D Magazine intern Teo Soares braved the heat to attend a two-hour culinary tour on Saturday, June 2.
When I stepped out of my car, the thermometer on the dashboard read 89°. At that moment, the idea of a walking food tour in Uptown Dallas seemed misguided.
The concept came to Jodi Phillipson during a trip to Chicago two years ago. “I was looking for things to do, I got on TripAdvisor, and I saw this food tour thing … and I thought, ‘Why doesn’t Dallas have one of these?’” she says. Back in town, Jodi founded Food Tours of America with two friends. The company will debut its Uptown tour on June 9th. Tours will cost $45 and will run on weekends and occasionally weekdays.
Last Saturday I joined Jodi and a handful of food writers and bloggers for a preview tour. We began our jaunt with miniature chimichangas, brisket nachos, and stuffed jalapeños at Primo’s Tex-Mex Grille. Sfuzzi, our next stop, served savory portobello fries and three frozen drinks, including a blueberry mojito that tasted of bright mint. At Bailey’s Uptown Inn, we tried two items from the Stand: Mac Daddy Dogs that came stacked with chili, bacon, onion rings, and mac-and-cheese; and brownies that were made with pork and beans but tasted like carrot cake.
The walks between restaurants were short, and Jodi lent us misters to ward off the heat. (More than one tour-goer suggested alternative uses for the misters; most involved vodka.)
As we walked, Jodi and co-guide Jeff Schick entertained us with tidbits of Dallas trivia and history. They told us that Texas is larger than a good chunk of Western Europe (“Does that mean that size really does matter?”), that Dallas mayor Benjamin Long was shot dead at a saloon in 1877 (“You could say he got a shot from the bar that he didn’t actually order!”), and that Dallas boasts 10.5 plastic surgeons for every 100,000 inhabitants, making it the third most surgically enhanced city in the country (“And Jodi helps us lead the way!”).
At the end of the tour, we received tiny boxes with red velvet cake balls from Bread Winners. Like Primo’s chimichanga, Sfuzzi’s blueberry mojito, and the Stand’s pork-and-beans brownie, the cake balls were great—moist and dense and served in pleated paper cups that made them look like bonbons.
Though the food was superb, the idea of a walking culinary tour in Dallas still seems off. The city was built for cars. The proportions between buildings and streets that make sense from behind the wheel seem askew by foot. Even in Uptown, nineteenth-century homes are no more plentiful than paved parking lots. Jodi and Jeff point out the occasional pearl, like the McKinney Transit Authority trolley house, or the ring in the sidewalk that horse riders once used for free parking, or the Civil War burial ground at Greenwood Cemetery (“Jeff, I can see your Private Johnson!”), but mostly the scenery is drab. In the end, walking is a matter of convenience: the tour revolves around McKinney Avenue, and it’s plain easier to move by foot.