Overview: Luckily for Outta the Oven, the place I had originally planned on reviewing was closed for renovations and this all-natural bakery was in my sights as my lunch mate threw one of his famous I’m-so-freaking-hungry-get-me-food- now hissy fits. I’d heard rave reviews of their cakes and thumbprint cookies, but I had yet to hear anyone mention their menu items in their café. So, on a whim, I pulled in and stepped into an odd mix of aromas: freshly brewed coffee, sautéed onion, and cake frosting.
Menu: From panini and salads to quiche and muffins, Outta the Oven Café and Bakery offers a pretty nice range of breakfast and lunch items with some outstanding baked goods and pastries. They’re known for their elaborate and moist layered cakes but their petit fours are both adorable and delectable. I rarely have time for breakfast in the morning (aside from a banana or cup of yogurt), so the fact that they serve breakfast until 3PM makes it easy for people like me (read: not morning people) to get their toast or pancake fix in, even if it is later in the day!1 Comment »
Kristy Alpert files this report.
Overview: Original owner Emily Susman has gone to pursue the “family life” with her husband in Austin, Texas, but new owner, Norma Westurn, has decided to keep Susman’s original menu and recipes alive at EClaire Texas Café in downtown Dallas. (She’s made a few additions.) The café is light and airy, but on the sunny, cool day I visited, the green grass of the park in front of the restaurant and next to the courthouse was begging to be picnicked on. Even the lack of EClaire’s outdoor/sidewalk seating wasn’t enough to keep me inside on such a gorgeous day.
Menu: The café is known for offering up a varied menu, ranging from Texas breakfasts to Cincinnati-style coneys with cinnamon-laden gravy and cheddar cheese ($1.25) to fresh off-the-griddle sandwiches ($6.50), and will soon include a few Brazilian appetizers and desserts that pay homage to the new owner’s family heritage (brigadeiros!). Their salads are made fresh to order, and come in two sizes (small $3.99; large $6.99). They make their specialty sauces in-house (tomatillo and ranchero), and bake their own cookies from scratch daily (try the chocolate chip or the white chocolate and cranberry, $1.50).
Overview: From the outside this place looks a bit sketchy. The billiards place next door was already blasting music at 11am (who are these people playing pool in the middle of the day?) and people were sitting on the curbs of the nearby pawn shops. However, the interior of Thai Tanee is styled like an Asian Pottery Barn with sheer drapes, warm colors, and fresh flowers at each table. Most patrons order take out, but this place is a great spot to chill out while eating some amazine Thai food. Music warning: they play a lot of Yanni.
Menu: Thai Tanee pretty much has what you’d expect in terms of appetizers and starters, with Thai dumplings ($4.95), chicken satay ($5.95), and my favorite Toms (Tom Yum and Tom Kha; $3.95 small, $7.95 large). Their entrees range from the classic Pad Thai ($8.50) and Kua Kai ($8.50) to five different varieties of curry ($8.50) including a pineapple curry. Their chef’s specialties of note include volcano shrimp ($13.95) and a red snapper in 3-flavoured sauce ($13.95/market price).
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Overview: Unpretentious and “relatable,” Tootsie’s Café is every bit as charming as it is quirky. Luckily it’s not their decorating pizzazz or grammatically correct menu that keeps the downtown crowd packing this place for breakfast and lunch. On one side is a dining hall filled with red and white checkered picnic tablecloths and framed Ansel Adams posters along wallpaper that looks like a continuous magic eye stereogram. The hall attaches to the front counter/menu area and a “fixings bar” stocked with sauces ranging from southwest ranch to Sriracha, and looks out on the Tootsie’s slogan hung on a wall, “Home of Fresh Bun.” Not “Home of the Freshly Baked Bun,” or “Home of our Famous Fresh Baked Buns.” Just “Home of Fresh Bun.” See, relatable. To the point. My kind of place. I liked Tootsie’s right from the start, despite the annoyingly yet endearingly cute name.3 Comments »
Kristy Alpert ‘paks’ in the flavors of the Middle East at Al Markaz Restaurant in Carrollton.
Overview: If you pull up to Al Markaz, see it’s a grocery store, and think you’ve arrived at the wrong place, don’t leave. Just peak through the windows and you’ll a small restaurant in the back area. Like some of the best hole-in-the-wall places, Al Markaz is set in an unassuming shopping center surrounded by corporate loading docks and hid in plain sight off a major highway. It’s an Indian grocery store, restaurant, and catering business all in one, with an amazing selection of meats and pastries just about everywhere you look; I walked in to a steaming tray of phyllo pastries just in time to beat the lunch crowd to the booths.
