The joke about Arlington used to be that it was the fast-food capital of the world. It wasn't really accurate then, although fast-food and other chains are certainly well-represented near AT&T Stadium.
But for every Pappasito's Cantina, Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen and On the Border that draws crowds near the stadium, there are more quirky mom-and-pops, pubs, burger joints and international-food spots that are worth exploring if you're in town for a few days for the NFL Draft Experience — or, hey, if you live in DFW and haven't explored Arlington in a while.
And sure, there's going to be a good food court at the stadium, but there are also places nearby — some of them walkable from the stadium, many of them in a revitalizing downtown (just don't look for a skyline), some requiring an Uber or a Lyft ride. Here's a guide we threw together, and it's possible you'll trip over some holes in the wall on your own.
Close to the stadium
(a short drive or even a walk)
The website says “since 1995,” but it looks like even more of a throwback, with (mostly) old-school “mesquite wood charcoal grilled” burgers and a few other sandwiches. The “Lucky Burger” (with Thousand Island, onion, chile, cheese and hickory sauce; $5.19) is about as fancy as it gets. And it's practically across Collins Street from the stadium. 1106 N. Collins St., Arlington,http://www.airwayshamburgers.com
This classic Texas barbecue restaurant is old-school and within walking distance of AT&T Stadium. It was on West Division Street before either stadium was built, serving East Texas-style brisket, ribs, pork and sides. Go for a sloppy Joe or the brisket stew, or pick up a family-pack dinner. Lunch and dinner daily except Sundays at 1206 E. Division St, Arlington,http://bodaciousbarbq.com
Ths is Arlington's nostalgia restaurant, where generations took a prom date or had their first steak dinner in the cozy booths with red-checked tablecloths. The menu is truly eclectic — steaks, Tex-Mex and Italian dishes — and it's known for everything from spaghetti to nachos, guacamole or green salsa. The biggest steak on the menu is only about $20. Opened in 1957, it's older than the Dallas Cowboys. Lunch and dinner daily at 1202 E. Division St., Arlington.
If you want to get a quick selection of restaurants in one fell swoop, head over to this new development — it's only a mile from the stadium, walkable thanks to a pedestrian-friendly overpass, and even the oldest restaurants in it are barely a year old — for a lot of fast-casual choices: burgers (BurgerFi, a chain inspired by New York-based Shake Shack with inventive burgers and big custard concretes); tacos (a location of Austin-based Torchy's Tacos, known for overstuffed, not-for-purist tacos that are upstaged by the can't miss green-chile queso); pizza (Urban Bricks Pizza, which boasts of build-your-own, Neapolitan-style pies); Mediterranean-oriented (the ridiculously popularThe Halal Guys); sandwiches (Firehouse Subs, where a portion of each purchase goes to the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, which provides lifesaving equipment to first responders) Asian-inspired (Tokyo Joe's); even a health-conscious salad bar (Salata); and dessert options (Tiff's Treats, which does impossibly soft-and-warm cookies; Rocket Fizz, loaded with candy and sodas, including some really unusual flavors; Yumilicious Frozen Yogurt. Champions Park is at 1805 N. Collins St., just north of I-30 in Arlington.
Marquez Bakery & Tortilla Factory
The best part of any trip to the stadium.: fresh, housemade tortillas and tamales, breakfasts, inexpensive platters and great green sauce. And you can walk to it with relative ease. 1730 E. Division St., Arlingtonhttp://www.marquezbakery.com
Prince Lebanese Grill
The name almost says it all, except that this was one of several Arlington spots that were visited by Guy Fieri and got the "Diners, Drive-In and Dives" seal of spiky-haired approval. If you're indecisive, get the Prince Lebanese special ($18.99), a sample with maswhi shish lamb and beef, shish tawook (chicken breast in curry and yogurt), kafta kebab, rice, vegetables and a choice of sides. If you're decisive, there are plenty of individual entrees to explore. About a mile from the stadium. 502 W. Randol Mill Road, Arlington
One of Arlington's nicest restaurants — part of the Sanford House Inn & Conference Center — defines itself as fine dining, but at lunch you can get something as simple as a pulled-pork sandwich for 10 bucks (lunch entrees max out at $17 for "signature" crab cakes. At dinner, the prices range from $28 for a glazed pork loin to $50 for the "Texas Two Step," a 6-ounce tenderloin filet with butter-poached lobster mac-and-cheese and seasonal vegetables. If you're hanging around through the weekend, this place is known for its Saturday and Sunday brunch. About a mile from the stadium. Reservations recommended. 506 N. Center St., Arlington,https://www.thesanfordhouse.com
A little less close
(within 2 miles of the stadium)
Babe's Chicken Dinner House
Known for: fried chicken, chicken-fried steak, sides — and lines, although not as long as at some other locations. Take the “Dinner” in the name seriously: Dishes are served family-style, which means a lot of food. Not that you can't dine there solo, they'll just look at you a little funny. We speak from experience. 230 N. Center St. (about a 1½-mile drive from the stadium, or, according to Google Maps, a half-hour walk), Arlington, http://www.babeschicken.com
This Mexican restaurant's significance is summed up in four words: All You Can Eat. The old-school enchiladas-and-tacos dinner is less than $8 weekends, less than $7 weekdays. South of the stadium on Ballpark Way to 1821 E Abram St.; Bigotes on Facebook.
