Former D Magazine editor Mary Brown Malouf and I ate our way across town looking for the best one-location-only Tex-Mex joints. We conquered 17 joints in 7 days. Here are our top ten. Yes, we know Tejano was sold after we went to press and no we don’t feel bad leaving Mia’s off the list. Everybody got one shot and the day we ate at Mia’s was not their best. Update: Make that nine, we deleted Tejano.
Let’s begin with two words: processed cheese.
In this age of artisanal, responsibly raised protein, people shudder when they read those words. But you can’t have Tex-Mex—still the most meaningful cuisine to emerge from this state—without it.
We’re all about understanding other cultures and learning to appreciate Mexico’s authentic regional cuisines. Love that stuff wrapped in the banana leaves. Love the million and one moles. But those are, well, Mexican cuisines. Tex-Mex is ours. Its gold standard is the cheese enchilada, and a cheese enchilada requires greasy, yellow cheese. So does a soft cheese taco. So does a platter of nachos. And, of course, chile con queso is nothing but. We’re talking American. We’re talking Velveeta.
Newcomers eager to try Dallas’ most famous cuisine tend to be, if not dismayed, then certainly unsettled the first time a server shoves a platter—“Hot plate!”—of earth-tone glop in front of them. Maybe you had to grow up with it. For sure you have to live with it awhile to love it. But for most of us, Tex-Mex is the taste we crave when we are away and the one that defines “home.” Most of us have a steady relationship with our favorite Tex-Mex place, our go-to joint that makes it just the way we like it. No matter that there’s only one way to make a real cheese enchilada (soften a tortilla in hot, flavored fat, roll it around chopped onions and grated cheese, cover it with thinned chili con carne and more grated cheese). Each restaurant has its own signature flavor. You can argue the superiority of your favorite until you’re azule in the face, but it’s like trying to convince a Philadelphian that Pat’s is better than Geno’s. Or vice versa.17 Comments »
It’s been a weird morning. I was listening to NPR this morning and jamming out to the show, “Marketplace,” when I heard about Felony Franks, this hot dog joint in Chicago where Jim Andrews, the owner, hires ex-inmates and gives them a chance in the restaurant business. The menu is prison-themed with names like “Misdemeanor Weiner” and “Convicted Chili Fries” that don’t hide Andrews’ mission to help out his community in a non-traditional way. I walked out of my car, still thinking about what I’d just heard on NPR when I ran into a friend who told me about her crazy mugging story in New York City. The guy who stole her cell phone was sentenced to jail for three months after the cops found him.
Why don’t we have something like this in Dallas? I can see why some critics don’t find the concept cute, but it’s hard to deny the fact that Felony Franks is still doing the community a lot of good. Check out this WSJ vid:4 Comments »
I’ve done a decent amount of travel around Dallas as part of my own personal taco crusade. But unfortunately, my taco radar is pretty much dark across the taco dense region just east of Harry Hines and north of Northwest Highway. A few establishments have crossed my path in this area, but one experience in particular which involved a tiny, no-name roadside taqueria, lack of electricity and refrigeration and a putrid, spoiled pork barbacoa taco, has left such a sour taste in my mouth that I rarely adventure there these days.
Luckily, I was redirected back to the area by the highly respected taco tycoon, Jose Ralat-Maldonado of Taco Trail fame. When this dude tells you to make a trip somewhere, it’s best not to question his authority. This particular outing brought me to a previously unheard of joint called La Nueva Fresh and Hot. I am a sucker for fresh, I’m a sucker for hot, I’m even a sucker for neuva. How could I go wrong? I couldn’t.
Read on amigos…1 Comment »
Cajun food is soul food. There’s nothing better than chowing down on a bowl of gumbo or crawfish etouffee that makes your insides feel warm and gooey – which is exactly how I spent Mardi Gras in New Orleans last year. I ate fried oyster po’ boys and laughed at all the drunk people. I scarfed down beignets at 2 am sitting next to a table of old grandmas wearing inappropriate clothing for their age. And mine, for that matter. Since you can’t get the whole Mardi Gras experience here in Dallas (and let’s face it, who doesn’t like watching debauchery sometimes?), here’s where you should go to get a taste:
Jump for some Cajun cravings
Nick Badovinus and chef Dan Riley have been hunkered down for over a year developing the menu and creating all kinds of delicious roasted meats for Off-Site Kitchen. Today he is finally opening the doors!
