Dallas, Texas is home to one of the most vibrant, eclectic culinary cultures in the country right now. From a picturesque park featuring around-the-clock food trucks to an entire district dedicated to debuting food as an art-form, there is no shortage of novel experiences to try in this southern city.

Amid the sensory journey that is the Dallas food scene, you'd probably overlook the fact that many of the city's top-notch locales are proudly owned and operated by female chefs and businesswomen. But you shouldn't, because the inherently unique foods and ambiances of these women-run restaurants are all the more enticing when you consider that they have been painstakingly crafted by driven, badass women. Check out these spots on your next night out, and make sure to research more female-driven restaurants when dining in other cities—there's a pretty good chance they'll be just as badass as their owners.

Tracy Rathbun & Lynae Fearing - Shinsei, Lover's Seafood and Market

Are you even a Dallasite if you haven't been to Shinsei? The long-running pan-Asian establishment from the creative minds of Tracy Rathbun and Lynae Fearing is an institution on Inwood Road, serving up the city's very best crispy Brussels sprouts and sushi. There is an implicit understanding in my family that no dinner at Shinsei is complete without at least 3 orders of Brussels, and we'd be remiss if we didn't grab a slice of their famous chocolate cake every once in a while.

There is no doubt that Shinsei's loyal customers come for the promise of excellent cuisine, but they stay for the stellar service. Many of Shinsei's staff have been there since the beginning, and Rathbun and Fearing maintain a constant presence at the restaurant, which allows them to keep in touch and build relationships with visitors. The beloved co-owners comment that their "business has been built on regulars," and it's easy to see why people keep coming back.

Over the past year, Shinsei's loyal following has had the opportunity to sail their refined palates just a few waves away to Rathbun and Fearing's' Lover's Seafood and Market. The newer restaurant swims with the big fish in the Dallas seafood scene, already famous for its Tempura Fried Lobster Spoons and Ahi Tuna Tartare. With a modern interior accented in silver and blue, the restaurant maintains a nautical theme without feeling too kitchy.

Despite all their success, Rathbun and Fearing know that there are "no guarantees in any business." They don't take anything for granted, and though they aren't looking to open any new ventures together right now (they did just debut a Shinsei location at DFW Airport), they are constantly seeking new ways to make Shinsei and Lover's Seafood stand out in the highly competitive Dallas food scene. Honestly, if those Brussels get any better, my family is going to have to go off the deep end and change our standard order to 4.

Uno Immanivong - Chino Chinatown, Red Stix

Owned and operated by the charismatic, astute Uno Immanivong, Chino Chinatown boasts one of the most unique menus in town, fusing the surprisingly-complementary flavors of Asian and Latin cuisine. Chicken Tinga Wontons enclose chipotle chicken in a classic fried Chinese wrap set aside yuzu (an asian citrus fruit) guacamole. The most popular dish on the menu, Duck Fat Fried Rice, is a savory plate featuring Chinese sausage, Thai roasted BBQ pork, shrimp, and a sunny-side-up egg.

Immanivong's newest venture, Red Stix, is one of 24 food stalls in the lively, industrial-themed gathering space that is Plano's hot new food hall. Red Stix offers Asian street food, which is an ambiguous way of describing mouth-watering banh mi sandwiches, noodle bowls, and yakitori (a traditional Japanese BBQ dish of skewered chicken grilled over charcoals).

I initially planned a half-hour meeting with Chef-Owner Uno, but our meeting quickly evolved into an hour-and-a-half of learning, laughing, and brainstorming ideas for the imminent opening of the next Red Stix in University Park. A self-made, self-taught chef and businesswoman, Uno exhibits an engaging energy and passion when describing her journey to Dallas food celebrity. Born in a refugee camp in Thailand, Uno moved to America at just one year old. Her name, Uno, pays homage to the United Nations, which enabled her parents to seek a better life for their family in the US.

After working in banking for 16 years, Uno took a risk in pursuing her passion for cooking, having received no formal culinary education. She was selected to participate in ABC's The Taste, where she describes having the "most epic moment in [her] life" being mentored by the late Anthony Bourdain. Upon returning to Dallas after the show, she opened Chino Chinatown under the guidance of famed restauranteur Phil Romano.