Menu: Their lunch special is what draws most people to this place … that and the amazingly accurate Pakistani/Indian dishes, of course. For $6.45, you can get three dishes with a side of naan and a salad. But their dinner entrees are incredibly authentic and, even more importantly, consistent. Their most popular dishes are their chicken briyani and seekh kabob, but judging from the looks on the other patron’s faces, they must not have many entrees that don’t delight.7 Comments »
This week Kristy Alpert samples some Korean/American fusion at the recently-opened LA Burger in Irving.
Overview: When I walked in to this place for the first time, I expected to find yet another Korean taco joint touting creativity through “fusion” and “flavor.” The walls are painted in a simple two-toned color-scheme of mustard and ketchup, the restaurant sits next to a Domino’s Pizza, and, although I was greeted with an oddly delightful scent of kimchi and garlic, all signs pointed to a “good for them” burger experience. Thankfully, I’ve never been so wrong in my life. Open just a scosh longer than three months, LA Burger is owned and run by brothers Benjamin and Jon Lee. These boys transplanted here from … wait for it … LA (get the name now?) by way of the Air Force, and have set out to bring some of their favorite food styles to their new home in DFW. Although, just like their restaurant, they may look clean cut on the outside, the Lee brothers have some crazy creativity brewing behind closed doors.
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Overview: Although this bar and grill has changed names and management about two or three times in the past three years, their core specialty has remained the same: great pub food and cheap booze in a simple setting. Flat screen TVs fill three of the four walls, and although the place is small, there’s ample tall-booth or low-table seating, seats at the bar, and even a shaded outdoor patio that will be great if once we drop below 100-degrees. Whoever was in charge of the music mix the day I was in was spot on with some great jams, making the place feel alive even though it was only filled with a few regulars who each said bye to everyone in the place before heading back to the office. This place feels like an Irving version of Cheers, but with all-day happy hours, $3 shots, all drinks for $3 on Wednesdays, and, ah yea, karaoke every Tuesday night.2 Comments »
Overview: Owner John Gilbert opened his new saloon concept in January 2011 inside Gilley’s 91,000 square-foot entertainment venue, and, like the venue itself, the restaurant definitely draws a diverse crowd. Exposed brick walls and autographed guitars (Sheryl Crow, Pat Greene, and more) add to the venue-vibe while a massive circular bar sits dead center at the core of the restaurant. Even during the lunch hour, the place felt alive with disco balls gleaming overhead and giant bottles of Jack Daniels sitting in glass cases (they’re empty … I asked). Not only did the décor fit the saloon theme, but the staff plays along as well, yelling from the bar “hey sweetie, where do you want to sit and what are you drinking?” as soon as I walked through the door.3 Comments »
This week Kristy Alpert manga’s some Italiano.
Overview: Tucked away in an ever-so-elusive location in the warehouse district of Addison is where you can [hope to] find Donato and Carolyn Milano’s tantalizing Italian bakery, La Spiga Bakery and Cafe. The scent is so powerful it can’t be contained by brick and glass walls, as patrons can catch their first whiff of warm, baked bread as soon as they step foot into the parking lot. Open since 1994, La Spiga is known for one product: artisanal bread. Boasting hotel, restaurant, and country club clients around Dallas and the ‘burbs, this bakery has made their passion known. But there’s a whole other side to this leavened location. Continue reading "Ate it For $8: La Spiga Bakery and Café in Addison"
Like many of you, I was imprisoned on 75 southbound on Wednesday somewhere between 365 and Woodall Rogers. I was actually on my way to check out a new restaurant when, after 30 minutes in traffic, I realized I wasn’t going anywhere. As I sat on the Lovers Lane exit ramp, waiting for the light to cycle and let two more cars through, I looked to my left. The signage for the newest location of b.b.bop rice bowls caught my eye. “Forget this,” I said to my date, and took a sharp turn to the left.
This week Kristy Alpert heads east to Cafe Izmir.
Overview: Co-owners Mehdi Nazari, Ali Nazary, and Beau Nazary are on to something. More than 14 years ago they opened Café Izmir on a quest to bring quality Mediterranean food to Dallas. “The closest place to get good Mediterranean food before was in Los Angeles,” says Mehdi Nazari who came to Dallas from Persia. Two years after opening the doors, Café Izmir developed a loyal clientele for their magical mezze for lunch and prompted this family-owned establishment to open the Izmir Market & Deli a few doors down. Just like its sister restaurant, the market offers Mama Nazy’s recipes and an escape into a truly enchanting world.
