You can take the girl out of Texas, but you can’t take Texas out of the girl. Deep in the heart of Texas, eating out might be deep dish pizza or beloved Tex-Mex. What I will say that woos my heart out of the Lone Star state and into the city by the Bay is the ability to walk a lot. It sure does help when you want to give into the decadent offerings that somehow are a part of my Dallas experience… Anywho, expect this list to grow over time.
When I think of good barbecue in Dallas, it’s easy to head over to the original Sonny Bryan’s on Inwood. There are other locations, but if you talk to other Dallasites, the original is still the best. They’ve been around since 1910, which can’t be said about many restaurants. I do find it a little ironic that they’re located directly across from UT Southwestern Hospital. Anyways, their brisket is smoked and juicy. If you’re a fan of brisket, look no further- it’s good. Other options include smoked pork, chicken or sausage, which are fantastic stand-ins if brisket is not your thing. Their BBQ sauce distinguishes them with its slightly spicy, slightly sweet flavor profile. It pairs up nicely with their smoked meats. Popular sides include their potato salad and baked beans. Don’t forget to order a sweet tea for the quintessential experience. When we wanted to celebrate our nuptials with friends in May in Texas, we threw a reception catered by Sonny Bryan’s. They brought the BBQ and we brought the 50s chilly temperature from San Francisco. Apparently, fog would have cost extra on the airplane. Sonny Bryan’s was the perfect way to introduce Beck’s parents to Southern hospitality in a good ol’ Texas barbecue fashion.
With two locations, one by West Village and another off of Lover’s Ln., this cafe wins in my book. Mama introduced me to it on a recent visit and I must admit it went into my little black book of restaurants easily. The cafe feels rather Southern with its white washed walls, ceiling fans and interior greenery. As bread is in the name of the restaurant, they bring out a delightful array of small pieces of quick bread made in-house. Their menu happily boasts sandwiches and salads for the lunch set with heartier dishes for dinner. Salad is always on the brain at Breadwinner’s and they do not disappoint in size or flavor. Their Chinese Chicken salad features a panoply of crunchy ingredients to make each bite slightly unique and enticing. Try the green salad with salmon as the grilled asparagus, cherry tomatoes, carrots and onion play a savory counterpoint to the splash of lemony vinaigrette. The price, the size, the ambiance make for a relaxing lunch. Note, the wooden floors inside mean it can be quite noisy when filled with patrons.
Growing up I longed for Old Dallas and that impression has only increased over time. Show me the large trees lining streets of quaint houses with history. Oak Cliff with its sensibility of time gone by stands as a testament if what has gone before and also how a neighborhood can live on. Enter Hattie’s, a delectable restaurant with Charleston charm. Mom, Nathan, his mom and dad and I settled in for a long leisurely lunch as rain soaked the sidewalk outside. We noshed on Smoked Tomato soup before moving onto our main courses. I ate half of my griddled ham and brie sandwich with tomato chutney on raisin bread. Whoa. That was some sandwich! the ham texture tasted chipped rather than clean slices and provided appropriate mouth feel to the gooey cheese and spiced chutney. We shared sweet potato fries, crispy where they should and soft where they should be. Dessert entailed the genteel suggestions of our server who said the Fried Pie- a Hattie’s special- should not be missed. The pie of the day, banana nut came out with housemade coconut ice cream that we found our spoons dipping into before silencing the table. We might have stayed on until dinner, seeing as we were the last table to leave. And that might say it all, really. Hattie’s is hard to leave. The menu made me want to come back again for their clever riffs on Southern classics.