Fiercely competitive from her years in the male-dominated banking industry, failure was not an option for Uno. However, the challenge of owning and operating a restaurant was more exacting and complex than she could have ever imagined. Undeterred, Uno describes learning to "fail better," navigating the management of Chino while simultaneously killing it as a single mother to her wildly accomplished chef, model, and social media star daughter, Emma. 

When I asked Chef Immanivong if she had any plans for the future, she grinned. Of course this powerhouse has plans. A few, actually, including a podcast with fellow chef and best friend Tiffany Derry, which will discuss all things having to do with food and the restaurant industry, infused with Immanivong's cheeky humor and seasoned with the insider scoop on the two chef's' next projects. Further down the road, Immanivong plans to give back by opening an orphanage in Laos, hopefully funded by proceeds from her own line of signature sauces. My interview with Chef Uno ended in a short tour of Legacy Food Hall, home of the first Red Stix, and a trip to fellow food stall Glazed Donut Works for mini donuts. Immanivong didn't see any mini donuts emerging hot and bubbling from the fry oil, so she decided to wait for the next batch. I smiled to myself–nothing less than perfection for this chef, and I couldn't imagine it any other way. 

Jessica Kate-Martinez - Tapas Castile

Nowadays, thanks to Instagram shots displaying our every bite and Yelp reviews documenting our every opinion, the ambiance of a restaurant is just as important as the food (if not more important). Thankfully, the female co-owners of Tapas Castile in Trinity Groves don't short us on either, crafting a space accented with hues of red and black, transporting diners to Spain and preparing them to consume traditional Spanish tapas like patatas bravas (fried potatoes) and pulpo a la parrilla (charred octopus). All four walls of Tapas Castile are decorated or designed to create a cohesive vibe, from the shelves of artistically organized jars of ingredients to the open kitchen window displaying cooks honing their craft and contributing to the lively atmosphere with clanking pots and sizzling pans. 

When general manager, sommelier, and part-owner Jessica Kate-Hernandez walks up from behind me, she announces her arrival with a friendly "hey there," and proceeds to casually seat herself. It's such an informal greeting I'm momentarily thrown off my game. Is this über-accomplished chef-owner just über-chill or is she not taking me seriously? Turns out, she's just super chill, but she's also uniquely comfortable in Tapas Castile, and she wants you to be, too. You see, this isn't just Kate-Hernandez's place of work. When she's not at home, she's usually at the restaurant, so it's basically a second home to her. It's a concept that she and co-owner Kendra Valentine built together after an impressive career working alongside Chef Matt McCallister of the beloved (and recently shuttered) FT33, and Chef Omar Flores of Casa Rubia (the restaurant that previously occupied the Tapas Castile space).

Mia Hirsch

When Kate-Hernandez and Valentine crafted Tapas Castile's menu, they didn't want to be confined to a single region in Spain. Rather, the menu was meant to be the pair's "interpretation of the entire countryside," which they were able to execute after traveling through Spain together prior to opening. 

With family ties in Spain, Kate-Hernandez was already familiar with the diverse countryside. Having worked as a sommelier for many years, the learned wine connoisseur had previously developed an acute understanding of Spanish wines, which is evident in the complexity and diversity of Tapas Castile's extensive wine list. The menu even boasts an impressive selection of Vermouths, priced moderately to entice adventurous drinkers. Vermouth, an aromatic wine flavored with various herbs, has the unique ability to be served as an aperitif (without food) before the meal. It is largely produced in the Spanish region of Catalonia, which holds special significance to Kate-Hernandez, whose mother lived in this region.

Mia Hirsch

Once I get Kate-Hernandez talking about wine, I know there's no way our meeting will be a short one. And I'm fine with that, considering that by the end of our hour-and-a-half together, I have enjoyed a wine tasting (sampling three wines made from the same grape, but grown in different soils), deliciously creamy Sherried mushrooms (pictured above, one of the restaurant's most popular dishes), and I gained a new appreciation for Spanish food and wine (not to mention what it takes to own and operate a restaurant that specializes in these things). 

Kate-Hernandez asserts that "food and wine go together like yin and yang." She instills this mantra in her staff through weekly seminars where she teaches about various wines. At one point in our conversation, she gets sidetracked discussing a server at Tapas Castile who she lovingly describes as "a future som" (sommelier). Smiling, she gushes about her staff member like a proud mom. Honestly, I get it. If I were Kate-Hernandez, I'd be damn proud of Tapas Castile, too.  

