery, flaky and flavorful. Done a la carte, the Maple Dijon Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon were astonishing. Lightly roasted and wilted on the outside with a savory, earthy crunch on the inside; these are hands down the best Brussel sprouts I’ve ever had, and I usually hate the little green monsters. Not to be outdone, their Buffalo Filet Au Poive, YO’s signature dish, is served crusted with black pepper and crowned with a green peppercorn cognac cream, this is a truly memorable dish. Lean, rich, and flavorful, I enjoyed every bite.
Resting in a nearly comatose state, I didn’t think it could get better … until they brought out their Lemon Brittle topped with Prickly Pear Sorbet and fresh berries. Beautiful, tart and bitingly sweet, I could only handle a few bites before a brain freeze/sugar high kicked in.
My time at YO was a revelation. After a meal that made dining a borderline religious experience, it’s easy to see why US News and World Report were such big fans. The new dinner menu is fantastic and the specialty cocktails are well balanced and creative takes on classics.
While there are many ways to experience a city, I’d like to offer a close-minded word of advice: Don’t come to Dallas if you aren’t planning to go to Y.O. Ranch Steakhouse. Otherwise, you won’t be authentically visiting the southwest, you won’t be genuinely visiting Texas, and you definitely won’t be legitimately visiting Dallas; you’ll just be simply be wasting your time.