Arlington's first — and still relatively young — brewery, with beers such as the Clifton Clowers blonde (extra points if you get the "Clifton Clowers" reference), the potent Grind and Press (a cold-brew coffee imperial stout with a 10.5 percent ABV) and the even more potent Tres Craneo (a Tasmanian IPA with a 12.5 percent ABV). A little more than a mile from the stadium. 506 E Main St., Arlington,https://divisionbrewing.com
It's tempting to call this Dallas-based chain "frying fish," but along with all the fried catfish you can get grilled catfish, as well as oysters, shrimp, trout, salmon, gumbo, po-boys and more. And check out all the fishing photos. 1901 W. Pioneer Parkway, Arlington,http://www.flyingfishinthe.net
Chain featuring Chicago-style deep-dish pizza with a cornmeal crust — not something for dine-in if you're in a hurry, because the deep-dish can take 45 minutes to bake. Thin-crust and sandwiches (including one with Buffalo chicken and cheddar mac) are also available. About 1 mile from the stadium. 1350 E. Copeland Road, Arlington,https://www.ginoseast.com
Grease Monkey Burger Shop and Social House
Funky joint known for its offbeat burgers (such as the chicken-fried burger with its batter-dipped patty), beer menu and laid-back atmosphere. Roughly 1 1/2 miles from the stadium. 200 N. Mesquite St., Arlington,http://greasemonkeyburgers.com
J. Gilligan's Bar & Grill
An Arlington favorite, known for "Irish nachos" — cottage fries topped with melted cheddar, bacon, chives, onions, tomatoes and jalapeños — and a convivial, collegiate atmosphere. Lots more on the menu, and it's offering shuttle service to AT&T Stadium on draft day. But it's only a half-hour walk from the stadium if you feel like getting some exercise. 400 E. Abram St., Arlington, http://www.jgilligans.com
Jack's Chicken Shack
Chicago-style fried chicken, along with Italian beef sandwiches, in a downtown spot that practically definies "unpretentious." A little more than a mile from the stadium. 513 E. Abram St., Arlington,@jackschicagochicken on Facebook
J.R. Bentley's English Pub
A favorite of the UT-Arlington crowd, this long-running hangout closed a few years ago after a fire -- and, after three years, made a comeback. Known for its burgers and for an atmosphere that lives up to the "English Pub" part of the name. A little more than 1 1/2 miles from the stadium. 406 W. Abram St., http://jrbentleys.com
Legal Draft Beer Co.