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Kristy Alpert’s latest report on where you can find great food for less than eight dollars.
This week I headed to Oak Cliff to find one of my favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurants. I can’t even remember its name but I knew where to go. I’ve been living out of Dallas for a while but that didn’t soften the blow when I looked up to find my beloved dive is now another location of Ojedas. We decided to turn around and hit El Ranchito, the lively Tex-Mex with a touch of Monterrey restaurant run by owners Oscar and Laura Sanchez who also operate two locations of Calle Doce.
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Trying desperately to satiate the serious travel bug I’ve come down with lately, and gearing up for some reggae tunes from a local-Texas-boy at the Cas Haley concert later that night, I grabbed my beach-bumming friend and headed out to The Island Spot in Carrollton. I figured if I couldn’t be on a beach in the Caribbean, at least I could eat some Caribbean fare. Lucky for us, The Island Spot is authentically Caribbean, down to the chill attitudes and friendly smiles.
As soon as I got out of my car, I could see through the window and watched a waiter rush from the back of the restaurant to open the door and greet us with an overly excited, “Welcome to The Island Spot. So glad you’re here mon!”12 Comments »
Kristy Alpert’s latest report on where you can find great food for less than eight dollars.
For this week’s lunch “under” eight dollars, I headed to Carrollton for a Cuban food at International Bakery: Cuban Dulceria. I tried, truly I did, to stick to the $8 limit. However on this day I was on a quest to enlighten my mom on the deliciousness of Cuban cuisine. For her, I spared no expense—you can only have your first bite of a Cuban sandwich once. What we ended up having could be considered complete Cuban enlightenment.
Nestled between Target and Petco, and behind a Chili’s, once you are inside the door of this hole-in-the-wall bakery the strip-mall surroundings disappear and you are transported to tiny shop in Havana. The walls are covered with bright paintings and black-and-white family pictures. The shelves are full of aged wooden crates, nostalgic cigar boxes, and Cuban groceries. They only have a handful of tables, most customers grab their baked goods to-go, but we choose to sit and enjoy the whole experience.
This week, Kristy Alpert, our cheap-eats reporter eats a torta and lives to tell about it. Let’s give her a hand.
This week my husband and I ventured over towards Love Field for tortas at La Hechizera on Maple Avenue. We are both huge fans of sandwiches and we love Mexican food, so it seemed like a perfect fit.
Even though this small restaurant has two other locations in Dallas and one in Fort Worth, stepping into the Maple Avenue location was like opening the door to a tiny restaurant in Mexico. Most of the clientele are Hispanic and Spanish it the predominant language. You can watch Spanish soap operas on their 32-inch TV and you can’t miss the pulsating Latin music blasting from the speakers. And the place was packed.
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Our cheap eats correspondent Kristy Alpert has been scouring Dallas for some great tasting deals. Today she finds a deal, but feels her $8 could have been spent better elsewhere. Here’s Kristy:
For my $8 lunch this week I headed out to Cindi’s N.Y. Delicatessen in Carrollton. I’d heard rave reviews about the Reuben, but unfortunately you can’t get that for eight bucks, so I was hoping to try the “poor man’s version” of the sandwich. Although there’s a location right down the street from where I live in Dallas, I ever-so-graciously decided to meet a good friend for her lunch hour near her office in the ‘burbs.
Partly because I’m an amazingly skilled driver (READ: fast) and partly because I was jonesing for a good sammich, I showed up a bit early. The place didn’t totally give off that “deli” feel that I’m used to finding in New York, or even Dallas for that matter, but I took a seat in a booth near the rest of the lunch crowd bunch to get some good eavesdropping in while I waited for my friend to show up. While the atmosphere of the place didn’t scream deli, the clientele sure did. In true form, most of the crowd was made up of elderly people dining alone and disgruntled co-workers bashing bosses and ex-husbands (I swear I heard the same conversation bounce around three different tables: “my ex-husband never took me dancing,” “for once I want a boss who doesn’t micro-manage,” etc.).
But I digress. Jump for the rest. Continue reading "Ate it for $8: Cindi’s N.Y. Delicatessen in Carrollton"6 Comments »