Rise No. 1
Truth be told, Tia Berta mentioned this “salon de souffle” long before I learned it also happened to be the resto. Dubya was at when he got a call about a certain op. that took down a certain man w/ the initials OBL. Why did that intrigue me? Who knows, but a visit to Rise felt imminent. I treated Mom to what turned out to be a memorable Mother’s Day dinner. We started off our celebration and feast with Rise No. 1 salad and their Marshmallow soup, a carrot tomato soup with mini cheese souffle “marshmallows” bobbing on top and a drizzle of pesto. The salad was standout. Seriously. Imagine a salad dressing that tastes rich and nuanced- almost like a toasted marshmallow flavor in their Pecan Vinaigrette, which conveniently sat in stacked jars for retail sale in front of my counter seat. Matchstick Granny Smith apples also dot the salad for a slightly tart crunch mingled with pecans and flecks of cheese. We ordered savory souffles- artichoke and brie for me while Mom ordered Spinach. Here’s my tip to you: if going to Rise, you want to save room for the Chocolate Souffle, a fluffy, tall confection the server breaks with a spoon letting chocolate scented steam escape and pouring hot chocolate sauce inside. This, friends, is a dessert not to be missed. In fact, I believe they are up for some sort of accolade or award from D Magazine for that specific souffle. So that said, I would recommend ordering the large Rise No. 1 Salad or soup and then moving onto dessert.
Sometimes you are looking for a specific flavor, a specific memory to be rekindled. We didn’t go to El Fenix, a local Dallas tex-mex restaurant often when I was growing up. In fact my dad eschewed many of the would-be tex-mex restaurants for straight up Mexican food dives that served authentic mole and lengua tender at the fork. When I think of El Fenix, I think of their warm tortilla chips, their slightly chunky salsa and most of all, their Cheese Enchiladas with Chili Con Carne. I’m not going to even pretend there is any nutritional benefit in these enchiladas. This definitely falls into the occasional treat category… Spiced brown sauce with chunks of ground meat cover an enchilada that oozes melty cheddar cheese when you cut into it. Something about this combination is a bit magical. This is not the high-brow food of dressy Tex-Mex, but a common man’s food to tuck into. If going to El Fenix, consider trying their Chicken Tortilla soup for the presentation alone. It makes me want to up my Caldo Tlalpeno game and serve the broth separately from the totopos. If in the mood for something sweet, pick up a praline on the way out. They come in chewy or crunchy and feature Texas pecans.
Wild about Harry’s
In college, my friend Jeff introduced me to the phenomenon of frozen custard in a small neighborhood dineresque cafe called Wild about Harry’s. Located off of Knox-Henderson, you can usually find families and kids in their soccer uniforms swirling the spoon of frozen custard here. They also serve greasy diner food a la hot dogs, etc… but those in the know come just for the frozen custard. While their list changes frequently and includes favorites like chocolate and vanilla, they also listed coconut on the evening of my visit. They make “Concretes” which basically is custard mixed with one topping, but my favorite treat is “Harry’s Favorite”- frozen custard with hot fudge and Spanish peanuts. Read sweet and salty. Yes please. Get it with vanilla frozen custard and you’ll be set.
My friend Ashley and I worked together at a French bakery as one of our first jobs. Not surprisingly, she and I still work in food- though she now works for a restaurant brand and I work for a retail brand. Whenever we get together, it’s easy. Conversations begun again from times gone past. Friendship that nudges its way into the future without even trying. She suggested meeting up at Barcadia on Henderson, which is the latest thoroughfare of cool bars and hangouts for the late night crowd. What drew me into Barcadia was the fun spirit behind the premise: vintage arcade games skirting the walls and a bar. Easy. Outside, giant Jenga and giant Connect Four games were dominated by groups, whooping and hollering when the pieces came crashing down. Inside, we tried our hands at Q-Bert, Donkey Kong Jr., Centipede, Frogger and even Super Mario Bros. Sadly, Dig Dug and Pac-Man were out of service that evening. I make arcade games look like a contact sport. Then came several rounds of skee-ball, showing Ashley’s more deft pitch to mine. This bar is fun, especially for those of us that grew up playing these games. Hand me a Shiner Bock, a roll of quarters and the joystick.