A beer-can's throw from Division Brewing, this even newer brewery was co-founded by a lawyer, which helps explains the brewery's name and the cleverly named brews (an amber lager called "Accused," "Chief Justice Stout," "Presumed Innocent IPA" — you get the idea). Try to get a patio seat. Taproom hours 4-8 p.m. Thursday-Friday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday. 500 E. Division St., Arlington,legaldraftbeer.com
Olives Mediterranean Grill
Homey-looking spot, inside and out, a quick shot west from the stadium on Randol Mill Road. The name describes the fare; sandwiches are inexpensive, entrees range between $10 and $20, and don't skip the baklava dessert. 1714 W. Randol Mill Road, Arlington,@OlivesMG on Facebook
Piccolo Mondo Italian Restaurant
Almost as old-school as the "Italian Restaurant" in its name indicates, this unpretentious strip-shopping-center spot is beloved by locals for its traditional menu. If you feel like splurging, have the Mare e Terra at dinner ($67.75), but at lunch you can get a plate of pasta for under 15 bucks. 829 E. Lamar Blvd., Arlington (in the Whole Foods shopping center), http://piccolomondo.com
For the most part, straight-up Tex-Mex, with a few minor surprises (try a grilled relleno with brisket, for instance). But a popular meeting spot for the north Arlington crowd. Roughly 2 miles from the stadium. 2150 E. Lamar Blvd. No. 120, Arlington,http://www.riomambo.com
Social Bakehouse Cafe
The "Bakehouse" part of the name hints at all the cupcakes, cookies and other sweets you can get here, but don't ignore the cafe with its breakfast menu (the Frosted Flakes French toast gets our attention), sandwiches, panini, wraps, pastas and comfort-food entrees such as pecan-crusted chicken. About 1 1/2 miles from the stadium, in Lincoln Square. 546 Lincoln Square, Arlington,http://www.socialbakehousecafe.com
Tom's Burgers and Grill
It's in a former Denny's Diner, and it kept the soda-fountain style trappings, with a tile-and-chrome front room where you can sit on a stool and eat at the counter. We always come here for the burgers (and there's quite a selection), but you can also get sandwiches, chicken-fried steak, all-day breakfast and more. Roughly 2 miles from the stadium, but it's a pretty straight shot. 1530 N. Cooper St., Arlington,https://tomsburgersandgrill.com
Twisted Root Burger Co.
Fancier burgers (fancier than, say, a bacon-cheeseburger, that is) have become pretty common in Dallas-Fort Worth, but Twisted Root was one of the pioneers of the movement when it launched in Dallas' Deep Ellum district in 2006. Now it has nearly 20 locations, including this Arlington one that, like Grease Monkey, was on the forefront of a downtown renaissance. If you're hungry, go for the Freshman 15 (patty topped with cheddar, fried egg, bacon — and smashed fries) or the Le Wagyu (Dijon-crusted Texas Wagyu beef with thyme-caramelized onions and gruyere). About a mile from the stadium. 310 E. Abram St., Arlington,https://www.twistedrootburgerco.com
Urban Alchemy Coffee & Wine Bar
Coffee and wine are two of our favorite things, and even if you don't like one of them, chances are you like the other. And if you don't like either, you can still get a sandwich or something sweet at this new and arty hangout in Arlington's eccentric downtown. A little more than a mile from the stadium. 403 E. Main St., http://www.urbanalchemy.bar
A little farther away
(Within 3 miles)
Deep Arlington roots here: The original location opened more than 60 years ago, giving way in 1986 when the site was redeveloped into a shopping center. Founder Al Mathews quickly reopened in this spot, where the burgers and other comfort food reflect the old-fashioned appeal. (Mathews died in 2014 but his legacy lives on.) About 2 1/2 miles from the stadium, almost due north on Collins Street at the northeast corner of Collins and Green Oaks Boulevard. 1001 N.E. Green Oaks Blvd., No. 103, Arlington, Al's Hamburgers on Facebook.
Damian's Cajun Soul Cafe
It's not too hard to find Cajun/Creole chain food around here, but Damian's, an independent run by a family originally from New Iberia, La., keeps it real with many standards (gumbo, jambalaya, etoufees, dirty rice and more). Inexpensive, but be aware that it's only open for lunch (11 a.m.-4 p.m.) weekdays and that it's closed most weekends, About 3 miles from the stadium, but a pretty direct route. 185 S Watson Rd, Ste 101, Arlington; http://damians.letseat.at
Jambo's BBQ Shack
It really did start in a shack, but it has expanded to three locations, and this one is closest to the stadium. If you're confused about which meat to order, get the Jambo Texan ($15.75) — a monster sandwich featuring pork ribs, sausage, pulled pork, chopped and sliced brisket and a slice of bologna on Texas toast. This location is just under 3 miles from the stadium. 1724 W Division St., Arlington, https://www.jambosbarbequeshack.com/
Legendary for one very big reason: Mariano Martinez invented the frozen margarita. It upholds the legacy of 1980s fajitas-and-swirls restaurants, but it's showing its years. 2614 Majesty Drive, Arlington,https://www.laharanch.com/locations/arlington