Janice Provost - Parigi 

Over the years, Dallas-ites have been forced to mourn the losses of beloved spots like Romano's Macaroni Grill, Joyce & Gigi's, and most recently, FT33. Thankfully, neighborhood strongholds like Parigi keep us from developing serious commitment issues. For 34 years (and counting!), this Oak Lawn bistro has served a cult following, becoming one of those rare restaurants of tradition, whether it be for birthday dinners, reunion lunches, or celebratory desserts.

When chef-owner Janice Provost purchased Parigi in 2002, the restaurant had already established itself as a mainstay of the Dallas food scene. Provost credits her many culinary mentors both at Parigi and beyond (including previous executive chefs Melody Wolfertz and Abraham Salum) for giving her the confidence and knowledge to be able to own and operate such a famed spot. 

Growing up on a mini-farm in Houston, Texas, Provost caught the culinary bug after witnessing her first boyfriend cook his mother's recipe of marinated pork chops (a recipe Provost still uses to this day). After college, she entered the Telecom industry, but craving more control over the product she was selling, she decided to pursue her passion for cooking. With the ability to ensure a quality product from start to finish, Provost thrived in the culinary world, even being honored with multiple invitations to cook at the famed James Beard House in NYC over the course of her accomplished career. Now in her 18th year at Parigi, Provost somehow manages to continue one-upping herself with new offerings (you have to try the fresh, juicy tomato and burrata salad), while staying true to the restaurant's roots. She recently closed the restaurant over the July 4th holiday to completely redesign the menu (don't worry, the chocolate blob is here to stay).

The travelled chef even makes a point of visiting Paris at least once a year, partly because she loves the city (she prefers to stay in an apartment to truly feel like a local), partly because she's excited about what she might find at the St. Ouen Flea Market (she excitedly mentions one of her favorite finds—artistic forks specially designed for indulging in escargot), and partly because the city of lights never fails to spark her culinary fire. One day, Provost hopes to participate in a long-term immersion program in Paris to learn French. But for now, she's far from settling—one visit to Parigi for perfectly puffed crab beignets and heavenly pappardelle will convince you as much.

Amy Wallace Cowan - Oddfellows

Pleasing the Dallas brunch crowd is no easy feat. They (note: I'm including myself in this oft-obnoxious group) know what they want (drink deals, drink specials, drinks for large parties, photo-worthy drinks, and a side of instagram-able food) and they just need to know where to get it. Well, my fellow brunch (drink) lovers, look no further than Bishop Arts hotspot Oddfellows. This cute neighborhood joint isn't your typical Saturday/Sunday brunch hub. They offer their highly coveted brunch menu, featuring favorites like chicken and waffles and buffalo mac & cheese, every day of the week! The Oddfellows slogan is "food for all," and you better believe all of Dallas wants a piece of this (#SpoonTip: to avoid a significant standing wait during prime brunch hours, add  your name to the list through the 'Nowait Guest' app, which allows you to track your place in line before you arrive). 

Mia Hirsch

Oddfellows is bolstered by a strong team of female leaders, from founder Amy Wallace Cowan at the helm to operating partner Corey McCombs handling day-to-day affairs. Cowan, a multi-talented businesswoman, is also a founding partner of community relations firm Cowan Roberts, where she specializes in marketing, event planning, and PR. 

McCombs also boasts an impressive resume, with past involvement in fine dining establishments like Stephen Pyles, Smoke, and FT33. Though she admits Oddfellows' more laid-back vibe was initially difficult to settle into, she now feels comfortable in the casual, hipster space. It's easy to feel relaxed here, surrounded by windows enveloping the spacious dining room in natural light and a hodgepodge of antique wooden decor (there are even counters outside where diners can be served through the windows, thus able to enjoy the Dallas weather while chatting with the friendly Oddfellows bartenders inside).

Sure, it might not be easy to compete with the hundreds of Dallas restaurants serving brunch, but Cowan and McCombs are up for the challenge. It's definitely not easy to compete with the impressive slate of restaurants in the trendy Bishop Arts District, but Oddfellows manages to hold its own in that battle as well.

After talking to such accomplished women about their journeys to culinary acclaim, I feel a sense of excitement. It's hard not to draw inspiration from their drive, passion, and intellect. In the end, I enjoyed learning about these women just as much as I enjoyed eating their food. If you ever have the unique opportunity to meet a chef or chef-owner, don't hesitate to ask them about what they do. I hope that their passion inspires you like it did me.