Now, hold your horses. The dining room is tiny. Off-Site Kitchen is basically a take-out restaurant with a few stools inside and some picnic tables outside. Here are some pictures of what you can expect. The food, inspired by “what line cooks eat,” is basically simple sandwiches and breakfast burritos made from quality roasted meats. Roll the Badovinus quote of the year:
“It’s light industrial food,” he said. “It’s the kind of food you want to eat before you go solder something.”
Off-Site Kitchen will be open for lunch only from 10:30AM until 3PM for the next two weeks. Then the breakfast menu will kick in and they will begin serving at 7AM and will remain open until 7PM. “After we hit our stride, we’ll start rolling out the meat-by-the-pound program,” Badovinus said. “I’m so excited. This place is a real man cave.”
The original date for OSK’s opening was February 14, 2011. After Badovinus missed his mark, he decided to workshop the place and open on Valentine’s Day this year. “You see how many financial sacrifices I made to pay for my original vision,” Badovinus said. “I mean I’ve got a wheelbarrow of pork rinds down here. Who doesn’t love that?”
Badovinus was only half-joking about the Valentine’s Day opening. He and chef Dan Riley have used the Off-Site Kitchen space to tweak the menus of Badovinus’ other restaurants (Neighborhood Services, Neighborhood Services Tavern, and Neighborhood Services Bar & Grill). They also use the huge kitchen as a commissary for the other restaurants. The receive, portion, and distribute all of the meat and seafood at Off-Site Kitchen.
SOLDER, EAT, REPORT. No call-in orders. Plan to show up and wait.
[Also, Neighborhood Services Bar & Grill in Preston Royal will open for lunch in two weeks.]
The menu and photos are below.
Dear Chef DAT,
Who are you? I’ve been getting press releases from you for a long time but for the life of me I can’t remember meeting you. I do understand that you live underground and you cook a lot there as well, but do you ever actually come out during the day?
You talk funny. I mean, you write funny. You “sound” like you are totally hip and in with all of the IN people which explains a lot about our relationship. It’s so cool that you are throwing a birthday party for yourself on October 23! You must have lots of friends! Three LIVE bands, CAJUN food, and BYOB! Totally bitchin’. And Thursday, you only have 20 seats left for your super secret dinner in Deep Ellum. Have you done the math? Do you think you can get that many people under the ground in Deep Ellum? It must be so freakin’ dark, dude. Six courses for $66? That dinner is like so effin’ New Testament! And payable in “unmarked, untraceable cash only”? Brilliant.
Keep it up and maybe you’ll get your own restaurant one day. Oh, wait. My spirit is shaking. I’m getting an incoming subliminal message from, wait…oh…I can’t quite make out the voice, I can only hear pigs squealing. Oh, now it’s clear. It’s Steven Doyle LIVE from the State Fair. He says you have a “concept portfolio” for a future restaurant called Twenty-Seven. Far out, it sounds so Satanic! Will you take American Express? Awesome. Keep us posted.
Nancy Nichols43 Comments »
From Sonny Bryan’s: Last night at approximately 11:00PM, a small fire broke out in two unattached storage sheds behind the main building at the original location of Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse on Inwood Road.The Dallas Fire Department was able to put out the fire before it spread, but the two side doors to the restaurant were damaged in order to allow firefighters access to the building to ensure no one was inside. No staff or customers were present, and no injuries were sustained by responders. The fire is still under investigation. The restaurant is currently closed, but management anticipates being open again for business this weekend. Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse will continue to keep the public posted via the restaurant’s Facebook page .1 Comment »
‘Scuse me while I saddle up my high horse. Am I the only woman who is concerned about the sudden surge in Breastaurants. I mean really 35 additional Twin Peaks? A bar opening in downtown called The Spread Eagle? Seriously boys? How would you like to take your daughter into one of the restaurant’s the gals in our office just conceptualized. We call them Peteries.
Hunky Town, Twin Pricks, Tooter’s, Pecker’s Hot Italian Sausage, Tube Steak Junction, Cake Balls to the Walls, Nuts and Butts, Quickies, Long Dong Silver, Tally Whacker’s, Love Mussels, Wee Willie’s, Twig and Berries.
Ladies, the floor is open.53 Comments »
There’s about to be an angry mob with torches and pitchforks outside my cubicle, ready to string me up for disclosing their favorite hole-in-the-wall: Seafood Shack. Blame D’s director of online media, Julie Blacklidge Kinzie, for grabbing me at our Monday morning meeting to rave about the ceviche and margaritas.
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