If you want dining with a view in Arlington, this is the best place to get it: A steak (and more) house that originated in downtown Fort Worth and added this ninth-floor Arlington location when a longtime French restaurant shut down and moved out. Wide-ranging menu, from burgers to lobster-and-cheese ravioli and several prime steaks. And you can see AT&T Stadium from there! Granted, you can see it from certain overpasses 15 miles to the northwest, but still ... 2221 E. Lamar Blvd. Suite 910, Arlington, https://mercurychophouse.com
Moni's Pizza and Pasta
Arguably the most neighborhoody restaurant on this list: A mom-and-pop Italian spot known for, well, the dishes in its name. It's so traditional that we worried a little bit when the website boasted of a new menu; we were relieved to find all the fettuccini, rigatoni and tortellini dishes that we've come to expect, as well as entrees that top out at $16.95. BYOB. 1730 W. Randol Mill Road No. 100, http://www.monispastapizza.com
Piranha Killer Sushi
Longtime sushi spot (more or less a straight shot north on Collins Street) is an easygoing hangout (that has grown into a small chain) with a large selection of signature rolls, sashimi, martinis and more. 859 N.E. Green Oaks Blvd., Arlington,https://www.piranhakillersushi.com
Even farther out
In a strip shopping center about a 10-minute drive for the stadium is this offbeat spot that you might miss if you're not paying attention or, say, going eastward instead of west on Green Oaks Boulevard. Rotisserie chicken is a specialty, but don't neglect such plates as the pescado a lo macho (deep-fried fish in a spicy seafood sauce, $24), the aji de gallina (shredded chicken in a spicy, creamy yellow-pepper sauce, $16) or the choritos a la chalaca (steamed mussels with salsa criolla, Peruvian corn and rocoto chile peppers, $19). 2425 N.E. Green Oaks Blvd., Arlington,https://www.perugourmetllc.com
R Bar & Grill
The "Chef's Go-Tos" at this Southwestern-skewing spot include such items as the $27 Tito's sea bass (Chilean sea bass marinates for 48 hours in Tito's Vodka atop a bed of vegetables and topped with sweet-chili sauce), but you can get more down to earth (and down to $10 in some cases) with the burgers, sandwiches, tacos, flatbread and pizzas. There's also a small section of the menu dedicated to vegetarian and vegan food. About 2 1/2 miles from the stadium, and right next to the Arlington Hilton. 2401 E. Lamar Blvd., Arlington,http://rbarandgrilltx.com
Tandoor Indian Restaurant
Long-running, quiet spot known for its lunch buffet, but it's a calm dinner spot, and the most you'll pay for an entree is $11.95 (which applies to a few dishes, such as the Tandoori shrimp and the beera kebab — lamb chunks marinated in yogurt and spices and charcoal-grilled). A little more than 2 miles from the stadium.; shoot west on Randol Mill Road and find this in a shopping center at the northwest corner of Randol Mill and Fielder. 1200 N. Fielder Road Suite 532, Arlington, http://www.tandoorrestaurant.net
Worth an Uber trip
(More than 4 miles away)
Chop House Burgers
A frequent, and often strong, contender in the Burger Battles that we've done every odd-numbered year since 2009, Chop House can get pretty crazy with some of its creations (e.g. the Hot Sicilian, which comes topped with ham, pepperoni, bacon, provolone, mozzarella and Parmesan), but is best at the classics (although we are fans of the 10-Pepper Burger, which does bring the heat). If you want a traditional burger, ask for a Classic with cheese; the "cheeseburger" is a patty served between two grilled-cheese sandwiches. About 4 1/2 miles from the stadium. 2230 W. Park Row Drive, Pantego; website is down but don't confuse it with Chop House Burger, a small chain that has its own merits but doesn't have an Arlington location.
Fork in the Road
Mo's Best Eatery
It was in a shoebox-size location, closed, and then recently re-emerged in a location the size of a larger shoebox. OK, maybe two large shoeboxes. Size doesn't matter; what matters here is the burgers and the pastrami sandwich. And maybe the pasta. And the Mediterranean food. It's a modest place, but it's eclcectic. About six miles from the stadium. 4306 Matlock Road, Suite No. 108, Arlington
Mon Viet Cafe
Arlington has a large concentration of Asian restaurants; relatively speaking, this is one of the newer ones, where you'll be able to get a variety of fried-rice and pho dishes but also more exotic entries such as sea snails in coconut milk ($13.99) and a fermented fish and seafood hot pot ($34.99). 1818 E. Pioneer Parkway, No. 182
Taste of Europe
Another spot that earned "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" fame, it's where you can get goulash, blintzes, beeg stroganoff and much more including kolduny (potato pancakes stugged with beef and chicken — or mushrooms — grilled and served woith a side of sour cream). Note: Open only 5-10 p.m. Monday-Friday and noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with a website warning that the food takes times, so don't go if you're in a hurry. About five miles from the stadium. 1901 W. Pioneer Pkwy., Arlington, http://tasteofeuropetx.com